Introducing Luke Garrett: An Upcoming Investor Who’s On The Verge Of Achieving Financial Freedom

There are several young investors right now who are making their way to becoming rich by getting into smart investments and one such upcoming investor who’s on the verge of achieving financial freedom at such a young age is Luke Garrett.

Luke grew up in a small town just outside of Liverpool, England, with mixed Middle Eastern and British roots from his mother’s side.

From an early age, he has always been fascinated with the mechanics of how business works, he’s always wondering why people buy things the way they do, or what makes one service better than another – pretty much pushing the boundaries of both service and products.

His mentality actually evolved from his grandfather who was a successful businessman himself. Back then he would always tag along with his grandfather on his day-to-day dealings just watching, listening, and learning.

Having thought long and hard about how he could build, maintain and expand wealth, he looked at those on the Forbes List whom he considered to be innovators, trailblazers, and visionaries for inspiration and he saw a pattern: these innovators took something simple and made it so much better for everyone. They all came from varied backgrounds and are considered leaders in their respective fields. Luke figured out that these trailblazers all had a clear common factor when it comes to their investments and assets: it’s real estate.

Luke currently works at NED Capital, a company that is one of the most respected and service focused banks in England and he’s passionate about helping people get into real estate to achieve financial freedom. MoneyCentral magazine recently caught up with Luke to discuss his journey as an investor and here’s what went down:

What was the process for you to finding what you wanted to do?

I regard myself as being extremely fortunate in that I knew the path I wanted to take from an early age. This gave me focus and precision.

My academic “career” ended at 16, and I vividly remember getting home from the last day of school and whilst my friends were busy planning parties, I was on the internet searching for my first investment property, calling estate agents, making connections, speaking to my parents about financing these projects!

Whilst my passion was driving my motivation, I quickly realized that passion wasn’t enough, you needed capital.

I decided to get a job in a local barbershop. 6 months on, I saw an opportunity in the fast-growing male grooming industry. 18 months later at the age of 19, I opened my own male grooming salon. My focus was, again, on quality of service, the materials I used, and the time – all differentiators in my mind.

This experience gave me the impetus to launch into the property development market.

The reality for me is that finding out what I wanted to do was a process, not an event. A man cannot be pregnant but can learn how to be a great parent!

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the property industry so far?

So far, it must be the moment I completed the purchase of my first property and receiving the keys. People look at these things as a sacrifice, but to my mind, this was part of my investment into my future.

What was ironic is that whilst my friends were traveling, at university, taking vacations, I was working hard and trying to create my future.

It reminds me of some great advice I received: The thorns on a bush are there to protect the beauty of the roses. In other words, be aware of the challenges and plan for the solutions to them as the objective is worth it.

Not all experiences are positive ones, and these are the ones I benchmark myself against – for example, because of my relatively young age in an industry where people often quote the number of decades they have been involved in, I was not taken seriously. I turned this negativity into a positive and which will hopefully encourage other younger people to enter the industry. There is no minimum bar to entry in real estate!

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

I have found that some people are in “transmit” mode, others are in constant “receive” mode. Those that have influenced me have been my first employer later to be my business partner. He was the first person to instill the importance of self-education and success, which was a solid foundation and a great path to follow.

Property is about the presentation of the product, gaining insights into what a buyer or me, as a developer/investor, wants, the goals, and objectives. My grandfather has been instrumental in teaching, then guiding, and now watching from afar and asking me for advice! To me, that is a humbling moment.

What makes your organization different than your competitors?

In four words: Attention to detail and specialization.

At NED Capital, specializing in a niche market is the easiest way to make the competition irrelevant. We are in a highly favourable position to be self-funded and therefore have a reputation to be able to move and close deals, sometimes within hours, but usually within a few short days.

Decision making is key – our structure is designed from the bottom up to empower decisions to be made by individuals, not computers.

By narrowing down your target audience to a specific group, you can be considered an expert in your niche and easily become the best in your field. For me this is luxury.

I try to find out everything possible about the areas I am looking to invest in, their income, the cost of schooling, the average spend on leisure, crime rates, even the ratio of single to married people!

But what is unique at our company is this: investment targets are set not by return, but by spend, in other words, we MUST invest our portfolio budgets each year. That, to me, is unicorn-like!

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the property industry. This can be about the industry or about yourself.

Great question!

Lessons never arrive without a “plus one”, nor does success – a team effort is critical.

The property industry is a powerful economic, cultural, and emotional force. I always remember that the decisions I make can affect not only my own future but those of others, the surrounding area, and a generation to come.

My biggest lessons have been to trust the wrong people, resulting in wasted time and money – all equaling lost opportunities. However, I am so grateful for those lessons as without CO2 we can’t have O2!

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?

Perhaps I am inverting the question here, but I respect and admire people who have made mistakes equally with those I laude.

There is a humility in being able to learn from someone who has “made it” and then “lost it”. Their journey has created turbulence within themselves.

My most admired person is definitely all my teachers at school who constantly drummed it into me to follow my ambitions – one was always careful never to call them “dreams”, but ambitions that can be realized through hard work and surrounding myself with smart people.

Tell us about something you are proud of – about your greatest challenge.

Achieving what I have achieved without going to university.

I see too many people my age buying into the illusion that if you don’t go, your life will be ruined – that you will end up trapped in some other mundane occupation.

The truth is, even with a university degree, there is no guarantee of progress, you will just begin your ‘career’ four or five years later, tens of thousands of pounds in debt. I wanted to break this mould through hard work, sacrifice, and dedication.

Overall, there is no “greatest” challenge, it is all about life’s stages, motivations, and innovative thinking. This forms my mental attitude.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Always be prepared to walk away from a negotiation, but with dignity and respect. This is distinctly different than walking away with frustration.

You can’t bring emotions into deals.

Trust your numbers. Be open to scrutiny.

Too many people become emotionally attached to deals and this is the absolute worst thing you can do. Always be prepared to walk away!

What takes up too much of your time?

A relentless inability to switch off. The constant strives to better my business and those with who I interact with. I am, and this is a cliché we have all heard, my own worst critic!

What does being a successful real estate entrepreneur entail?

I passionately believe in three main attributes:

● Drive and determination – you will encounter challenges and disappointment almost every day. Remember that you have the ability to bounce back and push forward. Not everyone has that ability.

● Calculated risks – everyone is familiar with the term “no risk no reward” but the risk has to be mitigated with thorough due diligence. This enables you to not maximise profits, it is the maximisation of opportunities that results in profits, not the other way around. People look at the bottom line, where the detail is in the approach and opportunity to that approach.

● Building relationships – the single most absolute constant trait in real estate is building long-lasting relationships for mutual benefit.

This will be the backbone of your organisation, having people contact you first before anyone else is always my objective. Then, and only then, can you be confident they will go the extra mile for you.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Dr. DL Wallace – The CEO Of Success Training Institute

Dr. DL Wallace is a Soft Skills Training and Development Expert with more than 20 years of experience in employee development, entrepreneurial development, organizational efficiency, and business strategy.

He is currently the CEO and founder of Success Training Institute (STI), the worldwide leader in superior soft skills training. Founded in 2012, Success Training Institute is an award-winning, education technology company based just north of Dallas, Texas. It currently serves colleges and universities, workforce commissions, school districts, and corporations from various industries. The customized learning platforms developed by STI include pre and post-assessments, individualized learning plans, access to data and analytics, and more. Their services are geared towards corporations and individuals looking to improve personnel through training in compliance, leadership, problem-solving, team building, customer service, and more.

Success Training Institute offers plans for entrepreneurs, college students, sales and HR professionals, and more. Priced to fit almost any budget, certifications can be earned in weeks, and most see improvements within days. Success Training Institute offers online programs designed to empower the workforce. The power-packed, 8-minute video segments can be taken on demand and have been proven to make immediate impacts on productivity, positivity, and efficiency on behalf of employees at all levels who complete the training.

Success Training Institute also offers college students the opportunity to increase their marketability after graduation through its Virtual Internship Programs. Students who are selected earn soft skills certifications to boost their resumes, earn extra money for college, and can work remotely.

Success Training Institute is recognized as a Top Innovator in Education Technology and cutting edge online training. With original content, unique and proven instructional method, and an evergreen library, STI is changing the professional landscape for students and companies worldwide.

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Dr. DL Wallace to discuss the hi journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I was inspired to launch the Success Training Institute in 2012 when I was the Executive Director of a Charter School I founded. During this time, I noticed the challenges new teachers were having interacting with students, parents, and each other. It became readily apparent that college didn’t equip them with the soft skills needed to succeed in the real world. Therefore, I developed and tested a soft skills curriculum on these educators and it worked even better than I expected. It literally revolutionized the culture, morale, and productivity of two campuses in the inner cities of Dallas/Fort Worth. It worked so well, we tested on our students and their parents. We got the same great results. I embraced the opportunity and the rest is history.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

As a Black-Owned Minority Business Enterprise, we always feel as if we’ve got to be far better than the competition. Therefore, we’ve developed partnerships with numerous state agencies. We customize programs for colleges and universities, public and charter schools, local workforce boards, and more. By tapping into the vast government market, it has opened many doors for our company and given us added credibility. Also, we’re the only Ed-Tech company in the space that offers home-based business owners and other professionals the opportunity to earn money with us by referring retail and corporate business. Our Affiliate Program has helped us expand to other countries and keeps our pipeline filled with leads.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Our company is active on Facebook and Instagram. However, we’d like to do even more on social media because we realize the power of those platforms. Some people rely on social media for their news and information. We have plans on becoming much more active as our nation and the rest of the world to heal from the recent civil unrest and the global pandemic.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

We’ve had so much success with our Affiliate Programs and word of mouth that social pay per click campaigns have not been on our radar. Recently, we hired an organization to focus more on ads and we expect it will do well because of the growing need for online soft skills training.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

Our company has seen great success with our philanthropic initiative that provides a soft skills training scholarship to the less fortunate when our paying clients earn certifications. The Global Success Initiative allows all our customers to participate in the betterment of our world. We are the only company in the world that offers a one to one match with education! Imagine unlocking the door for at-risk teens, families in poverty disabled veterans, and others to grow just by earning certifications that improve your own life and career. This initiative has really enhanced our brand, our credibility, and fulfills our mission.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

For us, marketing begins and ends with relationship building. We take the time to get to know our potential clients. We spend time with them and cultivate a long term relationship that ultimately leads to a long term contract. Also, the success of our Affiliate Program has been a major boost; mainly because of the earnings potential of members can earn just by referring those in their circles. Our commissions on corporate deals range from 10% – 30% and those checks are impressive.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

Expanding our business overseas was a tough decision. The countries that need our product most have the greatest problems with internet connectivity. Additionally, laws and regulations in other countries are much tougher than those in the US. However, we could not deprive people of the chance to enhance their lives and grow their incomes by acquiring the soft skills they need to succeed.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Most of the time when business leaders think of money mistakes, we tend to focus monies that were spent unwisely. However, we actually learn just as much from what we don’t spend. One of the things I would change is not spending more money by adopting cryptocurrency policies. We’re finally turning the corner in this area. However, if we would have spent the money on the technology required to accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin two or three years ago, we’d be experiencing historic returns on our investment. We know now.

What new business would you love to start?

Training is one of my deepest passions and I’ve always wanted to teach others how to train. Therefore, we launched a new division of our company that allows professionals to become certified soft skills trainers. It’s 100% online and we even help them with leads on training in live settings. We’ve made it affordable and offer all the support to help our certified trainers succeed. It’s a great way for life coaches, public speakers, educators, and others to earn money with this valuable new skill. I’m excited to live out another chapter of my dreams.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

It may sound like a cliché but I have no regrets about any aspect of the journey with Simply Success. The lessons I’ve learned along the way were priceless and helped our company improve. In business, you either win or you learn and every learning experience is a necessary one if you want to grow. Thomas Edison learned valuable lessons from each failed attempt at the lightbulb. Like Edison, every lesson got me closer to the groundbreaking company we have today.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

One of my mentors told me: “Whatever you do best, do most.” This advice helped me focus on leveraging my training and professional development skills. Doing this consistently led to the birth of the Success Training Institute.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Three Things. First, take the time to organize. Write your plans and goals, do your homework, and identify your resources. Organization is time-consuming but well worth the effort. Next, don’t be afraid. Fear limits your ability to focus, take risks, and make aggressive decisions. Move with confidence and never with caution. Last and certainly not least, don’t quit. Business success is very similar to running a marathon. Most people have the physical strength to run 26 miles with the proper training. However, many lack the mental toughness to keep running. Business success is based on our ability to keep running.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Annie Liao Jones – The CEO Of Rock Candy Media

Annie Liao Jones is the founder and CEO of Rock Candy Media, an advertising & marketing agency that is based in Austin, Texas – it has become one of the fastest-growing businesses in Central Texas. Under Annie’s leadership, the full-service content strategy, design, messaging, branding firm, and growth agency went from the ground up to grossing over seven figures a year.

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Annie to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business? How did you choose the name Rock Candy Media?

I was born in Dallas, Texas but my parents were born in Taiwan and that makes me a dual-citizen of the world. I also lived in Taiwan while my parents finished college in the US from the ages of 1-3. That lead to the company name. I knew I was going to do things my own way from a young age, where I just didn’t think about other options. So instead of dreaming up jobs, because I didn’t dream about the white picket fence either, I dreamed of types of companies. Taiwanese desserts are entirely different because there is only a hint of sweet, and it’s because all the desserts are made from pure sugar which I called ‘rock candy’ as a kid. So it was going to be Rock Candy something. I’m glad it wasn’t Rock Candy Mountain, which apparently is a thing for a lot of people. I have issues with things that just should not be loud, especially if you think we sent someone to the moon: I have an aversion to leaf blowers and motorcycles, but I guess the latter says more about the person and the former is existential – don’t the leaves just come back?

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

By stalking people at Highland Mall in Dallas to see what they bought. I learned a lot about life doing that, and you think I’m joking. And I started working at the mall when I was 16 at a fashion-forward teen girl wear boutique named Judy’s, which is now called Rampage. I imagined I would be much more successful than I am actually. All I want is to wear PJ’s on MY PJ and I’ll call it a day. Oh, and real silk or cashmere ones.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

I am pickier about who I vet because I can have the best of both worlds: I learn from clients smarter than me in their respective areas, have the time to streamline operations as my focus is solely on my reputation and the work we put out — I’m past the high number of employees and lack of control, it just isn’t me. Acute anxiety does not look good on me. And if I continue hiring smarter people, I’ll evolve as a human and get to that PJ lifestyle faster than you know it.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase brand awareness?

That is a mixed bag because there is visibility and then there is engagement and then there is sharing.

Visibility: I don’t care about the number of eyeballs, so the number of impressions in media land does not impress me. I care about the quality of those eyeballs and if they have a high word of mouth factor. So when working with a corporation who is starting a new division or who’s division is basically a start-up, I’d go for say CTO’s if it’s data security but I’ll make sure they are CTO’s in an alumni association, golf club, or country club as visibility only counts if your brand build is memorable. Ours is and I know because people will start to type in the company name into google instead of doing a google search.

Engagement: Many social media managers promote a post to get 20 likes but they never realize that they never had to like your page. Now that’s just foolish. And ‘like’ ads are $7 a pop easy. So put out quality content that will get you ranked AND people will want to read and they’ll opt-in on their own. Then you can pay for clicks at a much cheaper rate.

Shares: When is the last time you shared a post? I deem shares from our highly segmented audience builds (for example, the CTO will be segmented by 25-34 and then 45-64) the most quality, and any clicks that come from someone watching a full video (95% or more) to be qualified as a share. That is retargeting gold. So while clicks on Instagram Stories may be harder to get, I prefer that. If it is a CTO, I’d say a Facebook share. That means your content, your brand campaign, is something he is proud to represent and it resonates with him, or he learned from one of your client’s articles that your media relations lead worked his butt off to land.

Does paid advertising work?

It does when it makes sense and when it’s unique. For example, in addition to the usual PPC, if a million people are going to be at a tradeshow the client has always gone to and it’s a ‘must’, then I’ll make sure everyone attending at the respective hotels has a gift in their bag from said client and it’s such a rare ask that I have the negotiation down pat. In terms of sponsored content, earned media is much better.

What is your main tactic to make sure Rock Candy Media stands out?

Stay five years ahead. Don’t study your own industry trends; I never read those because I have to emote things. I read memoirs, I read client industry trends as the start-ups that make it, especially today when the landscape changes at five times the speed in one calendar year alone. I also like to remind myself and clients to never think you are infallible. I admire the head of GoPro and how he said early success can make you more prone to fail later. That stuck with me. We were in danger one time as a company and I literally just emailed our Managing Partner to change out an industry page background to a different image to test it out, and every month we review the most engaging content and go with who we targeted, and what resonated with them, to change out a client’s site. A website should never be ‘done’. It should evolve with you. It is your calling card, your reputation, what you stand for whether you like it or not. You should like it because you have control over it. I think the attitude founders have that never separated themselves from what they love to do is to try to make sure they can remain independent of any channel as possible. And that is the power of branding. For hospitality the enemy isn’t another hotel, the true enemy is a hotel booking site who is taking 30% of each head in each bed.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

We only know one model: direct marketing of the digital kind. We have never been just in one industry. We started heavily b2b, had big years in e-comm and I always wanted a mix of both because we grow them where they are now as a hybrid of both. Direct to consumer is the same concept when applied to business that is a product, service, or distribution.

How does Rock Candy Media stand out from the rest of the other agencies out there in your niche?

I just keep my head down and give a lot of sh*t. So I try to hire for the self-taught (they have less of a fear of the unknown and will get their hands dirty to figure things out on their own) and not look at the competitors. My focus has always been on what I would want if I were a client from an agency. And I respect our clients – some of them can afford me when I couldn’t in the life cycle of my business, but all of them share one thing: We are an investment and they have to know we value their time and will always ask why they made a decision because success lies in collaboration. If it is important to them, it’s damn important to me.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

To let go of a lot more pieces of the pie I have no control over.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

The one I try to block out is that in my first year I made so much that I got punished for not forming an LLC to the tune of $20K in taxes. I hope my then CFO does not read this.

What have you learned in the process of becoming successful that others can learn from?

Just be yourself, and the respect you want will give you the most satisfaction. The second you start caring what other people think is the second you become a commodity.

What new business would you love to start?

Well, you are going to find out soon ladies and gentlemen. This lady knows how to keep secrets believe it or not. Also, if I could live another life it would be floral arrangements. Or someone who makes perfumes all day. All my memories are scent-driven.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

This sounds really stupid, but I had a peer/mentor who said, “Annie you run so deep you do not do yourself justice in meetings dressing so casually.” At first, I was pissed but then I clarified with him that it was about respect. When I show up, my style is all my own and I am very much about textiles and “the closet overfloweth” as that is how I show to the world what mood I am that day. It’s art you can wear each day. I needed to ‘show up’ with some respect to client meetings and it took a lot of balls to tell me that and I’m pretty sure it backed up what I was saying with more authority. It sounds silly but it was a game-changer.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

No, but there are profiles of founders by the best journalists and writers out there in Wired, Vanity Fair, and Esquire. For personal development, I learn from the words of the authors who have lived BIG, so I am huge into memoirs and seeing through another’s’ lens. I read all the time, 24-7, and usually have three books going at once. Right now I just have two: Val Kilmer’s memoir and a book Obama recommended called “Maid” that is changing my mind on what it means to be poor in America.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

To wear nice clothes in my closet with tags still on them. They not only disgusted me but they helped me with showing up, as mentioned earlier.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Do it before you accumulate ‘stuff’ and ‘big things’. Do it when you have nothing to lose and never stop making fun of yourself. Stay humble or you won’t learn sh*t. Surround yourself with smarter people. Be wary of ‘yes’ people, but keep the ones that support you and know you around as well. And with success comes haters, and I wish I could prepare you for that but it ties into not giving a f*ck what others think or else you’ll fail. Don’t let people you don’t know bring you down.

Tell us about your fashion style as an executive?

Definitely polished with an edge. I like good tailoring and solids but I like one thing to be a little ‘off” whether it’s my shoe color or earrings. And my Managing Partner & Art Director, Kelsie Singleton always compliments the most expensive thing I’m wearing – it is a true talent I’m telling you.

We hear you might have one of the biggest shoe collections in Texas, and your coworkers call you the “Imelda Marcos of Category Marketing” how do you store and keep track of all those shoes?

If guys have a man cave, well girls should be able to shop their own shoes damn it! I think the Bang & Olufsen television sound systems and plasma TV’s equal out to the same anyways.

Meet The Man Behind The Cover Of The September 2020 Issue Of MoneyCentral Magazine: Guruji Shrii Arnav

Few people embrace change with ease and move effortlessly across situations that may be as varied as can be. It probably comes from an assiduously cultivated capacity to evolve and grow. And to look at different circumstances as opportunities for growth, just clad in different garb! Guruji Shrii Arnav is someone who conducts meditations in ochre robes with as much as ease with which he makes his way in a boardroom, sporting a Zegna suit.

Sought after by global tycoons, world leaders, life coaches, celebs, key decision-makers, and also the normal folks in day to day life for his guidance and wisdom, Guruji’s life is a shining example of serving with humility and wielding success with compassion.

There were some great accomplishments early on for him indicating that mediocre wasn’t for him – from being an academically brilliant student to winning the Competition Success Review Mr. Super Brain Contest in the year 1999, a prestigious competition held then at the national level in India.

Never one to shy away from breaking the mold, he let go of a conventional and logical career choice in high finance, he took on a spiritual commitment and initiated his endeavours to start an organisation that would help individuals overcome obstacles of different kinds, optimise life and experience greater joy.

He set up his web presence as early as in 1996 with a single page on Yahoo Geocities which migrated to his website astromandir.com in the year 2000, fully functioning as an e-commerce site and accepting web-enabled payments – this at a time when the internet in India was a novelty!

In 2008, when the entire world was reeling with the recession and a global financial crisis, he took a bold decision and launched www.Gemstoneuniverse.com, a web portal providing the top quality natural, treatment-free, precious gemstones.

His vision paid off and the site now has a monthly reach of 4 million unique targeted viewers including those on social media. The online retailing business of astrological gemstones has undergone a tremendous makeover and even more impressive reach and acceptance. He is widely credited with revolutionizing Gemstone e-commerce and standardizing Gem Therapy worldwide.

He is the author of the magnum opus on jyotish gemstones and planetary gem therapy – “The Secrets of Jyotish Gems: A Guide to the Fundamentals of Sacred Astro Gemology of India” which was published by Har-Anand.

It is a book that has met with great success, being well received by the gemstone and gem therapy aficionados. The book was first released by the former President of India, Hon’ble Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, and several heads of state and dignitaries worldwide.

Guruji Shrii Arnav is a beacon, a Vedic Guru who chose to illumine the path of true knowledge for all who are willing. However, his aura and acclaim are not limited to the extensive Vedic knowledge or spiritual abundance that surrounds him. He is also an entrepreneur who is at complete ease with the tide of the times and has a phenomenal grasp of a wide array of skills.

While the term Vedic may have Hindu connotations, his unique way of weaving the universal wisdom into the thread of particularistic traditions has established a deep connection between his ideas and an audience of diverse religions and nationalities. It is amazing how people relate to him with absolute ease and comfort. Guruji Shrii Arnav has found international acclaim and has followers across the globe who, have been touched deeply by his compassion and ability to positively influence and affect their lives.

He helps people of all faiths and backgrounds to seek answers to the most complex questions of their lives. He uses the knowledge and practical wisdom offered by the Vedas and other spiritual texts, complemented with the scientific detail provided by gemology, astrological charts, and his own spiritual capacity – to prove successfully the power of varied specific factors combined together that can positively affect every individual’s life.

Here are some candid answers from the man sporting many hats:

COVID has turned the world upside down. How are you and your organisation coping with it?

Forces of nature and unprecedented events have occurred time and again and history is replete with incidents. True, that it has caught the world unawares and put all of us in a bind but human beings have survived because of adaptability. We are also learning and adapting to new ways. There’s an increased use of technology and the digital medium has become the star.

The good news is that we have not had to lay off anyone, we’re taking care to ensure the well-being of the people who work in the far-flung mining areas as well. A successful entrepreneur always ensures that a fire situation doesn’t arise. And this can be done by adopting the 7R’s/ 7R Model – Rapid action, Remote functioning ability, reasonably risk-free activity/ initiative, real value delivered to clients, reputation, result orientation, readiness for any challenge. These are the values that I and my organisation believe in and follow, ensuring success.

What strategy do you adopt for marketing?

“A successful entrepreneur always ensures that a fire situation doesn’t arise. And this can be done by adopting the 7R’s/ 7R Model – Rapid action, Remote functioning ability, reasonably risk-free activity/ initiative, real value delivered to clients, reputation, result orientation, and readiness for any challenge.”I think that any company’s or individual’s performance is the best and most effective marketing. A demonstration is definitely better than instruction. Doing something and bringing tangible results rather than messaging only is a bigger validation of what an organisation is all about. It inspires more confidence and credibility. If you look at Gemstoneuniverse, we have then been awarded the top exporter of natural coloured gemstones in our state consistently for the last 10 years.

The quality of your product and service is equally important. Gemstoneuniverse ensures that only the ethically sourced, conflict-free gemstone is made available to the clients so that they enjoy their gem completely.

I also believe that the people I hire are the biggest marketing mechanism for my business. Each one is a veritable brand ambassador living the core value and principles.

What is a big challenge that you have faced professionally?

Well, the gemstone industry and quite specifically the coloured gemstone industry is quite unique in nature and as a result, its challenges are also quite different. Gemstoneuniverse is engaged in the trade of natural precious, treatment-free gemstones which effectively means that we are looking at the top two percent – that is the highest grade gemstones.

In this scenario, communicating colour on the internet across various devices and displays becomes a veritable challenge. Understand that you have an exceptional precious mineral commodity and each variety of mineral responds differently to light. A ruby will behave differently as compared to an emerald. A Chrysoberyl cat’s eye needs to be captured differently and so does a pearl. Each hue, each tone must be communicated through an exact picture/video to the client.

I am quite happy to say that despite the inherently challenging nature of the coloured gemstones, today we have the best pictures and videos on the Internet providing the viewer with the best image and videos, quite comparable to what a gemmologist may want to look at!

What is your advice to entrepreneurs or individuals interested in creating wealth or looking at sustained growth?

The one piece of advice to achieve this objective is to believe in these three words –niche, niche, niche. There is tremendous wisdom in specialising in a definite area. It is all about achieving mastery in that ONE thing and you will be able to reap great benefits. When you bring exceptional value to a client, the client might just stop putting the price ahead of value. This is when you have commanded his or her complete attention as well as loyalty. If you have entered into the mind space in such a manner, you will have cemented your position.

What are the future plans for Gemstoneuniverse?

Gemstoneuniverse already has a global footprint but we are looking for establishing physical stores in different parts of the world. We would also be interested in strategic partners who can leverage our expertise and help expand the business globally, while at the same time upholding our core values. There is an ambitious plan of starting the Indian Institute of Gem Therapy and also on cards is a foundation that will assist in making a hospital offering free service and also a meditation Centre.

What is a spiritual message that you would like to give out?

There is no one size fits all formula that can be handed out to soothe humanity. The one thing though that works universally is that Love Heals. With love, compassion, and empathy there is a lot that can be achieved.

Each individual is unique and therefore the suggestions made for the well-being and growth of every individual are unique too.

I would like the readers to check out the latest book by our Senior Director and Life Coach Abhijita Kulshrestha, Cosmic Sutra: A handbook of Healing, wherein 7 minutes of your day are required for different meditations and affirmations along with spiritual exercises for a period of 108 days.

These 108 days can be the key to powerful personal change! You can follow Gemstoneuniverse by visiting our website: gemstoneuniverse.com 

You can also follow us via social media:

Instagram: gemstoneuniverse
Facebook: gemstoneuniverse
Twitter: gemuniverse

Youtube: Gemstoneuniverse

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Internationally Renowned Celebrity Photographer Michael Grecco

Michael Grecco is an award-winning and internationally renowned celebrity photographer and TV personality. He has been regularly shooting magazine covers for various national magazines such as Time, Wired, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN, People, and others. His high-profile clients included renowned celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Patrick Dempsey, Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Robert Duvall, Martin Scorsese, Janet Jackson, Mel Brooks, Lucy Liu, Ben Stiller, Penélope Cruz, Morgan Freeman, Jet Li, Will Ferrell, Joaquin Phoenix, and many more.

Michael is also the Executive Producer and appears in the TV Show “Punk.” MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Michael to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

It all started in summer camp when I was a kid. The mystery of a black and white image coming up in the tray of a developer was mystifying. I fell in love right away. I shot all the sexy camp counselors at the free swim. I thought, what a life! At that point, I was hooked and went on to study art photography at the local college programs in Westchester, NY while in high school and photojournalism while at Boston University.

Before graduating, I started working for the Associated Press. I shot politicians during the day. And at night, I was a club kid shooting the Punk and New Wave scene in Boston.

When People Magazine then offered me a job, I made the leap from Boston to Los Angeles and switched from photojournalism to celebrity portrait photography, shooting magazine covers instead of for the pages inside.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

I think my journey to success started when I was asked to travel the world shooting the “Entrepreneurs that Matter” for a special issue of Business Week. I had shot an artsy jewelry story for the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine and Business week saw that and asked me to replicate its artful approach for the businesspeople they wanted to shoot. That opened the door to all sorts of new opportunities in the magazine and the commercial world.

What is your main source of income?

My income is varied. It’s from assignment fees from directing and shooting still imagery. It’s from licensing imagery, infringement enforcement, a book in the works, etc. I’m also working on two businesses related to photography where I would be building technology platforms to help the industry.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

I always look for weaknesses in the market and try to turn them into opportunities where a new brand can be created. Both platforms I’m working on now are businesses where there’s a hole in the market that can be filled.

SONY DSC

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Instagram is a natural as a photographer. I assume I have both a client base there and a fan-boy base. It’s also pretty easy to find someone there. I also like Facebook because you can tell a little more of a story to friends. I guess in this day and age you can’t really live without either.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

I like organic search. I think that’s when people are looking for someone like myself. And if they’re searching, they can understand the difference in visions and service.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

I think all forms of marketing have worked at one time or another. When direct physical mail was popular, that worked if you did it well. Early on, when email marketing was effective, it worked when done well. At this point, you have to engage in all of them at once. You cut the things that have no ROI and continue to do the ones that work.

American film director, screenwriter, producer, and studio entrepreneur, Steven Spielberg poses for a portrait for the cover of Time magazine to promote his film Munich on November 29, 2005.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

Every time I have to cut a marketing program because it has no ROI is always tough. You really have to be thoughtful in what you’re cutting. There’s also the psychological effect that you might be missing out on something in the future that you don’t know about, which makes it even harder.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Oh, it’s always all the little business sayings you’ve heard in the past.

Use other people’s money when starting a business.

…or, Early to Fire, Late to Hire. That’s an ad agency saying to be flexible and cautious.

You can always look back at the mistakes and see them as investments you shouldn’t have made. But you didn’t know that at the time. So hopefully, you learn and you don’t make the same mistake twice.

American recording artist, record producer, film director, and fashion designer Kayne West poses for a portrait photographed in Los Angeles, California on April 26, 2007.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

Not piss off the people I pissed off with hubris. Be a better listener. I would have wished for all the skills I’ve had to learn as an adult. But the whole concept of a time machine is like fixing your mistakes. You need them to grow and to learn. They’re how you become a better business leader and a better human being.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

If you want it bad enough, you will succeed.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Want it bad enough!

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Brazillian Entrepreneur Rafael Dos Santos

Rafael dos Santos is a Brazillian entrepreneur who hails from London, UK. ​When he initially moved from Brazil to London, his lack of language skills and ​British qualifications stopped him from getting a good job. He became a kitchen porter and glass collector in various pubs to survive. In 2003 an opportunity came along and he got into the real estate industry. He started managing and letting rooms in houseshares in 2003 and by 2014 He had 50 houses in his portfolio and 15 employees. He successfully exited his first property business which he ran for 12 years and now he runs a marketing and PR agency as well as a media club.

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Rafael to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

​I was originally born in Brazil and I migrated to London in 2001 to learn English. I worked for Microsoft as a support analyst while in Brazil but when I moved to London the lack of language skills and ​British qualifications meant that I couldn’t get a good job. I became a kitchen porter and glass collector in pubs to pay for my living. In 2003 an opportunity came along and I got into the real estate industry. I started managing and letting rooms in houseshares in 2003 and by 2014 I had 50 houses in my portfolio and 15 members of staff. I had successfully exited my first business and I decided to take a year off in 2015 to travel the world. Now, I’ve been to 52 countries (and counting) and I am running a successful marketing and PR agency specialising in helping migrant entrepreneurs. Behighprofile.com is where you can find information about my business and rafaeldossantos.com is my personal website.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

Success means different things to different people. For me, success today is being able to help other migrants to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.

I help them grow their businesses by running a marketing campaign (via email and video distribution) and also getting them featured in newspapers and magazines in the UK.

IN 2016 I was featured in the Sunday Times as ‘Top 100 Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the UK’ and also got invited to give a TEDx Talk titled “What it takes to be a migrant entrepreneur’.

Life has not been easy tho. In 2016 I had the worst year of my life, I suffered from depression, lost a lot of money, my coworking space ‘mi-hub’ closed down because of BREXIT. I suffered badly until early 2017 where I started to recover. I’m back in good form now and running another business that is becoming a success.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

​The main source of customers if events. I run events twice a month and do some Facebook advertising. I started my agency 8 months ago and I am now recruiting my 2nd employee. It’s expanding fast.​

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

​Facebook is number 1 – you can’t beat it. I do a bit of Instagram and twitter but I have a very active community on Facebook and an engaged community is 100x better than any other social media. I do a lot of videos on Facebook and also Facebook LIVE. I am now also broadcasting my events live, you can watch them here: High Profile Club

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

​I know people say that online advertising is good but events a is where the money is for me. I get most of my clients after they attend my events and see me in action. It helps if you are a good public speaker and if you run an event that actually shares good content to the audience. To organise an event just to promote your business does not work. You must share content that people feel that it was worth going to your event. For online tactics, as I mentioned before I have a Facebook community page and I give a lot to the community (opportunities to be featured in magazines, free advice, etc). The more you share your IP the more people know how knowledgeable you are, the more they want to work with you. I also have a book called ‘Moving abroad, one step at a time’, this helps to increase my credibility. ​I have also given a TEDx Talk which was awarded in the South of England as one of the most-watched (at the time):  Ted Talk. I use public speaking as one of the tactics to gain visibility and credibility.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

​Facebook advertising, email marketing followed by phone calls or meetings, video marketing (social media) and events – The combination of these 4 tactics is a recipe for success, for any business, in my opinion. You can see that even online businesses are running events to bring people together. Look at Airbnb now, running events in many cities.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

I had to split from a business partner. I think we rushed into ‘getting married’ without even having dated. But lesson learned and we are okay now. But any ‘break up’ is difficult.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Don’t try to grow too quickly. Many opportunities will come long and entrepreneurs tend to say yes to everything. It’s okay to say NO to some offers. Make sure you have a goal but don’t try to run before you can walk. You can lose a lot of money by trying to run too quickly when you don’t have the structure to manage the business.​

What new business would you love to start?

I am starting a membership club for entrepreneurs so they get more media exposure, network more and build confidence in public speaking. I started HIGH PROFILE MEDIA CLUB 2 years ago and I now have several paying members. We’re working with one of the members to be featured in Forbes online.​

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

​I would not have tried to grow my property business so quickly. I didn’t have enough experience, I didn’t have the right staff to manage the larg building I took on board… It was a disaster! But luckily, my business survived.​

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

​Invest more in media. Invest less in paid advertising and more in PR.

PR gives much more credibility than paid advertising so if you want to be seen as an expert, you need to have more media exposure. TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and online. The more you are featured the more you attract opportunities.​

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

​Trust your instincts and don’t regret a decision once it has been made.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

1 – Attend as many events as you physically can. Your network is your NETWORTH.
2 – Look out for a mentor. Mentoring is a fantastic way to keep you on track. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey.
3 – Find good partners that complement what you do so you can work as a team.

The Life Of An Entrepreneur: Interview With Meg Barnhart – The CEO Of The Zen Of Slow Cooking

Meg Barnhart originally began her career in the hospitality industry which eventually led to trade show management. One of her early careers was working on the Fancy Food Show on behalf of the Specialty Food Association. After she had children, she began her own business but by 1998 with the birth of her third child, she decided to put a pause on her career to look after her 3 children who were under the age of 5 and her middle son, Doug, who was diagnosed as developmentally delayed. Meg spent the next several years helping him learn how to navigate Doug’s world which eventually led to the creation of the “zen of slow cooking.”

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Meg to talk about her entrepreneurial journey and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I began my career in the hospitality industry which eventually led to trade show management. In fact, one of my early careers was working on the Fancy Food Show on behalf of the Specialty Food Association. After I had my children I began my own business but by 1998 with the birth of my third child, I decided to put a pause on my career for a couple of reasons. The first reason was the simple fact of having 3 children under the age of 5 and the second reason was my middle son, Doug, was diagnosed as developmentally delayed when he was thirteen months old.

I spent the next several years helping him learn how to navigate his world. In 2010, I started studying what life would look for him when he transitioned out of school and found that only 24.5% of adults with developmental challenges were employed. I couldn’t envision a world where he couldn’t shine his light and decided to create a business for him which eventually led to the creation of the zen of slow cooking.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

My business partner, Jane McKay, and I began the business in 2012 with the intention of helping home cooks find success and a little Zen while creating employment for adults with employment barriers. We have stayed completely focused on both of those dreams and am happy to say that is the source of our success. I wasn’t sure we would come this far when we began, but keeping our intention pure has made the entire journey very rewarding.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

We’re out in the markets all the time to build our retail channel. We are also working on a strategic plan to build a more robust presence online.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

We haven’t done anything beyond Facebook ads. We focus on supporting non-profits with product donations to spread the word.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

Aligning our energy with causes that we are passionate about. By simply staying true to our mission we meet all sorts of people who are interested in helping us grow.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

We spend a lot of time supporting other entrepreneurs and cultivating relationships with businesses that we admire. We feel passionate about conducting business and growing our brand in a meaningful way.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

We’re building a “speed scratch” category (slow cooking using slow cookers or electric pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot) that doesn’t exist in B & M, so creating a “clean” product aligned with our mission helps us stand out. We also sought our Non-GMO certification so our consumers know that our Slow Cooker spice blends don’t contain any fillers. We also became a Certified B Corp to demonstrate our commitment to business being a force for good in the world.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

Determining the best path toward national distribution.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Design. We have very clean atheistic. We encourage other entrepreneurs to invest time in doing their own research before they employ a designer to bring their vision to life. We are fortunate after trial and error to have someone who is completely aligned with our mission.

What new business would you love to start?

I would love to create a business where I can help other people fund their dreams.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

At this point nothing. I needed to go through the hiccups of starting/failing with other start-ups, so that when I created the zen of slow cooking I had a clear vision of what I wanted to create.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

To have faith. When you begin a business there are always ups/downs and it’s easy to get distracted, lose hope or feel overwhelmed. Stay positive!

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

I love “Let my People go Surfing”, Sacred Commerce and Mission in a Bottle. I also love Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

My parents, especially my mother, encouraged my brother, sister and I to be principled, bold, conduct yourself with integrity, stand up for your beliefs and be kind.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Spend time asking yourself the “Why” you want to start your business. That question leads to many other ones which are really important in manifesting your dream.

The Life Of An Entrepreneur: Interview With Julie Dugoff Waxman – The CEO Of Baked In Color

Julie Dugoff Waxman is the founder and CEO of Baked in Color, a rainbow and custom colored chocolate chip cookies company. Launched in May 2016, Baked in Color now operates a New York City location and they ship their cookies nationwide. Their customers love their cookies and they are positioned for further growth to keep up with the demand.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Julie to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

My name is Julie Dugoff Waxman and I am the founder and CEO of Baked in Color, a rainbow, and custom colored chocolate chip cookies company. Launched in May 2016, Baked in Color now operates a New York City location and we ship our cookies nationwide. Baked in Color offers the first rainbow and custom colored chocolate chip cookies. Happy, fun and delicious, these cookies can be customized by color for all of life’s special occasions: holidays, mitzvahs, corporate events, college acceptance, school spirit, sports events, birthday parties, you name it!

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

As a student at Cornell, I founded and ran a cookie delivery business, Quickie Cookie. We baked, packaged and delivered fresh cookies, with a quart of milk (think Insomnia cookies). I sold the company and spent the next several years working in Corporate Retail at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. While working for these companies, I developed my skills in business development, strategic and financial planning, merchandising, team building, negotiation, and marketing. After twenty years in corporate retail, I was excited to launch my own business.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? How did you get the idea to start Baked in Color?

Chocolate chip cookies are America’s #1 dessert and colorfulrainbow desserts are the #1 social media dessert trend. I was inspired most by the rainbow bagel. Rainbow bagels look incredibly cool but don’t taste great. I had a delicious recipe for chocolate chip cookies and knew that if I could figure out how to execute color, I would have something very trend right and extremely marketable. Thousands of test batches later, Baked in Color was born.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Social media has been the big driver for Baked in Color. We started posting our cookies on Instagram and were quickly noticed by food influencers who posted the cookies on their Instagram and Facebook feeds. Six months after our launch, INSIDER took notice and shot a feature for their INSIDER FOOD and INSIDER DESSERT platforms. The video went viral, receiving over 7 Million views on Facebook, in addition to millions of views on Instagram. Baked in Color was also featured by Today.Com, Huffington Post and Spoon University. The media exposure drove our sales tenfold, putting our brand on the map and driving corporate business, such as Goldman Sachs, Barney’s NY, and Time Inc.

Where/how can we get our hands on your cookies?

Baked in Color has a New York City location at TurnstyleNYC, the underground market at Columbus Circle, at 58th street and Broadway. We deliver throughout Westchester County and NYC and ship nationwide. We specialize in both personal and corporate events. Orders can be placed online at www.bakedincolor.com. In addition to our online offering, we customize cookie colors and packaging to make the perfect dessert or party favor for your special occasion or event.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

GO FOR IT! Be patient and stay positive. Work hard and move forward each day. Things will not always go well but don’t get discouraged. Some days will bring opportunities and others will bring knocks. Hang in there. It’s a long haul. Don’t take rejection personally just move on to the next opportunity, of which there are countless. Be aware of the competition but don’t get bogged down by it. Network, network, network. It’s free to ask so ask others for help; people are generally happy to help. You can learn from most people and often each meeting leads to another opportunity. Follow your instincts but pivot when things aren’t going well; cut your losses and move on.

The Life Of An Entrepreneur: Interview With SPIbelts’ CEO, Kim Overton

It all started in 2006 when SPIbelts Founder, Kim Overton, went for a run with nowhere to comfortably hold her key. Afterward, she went home and assembled the first SPIbelt. After months of hard work, development, and patenting, SPIbelt officially launched in February of 2007 out of Kim’s Austin, Texas apartment.

Eleven years later you can find SPIbelt products in over 40 countries. Despite SPIbelts international success, its headquarters remain in Austin, Texas where the majority of their products are still being handmade.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Kim Overton and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

My name is Kim Overton, I’m from Austin, TX and a mother of three young boys ages 2, 6 and 7. I launched my company, SPIbelt, 11 years ago after having the annoying experience of jogging with my keys tucked into my bra top. The idea for the SPIbelt hit me like a lightning bolt while I was on a run, I went home that afternoon and made my first prototype. Five months later I filed a patent and officially launched my business.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

After launching my company in 2007, I worked as many hours as I could until needing to hire help. At that time I hired my brother to help with sales. About one year after launch, I was featured on the Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, which gave us great exposure and lead to more press. Our brand took off quite rapidly after that.

I have always been driven to work for myself and approach every idea and company with full passion and conviction. I knew early on that that SPIbelt was different, so I did envision mass distribution.

What is your main source of income?

SPIbelt sales through international distributors and domestic retailers.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

We are currently expanding our line for our customers to have more products to choose from.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

We utilize Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for brand awareness.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

PPC works to an extent but the algorithms change constantly. We find that shared customer experiences on our social outlets are one of the driving forces for sales and awareness with our products.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

We appreciate the user experience the most. Anyone can pay for ad space and expensive marketing, but the real user experience is authentic and invaluable.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

We launched before FB was a viable platform for businesses, and not that is fading. So we have learned that staying flexible and knowledgeable about what our customer’s habits are is the best way to grow.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

Our products are sleek but expand a lot! Other phone holders were big and bulky while our stays slim and tight to the body and looks good at the same time.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

How to divide my time between taking my company to the next level, and being a dedicated mom and wife. It’s a tough balancing act.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Investing in a marketing campaign that I knew little about and had little experience with. Early on I produced a mini commercial that the world wasn’t ready for, but cost me $30K.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

Try to not spend what you think you can sell. In other words, if your customers will buy about $10,000 worth of products in one month, you don’t need to have $50,000 sitting on the shelf for the month. Try to invest in what you think you can turn around in a short amount of time when you are in growth mode.

What new business would you love to start?

I’d love to start a business with my husband that allows us to combine our passions of being parents with helping others. We have one in mind that we’re currently working on! Stay tuned.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

Nothing. I’m grateful for the journey I’ve had. But if I must pick, I would have let people go quicker than I did. Having the wrong people on the bus can really suck the life and opportunity out of your business. Learn to let people go when needed, you are also doing them a great big favor.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

Meditate on a daily basis and keep an exercise routine consistent, no matter what.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

When starting out, “Think and Grow Rich”, when established, “Traction.”

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

To remember, God made us with eyes in front of our head, not the back. Keep your eyes forward, look ahead! Don’t worry about the past.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Identify your customer base and where they are. Go to them and test out your product, your concept, talk to people before spending too much time and energy in one direction just to find out that’s not what the masses want. And launch without waiting for “perfection”, because no one idea will ever be perfect for everyone. Launch when you’re as close to perfect as you can get for the real potential customers you’ve spoken with.

The Life Of An Entrepreneur: Interview With “The Digital Dating Disruptor” Lori Cheek

Screenshot from TEDx Talks

Lori Cheek is an NYC based architect turned entrepreneur, Founder, and CEO of Cheekd that removes the “missed” from “missed connections.” After working in architecture, furniture, and design for 15 years, she came up with an idea that lead her into the NYC world of technology and dating. She has been coined “the Digital Dating Disruptor,” listed as one of 12 “Inspirational Women in Tech to Follow and as one of AlleyWatch’s 20 most awesome people to know in the NYC tech scene. She’s also a Shark Tank Vet, a TEDx Speaker and has been featured in Forbes, The NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, The NY Observer, Entrepreneur Mag, Fast Company, Inc Magazine and so much more.

When most people would have quit years ago, she only hustled harder to keep her dream alive! She could be the walking poster child for the age-old phrase, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” It wasn’t an easy ride but she’s never been happier in her life. A lightbulb moment 9 years ago changed her life forever, she left her $120K a year (60 hour work week) design job and now she owns a business that Wired Magazine recently questioned, “Is this the future of online dating?” She has gone from 15 years of helping others build their dreams to a life finally dedicated to building her own.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Lori Cheek and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I’m Lori Cheek, an NYC based architect turned entrepreneur, Founder, and CEO of Cheekd that removes the “missed” from “missed connections.” After working in architecture, furniture, and design for 15 years, I came up with an idea that led me into the NYC world of technology and dating. I completely threw away my design career and I’m no longer building structures, I’m now building relationships.

In February of 2008, I was out to dinner with an architectural colleague. He’d spotted an attractive woman at a nearby table and scribbled, “Want to have dinner?” on the back of his business card and slipped it to her as we were leaving the restaurant. He left with a date. I left with an idea. After over two years of brainstorming how to remove the “business” out of the business card, I launched Cheekd– a deck of ice-breaking dating cards with a unique code that lead the recipient to the privacy protected online dating profile of the mysterious stranger who slipped them the card where the two could start communicating online. It was like online dating but backward. We’ve since pivoted Cheekd into a hyper-speed mobile dating app that gives users the ability to never miss a real-life potential “love connection” thanks to a cross-platform low energy Bluetooth technology, which sends users an immediate notification when someone (within their criteria) comes within a 30-foot radius of them. It’s real-time and works on a subway or a plane without any cellular connection.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

I’ve got a laser-focused vision to succeed and will do almost anything to keep this business flourishing. I’m actually not surprised by my determination because as long as I can remember, I’ve been extremely stubborn. When most people would have quit, I only hustled harder. I think my personal approach, passion, and dedication mixed with my relentless conviction that failure is not an option has been the recipe that has lead to my current success. I could be the poster child for the age-old phrase “what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.” No matter what… in the end, I’m going to have a magical story to tell.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

Social media and international PR coverage have both been our strongest tool for growth other than our epic brutal bloodbath on ABC’s prime time reality show, Shark Tank, over four years ago. It’s one of the most-watched television shows in America and not only did we gain an outrageous number of customers after it aired but our episode re-airs on CNBC all the time. We always get a blast of users downloading our app all over the world after it airs.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

We’re on all of them but mainly use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

Over the past eight years, our business has been featured in dozens of the most prominent news and technology websites including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Tech Crunch, Inc, Fast Company, Wired Magazine, and countless others.” We’ve been very fortunate to have the press on our side. We’ve built a unique way for singles to break the ice. We’re giving our members a new real-life tool to use as an alternative to missed connections taking place every day.

While there are over 102 million single adults above the age of 18 in America alone, a 25-year-old online dating industry is experiencing serious fatigue and has failed to create a viable alternative to the existing online model. People want to make connections in the real world. We are doing our best to give our customers the most organic, unique real-life experience based on initial chemistry and that’s what has consistently made us stand out above the others.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

I discovered early on that in a very saturated startup space, it’s crucial to make a splash. Creative marketing quickly became my forte. Not only has it paid off in so many amazing ways, but it’s also been loads of fun. I’ve managed to land myself in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Inc., Shark Tank, Forbes and many many more publications all over the world. One of my favorite stories was from Dublin’s Web Summit when over 800 startups were exhibiting (90% of them were men) and I decided to stand out by wearing Angel Wings throughout the conference (I have a dating business). When I was checking out of my hotel, I looked down at Judy Dench on the cover of the Irish Times and there I was right next to her (me on my laptop with my Angel Wings— inside there was another 1/4 page picture mentioning my business). Ireland knew about Cheekd.com.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

Our dating app sets itself apart from our competing billion-dollar companies because it gives you the option to interact with a match before starting a virtual relationship with the compatible user. After setting up your profile and desired filters, Cheekd will then send you notifications when a potential match is nearby. Instead of encouraging users to continue to hide behind a screen, Cheekd pushes you to engage in social settings while paying attention to potential matches in the area. Our new dating app gives us the power to light the spark face-to-face first and leave the talking for later. And because Cheekd uses Bluetooth, it doesn’t require an Internet connection to function so connections can be made on the subway, a plane… anywhere— You’ll get a notification if someone who meets your criteria is within 30 feet of you. If you’re near a potential spark, Cheekd makes sure you know about it. It’s like online dating but it starts in the real world.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

When we got covered in the New York Times nearly eight years ago, our site got traffic from all over the world until Cheekd.com crashed. Once the site came back to life, we got orders all over the country. The Cheekd business model was based on a recurring subscription model once users made their initial purchase. Soon after, we realized that our web developer (based in London) had the button ticked “OFF” that captured our user’s credit card information and was unable to enroll them into our recurring subscription. With hundreds of new signups, we lost nearly $30,000 from this simple mistake. I joke now that our London based web developer is lucky that he didn’t live in America at the time. We immediately got that button fixed.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

My definition of wealth has changed drastically since I started my business in 2010. Cheekd has been the most powerful thing that’s ever happened to me. Building this business has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve taken a major risk (both financially & mentally) and surrendered my career in architecture & design, but my heart and mind are in this project every waking moment. I’ve never been more dedicated to anything. Despite the occasional overwhelming stress, it’s been loads of fun. I feel like I’m living the American Dream. I’ve gone from 15 years of helping build someone else’s dream to a life dedicated to building my own– Success to me is to be able to spend your life in your own way. I no longer have a job, I have a lifestyle and am miraculously always working but I’ve never been happier because I love what I do.

What new business would you love to start?

Aside from my mission in hopes of connecting people in the real world, my other passion is fitness. I, personally, am always looking to make workout buddies and can rarely get my own network to join me. My new app idea is to connect like-minded people that can connect to work out together. I think it’ll be such an amazing motivation for everyone to stay committed while making friends at the same time.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

Having brought the wrong team on board when I first started building my business nearly five years ago. If I’d known what I know now… I wish someone had told me the importance of having a technical co-founder on board when I started out. I had a team, but the two gentlemen I brought on had the same exact background. I didn’t need two of the same skill sets. The technical aspect of my business has been one of the bigger challenges I’ve faced and it’s the one thing I definitely would have approached differently from day one.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

I wish I’d been able to tell myself that building a business doesn’t make for an overnight success. I believed so much in my idea that after our launch, I thought I was going to be a billionaire by the end of the year! Eight years into the entrepreneurial hustle, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is being on a mission where nothing can stop you. It will take twice as long as you’d hoped, cost exceedingly more than you’d ever budgeted and will be more challenging than anything you’ll ever try but if you give it your all and refuse to give up, you can trust it will be the ride of a lifetime. No matter what… this has been the most rewarding journey of my life. My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to be brave and follow your instincts. You can’t cheat the grind, but if you give it your all, you can trust that the payoff will be worth it.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

My favorite brain fuel right now is Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg— an engaging read where the author shares all sorts of fascinating secrets of being productive in both life and business. He explains how in today’s world, managing how you think rather than what you think can transform your life. Not only has the book helped me reassess my daily motivation and goals, but it’s also helped me create some interesting new productivity hacks to allow me to get things accomplished smarter, faster and better.

As an avid guerrilla and creative startup marketer/ tech startup founder, another one of my favorite business books is The Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It’s all about standing out from the masses and transforming your business by being remarkable.

One of my favorite quotes out of this book::: “You must design a product that is remarkable enough to attract the early adopters – but is flexible enough and attractive enough that those adopters will have an easy time spreading the idea.”

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Surround yourself with the people you want to become.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

My strongest advice for others considering taking the leap is if you truly believe in your idea, give up excuses and doubt, surround yourself by a trusted and talented team, bulldoze forward and DON’T. LOOK. BACK.