One On One With The Woman Behind Some Of The Biggest Gym Chains In The World: Selena Short

Selena Short’s business acumen was revealed quite early on in her life and in a most unusual way. Short reveals that “as a kid, while others played games, I played shops, would even make up raffles to sell. Actually, I would raffle off my Mum’s frozen chickens, without her knowing about it, sorry mum!”  From that nefarious beginning, Selena Short has built for herself not only an incredibly successful career but one that is full of passion and purpose.

If one hears of a big-name fitness club, chances are Selena Short has had a hand in it.  The New Zealand native holds a Master’s Degree in Commerce from Victoria University in Wellington and has been working in the fitness industry for 18 years.  A fortuitous move to Hong Kong (having previously worked for Air New Zealand as a Business Analyst) gave her the chance to apply for, and secure, a job as Marketing Manager for California Fitness Centres (CFC).  She shares that “over the 7 years with this company, I worked my way up into a senior role as Vice President in charge of Marketing and Human Resources.  I managed an annual marketing spend of over US$5 million and oversaw the HR for over 2,000 employees across 6 countries (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia).”  When the company was sold in 2005 for a record $1.6 billion US, Short made enough from her shares to be able to make the move to Australia in 2006 and start her first gym.  She reveals that “alongside my husband and business partners Mark Mastrov and Eric Levine we started V Club, a revolutionary concept and a gym that won the best gym in Sydney 4 years straight.  Since then we have grown the business into 10 Crunch gyms across Sydney and Melbourne.”  Selena was also involved in opening the first international locations for UFC Gym and Hard Candy Fitness, the fitness company started by music superstar, Madonna, and her manager, Guy Oseary.

It’s obvious that Selena is passionate about fitness and health.  But the 46-year old is also passionate about, she shares, “seeing people grow in their unique gifts and purpose…we have over 750 in our team who are responsible for close to 55,000 members, I get to equip our teams to inspire and motivate people to live better…I love building strong teams that are on a mission to help people ‘perspire to greatness’…if our business can help someone become stronger and be healthier, then we will have played a part in helping them live their life to the full.”

Massive success has the unfortunate side effect of warping one’s sense of self-worth and sense of entitlement.  But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Selena Short.  Take for example her revelation of what has been the most memorable experience of her career so far: “Opening the doors of our first owned fitness club for the first time will always be a defining moment…it is a moment I relive with every new club opening to this day. I am personally on site helping set the club up and finish the final clean! I’m there on opening day and I do the first workout with members. But right before we open our doors I pause and say a little prayer for all the lives we are about to change from that day onwards! It’s powerful, we impact communities!”  This from a woman who has worked with stars such as NBA legend, Magic Johnson; model extraordinaire Cindy Crawford; UFC President Dana White, and NBL Australia’s Executive Director, Larry Kestelman!  The half Kiwi/half Cook Islander directly attributes her continued humility and down-to-earth nature to her Christian beliefs – “I believe I am positioned where I am today because it is God’s plan.  All I had to do was obey the signs and work extra hard for it.”

Any successful business entrepreneur got to where they are because there were people who influenced them along the way.  For Selena, these included her business partners, Mark Mastrov (founder of 24 Hour Fitness) and Eric Levine (founder of California Fitness).  But perhaps the most influential, and who provided the impetus for Selena to start her own gym, is movie legend, Jackie Chan.  She fondly remembers “working with Jackie on design concepts for a Jackie Chan-endorsed California Fitness Centre.  He wanted a whole lot of crazy concepts in the club, I was the only one who would tell him ‘no’, but together we came up with some cool ideas!  Jackie spoke life into me, it prompted a confidence in me to move on to start my own business.”  In China, Chan’s philanthropy is as legendary as his acting career.  Short recounts attending Jackie’s 50th birthday party where the action star became annoyed at guests who gave him big, flashy flower arrangements.  He growled that he preferred to be given money – but the money wasn’t for himself.  Selena shares that “he then sent his team out into the party with buckets for all his guests, the who’s who in Hong Kong to take off their expensive watches and jewelry and donate it to his causes.  I love that he is not just about his movies and business, but is driven to help children living in poverty in China.”

The now Sydney-based wife and mother of 3 continue to have big plans to inspire others to ‘perspire to greatness.’  She shares that they “plan to continue to grow our business in Australia and possibly into New Zealand.  We have a few new clubs in the pipeline now.  We are also going into franchising, I look forward to mentoring franchisee owners and helping them build their own fitness businesses.  Personally, I am starting a foundation to help support women and families through health and fitness initiatives.”  And it all started with a few frozen chickens!  But, as Selena shares, you must figure out your ‘why’ first.  She emphasizes to “figure out what it is that you are passionate about.  What gets you out of bed.  What gets you excited.  And go for it!”  She passionately urges others to actively seek their calling, put in the hard work for it and enjoy the ride – “When things are going well, enjoy it, you’ve probably worked hard for it. When things are tough, don’t give up but fight harder, you are just being shaped for greater things to come.  Love the saying, tough times don’t last but tough people do!”  And there is no better example of this advice than Selena Short herself.

‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie I’ve seen – ‘Moana’

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Tiare Teina (Gardenia flower) because it is my favorite reminder of home Cook Islands – from the gorgeous white flower to the beautiful unique scent – it’s my sense of home.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could?  Trace my ancestor’s steps back through New Caledonia and Samoa, my sister’s idea I love.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” sail across the Pacific Islands in a vaka

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? Oh, so many!  I am highly competitive, can cause over-the-top behaviour!

Meet The Woman Behind The Cover Of The Latest Issue Of Money Central Magazine: Nikki Clarke, The Founder Of Cadenshae

Starting a business with newborn or small children is not an easy feat, especially when you have to look after four of them. All Nikki Clarke initially wanted to do was make a bit of extra money on the side to feel comfortable financially. She didn’t actually start out to revolutionize the way mums looked and felt about themselves. She started Cadenshae with a $20k order of bras. She financed the entire project herself, as it was important for her not to rely on investors so she could still keep full control of the business. At the time, she had an 11-month-old baby and another one on the way, so it was certainly a risk, but one she knew would pay off as she’d stumbled across a niche market that was not being catered to properly at all. In less than five years she had 2 more kids, yet in the process, she somehow managed to grow Cadenshae into a multi-million dollar global empire.

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Nikki 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?

I was born and bred in Northland, New Zealand and I have one older sister – Jacqui. My parents are Steve and Sharon and they rock! I’ve always loved exercising and have felt passionate about it from an early age. Growing up I would work out with my Dad in the garage (he was a Policeman) and I always knew exercise would be an integral part of my life.

After school I took on a bunch of different roles, I was a medic in the NZ Army, a beautician, and a personal trainer, to name a few. All of the jobs I took on allowed me to help others in one way or another. Helping others has always been extremely important to me, it’s just part of who I am, and I am so proud of that.

As to how the business came about, as aforementioned – before I became a mother, I was a personal trainer, and so once I had recovered post-birth, I decided to head back to the gym to catch up with clients, show Caden off, and do a bit of a work-out. As I was working out, Caden got fussy, so I went to feed her and this is when my ‘ah-ha’ moment came about! I battled my sports bra, trying to pull it up over my breasts to feed. I was left infuriated. “This is impossible! There’s got to be a better way!” I thought. So, as soon as I got home, I went online to look for some quality nursing sports bras. There was nothing.

“Why has no one thought of this? How can mothers be expected to keep active and breastfeed when there’s nothing practical out there to do it in!”

I decided there and then if no one else would make the gear mums needed, then I’d give it a go! I had absolutely no experience in fashion design, but I knew what was needed, so I began drawing.

Fast forward to 19 months later, and Adam (my partner in life and business) and I have just welcomed our second baby girl, Ryan into the world! Four days later, $20k of nursing sports bras arrive from China, and are emptied onto our front lawn…here we go!

This year we’re set to turn-over close to $6 million (despite Covid-19). Cadenshae (named after our firstborn Caden, her middle name is Shae) now employs 16 staff and is recognized as the leading activewear brand for pregnant and nursing mothers, worldwide. Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, and Canada are our target markets.

Also – we now have four children and one on the way! Caden – 6, Ryan – 4, Kace – 3, Jackson – almost 2 and another wee girl coming soon!

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

As mentioned, the journey started six years ago when I first had Caden and I couldn’t find any suitable nursing sports bras. When I started, I didn’t think it would become this huge, no. I knew it would be somewhat successful as there was a gap in the market and from the chats I’d been having with other mothers, it was clear they would purchase activewear products for pregnancy and postpartum if it was nice! I thought I’d go alright in New Zealand, but the global success has been a very amazing and a pleasant surprise.

What is your main source of income?

Profits from sales.

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

It’s a funny old time with Covid-19 in the mix. Before the pandemic, we were on a serious upward trajectory and had plans for global domination! We still do have these goals, but we’ve had to change our focus a bit recently. Unfortunately, many businesses have been hit hard with people unable to shop as freely as they previously had due to job losses, etc. We have also been hit by this pandemic, but we’re not crippled, so we’re now focusing on building ourselves back to where we were, and when this all dies down – we’ll go back to focusing on taking over the world!

In short though, to grow our business we have to keep creating new and exciting products, so we’re focusing on our product carousel right now as well as trying to keep as many things as ‘in-house’ as possible. We have an amazing social media team, from the ‘faces’ on the camera, to the camera people, graphic designers, etc. Having this all done in-house means not only is it cheaper to do, but it’s faster…we can constantly roll out new content…and social media is such a massive beast which constantly needs feeding. And if you feed it right, you definitely see your return on investment.

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

Mainly Facebook and Instagram. We do stories every day, giveaways, posts, etc. We use Facebook a lot to interact with our customers, but we also have a presence on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube…you’ve got to be on everything these days to get in front of the ‘aspirational consumers.’

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

It’s always good to diversify your channels and advertise in different areas. Paid advertising has always been good for us, so I definitely think it’s something everyone should consider doing. Don’t dismiss a channel until you’ve tried and tested in my opinion,

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?

This has developed over the years. To begin with, it was just getting the word out there in any way we could! Social media, giveaways, sponsoring events, paid advertising, etc. Now that we have more of a strong-hold (and more experience), we have the power to pick and choose what we do a bit more. We knew from the get-go how powerful PR could be to a company’s bottom line, and as soon as we could, we invested in PR companies to help us out, before hiring our own PR Manager to take care of that side of the business, in-house. PR is crucial for brand awareness; sometimes people don’t know ‘how’ they know of you, but they do know of you! That’s the PR machine working away discreetly in the background. A person may have stumbled across an online article, or read a piece in a magazine while waiting at the Dentist for example…good PR strategies focus on getting in front of as many media outlets as possible, because the more you do, the more people hear/read of you…the more sales you’ll get. Numbers don’t lie! Businesses have to keep working on that and building on it until they become more of a ‘household’ name/brand. That’s a huge focus of ours, as well as catering to our current and new customers through social media.

We stand out I think because we think out of the square when it comes to ‘brand awareness’ tactics. We recently sponsored the incredible Alysia Montaño – a 7x USA champ and 3x 800m world bronze medallist. In fact, we signed her up just days after learning she was pregnant with her third child. Alysia had a hard time with the likes of Nike and Asics cutting her pay when she got pregnant or discussed getting pregnant, so she hit out against these big name brands hard – fighting for a better maternity coverage for female professional athletes. We adored her and how she was taking on the big guns. We wanted to help her in her plight, empower her, like we want to empower all women – so we signed her up for a four-year sponsorship deal. That’s a pretty cool and different way to get the word out about your brand, especially in the US, where our focus is right now.

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

Social media, EDMs, P.R.

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

We stood out initially because there was NOTHING like us around. Nothing that was actually nice and of high quality. Now we stand out because we are the innovators, and our stuff is hands down the best, we know it is. It’s stylish, colourful, comfortable, and supportive. It’s quite flattering when we see our competitors try to copy what we do. I also think we’ve hired some real trailblazers who like to try different things to see what will happen, and often it pays off.

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

The last few months have been the toughest in a while for sure. Covid-19 hurt us for a bit, but luckily, not for long. We decided from the get-go that we would do our utmost to keep everyone in their jobs. We had to cut everyone’s hours and pay for a few weeks, but at least that meant everyone still had a job. We could’ve let people go and kept others on full pay, but luckily we have an amazing team which really is a TEAM and everyone wanted to take a pay cut to ensure no one lost their job. Our staff has been brilliant, and so has the NZ government in their handling of this, helping out businesses with wage subsidies, etc. Our whole team is now back up to 100% pay, thank goodness.

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

I get asked this question a lot, and I’d say the biggest mistakes we’ve made have been around hiring the wrong people, not trusting our gut. It’s cost us a lot. We are now very strict when it comes to hiring people, we don’t take it willy nilly anymore. You’ve got to get it right the first time, or else it can be extremely taxing, in more ways than one.

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

It’s an old cliche, but hard work really does pay off. Working that extra hour or two to get the job done pays off. Working weekends pays off. Missing your mate’s birthday party because you have a shipment coming, pays off. Sacrifice and hard work pay off. Also, you’ve got to be a good person and treat people right. If you do, you’ll get so many other rewards…people want to help nice people and go the extra mile…it’s human nature. Also, we invested in systems/software early on to future proof. We weren’t ‘big’ enough for these systems initially but we knew we would be one day and we’d be ready – and it paid off.

What new business would you love to start?

Gosh, I have no idea! Something to do with helping others…but to be honest I have enough on my plate right now, I’m happy sticking with just this business for now.

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

All the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned from – you have to make mistakes so you can grow and develop. One thing that does stand out though is the hiring process. I would do more research on how best to do that.

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’d say to myself, ‘don’t stress, everything will work out!” I don’t know if ‘past’ me would believe ‘future’ me though even if I did go back. It’s only natural to stress and worry because it means you care and it makes you think a little harder and work a little harder. If I went back and told myself not to worry and not to stress, would I then work as hard? Not sure? It’s an interesting one.

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

I’m not a book reader, but I love reading online business articles. Big fan of Forbes.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Invest early for the future. Don’t be afraid, give it a crack!

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

Do your due diligence, your market research – can you really make a go of this in the current climate? What makes you different? At the end of the day though, if the fire is in your belly, you’ll make it work. Learn from others, seek out mentors…read, read, read…you aren’t expected to know everything, so don’t pretend you do. A true leader asks for help when needed, let others help you and teach you. Learn, make mistakes, learn again, and keep on growing.

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.

The Life Of An Entrepreneur: Interview With Noel And Waseem Ballou

Foodeez is a boutique creative digital agency focused exclusively on creating content for food and beverage brands. The co-founders, Noel and Waseem Ballou, are brothers who have invested their own resources and bootstrapped their way to creating this full-service agency, without a single investor.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with these inspiring entrepreneurs and here’s what went down:

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

I came from a business management background. I started this business with my brother when we saw a need with brands lacking social marketing services and felt it was something we both truly understood. Together we both started this agency with the main focus in creating high-quality content with the appropriate brand direction.

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

I still don’t feel we’ve reached “success.” I always hit a milestone and feel I need to set a bigger and harder one to chase and set that as the new standard of success. It continues to push my brother, my team, and myself. Starting this company fresh out college, I had 0 income and felt that it’s now or never if I want to start a company and dove straight in – and there was no looking back. I never imagined the company to get to this size, I always envisioned it to be about 5-10 people, but we are at 30 people and working with over 75 clients every month.

What is your main source of income?

Our main sources of income come from our content creation and production departments.

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

I am always looking for new strategies to maintain lean operations yet maintain the high-quality output we stand-by. Aside from internal strategizes, we are always looking for new services we can provide to our current/potential clients as well as new avenues we can take the direction of the company that may have strong long term benefits.

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

High-quality content with a fast turnaround!

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

Word of mouth. Ever since we’ve started our business has been driven by cold calls and referral business. Only recently have we got aggressive with our PR and digital marketing. But moving forward we are focusing our efforts on traditional PR and digital marketing.

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

We solely do Food & Beverage and nothing else. A lot of other businesses who do production and content creation don’t specialize in it (they other their services to other industries i.e. fashion, lifestyle, fitness, etc). We have a team of true foodies that are the best in their fields.

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

Expanding our office and scaling the team. As owners, we’ve really had to tighten our belts and make sure we can afford such a move. We’ve not only doubled our office space but have doubled the team to gear us towards an influx of work.

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

Budgeting and sticking tight to your budget. It’s so easy to swipe your credit card and get carried away. But budgeting is crucial. Oh, and save. There is nothing better than having cash on hand especially when you need it!

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

There is no such thing as an overnight success. I read a quote that goes “An overnight success usually takes 10 years”. Don’t expect to start a company and be successful tomorrow. It’s a lot of hustling & grinding, but the return of seeing the product you built is significantly rewarding.

What new business would you love to start?

Our own line of products… Which are actually in the works! Being in the food and beverage industry we’ve been able to partner with some of our clients in creating new private-label brands that will focus strictly online vs the traditional retailer route.

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

Save, save, and budget! The saying money doesn’t grow on trees is 100% true! Being a small company we’ve invested in foolish items. Looking back at it, if we saved that money and invested it in other avenues we could have been in a different place.

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?

Stay focused and don’t try to do too much at one time. Organize your tasks and projects and put 101% into each and everything you do. Don’t stress yourself over the little things, just develop a checklist and knock things off 1 by 1.

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

Sell or be sold by Grant Cardone. Everything in business and life is sales, make sure you’re always ready and looking for the right opportunity. If you don’t reach for it, someone else will.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Keep your head up and stay humble.

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

When you start hiring people, make sure you hire people that truly believe in your vision and have a passion for what you believe in as well. There is a lot of speed bumps in the beginning and you want them to be there with you helping push through the early barriers.

How This Beautiful Beauty Queen Made The Leap From Corporate Life To Financial Freedom

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Have you ever heard of a stunning Beauty Queen who works in the Real Estate industry and owns two investment properties already??

Meet the beautiful Gemma White – she was crowned Miss Australia Continents in 2018 but her interest in property investment and building wealth stemmed from a very young age. Growing up, she remembers spending a number of school holidays and weekends at properties her parents would be renovating and that made her eventually realize that investing in property is the best and most consistent way of building wealth.

From the age of around15 years old, she started attending property seminars and reading property related books. The first book she read was “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki and she also enjoys reading motivational and inspirational books, listening to podcasts, audiobooks and researching online.

She purchased her first investment property which settled in January 2017 and her second investment property in June 2018. Her goal is to own at least 3-4 investment properties within 5 years before starting her very own Property Development Company.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Gemma to find out more about her journey towards financial freedom and here’s what went down.

1. Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your property portfolio? What encouraged you to start a property portfolio?

I grew up on the Central Coast NSW but moved to Brisbane QLD at the age of 20 and now live on the Northern Gold Coast with my family. I have many great memories growing up and value family time first and foremost.

At just 27 years of age, I have been working in the Real Estate industry for over 8 years and own two investment properties.

As soon as I finished school I completed my Real Estate license and Diploma in Property Services and started working in the industry. Over the years I have also completed a Cert IV and Diploma in Project Management.

My interest in property stemmed from a young age. Growing up, I remember spending many school holidays and weekends at properties my parents would be renovating… well, I mostly remember feeding bread to the ducks and taking my parents’ change to buy lollies at the corner store.

From the age of about 15 years old I started attending property seminars and reading property related books, the first book I read was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I enjoy reading motivational and inspirational books, listening to podcasts, audiobooks and researching online.

I think it’s important to have goals, be dedicated, ambitious and willing to work hard to achieve your goals. It is also important to keep learning and growing your knowledge at all stages of life. My life revolves around Property and Real Estate really, I simply love it!

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2. Can you describe your journey? When did you start?

I purchased my first investment property which settled in January 2017 and my second investment property in June 2018. The goal is to have 3-4 investment properties within 5 years before starting my own Property Development Company.

I love a challenge, creating opportunities and helping people into their dream home. Working in Real Estate has helped me understand the ever-changing property market and the key elements to consider when researching for my own properties.

3. What is your main source of income?

I work full time in Real Estate as a Residential Property Manager.

4. What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your property portfolio?

Save. Save. Save.

Whilst I have financial goals that I am constantly striving for, I believe life is all about balance!

I am always trying to improve my life in every area and live with an abundant mindset. I try to save as much money as possible, this often means I give up nights out on the town drinking or other costly outings but I certainly don’t feel like I’m missing out.

By living life in balance I am able to achieve my financial goals and grow my portfolio as well as do many things I enjoy that don’t cost so much or anything at all. For example, go to the gym, get outside for a walk, go to the beach, hike a mountain, walk to a waterfall, watch the sunset, read a book, listen to a podcast, go on a coffee date rather than for a full meal and spend time with family and friends.

5. What is your idea for wealth building?

I believe wealth building comes in many forms. We can start at any age simply saving a small percentage of what we earn with every paycheck. When I started my first job at McDonald’s at 15 years old, my parents made me save 20% of whatever I earnt (I started on a mere $7 an hour). This is something that has stuck with me through my adulthood and I still strive to reach this and more every week. Every dollar counts!

We can make small changes to our daily habits that will set us up for success when it comes to wealth building. I would suggest making weekly plans and budgets, cook at home rather than buy take out, ditch the morning coffee purchase, think before making the next rational purchase for that dress you don’t really need, make specific money or financial goals, pay off any debt (car or credit cards) efficiently and build your credit rating, spend time every day learning (this could be as simple as swapping music or the radio for a podcast or audiobook on your drive to and from work) and surround yourself with inspirational and motivated people who encourage you to do your very best.

When it comes to wealth building I believe ‘where focus goes, energy flows’ and ‘we have to give to receive’.

6. What challenges did you face trying to establish a property portfolio?

The biggest challenge I think many of us face when trying to establish a property portfolio is saving the initial deposit. I know it’s important to remain focused regardless of the challenges, hurdles, and adversities we experience.

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

The toughest financial decision I have had to make in the last few months was the decision to continue saving a deposit for a third investment property or to book a months trip to Europe with my girlfriends for mid-2019.

Whilst I am very driven and goal oriented I feel it is important to live a well-balanced life. Travel is something I crave, having already been to over 40 countries.

Although the trip will put me a few months behind on purchasing another property, I know I will achieve this goal with time.

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

I wouldn’t call it a mistake but would highly recommend to start investing as early as possible. In hindsight I would be much further ahead if I didn’t spend the deposit I had already saved on a 6-month backpacking trip around Europe in 2014, however, in saying this, I wouldn’t change anything. The experience, memories, and friendships I made on this trip are indescribable.

9. What new business would you love to start?

I would love to start my own Property Development Company within the next 5 or so years.

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

I can’t say that there is anything I would change at this point in time. I feel that we learn and grow with every step of the journey.

11. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice to remember when purchasing an investment property is to ‘think with your head, not with your heart’.

12. What advice would you give someone who wants to start building their property portfolio?

If you have thought about buying a property, there’s no better time than now! Do it. Don’t wait. Take action now!

It is imperative to do your research. I would suggest reading property books, attend property seminars and seek advice from those who are already in the property market. The most important decision you can make is to get educated and learn as much as you can to ensure you set yourself up for success.

How This Couple Made The Leap From Rock Bottom To Successful Entrepreneurs

James and Steph Purpura’s journey of transformation is nothing short of extraordinary. Before they met 15 years ago, both of their lives had hit rock bottom. Depressed, bulimic, hopeless, running away from an abusive relationship, and suffering through decades of silence after being sexually abused as a child, Steph at one point tried to commit suicide in a hotel room. James, on the other hand, was filled with self-hate and rage at the world because he felt abandoned by everyone and everything. He eventually turned to drugs and then petty theft to fuel his addictions. Later on, he found himself in prison, locked up in solitary confinement.

At the lowest point in their lives, they met and were united by a shared vision of creating and becoming more. They started the only place they could by working on themselves and helping each other grow. They believed in each other but more importantly, they challenged each other every step of the way, and never settled.

James and Steph Purpura revealed that those tragic events actually became the catalyst for dramatic life changes that brought them together, and their discovery of the keys to unlocking their perceptions, challenging their beliefs, and changing their behaviors. But it took years of trial and error using their relationship to test new ideas, theories, and practices with each other. As they created a new life together, James and Steph formulated an evolutionary plan for living that resulted in tremendous personal and professional success. Now their hugely successful Powerful U events and programs are changing the lives of millions.

Their mission is to provide a roadmap for creating meaning in people’s lives, showing them how to master their perceptions and their emotions, the two factors that separate life of desperation and unhappiness, from one of joy, love, and accomplishment. According to James and Steph, “Everything you are, everything you see, everything you experience, is determined by perception. And it is your emotions that give your life the only meaning it has.”

Money Central magazine recently caught up with James and Steph Purpura to talk about their journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Please provide background about how the two of you met and how the world’s first personal evolution company, Powerful U came to fruition.

How we met is a topic of great debate around our house because we both have different stories about how it went down. But most people seem to believe Steph’s version of the story! We both worked in the same office building, but not for the same company. I saw Steph walking in the parking lot and held the door for her, (Steph swears we were 150 feet apart) but to me, it was more like 10 feet. Anyway, she walked through the door and I walked in after her, she became flushed once she realized I was holding the door for her. Steph was walking to the elevator when she turned around and introduced herself, and then we didn’t see each other until the next week. Later on, we had an awkward encounter in the parking lot where I asked Steph really odd questions like “do you eat” and somehow I convinced her to go on a date with me. The next morning I showed up in her office asking her to go to lunch with me and we have been together ever since. When we met, we were both coming out of the darkest periods of our lives and we had nothing. I was a year out of jail and Steph was 4 years out of a brutal suicide attempt. We started with nothing and were both committed to re-building our lives into what we always dreamed they would be. Years later, we sold our worldwide tech company, and started Powerful U, as our way to give back through sharing the knowledge we learned on our climb out from rock bottom.

Many are calling “Powerful-U” a movement. What are its basic fundamentals and why do you think it’s being referred to as this?

We are encouraging people all over the world to embrace and share their stories because your story only has power over you when you keep it inside. When someone has the courage to share their story it unconsciously permits someone else to do the same. If there is a movement, it’s because we are giving people permission to stop hiding from their past and embrace the power of vulnerability.

What do you find most rewarding through Powerful-U?

Giving people hope. When people tell us that our event or content pulled them out of the darkness and saved their lives. It’s truly incredible knowing that the work we are doing is having such a powerful impact on people.

What types of people tend to gravitate toward the Powerful-U platform and who would you consider your main audience?

Seekers, those who are hungry for the knowledge to shape and change their lives. People who are not afraid to question every aspect of who they are.

You have been extremely successful in various technology ventures, including that of PlanSwift. What has been the biggest challenge shifting from that world to Powerful-U?

The hardest part of transitioning was leaving the world of logic and numbers to the world of emotions and personalities. Embracing social media was very difficult for both of us.

What advice do you have for other business owners struggling to make a footprint in today’s competitive world?

Most business owners quit just before things take off, so if you feel what you’re doing is right and provides value to others keep pushing forward!

What life moments have made the two of you the successful people you are today?

Always pushing each other forward through our biggest fears, and challenging the false and limiting beliefs we had about ourselves.

What would you consider your personal missions in life?

Steph: I just started a subset of Powerful U, called Powerful Women. We had our first event in February 2020. I want to help women find their voices and step into their personal power.

James: To help and change the world into the place that I want my kids and grandkids to live in.

What career goals do you have, after accomplishing so much to date?

We want to make help available to people all over the world so they will have the knowledge they need to transform their lives.

Tell us about your award-winning documentary titled “Perception: Seeing is Not Believing” and your experience as first-time filmmakers.

We wanted to demonstrate that everybody’s life makes perfect sense when put into the right context. We want to give people awareness into what elements create their lives and what they need to know to change. Making a film was both easier and harder than we thought it would be. It was easy to film a lot of compelling content, and it was hard deciding what to use in the final cut.

Do you plan to continue in the world of film and pursue a bigger picture in this space?

YES! We have some future projects in mind that we are really excited about producing.

Who do you consider to be the most interesting and impressive people?

People who have the courage to stand up and question/challenge everything about themselves and the world around them. We are constantly reinventing ourselves and we fully understand how challenging that can be and we respect anyone who attempts to do the same.

You now have a Powerful Universe APP available for smartphones, iPads, and tablets. What drove you to create this, outside of your thirst and natural ability to thrive in technology?

The model to distribute independent movie is broken because filmmakers don’t get access to any of the customer data on the big platforms. We initially launched the platform as a means to distribute our film and it morphed over time as a way to deliver subscription content.

Which social media platform do you feel is the most powerful and why?

Facebook is still the king because they have the most flexibility in the type of content you can post

Where do you see Powerful U in 5 years? 10 years?

As an ecosystem for people who need a platform to deliver compelling content to seekers from every corner of the globe.

How do you separate work from family, considering you are married with children and work together. What is your secret?

We wake up an hour before our kids every morning and meditate together, to make sure we remain connected and on the same page. We make an effort to eat dinner together most nights as a family.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round — feel free to answer individually

1. Last good movie you’ve seen: JOKER- Even though it was extreme, they did a really good job of portraying the impact of mental illness.

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Our children- Seeing the beauty of their individual personalities.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Tour Europe.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” Enjoy our lives more fully.

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? We wouldn’t change our past, because it’s taken everything we’ve been through to become the people we are today.

Get To Know The Global Multimedia Artist And Successful Entrepreneur YiZhou

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Chinese multimedia artist, influencer, and entrepreneur Yi Zhou is widely known in the international creative community for her artistic, fashion, branding and film work. Her work is admired by a highly diverse group of distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood A-listers, wealthy patrons and the young social media audience.

Yi Zhou has a degree in politic science and economics from the London School of Economics and is now continuing her education at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She speaks fluent French, Italian, English, Spanish and Mandarin.

In recent years, she has endorsed a number of global campaigns including Persol, DFST – Galleria, Levis, and others. She was named the first-ever brand ambassador for China for Clarins in 2010. Since 2011, she has collaborated with such prestigious brands as Chanel, Hogan, Pringle of Scotland, Lane Crawford and YOOX. She also collaborated with French couture Jewelry house Gripoix, launching a special collection titled “Pineapple Secret. Her animations have also inspired a clothing collection by popular French brand Each X Other.

In 2013, she was invited as the first ever Chinese talent to be hired as a designer and creative director of a brand, to create a 360-degree project ranging from menswear, womenswear and accessories for Italian luxury brand ICEBERG. The “Breaking the Ice” capsule collection was released worldwide in December 2013.

In 2010, she created Yi Zhou Studio, creating employment opportunities for young Chinese talents to collaborate and experiment together on international projects.

A major social media influencer, Yi Zhou has been named Tudou’s art director, art and fashion advisory member at SINA.com, and beauty and fashion ambassador for Tencent.

A passionate promoter of East-West relations, she is frequently asked to speak at conferences and events around the globe, including TEDx (Paris 2012, Beijing 2013, Zheijang 2014), LVMH Labour Day in Paris in 2013 and Financial Times Luxury Conference in 2014.

Yi Zhou has contributed to many NGOs by creating art pieces for the UN Conference for World Climate Change in South Africa in 2011, the UNDP China Rio+20 Projection in 2012, as well as World Oceans Day in 2015. Most recently, she worked with Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation by participating in an artwork commissioned by ETAM.

Yi Zhou ‘s short films have also been shown at Shanghai Biennale, Venice Biennale, Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. She was selected by Venice Biennale to showcase her 2011 works, as well as new works from her solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome titled “Fragments of Rome, past, future, parallel worlds.”

She is currently working on several international media projects and is developing her first feature motion picture.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Yi Zhou to find out more about 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? 

I began my career as a multimedia artist in Paris and in China. Recently, I have relocated to Los Angeles to prepare for my first feature film and to start an investment company that will invest in entertainment and lifestyle portfolios.

My journey to success is thanks to hard work and by living in different countries. I have developed a sense of independence and survival to the new that has helped me to strengthen my skills to adapt to new environments.

I actually have a selective memory, and I am always ready to start a new chapter and a new challenge against boredom. I would never want to sit and dwell on my past achievements, but instead, I look at the future with hope and opportunities.

What is your main source of income?

I have multiple sources of income. I have divided my business and creative skills as an artist, filmmaker, and entrepreneur.

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

I’m preparing my investment firm at the moment and adding more ventures into my portfolio, and plan to venture into riskier as well as traditional investments.

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

I feel that I’m a pretty tolerant person. Therefore, I can afford some more risky investments and projects, such as my latest addition, ArtWallet, to which I’ve been named an Advisory Board Member. It’s a new concept that bridges cryptocurrency and art. I’m also preparing to launch my brand Global Intuition, a new concept for lifestyle and apparel born in China and made in LA and China.

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

I don’t believe in sponsored advertising in the long run for social media, as it lacks authenticity. It often feels like a Christmas tree, due to the sudden association of the influencer with a given brand. I believe things and associations must feel organic and real to the audience, who is becoming more and more savvy nowadays.

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

I must say that I’m an influencer myself and I often refuse to do posts that make me sound unnatural. I try always to be associated with brands that I feel close to in terms of philosophy, strategy and look. As for my own brand Global Intuition, we are preparing our PR and marketing launch at the moment.

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

I don’t believe in any marketing theories. I always try something new with a surprise effect.

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

I hope my brand Global Intuition will stand out when it launches later this year. As a brand myself, YiZhou, I feel that I am unique as I incorporate many roles and cultures into one, so it makes it difficult to copy.

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

The toughest decision I had to make in the past months was to say goodbye to some projects that I was invited to work on. Along the initial path, I encountered a lot of difficulties to deal with some of the involved partners, so I looked deep inside of myself and decided not to continue, even if the projects might have appealed to me. I feel work and living happily are the most important things to me.

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

Over time, I have learned that overspending and having too much overhead are mistakes. I think modern technologies are allowing us to accomplish more tasks than before, thereby saving manpower.

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

I think “saving” is a keyword to learn, as are planning and making smart moves.

What new business would you love to start?

I wish to continue to accomplish the plan I laid out for the upcoming years, and my best goal is to one day create a beautiful family.

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

I wish to be able to see my ancestral life. But in this very life, I would not change anything, besides perhaps learning to deal with difficult people differently. I wish I would have had the chance to learn about this important skill in advance.

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

I read a lot of sports-related books, as I believe an entrepreneur is a sportsman (or woman). We need to take the same approach.

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

Advice to a newbie: I wish to advise them to find a real-life role model and mentor, and stay in close contact with that person for guidance.

One On One Interview With Tahnee Elliott: The CEO Of TC Elli’s

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When Tahnee Elliott saw a need for a quality fashion boutique, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity to fill in the gap in the market, and the result was a successful business.

She started her business back in 2000 at the ripe age of 24. She had just graduated from college in Lubbock, Texas when she decided that she wanted to go into business. Having lived in the small college town for four years, she knew there was a serious need for a quality fashion boutique. After opening TC Elli’s, word quickly spread about her business and TC Elli’s began to grow into a beloved shop where luxury is about being one of a kind, and not about how much money you spend.

Fast forward to today, and TC Elli’s now has over 40 thousand followers on Instagram and customers all over the world. She runs her business with the help of about 30 high school and college-aged women. Part of the mission of TC Elli’s is to prepare and empower women to start a business, so by delegating essential duties such as social media, buying, and budgeting to her staff – she hopes to teach all of her employees how to start, run, and expand their own company if and when they decide to do so after college.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Tahnee Elliott to find out more about 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?

I started TC Elli’s in 2000, at the ripe age of 24. I had just graduated from college in Lubbock, Texas when I decided to go into business for myself. Having lived in the small college town for four years, I knew there was a serious need for a quality fashion boutique. After opening the boutique, word quickly spread and TC Elli’s began to grow into a beloved shop where luxury is about being one of a kind, not how much money you spend.

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

I think as far as small business go; success came pretty quickly. As I said, there was a need and I filled it with TC Elli’s. However, throughout most of the 2000’s, our growth was fairly stagnant. We were popular locally, but our reach didn’t extend further than West Texas. It wasn’t until 2015 that things really began to take off even more than I’d ever imagined. We began promoting our products on Instagram and watched traffic to the e-commerce site soar. Today, we have over 40 thousand followers on Instagram and customers all over the world.

What is your main source of income?

The brick and mortar store in Lubbock, TX is our main source of income, although the online store is picking up sales rapidly.

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

Marketing tactics aside, I think TC Elli’s stands out among the sea of other small fashion boutiques, because of the mission that drives our brand. I only employ women in high school and college. It was around this age that I decided I wanted to open a business. However, other than my formal education, I had very little real-world experience and knew next to nothing about running a successful business. I want to empower the next generation of women to excel in the ‘real world’ by training and teaching them everything I’ve learned throughout the years.

My employees now assist with everything from social media to buying. It’s a brand for young women, by young women and I really think that’s what makes us so relatable and unique.

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

In this highly competitive market of fashion, I knew we needed to set ourselves apart from the competition, so I started researching SEO companies. Going through interviews for months, I finally found a great company but it was a very tough decision to take the risk or continue with mediocre online sales.

The level of trust, communication, and value when picking a company you will do long-term business with is a very hard decision. We have used SEO and marketing companies in the past but all of them seemed to fizzle out. CanIRank has been a huge blessing for our continued in-store and online success.

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

This is an easy one! LOL, I always over order clothing! I truly have a passion for clothing, so it is extremely hard for me to say “no” when I have an amazing buyer who shows me the most amazing pieces each day.

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

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Always stay humble and grateful to those who helped you along the way. Success is a collaborative effort of a lot of people who believe in you, trust you, and support you. Save your money when you are ahead, you might need it later to continue growth or expand.

What new business would you love to start?

After 18 years of experience, I would love to consult entrepreneurs on opening up their own clothing business.

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

I wish I would have hired a team as soon as I could afford to take on employees. I think for all business owners when you’re just getting started it’s not an option financially to hire a team even if you need it. So, you end up taking the huge task of running a company on yourself. For me, I got used this kind of work. I loved having my hand in every part of the business so even once I could afford to hire, I didn’t. I was working days, evenings, and weekends and was on the brink of burn-out before I hired my first full-time staffer.

Today, we have a team of over 30 employees who help me run the show. While I still play a very active role in the day-to-day business as well as behind the scenes, my work-life balance is much healthier than it was in the first few years. I only wish I had acted sooner.

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

Absolutely! I love reading so my top picks would be 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and E Myth Mastery by Michael Gerber just to name a few.

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What is the best advice you have ever been given?

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

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

This quote by Rumi–

You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dream.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.