Has for purpose uniting women and making their voices heard.
As an extension of our “International Woman Campaign”, we had a privileged conversation with a successful entrepreneur and investor; such a pleasure to share with you his insights from a different perspective.
Our founder Carla MARTIN had the honor to talk to Mr. Vin LEE, CEO of Grand Metropolitan.
Carla MARTIN: Please introduce yourself for those who do not know you yet. Kindly tell us about your background and your business?
Vin LEE: I am CEO of Beverly Hills based luxury goods conglomerate Grand Metropolitan. While the holding company may not be readily familiar, our 130 brand portfolio contains some of the most iconic luxury names in North America for the last 200 years. Finlay Enterprises is the largest privately-held jewelry group in America with 20 of the TOP 50 retail jewelers of the last century. Heilig-Meyers Furniture was once the largest home furnishing retailers in the world that today includes Rhodes Furniture, Room Store, plus Sterchi Brothers and Wickes Furniture. The later two were also world leaders in their respective markets before being acquired by Heilig-Meyers. Those businesses have earned more than $100 Billion since their inception.
We also maintain dozens of local and regional brands in the world of luxury. Pushkin Caviar is arguably our greatest success in this aspect having become a leading supplier to the VIP, event, and charity auction crowd. The Beverly Hills Cigar Club has been awarded the honor of TOP 5 must have private memberships by Playboy Magazine as well as LOUIXS, our private label cigar as TOP 8 in the world. Both LOUIXS and Pushkin are not available publicly. In addition, Gallery Rodeo manages and maintains the Rodeo Collection, over 100 works of fine art as well as participates in auctions with Christies, Sotheby’s, and private estates.
CM: How you decided to create your business?
VL: I started my business in the late 1980s, at that time Bernard Arnault had just taken over LVMH merging Louis Vuitton with Moet Hennessey. A year later François Pinault listed Pinault S.A. (Kering) on the Paris Stock Exchange. These men were the original architects of the luxury goods conglomerates that today dominate the world. The language needed to walk in that world is not readily accessible to everyone. Certainly not where I came from. There is a saying “To dine with the classes, you must sell to the masses”. Men like Arnault, Pinault, Oppenheimer, and Anton proved that theory wrong.
I grew up in what was considered the most affluent county in the United States at the time. Yet, Tiffany, Cartier, Gucci had no retail presence in the entire state. Ferrari didn’t have a dealership within hundreds of miles. And even though General Motors, headquartered in the city, was owner of Lamborghini you were hard pressed to find a single Countach on display anywhere. Fashion choices for us were effectively Levi or Lee, Nike or Reebok at a time when Marithé et François Girbaud were selling out across Europe. It was a time when Bijan was lighting up Rodeo Drive, Versace was the toast of South Beach, and Morty Sills was dressing the CEOs of Wall Street.
Most people start their careers or businesses ambitious to ultimately live the lifestyle of wealth and privilege. When I moved to South Florida, $3 million bought almost anything on the beach. But it was only 1 years rent on Rodeo Drive. I didn’t know what rich was until I moved to Beverly Hills, where $30 million helped you fit into the crowd. But it wasn’t until I visited Moscow for the first time that I learned what true wealth was. I have never been one that wanted to fit in. I always wanted to own the club than to be a member. I prefer providing those who have with what they want, to being the one always wanting.
CM: Tell us what is your success mindset ?
VL: Patience. I am ultra-competitive. I have been from a very young age. The key is to make sure that you are able to compete in what you are doing. You must have more than hope or will, but a point of differentiation that enables you to, at least in some way, beat your competitors. Most people do not. They have an idea for a product, service, or business that is marginally unique from a hundred others out there and they think they are going for it. But they also want to have a steady income, happy marriage, children, and vacations every year. Something will give, usually a little bit of everything is damaged by their enterprise. I read a quote from Warren Buffett that stated “You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant”
I spent 2 years working with management to buy Samuel’s Jewelers from investors. I failed, and they filed for bankruptcy a month later. It took me 8 years to acquire the Finlay Fine Jewelers brand. It has taken almost two decades for us to straighten out the fallout from Heilig-Meyers Furniture bankruptcy.
“What are you willing to do to get what you want?” That’s the question everyone should ask themselves. If you aren’t willing to go all-in, to make this your life, perhaps you should find a job in the industry you are passionate about rather than attempting to start a business. This isn’t what I do, it is who I am.
CM: What was your biggest challenge on the personal side, also on the business side?
VL: One of the most significant challenges for me was spending 15 years on a jet every two weeks flying between California and Florida and everywhere else to build this company. It took a great toll upon me living out of a suitcase. I missed out on years of time with family and friends. But even earlier one the real challenge, I think for everyone, is to share your life with someone that has the same goals. My business is very capital intensive especially since I do not assume any debt through our operations or acquisitions. In this instance having a partner that respects that same position saves years of heartache. If you choose to share your life with someone that wants to spend lavishly on lifestyle rather than reinvest your resources in your business, you will always be pulled in opposing directions. Our culture has been supremely encouraging of living beyond ones means. This is especially true of those who work for others.
CM: I would like to know what is the best advice in business you have been given? May I ask who gave it to you?
VL: I started out my career as a teenager. If anything, I was encouraged not to pursue this path.
“That most people who started a business would fail.”
“Anything you can come up with, someone else has already thought of.”
“There will always be someone out there smarter than you, faster than you, and better looking than you.”
Sometimes negative reinforcement can be just as motivating as nurturing support. Fortunately, I had some very modest success in overlapping projects that would drown out the “advice” that was tossed at me. It created this self-confidence that I could indeed accomplish the outsized goals I had set for myself. While I came from a very affluent community, it was not a place of entrepreneurs. The Midwest in the 1980s was predominately a corporate culture of Fortune 500 firms. Most of the successful icons of that time were part of the Mergers & Acquisitions community established in New York, Milken, Boesky, Icahn, KKR. Of course the explosive investment environment created by Silicon Valley had not been imagined yet.
CM: For a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give?
VL: “Don’t do it”. I see this type of question all of the time. And the most offered advice to young people or even older people who have dreams of starting their own business is to “Go For It”! These people love to follow through with the “Fail Fast” slogan as if these people are throwing darts at a carnival board with free tokens. It’s easy for people at the top of their game who have often borrowed their way from venture to venture until something finally stuck to toss out that flippant attitude. I disagree. It can be devastating personally and professionally to “fail fast” as an entrepreneur. For many people, and their families and friends who financially supported their dream, most won’t recover. Maxing out credit cards or borrowing against their houses or pensions to fund a business.
If you have an idea that you believe is marketable, that you believe the world cannot live without, take careful steps to proceed. It will always take three times as long and twice as much as you calculate. If you are doing this to become a “millionaire”, you probably won’t be successful. If you are doing this because you are passionate about the product or service, it will help buoy you through the darkness. Because this is not an easy journey for life. It will strain all of your relationships. It will destroy some if you ask them to underwrite your dream. I have had hundreds of people in my personal life ask me to pay them to live their dream. Requesting hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars so they can be a restauranteur, film maker, or run a charitable foundation.
So much of our society is instant gratification. We all barter our time in nanoseconds. As impatient as you are to be successful, the people around you will also bull dog you about progress, especially if they have invested in you. I prefer to encourage people to follow their dreams, but the sobering truth is that it can be a very painful process. Make sure that your brand has a significant point of differentiation. But I still think you shouldn’t do it. If you still believe in yourself after everyone else tells you NO, than maybe you’ll have a chance.
CM: With everything you have achieved, what you would say your greatest achievement is?
VL: That’s actually a very hard question to answer. Professionally, I have done some things that warrant some merit. I am proud of those things. We still have so much more to do, I just hope there is enough time to make it. I went to sleep and I was only 38, I woke up at 49 and so much time has passed by. But this doesn’t really answer your question. I realize I should be bragging about creating the largest this or the most successful that. But it really has never been about money for me.
I have to say my greatest achievement to date is me. Throughout a 30 year career with so many challenges and struggles peppered within the successes, I like who I am today. People don’t often realize that behind the glitter and glamour of the luxury business, there is a lot of corruption and danger. It is very seductive. My faith in God has never been stronger. My family is still there supporting, caring, and accepting of me, even with my decade’s long distraction with work.
CM: What was the most challenging moment in your life? And how did you manage to overcome it?
VL: This interview would become far too long and depressing to outline the biggest challenges. I think that most people have family and loved ones that will forgive and accept all kinds of behaviors. No one will reject you for failing in your lifegoals. Your parents or spouse recognizing your commitment and effort will always have a home for you to lay your head. But absence both physically and emotionally while you are pursuing your ambitions is impossible to compete with.
I disappeared into this foreign world of luxury and its world-wide pursuit for decades starting from a very young age. The people around the dinner table didn’t understand the language I was speaking. For about 2 decades I was swimming alone through the complexities of finance and fashion most of which you cannot just “read up on” to be able to communicate with others. There is no MBA program at the corner of Wall St. and Rodeo Drive. As I have mentioned almost 15 years of my career was spent on a jet bouncing from coast to coast or country to country living out of a suitcase even with multiple homes. You never really unpack and the clock is always ticking to the next flight or meeting. The phone is under your pillow and doesn’t recognize the time zones during your sleep. People in your life aren’t often easy to forgive the empty chair at birthdays and holidays.
If you are successful, and you can provide for your family, fear becomes a reality especially in jewelry. People have a hard time grasping what the jewelry business really is. It is the most valuable and liquid asset on the planet. No one will rob a bookstore for that shipment of Harry Potters. But as a jeweler and a cigar guy, you can secure as much as $5 million in stones in a cigar tube and get on a plane and disappear, achieving that same value in any city around the globe. In a world where people will attack you just for wearing the wrong baseball hat, it’s very dangerous.
Security and privacy become far more paramount concerns over other trappings of wealth. You begin to monitor your family and friends about casual Facebook posts or Tweets asking them not to give out your address to those requesting to send holiday cards. That in fact turns everyone against you as they misinterpret your behavior as being pretentious or self-involved. Your circle becomes much smaller.
CM: From your entire professional experience, what was your most exciting project up to now?
VL: That’s a great question! I have been so fortunate to be involved in many interesting and exciting endeavors over my career. Even if they didn’t produce a profit or even ultimately become a success. When you’re young or new to business, everything is exciting, new products or deals. I could probably tell more exciting stories about the projects that failed than the ones that completed.
The most exciting project is always the next one. In this instance, I invented a very simple consumer product in the hygiene industry 30 years ago this year. It is now time for me to release it, since no one else has come up with it. It is completely out of the luxury realm, so we will see if we can make strides outside of our wheelhouse.
CM: Could you please tell us what is your business current focus?
VL: While we continue to grow our leadership position in North America, I have spent the last couple of years working and building our international presence. Dalgety was a great step for us in this process which we folded our tobacco and caviar business into. We began test marketing both Frechef Food Systems and Fruishi products.
We actually have a long term focus for growth in each division. Most of the efforts the last two decades have been about acquisitions of both regional and national brands in our supply chain, jewelry, furniture, fashion etc. These energies are all culminating in Lichtensteins. Every product Grand Metropolitan produces under its entire brand portfolio will be available on our luxury digital platform. This streamlines our online presence and keeps quality and customer service at a premium.
CM: Luxury definition has changed so much during the past years. What does luxury mean to you today and how do you think the notion of luxury could be updated for the modern days?
VL: Well so much of our society has shifted to “fast casual”. We know longer dress for dinner, or even set a table for guests. Crystal, china, and flatware are no longer cherished family heirlooms. The great lost art of conversation has been replaced by texts and emoji. People now do their shopping and travelling in their pajamas. So it really is no surprise that the world of luxury, those coveted aspirational items, have to evolve or die. I honestly believe that women have been better served by luxury items over the centuries. Everything from health & beauty, jewelry & accessories, haute couture has always predominantly been focused towards the ladies. Gentlemen have really been limited in the past, but it has picked up.
CM: From all the brands you represent and not only, if you had to choose one favorite piece (jewelry, watches etc) which would it be?
VL: I admit that is a complicated question to answer. People often respond with, that would be like picking my favorite child. And we have about 130. It is honestly something that rotates on my plate daily. Which brand we give more love or attention too. With such a large portfolio and finite amount of financial resources we do pretty well. Primarily we have about 100 brands broken down between jewelry, home furnishings, and tobacco. So your efforts become focused on managing groups or market segments rather than specific brands or even products.
Obviously my patented marquees hold a special place in my heart. It is the one creation that has been with me the longest, since my teen years, and produced the largest impact on the world. I have seen these internally illuminated billboards all over the globe from Moscow to Milan and Miami to Madrid. Originally created for Blockbuster Video, they have evolved to the sides of buildings, trucks and tuk-tuks all over the world creating a $6 billion/year industry.
Of course in a close second place would be my tennis earring. When I was starting out in the jewelry industry I had outsized ambitions to have my name in rank with Harry Winston, Nicki Oppenheimer, or Laurence Graff. So I set out to create a jewelry style that no one had ever seen before in the manner of David Yurman or Christian Louboutin, recognizable across a crowded room. When we first launched after the millennium, Playboy Magazine claimed it was “too bling”. Originally our market was identified as professional athletes and musicians. It took almost 15 years to be mainstream. Now you find smaller versions of our inline diamond earrings in mall jewelers around the world as well as online shops made with synthetic stones and set in alloy metals. That’s quite a movement from the $300,000 custom set we showed at Prince’s Beverly Hills Estate or the $1 million suite worn by Frances first family member at the Cannes Film Festival.
In each of our businesses, we have introduced a product into the market place that has evolved into a leadership position in some manner. I have, especially in the early years, had a lot of influence in the design and creation of these items. It is very satisfying to sketch out a concept with paper and chalk and then see it become reality, especially when the consumer embraces it. We see that happening every day at Finlay Fine Jewelers, Heilig-Meyers Furniture, Dalgety Foods, etc.
CM: Who inspires you today?
VL: Boy that is a hard question to answer. I have met some of my heroes in real life and they have fallen short of the hype. So many of our leaders and leading industrialists have lost their luster in the last few years. Everything is so politicized. I do continue to be inspired by what Bernard Arnault has created. How can you not? That’s pretty easy. I did recently identify Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis as a personal hero of mine. What she accomplished in her life is one of the most inspired stories I have ever heard. As a French-Canadian, student of fine art, and resident of this planet she impressed upon me that anyone from anywhere can have a lasting positive effect on the Earth. I think the film of her life has done as much as her talent as an artist ever did to make the world a better place. It chokes me up every time I watch it. I wish anything I ever did had that kind of impact on someone.
CM: Vin, do you have a secret talent?
VL: I am not sure how much of a secret it is, but I do love to cook.
CM: You found your passion, in your opinion how does everyone find their own passion?
VL: Unfortunately, I don’t believe everyone gets to find their passion. I think they try and create passion in what their life leads them to, whether it is in family, work, or some hobby or outside interest. I know a lot of people that haven’t lived up to their full potential for life. It was too scary or too much work to reach out for something extraordinary. I have seen this my whole life. It is very difficult to break from the group, to step outside of the comfortable world of everyone else. Basically because we are taught to try so hard to fit in and be like everyone else. Today it is even worse with every child getting a participation trophy just for showing up. We are literally breeding excellence out of our society. Because if there are winners, there also have to be losers. And unfortunately there are far fewer lions than there are penguins.
CM: If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
VL: Well obviously, my answer would be very personal and I can’t divulge that secret. It involves a Delorean and a flux capacitor. But if I was to change something for the betterment of the world, I would stop people from looking on each other’s plates. So much of the problems we have today in society are based on who has what and who doesn’t. This is how social media platforms like Facebook have destroyed so much of the goodness in the world. If you keep giving participation trophies to everyone whether they show up or not, you disincentivize people. Those who are exceptional stop trying to strive for more. Those who need improvement will never learn to handle adversity in their lives. There is this political movement towards making everyone special so that no one is. People go on Instagram and see that everyone else is richer, prettier, and far happier than you are in your sweat pants eating nachos and binge watching Netflix. Twitter has become a sounding board for all of the unhappiness in the world focused towards whatever the topic of the post is.
If we stop worrying about what other people have and focus on appreciating what we have the world would be a much nicer place to live.
CM: Much obliged Vin for your time and kindness to answer my questions. Such a pleasure to hear your opinion on so many different topics.
We are delighted to introduce to you Miranda ADEMAJ, CEO of Skënderbeg Investment Management.
I was born in Kosovo during a time when an undeclared war ravaged the area. Since the situation in my home country deteriorated more and more, my parents decided in 1994 to flee with me and my two siblings to Germany. My parents did not take this decision lightly, because they had to leave everything behind and it was uncertain if we would even get into Germany because of our unclear refugee status. We did make it to Germany. But without a home and with no idea of what future might hold, the prospects were not really encouraging.
From a social and cultural point of view, Germany was very different from what I used to grow up with in Kosovo. As an adolescent woman I recognized particularly that women in Germany had more options and a higher social status than in Kosovo, but to assert similar rights for myself in my own social environment was a year-long up-hill struggle because, as an Albanian woman, you are expected to behave according to the norms of your own culture. This means living more conservative. At that time, my family tried to stick to those values and Albanian tradition in general. I think that for my parents I was sort of a difficult kid, because I was a person that enjoyed pushing the limits and transgress boundaries. My mom asked me again and again why I couldn’t be a normal girl like other Kosovar girls. Despite being left to my own devices in a way, I managed to graduate from Economics College. While studying, I also had to work part-time to support myself financially. So, I went through some hardship, but that turned me into a fighter.
In 2005, I realized that the economic situation in Germany would deteriorate because of the deeper integration into the European Union. The EU is comparable to the former Yugoslavia, not really a success story. I therefore deliberately looked for a country that is self-determined and liberal. That is why I moved to Switzerland because I saw Switzerland as a neutral country with more democracy, more freedom and a country that has learned the right lessons from wars dating back centuries. In Switzerland, I was confronted with, and had to learn to adapt to as a matter of fact, yet another culture, albeit a culture not so much different from Germany’s. But, ultimately, this country turned out to have a significant influence on my life. In Switzerland, there are almost half a million people of Balkan origin and, among the country’s total population of eight million, almost two million are not Swiss. Life has never been easy for young people uprooted from their homes by war, making their way into a new country, which, at times, may appear unwelcoming. For instance, when I arrived in Switzerland, a poster of a right-wing party against public funding of integration centers for immigrants from Kosovo could be seen everywhere. This was certainly not a comfortable sight for me. The omens seemed to be not favorable. But, the vast majority of the Swiss population is very welcoming and, « Where there is a will, there is a way ». I continued my studies in economics and, as a hobby, I did some modelling. I even had the opportunity to appear on television. I had achieved all my goals. Except one: the dream to become someday CEO of my own company. Since a very early stage, I have been fascinated by the intricacies of the financial markets. Hedge funds, in particular, attracted me due to their secrecy, their mysterious aura. Later on, probably partly due to my traditional upbringing, I wanted to see whether I could make a difference in this men-dominated world.
I started my career in a Swiss bank and came into contact with hedge funds relatively quickly. Despite their negative reputation, they immediately captivated me. Although frowned upon as highly speculative and unregulated investment vehicles, my enthusiasm for hedge funds did not diminish, quite the opposite. However, in this large bank I felt almost like a hamster in a wheel. Neither innovation nor creativity were required. One simply could not make a difference. As a freedom-loving and self-determined person, this environment was just not made for me.
I needed some time off, time to come to terms with what I wanted in life. So I went on a 1-year backpacking trip round Australia and South East Asia. I wanted to find out who I really was, whether I had unconsciously taken on the wrong role in this life in the past. But above all I wanted to get to know unlimited freedom in order to better understand the world I lived in. During my voyage around the world, I had neither safety nor comfort, but it turned out the best, most instructive and freest time of my life. The best education you will ever get is travelling. Nothing teaches you more than exploring the world and accumulating experiences. As a conclusion of my trip around the world, I recognized that I was following the right career, but on the wrong side.
Back in Europe I had to start again from scratch. I decided to go into the industry which still fascinated me most. Hedge Funds. But it was important for me to work in a small company because there was more freedom, responsibility and opportunities. As a consequence, I started to work for BrunnerInvest, a fund of hedge funds pioneer in Zurich. There I met some great people. People who understood my perspective in life, who were enthusiastic, intelligent and highly educated. One day, after having gained a lot more experience, my last unfulfilled dream resurrected, and I decided to create my own company, a quasi-spinoff of our employer. I partnered with two colleagues, and we created a company called Skënderbeg named after the medieval Albanian freedom fighter Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeg. Everyone thought we were insane to launch a fund of funds in a time when the reputation of hedge funds was at rock bottom. There were even some bets against us. But we believed in our conviction and set up clear goals. We founded our company, against the odds, at first without clients, but with a clear idea, drive, motivation and a good feeling, and, luckily, with some high-profile investors in the pipe-line. And our dream to launch our own fund of funds, which we initially thought virtually impossible, did come true. After only three months, we received a multi-million commitment from a seed investor that enabled the launch of the Skënderbeg Fund. It’s, by the way, very interesting that all countries that are dear to me are represented in our company. The chief investment officer is Swiss, the chief risk officer is German and I, as the CEO, come from Kosovo. Each nationality has its strengths and by combining those strengths, we have built a strong team.
As far as challenges are concerned, I think the biggest one is to change the perspective that, in the men-dominated hedge fund industry, women only have assisting roles, in particular if they are good-looking. Thus, it’s not surprising for me to hear the question: « What’s your role in the company, Miranda? » In meetings, I’m most often the only woman. That’s kind of a weird feeling, being the only woman in this environment, but actually, I don’t care, because I know my skills. At the end of the day, the fact that I’m a woman in the industry is in our favor and gives us a competitive advantage, because the way women approach investing works in their favor. Reasons for this conclusion have nothing to do at all with intelligence or education levels or years of experience. It all boils down to one biological differences: Women tend to be physically weaker. This disadvantage they have to compensate with prudence and a higher awareness of risk. In addition, men produce, on average, 15 times more testosterone than women. This has an impact on aggression, dominance, confidence, hostility and risk-taking. A study by BlackRock found, that there are two main ways in which women differ from men: Firstly, women tend to view their investing with longer-term goals in mind—namely, financial security, independence and quality of life. Secondly, they tend to take more time to research their investments and seek out the advice of others before taking the plunge. Men, on the other hand, tend to take decision-making into their own hands. They are also more likely to make impulsive decisions in response to the markets. For example, a study in support of this assertion proved that women were less likely than men to sell equities during the 2008 financial crisis. It turns out that being a thoughtful, patient investor pays off. Women simply perceive risk differently from men and tend to manage their portfolios accordingly. I also think that female intuition has its advantages. Their social and emotional skills are more developed than men’s. In general, women ask questions more quickly in case they think they don’t really understand an issue. They immediately want to get to the bottom of things. Men often wait for fear to be considered uninformed or unknowing.
To sum up, I think people who experienced uncertainty—and certainly war—have a very different understanding of and relationship with risk than people who come from a quiet academic background, free of fear and uncertainty. My dark years offer many relevant lessons—about life, politics, financial markets, wealth, and survival—that can help investors like us to deal with adversity and difficult times. For example: In war, there is often no second chance. This can be transferred to the investment strategy.
We are thrilled to introduce to you Jacqueline HARVEY, author and business woman.
« My name is Jacqueline Harvey. I am a company director, entrepreneur author and health and business consultant, with over 20 years experience in health and wellbeing. I am based in London, working predominately in Mayfair and Covent Garden, but have also worked on projects in Tuscany, the South of France and West Africa. My business career started at 19 years old, whilst studying philosophy and sociology at Goldsmiths University, when my then partner and I set up an annual jazz festival in Covent Garden. It became a huge success and I made a lot of money from it. From a very young age I had to be self sufficient, as my mother was a single mother of 8 and there wasn’t enough to go around. After graduation I worked at Deloitte as a trainee accountant, which put me in good stead for all my future business activities. There was no money to be made in philosophy. I also had an athletic and sport background from school and college, but my father said at that time there was no money to be made in sport. How wrong he was. I always felt passionate about helping women to achieve the best body shape they could with the aid of exercise and nutrition, giving them confidence and good health. To achieve this and find something that I could feel passionate about, accounting and the corporate world were not for me. Whilst still at Deloitte I decided to train and become qualified as a personal fitness trainer. I soon realised that I had a lot more to offer than just physical training. Through working on my own health issues and those of my clients, I discovered that fitness was only one part of a more complex route to being healthy – fitness is part of a holistic philosophy based on mind, body and spirit. I voraciously studied well being philosophies from around the world as well as, nutrition, meditation, and neurolinguistic programming. In 1996 I decided to pool all this knowledge into my first book Your Health is Your Wealth, which was rejected many times before being published by Hay House in 2008. The book was well received but didn’t make me a lot of money. However I became the first person in my family, not only to graduate from university, but to have a book published. In 2006 I set up Crystal Clear Health Ltd which put my ideas from the book into practice, bringing together health programmes for lifestyle generated illnesses. In 2013 the business won The ERB award for best health care and well being business in the UK. Although I loved personal training and working with my clients in every way, the income stream was unstable and seasonal, and ultimately not enough to enable me to buy my own home, so I had to employ other skills that I had including, modeling, journalism and temping in order to pay the bills. I was inspired to write two further books, Boost you’re energy in Four weeks, which was sponsored by Essentials magazine and serialised in The Daily Express, followed by Body Cycles which came out last year. Having worked as a consultant for many years for other lifestyle businesses and luxury brands, I was asked to help set up a contemporary art gallery in Mayfair. Art had always been a love of mine and I had the opportunity to support a woman in starting her own business with the local knowledge and contacts to increase the potential for the gallery to succeed. The gallery has grown to the extent that we are now in the process of staring a women’s art fair for 2019, My next health project is very exciting and could change the way we access and experience natural healthcare care on the UK. What are the causes you support (your commitment/ charity)? Foremost, I support my family and friends and neighbours in the local community. Charity begins at home for me. I volunteer my time to a local housing association helping vulnerable individuals to be heard and cared for. I also support a charity organization in Africa called The Earth Centre, which develops safe drinking water facilities and farming programmes to create environmentally friendly self-sufficiency. I strongly believe from my life experience that women still don’t have the opportunities, treatment and pay that men have and I try and help motivate, support and inspire the women I meet to grab the best in life. If you have a message to pass, what it would be? » In my experience to be successful you really need to persevere, tenacious and be ready to fight for what you want – nothing will come easily. »
We are thrilled to introduce to you Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq, attorney and CEO.
« My name is Karima Mariama-Arthur. I am a corporate attorney and CEO of WordSmithRapport (www.wordsmithrapport.com), a boutique consulting firm specializing in leadership development and organizational performance management. I’m also the author of ‘Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond’(Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point earlier this year.
I’ve always had an “entrepreneurial itch,” but never gave it serious consideration until after the birth of my son, Khalil. He inspired me to ‘eliminate the box.’ Interestingly enough, I approached my journey by suspending the idea that only law could be a career option. As an important detour of sorts, I began to delve deeply into the wine industry—exclusively—for several years before realizing that expanding the notion of “career possibilities “ was necessary. During this time, I worked as a Wine Educator for Paradise Springs Winery, wrote for Zane Lamprey and earned several professional certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET).
Eventually, though, I began to examine the universe of possibilities by closely dialing into the diversity of my knowledge , skills and experience, noticing any areas that conjured up genuine excitement. While I knew that the mastery of wine would still represent an incredibly important aspect of my professional wheelhouse, I also realized that leveraging my legal, academic and business acumen could prove to be a powerful foundation for establishing a successful professional development and advisory firm. After pinpointing my focus and mustering the courage to move forward, WordSmithRapport was born.
After I gave life to my idea, however, there was still more work to do. A ton more work. I had to develop a credible, compelling and competitive brand. That brand also needed to be highly visible. Part of that work had everything to do with PR and marketing. The rest of the process had everything to do with showcasing my expertise, which meant years of writing endless expert articles, securing media interviews, speaking nationally and internally, engaging in high-touch networking and facilitating measurable results that made the firm’s expertise sought after. I also had to obtain clients. Paying clients. Repeat paying clients. New clients. I had to stop and re-consider whether this was really what I wanted.
I quickly learned that working for myself wasn’t easy: It was time-consuming, labor-intensive and stressful. Even with the enormous amount of work that I was putting in, I often felt I was doing so in vain. Successes were trickling in…but success was taking too long. Even still, I refused to let quitting become an option. My self-talk confirmed that I’d worked too hard to give up so easily. I also knew that I was probably on the cusp of something pretty great—any day. Against the backdrop of a waxing and waning ego, I decided to shift my mindset and dig deep for the long haul. Choosing to bet on myself was a critical turning point in my journey that helped me to see myself and my contributions differently. Coincidentally, it was also buttressed by the phenomenal support of a core group of business women and friends who helped me find the strength, courage and resources to push forward relentlessly.
One of the charitable causes that I am entirely committed to is empowering young people to believe in themselves and develop the skill sets (both technical and soft) that ensure immeasurable success in every single aspect of their lives. I had a great deal of community support when I was growing up, and it’s had a profound impact on my life. I think it’s important to do the same for others.
What’s a compelling message that resonates strongly and that I’d like to share with others?: “Life is so precious, but it’s also incredibly short. Don’t get bogged down in the muck and mire of endless striving, perfectionism and other people’s opinions. Pause often. Do what you love to make a profound difference in the lives of others. Love yourself (and others) in earnest, travel with wild abandon and try your level best to enjoy every damn minute you’ve been gifted. You’ll not get any back.”
We are thrilled to introduce to you Angela TUNNER: Director, Founding Editor-in-Chief, Publisher and luxury curator.
« The entrepreneurial path is never a straight line. In most cases, it takes a zig zag trajectory seemingly leading the ambitious person on a wild and incomprehensible ride. That is the case with Angela Tunner, whose background and experiences seemed at the time to be aimless and without focus but in the end, was the ideal recipe that made her uniquely qualified to create her international brand. She also faced a great many challenges and obstacles, some of them life threatening, that stood in her way. Following the advise of a favored quote attributed to Winston Churchill » When you find yourself in hell, keep going. » Keep going she did, with faith, grit, an open heart and determination, overcoming her incredible odds, and going on to inspire others.
This wide variety of fields and disciplines lead Angela to become accomplished in business and creative arts. Her list of skills and achievements is varied – a few that speak to her diversity and character are: She’s a publisher and an award winning cookbook author and former restaurateur, serving as sous chef, co-owner and manager of a Toronto based, Wine Spectator award-winning French bistro; a brand developer and an award winning entrepreneur with a nomination for the RBC Women’s Entrepreneurs award and winner of the Women of Excellence Award, ‘Woman of Vision’. She also has an eclectic background in clerical and business administration in the fields of advertising, marketing, fine art, fashion merchandising, radio and television, and in management, as an ISO9000 certified quality control manager for a manufacturer of atmospheric diving systems, working in a pilot project with the US Navy. Stemming from her time in admin, has over 25 years experience with computers ranging from office through design software.
Creatively, worked as a fashion merchandiser for a national women’s clothing chain, a fine artist who painted, exhibited and sold her works, and worked in various position in communications including advertising for financial firms, on the communications team for the application for a television license and attended CRTC hearings, and held an executive board position with a lobby group for status of the artist.
Over twenty five years ago Angela began an independent and passionate study of communications and luxury and all that encompasses it including branding and aesthetics, becoming familiar with brands and people, immersing herself to gain a better understanding and formulating her own views on the industry, the definition of luxury and its evolution as the world continued to evolve.
She is the founder of an international media company, her publication, EAT LOVE SAVOR®, named on a list of the Top 5 Luxury Magazines (Notable Consideration) a list that includes Bloomberg and listed in the Top 10 Best Sites for Luxury, a list that includes Louis Vuitton and Dolce and Gabbana.
While developing the EAT LOVE SAVOR® brand, which is now a registered trademark, she created a formula for giving a brand a voice, all important in this digital and social media driven world. She calls the formula DynamicBrand, that has been made into a workbook, which is available as an eBook for purchase online.
Tunner’s media company, Tunner Media is progressive in its culture and in how it functions. It is truly modern in that the operations are virtual, and there is no staff. Instead, the company works with contractors and contributors remotely, forgoing costly overhead and confining cubicle culture allowing for a better work and life balance that is liberating for all. The culture also includes peer to peer mentorship and mentorship of young people studying and preparing for a career in communications and media in group and one-on-one sessions. Angela has also shared her story and insights to high school and elementary classes on communications, arts and media acting as a positive role model and provide inspiration.
Tunner says « I believe that media could take on a role to be a positive influence on its readers and has a tremendous opportunity to be much more than a conduit to consumerism or sensationalism for the purposes of higher ratings. It can be, as we are, designed to be a force for positivity, beauty, goodness, intelligence and ‘edutainment’ as I call it – a means of entertaining education and in our case, free from ads and outside influence. Where my platform and magazine EAT LOVE SAVOR® is concerned, we are aimed at three tiers of wealth, primarily focused on the gentler side of luxury, looking at life and luxury through a feminine lens offering our readers an oasis free from negativity, superficiality and pressure to purchase. The print magazine is distributed via our international distributor, digitally to 4 and 5 star hotels around the world, airlines and airport lounges. Our print issues are printed and purchased on demand rather than mass distribution and shipped worldwide, to those that are truly interested in it versus a mass market approach. Its not about the maximum number of eyes, but rather the right ones. »
Magazine site : http://www.eatlovesavor.com
DynamicBrand book : https://tinyurl.com/DynamicBrandWorkbook
We are thrilled to introduce to you Tessy ANTONY – Business Woman, Philanthropist and UNAides Ambassador.
« My name is Tessy and I am a single mum of two incredible boys. Originally from LUXEMBOURG I lived in 5 different countries and worked with thousands of people. The work I do I inspired by the thousand of men, women and children I have meet on my path to happiness and success.
Success for me has always been measured with the impact my work has brought to thousand of peoples lives all around the world.
Everything I do reflects my passions and I only engage with projects that inspire me and bring value to other people.
I believe in teamwork, togetherness and diversity. Only by combining all of these three incredients is change possible.
Change is possible but not inevitable. Hence, why I accepted my mandate at UNAids as global advocate for young women and Adolescents girls.
Moreover, I co founded Professors Without Borders which has brought hope, change and skills to hundreds of young and engaged individuals all around the globe.
As every single one of us, I did and constantly encounter difficult situations. That’s life and as wierd as it sounds, it is needed in order to enable personal growth, resilience and learning what ever the lesson might be.
For me, of course my divorce was definitely one of the most difficult situations I have ever faced. I experienced the same feelings and emotions when I miscarried my third child.
I cried for years over these two situations. Yet, I always sourced strength from my two healthy and happy boys who mean the world to me.
My mindset was and remains always very clear: focus on the positivity around me, especially my two sons, and keep moving forward no matter how hard it is.
Failure is natural. It all depends what you make out of it. There is always a way to turn things around to become positive and constructive for yourself, your family and people around you.
Self care and resilience are key to get you through everything.
Of course family and friends are crucial. However, if you’re not well from the inside out, you can’t make anyone happy around you.
Therefore, invest in yourself- especially when times are though.
Moreover, I think, with difficult situations, often other people’s judgements is an additional burden. Therefore, I strongly believe in the phrase “treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself” and don’t judge. It’s not necessary and does not help anyone.
Therefore, speak up and empower if it does enhances someone else’s standard of living and wellbeing, and be quite and listen when it’s not. There is a time for each of them in all of our lives.
My message to all is “sourround yourself with people that inspire you, value your own time as the most valuable good you will ever possess and support people around you that need your skills and energy to grow. Never feel to important for the simplest tasks and stay happy with what you do or change if you’re not”
We need to support each other to enervate prosperity and change. Hence, I always welcome your generous help.
Much love to all and stay happy. »
We are thrilled to introduce to you Elena Shchukina – Gallery owner and art curator.
« From the days she chose to study law in Russia, to today, with her gallery Elena Shchukina has always been a champion of the underdog. The raison d’etre of Gallery Elena Shchukina today is to make art more accessible to a wider audience and create a venue that supports some of the most exciting emerging international contemporary artists who have never before exhibited in the UK.
After qualifying as a lawyer, she decided against a career in the courtroom, choosing instead to take a leap of faith and pursue her passion for art. She went back to school and studied at the Moscow Design Academy before moving to Milan and London, where she enrolled in various art business courses through the Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses.
« I studied law because my parents advised me to do so, and while I chose not to pursue as a career, it was a great decision. Law is a vary multilateral subject. which has provided me with valuable skills and knowledge that I found useful for establishing an art business as well. I made the move into art so that I could focus my passion and creativity into something that I could produce. » She says.
Growing up in Siberia presents challenges of its own; it is a brutal landscape, forcing one to build a thick skin. This most definitely prepared Elena for a career in the arts; a historically male dominated elite world, where women, to this day continue to be under-represented. Her ultimate dream was always to open an art gallery in London, undoubtedly the global hub of the international art world. However, this came with its own challenges, the first of which was establishing herself in an already crowded art scene. To get a head start, she curated three exhibitions in other locations before ever opening the doors to Gallery Elena Shchukina in 2013.
Success hasn’t been guaranteed for Elena, and she made the decision to close another of her galleries, in London’s Knightsbridge district. However, she made the most of this situation, her Mayfair gallery was selected to headline Russian Art Week in November 2014.
Today, the Gallery frequently participates in a number of international art fairs, including the London Art Fair, Masterpiece, START and Art Bahrain. Her vision for the gallery combines a love of the technique of creation coupled with a passionate interest in colour and texture and as well as conventional art, she regularly hosts exhibition evenings, displaying the latest masterpieces from the world of fashion and jewellery.
Outside of her gallery work, Elena is a member of AWAD; the Association of Women Art Dealers and a Patron of both the Royal Academy of Arts and Victoria & Albert Museum. Through these associations, her position and influence within the art world has continued to grow and she has established a network and profile that has gone a long way to raise the profile of previously under-represented or under-appreciated artists.
A young mother with two children, she has a passion for philanthropy and especially believes in the importance of providing underprivileged children with the opportunity to access art and art education, partnering with Action for Children to host several charity events at the gallery. »
We are delighted to introduce to you Polly Alexandre, an international Success Coach for Women Entrepreneurs.
« With a background in fashion, advertising & photography before becoming a coach and healer, I am a serial entrepreneur and leading money block coach. I mentors & coach ambitious, creative women to overcome their past and the blocks & fears holding them back, so they can truly fulfill all their potential in life and business.
I help women overcome their negative money beliefs & write a new money story so they can create the money to live the life of their dreams, and in the process become more empowered, more confident, more peaceful, free and happy.
My vision is true abundance for everyone!
I didn’t always think like this however! Like many people, I grew up with the message that you work hard and life is a struggle & you should be grateful for what you have. There was never enough money and that’s just how it was. Like many women of our generation my parents grew up during & in the aftermath of the second world war and were the products of a generation that knew scarcity, struggle and lack & fear first hand.
It wasn’t until decades later that I realized these experiences were the foundations of my own belief system, and that we inherit our programming about how the world works largely from our parents, but also from the generations before us. It’s literally in our DNA.
At 19, I was called to go on my first silent meditation retreat & it blew my mind. I remember even the traffic lights looked brighter on the way home. Life seemed richer, more vibrant & I felt more peaceful and in the flow. The power we have through our own minds over how we experience life was set in my mind right then.
I went on to do a Psychology degree (although I really wanted to go to art school) and then studied Fashion Promotion and began my working career.
The world of advertising agencies was exciting, it was the dot-com boom; money was flying around and the parties were fun and exciting – but my role as a planner wasn’t. I was in the wrong department, not playing to my strengths, and I became disillusioned and longed to break free.
I remember taking my one and only sick day off work, and drawing out a future vision for my life, one where I lived on a sunny island by the beach & where I did something I really loved for a living.
I knew deep down anything was possible, and at 28, I bravely made the leap from corporate to being a creative, and running my own business based on my passion for photography. It was a steep learning curve and the start of me truly claiming my freedom about how I choose to work & live.
In the new era of digital photography & everyone switching over, I stayed true to my heart and make a decision to shoot film. This proved to be core to my success – and I quickly became very successful as my work stood out from the crowd. I was featured heavily in magazines and online, and secured amazing weddings all over the world.
It was time to realize the dream of that magical life in the sun…… fiercely determined, I didn’t take No for an answer when my financial advisor said to come back in a couple of years time. It was 2008 & the banks were going bust & the world was in financial crisis – but I knew it was my time. I just had to push through, get creative and figure out a way to make it happen.
I stopped engaging in any conversations about the poor state of the economy, stepped away from negative people, and turned odd the TV & radio. Every night I immersed myself in books about Ibiza and imagined myself there.
With a mortgage offer valid for just 30 days, I set out manifest my dream home on the beautiful island of Ibiza. 6 weeks later I was the proud owner of a lovely home walking distance from the beach with magical sunset views.
In December 2010 we packed everything up in the 4 wheel drive, and with the cat on the dashboard set off for the epic drive down to Ibiza.
Could life get any better? As I sat watching the sunset over Es Vedra, a giant rock off the coast of Ibiza & one of the most magnetic places on Earth, I felt truly blessed. I remember saying to my partner, “I just don’t want anything to change”.
Less than 2 years later, I would have lost almost everything in my life. First my Mum passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, my father got cancer, and then my new husband walked out in my first year of marriage, and then went on to almost die. More losses followed, including eventually, my beloved island home.
I learned to survive when the worst that could happen is happening. I learned what it is to go to the very depths of despair, and what it is to handle grief, loss, pain, heartbreak.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, I learned to rise again, I become very strong, I dug deep inside myself to survive and figure out my next steps.
It was time to start a new dream.
I followed the calling on a new path, took on a high level mentor, trained as a coach, and I created a new 6 figure business in just 13 months. Within 2 years, I had a multiple 6 figure creative and coaching business. I was travelling the world and rediscovering my power and my joy.
I learned the power of transforming my beliefs, especially around money, and my photography career soared too – I fulfilled a long held dream of shooting for Martha Stewart Weddings and even having my own cover.
But still something was missing.
At the end of 2016, I serendipitously came across a modality called Theta Healing, and it opened up a whole new level of transformation. Women (and men) have such deep inner wisdom yet we’re disconnected from that most of the time. Through wonderful spiritual teachers I learned how to identify and clear the deep subconscious programming that holds us back.
My intuitive abilities grew tremendously. My toolkit was stronger than ever and I saw the transformation in my own clients when I supported them with the combination of coaching & deep inner healing.
When we clear a lifetime of limiting beliefs, and create a new vision for the future, magic happens.
Creating becomes more effortless, we feel more empowered, and the outer world begins to reflect our new inner world. More money, more opportunities, more peace of mind, more self love, more time and location freedom….
I help women make more money, through the deep inner transformation and clearing of all the negative beliefs that have built up over a lifetime. I help them get back in their power and let go of the old stuff that’s holding them back.
Quite simply, I support women to fulfill their potential.
One of the greatest & deepest fears we hold is not fulfilling our potential in life.
I believe are all like diamonds, that just lost their shine over time. I help women rediscover that diamond, clean it up and polish it, so they can be all they came here to be in this lifetime. I help them move past abuse, trauma, low self worth, lack of confidence and into claiming their gifts, their potential and all the abundance that’s waiting for them.
Through my business, I support women one on one in high level Private Coaching, and through my Group Coaching Programme, Money Beautifully, an online Group Coaching Programme to transform your Money Story and Clear your Money Blocks. My heart lights up every day when I see the transformation happening with the women I work with,.
I work with a variety of clients from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, the Middle East & Europe, which includes coaches starting their coaching business or looking to go the next level, to women seeking their purpose and passion & who are ready to make the leap from corporate to entrepreneurship, and women seeking to go to the next level in their life and business.
This lifetime has been one huge journey and I’m only half way through. I’ve learned that whilst we are the Creator of our own lives, we are also spiritual souls having a human journey and there are many things we will be called to surrender to and experience that we do not choose on a conscious level.
It’s part of our path to discover the learnings, surrender to the journey and seek the magic.
The message I would share with women reading this is that you have the power to write a new dream at any time. You have everything you need inside you, don’t be scared to get support, and the best money you ever invest will be the money you invest in yourself.
Uncover and transform your relationship with money – it’s one of the biggest relationships in your life, and one that you have the power to write a new story around.
Be open to new ways of seeing the world, follow your intuition – it’s one of your greatest gifts & it will never lead you wrong – and know that you have the power inside you to overcome your fears and manifest all of your dreams and desires.
Never accept something as ‘just how it is’. Everything is a metaphor & you are a spiritual being having a human journey.
Take risks, be brave, know you stronger than you realise, follow your desires, listen to your soul, share love & be kind. »
We are delighted to introduce to you Samanah Duran, CEO and CD of Critics Clothing.
« I am the Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Critics Clothing and most recently listed Forbes 30 under 30 Europe. In a just a few short years I built my business on my own with a few favours I managed to pull in here and there. I didn’t have a large amount of personal finance to invest in my start-up or a prestigious Bachelors degree in business management, but what I did and still do have are my faculties and a garnered degree of experience whilst building Critics Clothing.
Critics Clothing is a retail start-up just short of 5 years old is a luxury streetwear brand developed and designed by myself back in 2012. Critics Clothing accurately conveys a powerful message to take pride in your identity, demonstrated through an intricate blend of simplistic and traditional but assertive styles.
Building on that inspiration as an extension of Critics Clothing, I have now successfully launched BEYOUROWN, which is a digital media & news company dedicated to inspiring young women in business.
During my creative process, I found that I was often overcome by the same challenge throughout the first few years of growing Critics Clothing. I found myself hesitating to turn Critics Clothing into a mainstream fast fashion brand to generate more profit. It was a question of whether I wanted to do more wholesale and dilute the exclusivity or to continue maintaining full control over our own online space. This common factor of self doubt always circulated around the same spot on the drawing board.
However, I was also extremely reluctant to do so as I was so keen to keep the elusive, exclusive touch to the brand and I felt that turning Critics Clothing into a brand that just churned out t-shirts and sweaters without any real creativity or thought would take away the real core essence and passion I felt for the brand as a whole.
I know my audience better than anyone and I have always wanted to feel competent when releasing designs and collections online. I had to measure my audience and my demographics constantly to know what the best pricing structure would be, and make sure the brand’s DNA and ethos really matched my intentions for Critics Clothing. It was a case of measuring and testing the market over and over again. Changing the prices, altering the quantity of how much was produced in certain styles etc. It really was down to trial and error.
BEYOUROWN’s rapid growth & evolution is down to continuously delivering a fresh perspective from a wide community of the most affluential, influential and entrepreneurial game changing women of today. BEYOUROWN help empower and support young women that are passionate about changing lives.
Worldwide leading ladies use the BEYOUROWN platform to tell their stories, offer advice and share their knowledge, covering topics such as Business, Music & Media, Science, Tech & Art and Sports.
I am passionate about building strong foundations that resonate with both my self as the founder and my audiences as I believe that authenticity and transparency is the key to success. I love the concept of taking what I have learnt whilst building Critics Clothing and being able to share that on my platform BEYOUROWN- so that other women out that can hopefully take away some tips and advice and apply them to what ever they are doing whilst navigating their way through their own business journey.
If I had absolutely one message to say to share then it would be to « BE YOUR OWN » Be you, be real and don’t be afraid to whole you really want to be. You have one life, and its far too short to live it whilst pretending to another version of yourself. »
Ava St. PIERRE
We are delighted to introduce to you Ava ST.Pierre – author.
« Author of After The Storm- Breaking The Cycle of Abuse with Conviction, Connection and Compassion – survivor of a mother with debilitating mental illness and a product of both mental and physical child abuse. Sadly, Ava’s greatest loss as a child was losing her baby brother to abuse.
ST.Pierre is a multi-title pageant holder and has learned to achieve her best on stage with focus, vigor, poise and exquisite beauty. As a star athlete at age eleven, she learned how to optimize the power of physical strength and mental endurance. But for this gifted woman, life was rarely easy; for most of her childhood, she lived out a secret nightmare.
Ava is a mother of two, a grandmere` of four and is married to her high school sweetheart of thirty-nine years. She owns and operates two family owned-businesses- Rooster’s Outdoor Adventures, LLC and Queen Be Productions, LLC. “Own Your Kingdom”. She lives nestled in the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Ava recently released her inspirational memoir- After The Storm, which has received rave reviews for her honesty and inspiring story of overcoming a challenging childhood with triumph over adversity; how she chose to end the cycle of abuse in her family by showing love, grace and compassion to all; how to turn negatives into positive energy in order to make the world a better, more loving place. After The Storm is currently working on two projects in turning Ava’s autobiography into film. One is a short film with world renown artist, fashion photographer and Florence, Italy based director – Rossano B. Maniscalchi and team. As well as a documentary for ‘International Women’s Day’ with Magnascope Media LLC. Led by CEO and Executive Producer Angela “Ella” Kastman Corr. In sharing Ava’s true life story on a bigger platform, she hopes to continue to give back through her message(s).
About the Book:
Ava ST.Pierre has never played the victim; through faith and courage, she found a better tomorrow. Her true-life story will inspire you to never give up hope. As a young girl, oftentimes, Ava knew her saving grace was to hide quietly behind the living room couch and wait for the whirlwind of her mother’s rage to pass.
Throughout her teen and young adult years, Ava had to learn how to break the effects of debilitating mental illness that her mother suffered from and effectuated in violence toward her and six siblings. Even as Ava witnessed her mother’s steady decline, she chose to follow her father’s lead- to live a life of genuine, empathetic compassion and enlightenment, helping others survive after their own storm and speaking up for the helpless and haunted. As memories of abuse impress upon the psyche, a heart of love and forgiveness will always pave the way to rise above such chaos. With assistance from her daughter and co-author, Sheree’ Cogburn, Ava ST.Pierre’s story is a perfect testimony to the power of love, faith and forgiveness. As expected from a beauty queen, After The Storm includes details and photos from the pageant arena, but the most surprising twist is the message that shines through about the beauty within.
Through wisdom of experience Ava inspires others to have courage to tell the grueling truths. She has learned it’s incredibly freeing to write and talk about her once hidden past and shed a positive light on how to break the cycles of abuse. Ava has learned through her life’s journey, there is brightness and goodness in the world. Darkness and storms, we all have faced, will show rainbows and light in the world God has planned for each of us.
Ava shows through actions to champion a voice of strength to not feel the guilt or shame of a secret past. Sharing her story across the globe in hopes of helping many families and children with similar life struggles and experiences. She became a beauty queen for the sole purpose of helping to make a difference and using the sash and crown in a deeper and more meaningful way. There is beauty within that exists in all of us. Ava continues to use the sash and crown as a tool and stepping stone to create greater awareness for those affected by mental illness, child abuse and life struggles. She is a positive role model for others and shows those she meets love and compassion. Ava’s goal even as a young teenage mother was to always strive to be the best mother she could because her mother didn’t have the chance to be present in her seven children’s lives. Ava treasures her children and grandchildren, in honor of her and the mother she would have been if not for her illness. Thank God for the small things, always carrying a positive attitude because she has seen heartbreak in her life and has come out the other side stronger and braver for the experiences. »
To order your copy of “After The Storm” please visit:
We are delighted to introduce to you Indre BUTKEVICIUTE – wealth coach.
« My name is Indre and my mission is to help women become more educated about the world of investing so they can become active participants when making decisions related to their or their families’ wealth.
My story started almost 12 years ago when I graduated from UCL with a BA in Economics and Business with Eastern European Studies and found myself one morning getting off the tube at Canary Wharf station and entering one of the office buildings housing Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. It then was my home for the next 8 years. I remember very vividly when I was around 16 years old, visiting London for the first time, when I stepped outside Canary Wharf station I quietly said to myself ‘oh what a dream it would be to work here someday’. I am a huge believer that if you wish for something sooner or later it will come to you, so be very careful with your wishes.
I really enjoyed my years at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. I learnt a lot about the business, clients, how to approach certain things and 8 years later I felt it was time to move on and start building my own empire, Lily Advisory, completely oblivious to how hard it can actually be.
Quite often when we hear business success stories the long rocky road towards the success gets lost somewhere. When I started I was completely fuelled by excitement, adrenaline, curiosity and a sense of empowerment. For 12 months that kept me going full speed ahead. However that energy at some point runs out, especially when you are faced with challenges that take you 2 or 3 steps back, you then need to find the strength again to power through and keep going. The whole dynamic of running a business alone is very different from working in a company where you are surrounded by other people. I went from a large corporate world surrounded by a great team, management and infrastructure to going at it all alone. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in the last 4 years is self-doubt. Every idea that you have, you think it over and over and over again for a 100 times until the point that you start doubting about the whole business altogether. And I am sure all entrepreneurs have come to breaking points on numerous occasions where you just want to drop it all and walk away. In order to have the strength to power through these moments and just accept that building a business takes years, you need to surround yourself with strong mentors and motivators. These people are already around you and in your circle. It is people who you trust to give you their honest opinion, people who are not afraid to give you constructive criticism, challenge you and encourage you.
I get quite frustrated when people assume that if you run your own business you live a very flexible, carefree and fun lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, it is a lot of fun at times to be your own boss, but it also means that you honestly never stop. Your work is your life and your life is your work, the concept of switching off disappears altogether at least for the first 4 years. We will see how it all pans out in the next 4 years. As an example, this summer when I was on my honeymoon I still spent quite a few hours working, because I had a new client and I knew I could not turn down the business just because I was on holiday.
Those who know me very well, will definitely say that the biggest challenge so far for me has been to stay level headed. 4 years down the line and I still go through a rollercoaster of emotions on a regular basis. I believe it is very normal to go from feeling very happy because you have some great projects going to feeling very frustrated and crying your eyes out because this month you did not get any new business. At times I find myself thinking: did I really make the right decision, am I approaching the business in the right way, do I have the right idea, and so on. Reality is, no matter how hard it can get at times, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Having my own business has allowed me to run it the way I feel fits best with my clients and me. I have the ability to be flexible and adapt to the requirements easily, I can make decisions fast and move at the same pace as the market does and I can put all my crazy ideas to the test and see if any of them work.
Coming from a financial background I always felt that women were certainly underrepresented in the financial industry, especially in the senior positions. My other observation was that women were also underrepresented on the investor side as well. Having done some research and reading a few interesting papers I realised that one of the biggest reasons for that was lack of financial education. That is why I founded Lily Advisory in the hope of solving exactly this problem.
The company aims to provide women with the tools required to lead a financially sound lifestyle. Every woman is different and has unique requirements and I want to make sure to offer help for each of the aspects. There are two main parts of the business: 1) wealth coaching for women; and 2) Financially Sound Woman Investment Club.
Wealth coaching provides advice to women who need help in understanding how to manage their finances more effectively and helping them gain the knowledge to allow them to tap into the world of investing. The Financially Sound Woman Investment Club is a platform for like-minded women to get together and learn about investing, share ideas and join forces when making financial decisions while at the same time having some fun together.
My biggest commitment with Lily Advisory is to educate as many women as I possibly can, get them interested in investing and show them the fun and accessible side of it. It is important to bridge the gap between female clients and providers (wealth managers, financial advisers, asset managers and others), because I see things going wrong too often purely due to lack of understanding one another. At times I also feel that when you lack certain knowledge you can be taken advantage of by someone who has the upper hand, and that applies not only in finance of course, but overall. My mission is to eliminate these issues as much as I can and give women the power to take control of their financial affairs so that if things go wrong they have the tools to cope with it.
I am a strong believer that us, women, should help each other advance. I quite often like to use the quote “One woman can make a difference but together we can rock the world” and I absolutely live by it every single day and I thank all the wonderful women around me with whom together we certainly are starting to rock the world slowly step by step. »
We are delighted to introduce to you Susan STEVENS – CEO of MadeWithRespect.
« I was born and grew up in New Zealand and continue to live there with my 3 children and husband who I met when I was 15. When I was 13 my parents took my brothers and I to the other side of the world where we lived for 3 months out of a campervan exploring the UK and parts of Europe. This opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. In my early 20’s I jumped back on a plane this time with my future husband in tow, we spent the next few years living in London and travelled around Europe and Africa. We eventually headed back to New Zealand to further our careers and start a family.
I’ve always been fiercely independent, never one to conform under pressure, I do what feels intuitively right. When life has thrown me a curveball I navigate through as best I can, using the experience to grow and learn from. I am driven by a desire to do my best, to be a great role model for my children and to live a full life with little regret.
I strive to live a meaningful life; one that not only I can be proud of but my children and husband can be proud of. My focus is to achieve a balance that affords me the freedom and flexibility to enjoy life and appreciate time with my family; I don’t consider my work a job but rather a way of life.
For me, life is not just about surviving, it’s about feeling alive and embracing the challenges that come with it. Life is about being courageous, not being afraid to make mistakes and more importantly being open to learn and grow from them. Life is about living purposefully.Top of Form
After a successful career climbing the corporate ladder in the sales and media industry I slowly became disheartened with the corporate environment, I lost my passion and I lost my faith in big corporate companies, I became disillusioned with everything they stood for and everything they didn’t stand for.
I left it behind and started down a path less travelled but one that afforded me greater enablement, where I found greater freedom and flexibilty, where passion and purpose became my norm.
In November 2014, after 20 months of working late at night on a business idea while managing two daytime contracts and raising 3 children, I launched my own company. I worked with boutique brands selling jewellery, bags and homeware through pop-up shops, select retail stores in New Zealand and Australia and through an e-commerce site. It became a two year project validating the market, understanding the opportunities and realising where my true passion lay.
In October 2016 I joined forces with Carolyn Managh, expert marketer and ex-Ebay UK Brand Director. We remodelled the business and relaunched Made With Respect as a global online e-department store that champions boutique brands Made With Respect, through virtual branches strategically located in key cities around the world.
Made With Respect brings together extraordinary boutique brands from all corners of the globe, made with respect to craftmanship, to people and to the environment, often with equally inspiring social mission stories. We are vocal champions, the storyteller and a global voice for ethical practises, transparent supply-chains, small batch craftmanship, quality and sustainability. We celebrate everything inherently good about those we partner with.
From a business perspective Made With Respect also represents not just the Founders of the company but all those connected to us who stay true to their values, who embrace life and who are committed to making a difference. Made With Respect empowers and enables.
Having experienced the crushing effect when someone in the workplace tried to disempower me by using their power and status, it stirred a passion within me to support and enable others in business. Life is much more difficult and arduous when you feel alone and vulnerable, but when surrounded by like-minded people and equiped with resources and a healthy dose of encouragement, it creates a very dynamic environment to function in.
This was the basis of Made With Respect; to create an environment where we empower and enable others with a similar vision, who partner with us. We celebrate everyones uniqueness and champion everyones individual strengths because collectively we are far stronger than when we are a voice of one.
Life is for living, not surviving. It is almost guaranteed that through life you will face adversity, but rather than focusing your energy on being fearful of what might happen, learn to face it with courage and move forward being wiser because of it. Although things may happen to you that are out of your control, you can control the way you respond to it and ultimately influence the outcome. »
We are delighted to introduce to you Rene BYRD, singer and God brand ambassador.
« The latest artist to bring a fresh new take on the soul and pop genres is the talented singer and songwriter, Rene Byrd. A driven musician with a powerful voice, her heartfelt lyrics are set to touch listeners across the globe.
Rene Byrd’s passion for singing began from a very young age when she participated in numerous talent contests namely an inter-college competition based in London which nurtured stars like Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield. These successfully placed her as one of the top talents in the UK. At the age of 14, Rene joined a band as a backup vocalist, paving the way for her career in the music industry. A star was born.
Rene is third generation West Indian and she comes from a religious and musical background. Her father was a music producer and her uncle is a Gospel singer, now internationally known as ‘Bishop John Francis’, whose choir sang for HRH Majesty the Queen at the Royal Variety Show. John Francis also had a gospel TV show broadcasted on Channel 4, called ‘People Get Ready’. Rene recalls that it ‘was a regular occurrence to see my uncle on TV and he inspired me to sing. His voice is amazing!’
‘One of my most vivid memories as a child was being side stage at an open-air concert in London. I watched Sade, Sting and Tracey Chapman perform and it blew me away. Something inside made me run on to the stage and grab the mic and spoke to the crowd. Thankfully security just let me be then guided me back to my seat and from that day it was a clear sign that the stage was my home.’
Rene Byrd was born from a break up I remember the night like it was yesterday. My long time partner of over 8 years decided he wanted a break. We all know what a break means, I was devastated. We just grew apart I guess I lay on the floor of my studio apartment sobbing and felt like my life was over.
Melodramic you might say but as well as losing my boyfriend I also lost my best friend. I felt numb I really understood what it meant when they say my heart hurts physical pain. It was one of them sink or swim moments. I remember talking out loud to myself saying girl you better wipe those tears and channel this pain into something magical. I decided to put pen to paper and write songs to parts of my story, other peoples experiences it was truly therapeutic. I helped to heal the pain but equally when asked to perform at times brought it back but watching the audience and receiving the positive feedback about the songs the words made it all make sense.
The music industry is without question one of the most competitive and cut throat in business. You have to be thick skinned, resilient and steadfast. I have felt like giving up many times it can wear you down but every time I realise it’s what keeps my soul alive I kept pushing. I come from a musical family my father, brothers and my cousins so I am internally grateful for their continued support and believe. My brothers are my main producers so I have continued support when recording and performing.
The music landscape has changed so much, it much harder to earn money on I the music industry unless you are signed, or given the big break. The market is saturated with singers that been said I have been truly blessed to perform at some beautiful venues in the UK and internationally and work with the best producers and perform with the best musicians in town.
I decided to diversify my brand so have been building my presenting experience in the luxury industry. I have meet some amazing people on my journey and continue to connect with people that have help support and encourage me along the way.
I set myself realistic milestones, pushed myself outside my comfort zone, there is something special about being uncomfortable you learn so much about yourself. It encourages growth. Doubt is something in us all but the faith I hold helps be come to the realisation that all I can do is my very best I get comfort from that.
I don’t want to live a life of regret I have no idea how the story ends hoping it’s as blessed as it currently is.
Through my experiences and observation of others in love, sadness, hope and joy my first album was born. It’s really surreal being an artist. Not one day is the same and there is so much to consider writing good songs that connect with your audience, your image, and your performance… the list is endless. I believe in hard work and dedication and I’m involved in all aspects of my brand; from overseeing the final cut of my songs to the artwork on the CD.
Some of Rene’s past performances and guest appearances include a show at the world-famous Elstree Film Studios, the TG Foundation’s charity event featuring Lady Gaga’s designer Vera Thordardottir, Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris and ’Live at Delancey Street, Performance for BET America with Traci Ellis Ross for her show ’Read Between the Lines.’ An electric night with Rene Byrd at Annabel’s Private Members club in Mayfair London. Her performance at the National Art Gallery for the Prime Minister of Lithuania accompanied with band members that work with George Michael and Emeli Sandé.
Roy Francis (Roy Francis Productions) will work to promote Rene in both the UK and American markets; they have been responsible for producing shows and appearances for acts such as Michelle Williams (Destiny Child), Mary Mary and Trey Songz. Tez-lee Rene’s younger brother, UK’s answer to Usher has also performed alongside Rene and produced numerous tracks for her album.
Rene has recently become involved in ‘Teens Unite’ the charity founded by Karen Millen OBE and is an ambassador for ‘The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.’ She recently got involved with Target Ovarian Cancer Charity to help to create awareness and aid fundraising. She works with Rochay Elite who provide intelligence and services to the Ultra High Net Worth and Super Rich consisting of the UK & Global Rich List in the Luxury Sector.
Rene Byrd has teamed up with numerous inspiring international businesses to help endorse their brands through her image. Among these brands are Fashion Fair Cosmetics part of Johnson Publishing USA; they publish ‘Ebony Magazine and Jet the most successful African American lifestyle magazines, Sonata Luxury Lingerie line as featured in ‘Vogue’ Katherine Elizabeth (London-based Milliner who designed for Dita Von Teese), Luxury shoe designer Aruna Seth as worn by Pippa Middleton at the marriage of HRH, Save Your Soles, Convopiece showcasing innovative and unique watch brands with exquisite luxury, La Diosa London based Luxury Jewellery who have designed pieces for Oprah, Michelle Obama and HRH Duchess of Cambridge, Aiisha Ramadan Dubai based designer and her style consultant and designer Britta Von Basedow. »