2012 April

Secrets of my Success: Claire Mischevani

04 30 2012

A mere five days before I got married, my sister and I went to the British Bridal Exhibition and we both fell in love!  Beautiful, hand-sewn, embellished belts caught our eye, swiftly followed by the truly elegant bridal designs of Claire Mischevani.  In a word, breath-taking.  But the real clincher for us was meeting Claire herself – clearly talented, as well as one of the warmest and most inspirational entrepreneurs either of us had come across.  We were both touched and inspired by her story and so wanted to share it with you….  And for the bride-to-be, a visit to the gallery at ClaireMischevani.com is highly recommended!

Tell us a little about you/your enterprise/your mission…

I am Claire Mischevani, a British Fashion Designer who has been designing for 10 years. I have my head office in Shrewsbury, Shropshire and a showroom a few minutes from Sloane Square in London.  I design bespoke garments for private clients, including celebrities and I have stockists for both my wedding dress and fashion collections.

What is your vision of your best life? 
Just to get the perfect work/life balance, as it can be difficult when running a thriving business.  I am so happy that the business has grown so much, but I wish that I could spend more time with my family and friends.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?  
In the beginning I was faced with all sorts of obstacles, mainly stemming from lack of experience. I also found it difficult to find skilled workers, which is key to a business such as mine. I have always learnt valuable lessons from facing challenges directly and not shying away from them, it makes you a stronger business woman. You just have to learn from your mistakes.
Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?  
Yes, this happens all the time, but I believe that things happen for a reason and you just have to deal with what life throws at you in the most positive way possible. I have always found that if ever I go against my instincts/gut reaction then things tend to go wrong!
Has there been a ‘defining moment’ that has changed your life/your view of life?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?  
My nudge was when I was working as a lawyer and not enjoying it.  My Grandmother passed away and it just made me realise that life was too short to be unhappy at work, so a couple of days later I handed in my notice and left.  I have never spent a minute regretting my decision and that was 10 years ago and I still absolutely stand my decision to leave my job and felt it was the best decision I could ever have made!
If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share? 
1. Always go with your instinct. 
2. Take advice from people who have been in your line of business.
3. If things go wrong, do not give up.  Dust yourself off and do it better next time.
What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most? 
I take inspiration from so many different forms of media including films and magazines, that I could not name one in particular – I find new inspirations every day.
Image: One
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Secrets of my Success: Jenny Blake of Life After College

04 23 2012

I can still remember the girl in the year above me at school that I looked up to –  “a good all-rounder” I think the teachers called her, and confident and popular to boot.  A role model.  Fast forward twenty years and Jenny Blake is one of my grown-up equivalents.  With proven success in the corporate world at Google, Jenny took a courageous leap onto her own path to, in her words, “live big” and LifeAfterCollege.org is the result.  Speaker, author, coach and yoga teacher – Jenny tells a little more below…


Tell me a little about you/your blog/your mission!
I blog at LifeAfterCollege.org to help others “Wake up, Live Big and Love the Journey” through a mix of my own personal experiences and practical tools and templates. I recently made one of the hardest decisions of my life – I quit my job at Google after five and a half years to build my own business as an author, speaker and life coach. I was terrified that I’d end up in a van down by the river, but I’m thankful to say that so far, 5 months in, I’ve broken even. Finally, I love dogs, dancing, music, travel, and cupcakes.

What is your vision of your best life? 
In my best life I’m waking up every day, going for a run, reading with a nice, warm cup of coffee, taking and/or teaching yoga class, reading more, and doing meaningful work (not busy work, and not stressing over the small stuff). I feel like I’m closer to that vision now more than ever, so I’m really trying to focus on enjoying and expanding every moment, and remembering to express my gratitude for my life. 

Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?
My biggest obstacles are usually internal, I can be my own worst enemy. For a while it was the thought that I’m not smart/pretty/original enough, then when I would succeed, I’d have fears that it was all going to come crashing down at any moment. I’m a highly sensitive person prone to over-thinking and anxiety, so that’s why exercise and yoga are so important for keeping me balanced. 

Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?
Absolutely! I thought I had landed my dream job when I was working at Google. I bought an apartment, bought a car, and was working in Career Development. And yet, something was missing from my life. I started to feel over-worked and unhappy. Little did I know that those feelings were planting the seeds for me to soon quit my job, rent out my house, and move across the country from San Francisco to New York to pursue the roller-coaster of self-employment. I left the corporate ladder and the “American Dream” I had created behind in order to live a life of freedom and spontaneity. 

Has there been a ‘defining moment’ that has changed your life/your view of life?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?
I had a terrible case of “book block” and even though I had a first draft of my book written in 2008, I couldn’t bear to look at it or see it to completion…for SIX months. I felt horrible – like I was watching my dream die on the vine. Then I decided to “act as if” and attend a local Speaker’s Association meeting. While there, I met Michael Larsen, the author of the book How to Write a Book Proposal, and he gave me his copy. I realized it was time to get back on the horse and at least TRY to pitch my book idea to literary agents and publishers. That set me on the course I’m on today, where my book eventually was published by Running Press (after 27 rejections from other publishers) in March of this year. I learned that when something is meant to be, spontaneity and opportunity WILL work in your favor, but only if you meet it halfway with your own conscious effort. 

If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, and release judgment of others. 
Express gratitude often. 
Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most?
Martha Beck is an author and one of my personal idols.  She wrote the books Finding Your Own North Star andSteering by Starlight, which I recommend to every single person I know! I love quotes too – one of my favorites is “action is the antidote to despair” (Joan Baez). 

Image: One

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Secrets of my Success: Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge

04 16 2012

Christmas has come early for me as I have one of my biggest inspirations, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, here to share for our Q&A Inspiration this week.  A former freelance journalist and contributing editor for House & Garden,New York Home and In Style, Grace started the design blog in 2004.  It now has, she says in her first book Design*Sponge at Home, a daily readership that would fill New York’s Madison Square Garden.  While I’m smitten with her enthusiastic, ‘have-a-go’ attitude that comes across in her writing, I’m in even more admiration of her encouraging, altrusitic spirit.  She’s keen to share the platform – Grace has established D*S Biz Ladies, a series of national meet-ups to support budding design enthusiasts, and founded the Design*Sponge Scholarship to assist art and design students in pursuit of their creative endeavours – their best life!  

Tell me a little about you and your blog…
Both my blog and my life (which are pretty intertwined these days) are about trying to live the most fulfilled, creative life possible.

What is your vision of your best life? 
A balance between personal and professional- and enjoying both so much that you occasionally lose yourself in either.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?
My biggest challenge is knowing when to take a break. I struggle with it a lot and find the best cure is to surround yourself with people you trust who remind you (and force you) to stop every now and then to appreciate what you have and what you do.

Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?
Yes, never more so than in 2011. It’s been a difficult year for me, but it’s been an exercise in embracing life’s ups and downs and really, truly remembering it’s a journey and not something you have “figured out” right away.

Has there been a ‘defining moment’ that has changed your life/your view of life?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?
My defining moments are usually negatives that turn into positives- moments where I regret a decision I made or see something happen that I never want to have happen for me. I find I best define myself and my life by knowing what I DON’T want more than what I do.

If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share?
Take a break. One day your optometrist will tell you that you have the eyes of a 60 year old. You can still stop that.

Time is more valuable than money. Don’t worry about paying bills- worry about enjoying what you have around you now.
Invest in your friends. They are your family away from home and worth every second of time, energy and love you have.

What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most?
I go back and forth between inspirations, but this quote has been special for me lately (it was originally written to me in a middle school note):

Barn’s burnt down- Now I can see the moon.” -Masahide. 

It’s a good reminder to me that sometimes things that seem terrible can reveal something even better or more beautiful.

Image: One

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