Incredibly Creative Ways Entrepreneurs Have Gotten in the Door


It's really easy to feel a little bit stuck. We all know the proper ways to act in a business environment – how to network, how to seek out new business and make those crucial connections.

But what if all that is simply not working? Sometimes, you have to get a little creative to get the job done. These female business leaders took matters into their own hands and thought up some brilliant ways to get through the front door. And in each and every case, it worked!

Cassandra Rosen, FK Interactive

“Here's how I made a massive career change-from financial advisor and fighting 'glass ceilings' to owning a luxury brand consulting agency. In the late nineties and early 2000's, I worked as a financial advisor and hedge fund consultant. In financial services, especially the advisory world at the time, the glass ceiling was very much alive and rather unbreakable. Approximately one year after September 11th, I was beyond frustrated with the business, and knew it was time for a change. Design and brand development had been a passion of mine since I was a child, and after taking a short-term college course, I realized I had a talent-one I'd been using for years, without even realizing it. Through a few connections, I found a local consulting agency that was hiring. I had no experience, but they gave me a name of someone in management, and his direct line. The next day, I called him. Of course, as any good employer would do, Dave asked if I had experience. I said no, but I was willing to learn. He responded in a rather cranky tone that they were, “Only looking for people with real experience and talent", that I should go back to school, and then hung up on me.

What normal people would do is probably just that-go back to school, then start looking for internships, and work their way up. Instead, I called him back, leaving a voicemail that 'I had talent, was a fast learner, and either he should hire me, or I'd start my own firm'. Looking back, this probably wasn't the brightest move, but he called me back, and a week later, hired me. (I also learned that the 'tone' was his normal voice-unless he was belting out show tune lyrics around the office) I did go back to school, and eventually started my own firm, but Dave and I stayed friends until he passed. Having the courage to stick my 'foot in the door' back then gave me the opportunity to make a massive career change, to learn from an incredible talent, and eventually to find my own path into something I truly love to do-helping other entrepreneurs succeed at FK Interactive.

Motto founders, Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger

“In 2006, Motto was a year into business and struggling to keep the doors open. Nobody knew us, the phone wasn't ringing, and we had a few hundred bucks left in the bank. We were eating ketchup sandwiches for lunch and dinner and sleeping on the floor of our 14x14 office. That classic struggling-to-survive startup fairy tale? Well, it sucks when it's happening to you. We were weeks away from closing the doors, shutting off the Internet and slinking away in defeat. Conventional wisdom said maybe things would turn around. But luck isn't a business strategy, and we've never been conventional. We knew our only hope was to do rebel against the ordinary and do something unexpected to get clients. We took $50 and purchased a list of businesses from within a 500-mile radius of our office. We then designed a die cut, three-dimensional mailer in the shape of a trashcan. When you pulled the lid, the inner panel said four things, “Trash the Ordinary," a link to our website, phone number, and address. We emptied our bank account, printed as many as we could, and sent them to everyone on that list. It was our last gasp, our Hail Mary pass. Within 24 hours, we had people showing up at our studio with the mailer in hand, wanting to talk about how we could help them build their brands. That moment completely turned our business around."

Eloise Bune, founder and CEO of ScribbleChat

Eloise Bune Of Handwriting.io

Eloise Bune, founder and CEO of ScribbleChat, has always had an appreciation for handwritten notes. It all started after she wrote hundreds of thank you notes following her wedding and realized her passion for personalization. In 2011 Eloise took her passion to the next level and developed a handwriting replication software— Handwriting.io, a patentedAPI that enables customers like 1-800 Flowers, Hallmark and Bloomingdales to incorporate the company's proprietary digital handwriting technology into existing mobile apps, desktop applications and websites. Following the success of Handwriting.io, Eloise launched ScribbleChat in early 2017—a consumer version of Handwriting.io that allows individuals to send “emotions" through text message, instead of plain text responses. The advanced messaging platform allows you to customize "handwritten" text offering emojis and interactive animations to more accurately convey emotions in text discussions.

In March 2017, ScribbleChat partnered with Facebook Messenger and launched their ScribbleChat bot for Messenger. Partnerships have since taken off from there. In our digital driven age, Eloise utilizes the basic concept of human “touch" and customization, in addition to her own innovative and personalized ways to communicate with new business prospects, investors and additionally friends and family which she believes has made her successful today. She believes part of both ScribbleChat and Handwriting.io's successes lie in her continued process of sending hand-written notes to every new business prospect and investor. So far so good!

Nikkia T. McClain, President, Tene Nicole, Marketing and Public Relations

“When I first started my firm, I was having a hard time connecting with editors, freelance writers, bloggers or producers who didn't pay my pitches or clients any attention. I knew it would take time but I also knew I needed to think outside of the box if I wanted to get a foot in the door of getting both my firm and clients notice. I came up with the idea of creating a signature series where I partnered with an event space to deliver a three-part event: A gifting suite, private media dinner and a charitable mix and mingle. The three-part series center around NFL Draft Week (when it was in NYC) and NBA Draft Week. The gifting suite and private media dinner was the hook, as media guest where strategically picked (mainly lifestyle editors) to attend. During the gifting suite, I would make sure my clients had on-site activation.

This opportunity allowed their brands to get coverage from media and photo-ops with players and celebrities. The media dinner was very intimate as it was designed for twenty-five people and was always hosted by either the number one or number two draft pick (a small investment to host), Super Bowl Champions, notable players, one or two celebrities, about five to six media people and of course myself! It was the perfect setting for everyone in the room. The media got to ask questions without fishing for a story, the players and celebrities got publicity and most importantly I got the opportunity to establish a relationship with the media guest I invited, relationships that have blossomed into wonderful friendships over the years. As an entrepreneur in the public relations sector, public relations has shifted from traditional PR (press releases, media alerts, cold calling, pitching) and creating my signature series was what help me get that foot in the door."

Diane Elizabeth, Founder, Skincare Ox

“I was running an education start up at the time (fresh out of Tech Stars, Chicago) and I really wanted to prove myself by getting a meeting with a certain popular VC. I researched him and found out that he had a daughter who was just about to enter her senior year in high school. Well, it just so happens that I fancied myself the Queen of Scholarships because I paid for my entire private education on private scholarships. So, I emailed him and offered to teach his daughter everything that I knew about winning hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and getting into any college that I wanted---in exchange for a meeting of course. What parent could say no to that? No one, that's who. It certainly landed me the meeting!"

Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, Co-founders at AUrate New York

“We've more than once offered our jewelry as a way to get in the door, including to men (who then could gift it along). Luckily it's proven highly effective - the power of gold."

“We research the people we want to meet and use that when reaching out to them. If we find they have a favorite coffee shop or fitness class, we'll suggest meeting up there. This helps us in setting some common ground aside from business."

Lauren Farleigh, founder and CEO of the shopping app Dote

“Lauren and Dote were just featured (last week) on an episode of Apple Music's new series Planet of the Apps, where she secure a $5 million investment for her company. I applied for a reality TV show where I rode down an escalator and pitched my company, the shopping app Dote. I also made this embarrassing audition tape. Fortunately, it worked out, because I got Gwyneth Paltrow as my mentor and a $5 million investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners! Our first institutional investor, Michael Dearing, actually said no to us the first time I pitched Dote to him. I asked if he would meet me for breakfast the next day, and he reluctantly agreed at 8am at a diner in Woodside. I then ordered the most aggressive item on the menu (a sausage scramble) and ran him through every single number I had. It worked. So my advice would be, No is not always no."

Meghan Ely, Owner, OFD Consulting, www.ofdconsulting.com

“Several years ago, I was eager to really dive into the national speaking market for my industry. I had been submitting topics up to that point, but never turned any heads. Then, at one of the major conferences, I stepped into the shoes of a cancelled speaker with just 2 hours notice. I recycled the topic from my own presentations and spoke to a sold out room. After that experience, I sent the director of education a small mailer, thanking them for the opportunity. I called it an "emergency kit" in case they ran into the issue again. The highlights included a small bottle of a liquor, and then an elaborate box that stated "for emergency use only" on the outside. Once opened, it contained my new letterpress business card. The strategy went over very well and I'm been selected for the conference for many years since. “

Kristy Rice, Momental Designs

Entrepreneur Kristy Rice started building her art empire 14 years ago. What started with Kristy's personal obsession with paint and paper has evolved into her bespoke, high end stationery business called Momental Designs. Her brand garners global attention from media, celebrities, and some of the world's most creative individuals. Sean Parker (Napster/Facebook), Jessica Simpson, Katy Perry and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) selected Kristy to create art for their events. Along with a team of eight inspiring women, Kristy continues to innovate in the worlds of styling, stationery, design, and art licensing. She is the author of the best-selling book series Painterly Days, the World's first ever WATERcoloring Books for adults. Her newest 4-part coloring book series Kristy's Cutting Garden officially releases today!

Constantly show your work: Kristy gifted custom fashion sketch notecards to Mindy Weiss, a very well respected wedding planner because Kristy liked Mindy's energy and style. Mindy later recommended Kristy to potential clients, and they eventually worked together on Jessica Simpson's wedding, which led to major media mentions.. Kristy created artful note sets with individually painted brushstrokes to coordinate with a recently attended luxury wedding conference color palette and theme. All magazine editors, who met at the conference, received the painted notecard gifts. As a result, her work has since been featured in every major bridal magazine. Stand out with unique ideas. When developing a book pitch, Kristy knew she needed to stand out from the countless pdf's emailed to publishers every single hour. Her book pitch was hardbound and made to look and feel like a real, quality book. The interior covers were lined with Kristy's artwork, and she made the pages out of luxe stock. Kristy even commissioned a custom calligraphy style for the cover. Kristy had a signed book deal within two weeks of sending her first pitch book! Together Kristy and her publisher have created seven books with an eighth in the planning stages.

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Working Moms Open Up About Their Greatest Struggles

Motherhood, no matter how you slice or dice it, is never easy. Running after small children, feeding them, tending to their physical and emotional wounds, and just taking the time to shower them with love— that's a lifetime of internal resources. Now add a job on top of all of that? Geez. We spoke to 14 working mothers to get an open, honest look at the biggest day-to-day challenges they face, because despite what Instagram portrays, it's not all dresses on swingsets, heels, and flawless makeup.

1. “Motherhood in general is hard," shares Rachel Costello. “It's a complete upheaval of life as you once knew it. I have a 22-month-old due any minute and a baby. The hardest part is being pregnant with a toddler — chasing, wrangling, etc., all while tired, nauseous, and achey. Then the guilt sets in. The emotional roller coaster punctuated by hormones when you look at your baby, the first born, knowing that their life is about to be changed."

2. “I'm a work-from-home mom," shares Jene Luciano of TheGetItMom.com. “I have two children and two stepchildren. The hardest part about parenting for me is being the best mom I can be to someone else's children."

3. “I joined the Air Force at 18 and had my first child at 20," tells female power house Robyn Schenker Ruffo. “I had my second baby at 23. Working everyday, pumping at work and breastfeeding at lunch time at the base, home day care was rough. Being away from my babies during the day took a toll on me— especially the single mom days when they were toddlers. I had a great support system of friends and military camaraderie. The worst was being deployed when they were 6 months old, yes both, and I was gone for 90 days. Not seeing them every night was so depressing."

4. “Physically, the hardest part of the parenting experience (and so far, I'm only six months in with twins) was adjusting to the lack of sleep in the very beginning," shares Lauren Carasso. “Emotionally, the hardest part is going to work everyday with anxiety that I'm going to miss one of the twins' firsts or other milestones. I know they are in good care but potentially missing those special moments weighs heavy on my heart when I walk out the door each morning," she continues.

5. “The hardest part of being a parent is social media, actually," says Marina Levin. “Shutting out the judgmental sanctimommy noise and just doing what works best for you and your family in a given moment."

6. “Trying to raise a healthy, happy, confident and self-respecting girl, when I'm not a consistent example of those qualities is the hardest for me," explains Adrienne Wright. “Before motherhood I was a pretty secure woman, and I thought passing that onto my daughter would be a piece of cake. But in the age of social media where women are constantly ripping each other to shreds for the way they raise their kids, it's nearly impossible to feel confident all of the time. Nursing vs. formula, working vs. stay at home, vax vs. anti-vax, to circumcise vs. not, nanny vs. daycare— the list goes on and on. We're all doing the best we can with the resources we have. We should empower each other to feel confident in the decisions we make for our families."

7. “The hardest part is the sense of responsibility and worrying that comes along with it," says Orly Kagan. “Am I feeding my kids properly? Are they getting too much screen time? Are they getting enough attention and love? Are they developing as they should be? It goes on and on and on."

8. “For me, by far the hardest part of motherhood has been managing my own guilt. As many triumphant moments as there may be, the moments when I feel like I did badly or could have done better always stick out," confesses Julie Burke.

9. “Balancing work and doing all the mom things and all the home things and all the husband things are not the hardest part of motherhood (for me, anyway)," shares Zlata Faerman. “The hardest part of motherhood is trying to figure out just how to deal with the amount of love I have for my son. It can be super overwhelming and I'm either alone in this sentiment, or not enough moms talk about it."

10. “The hardest part for me is giving things up," shares Stacey Feintuch. “I have two boys, an almost 3-year-old and almost 7-year-old. I have to miss my older one's sports so I can watch the little guy while he naps or watch him at home since he will just run on the field. I hate that other parents can go to games and I can't. I also really miss going out to dinner. My older one can eat out but we rarely eat out since my younger one is a runner!"

11. “I think if I'm going to be completely real, the hardest part to date has been realIzing that I chose this life," shares Lora Jackle, a now married but formerly single mom to a special needs child. “I chose to foster and then adopt special needs, as opposed to many parents who find out about the special needs after their child is born. It's still okay to grieve it sometimes. It's still okay to hate it sometimes and 'escape' to work."

12. “I'm a work-at-home mother doing proofreading and teaching 10-20 hours a week. The hardest part for me is not yelling. I took the 30-Day No Yelling Challenge and kept having to restart. I love my kids, don't get me wrong," says Michelle Sydney, exemplifying the difficulty of balancing work with family.

13. “I'm a full-time working mom of a 2.5-year-old," shares Anna Spiewak. “I bring home equal pay, keep the apartment clean and take care of dinner. Still my male partner gets all the praise for being a good dad and basically sticking around. It's mainly from his side of the family, of course. What I do is taken for granted, even though I'm the one who still changes the diapers, bathes her and wakes up in the middle of the night on a work night when she cries. I wish all moms got credit for staying on top of things."

14. “I am a stay-at-home-mother and currently working full-time from home on my start-up clothing brand, Kindred Bravely," says Deeanne Akerson, founder of Kindred Bravely, a fashion line devoted to nursing, working mothers. “The hardest part of my parenting experience is the constant feeling of never doing quite enough. There is always more to do, meals to make, laundry to fold, kids that want my full attention, errands to run, or work in my business. And since there really always are more things to do it's easy to feel like you're failing on nearly every aspect of life!"

This piece was originally published July 18, 2018.