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Flourishing Cosmetics Line and Spa are a Family Affair

Posted in INSPIRATION by msceonet on May 30, 2010
Like mother, like daughter
 This family duo takes their bond to the bank


 By Nina Hemphill-Reeder for Ms. CEO 


Going into business together was sort of inevitable for Atlanta native Lydia Mondavi and her mother Anita Wilbanks. Both have a background in cosmetics, and both were already small business owners; Wilbanks, the mother, ran an interior design firm while Mondavi designed spas and started developing spa products. Insert daughter Lydia’s husband, Rob Mondavi, Jr. of the famous American wine empire, and the idea for their business was as intuitive as an Oprah “aha” moment: Use the antioxidant benefits of grape seed extract in cosmetics and sell them!  

 Now, Mondavi, 37, and Wilbanks, 57, run their acclaimed luxury beauty and skin care line, 29 Cosmetics and 29 Spa, at The Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta. And the two say the family business couldn’t be better.   “There is such fabulous emotional support and connection and a respect for each other that goes far beyond anything I think you could ever have outside of a family,” Mondavi says. 

“It’s been a really great feeling to know that everyday I go to work, I have my mom as my support—not just as a mother—but I have her completely side by side with me [as a business partner also].” 

Even as their company grows—they sell their line on their Web site and in Neiman Marcus stores—Mondavi maintains that it’s still a mother daughter business at heart. 

“There is me and my mom,” she says. “The both of us are involved in each and every decision every day. I handle more of the operational side of the company. My mom has been such a driving force on the creative side of the company. It makes such a great complementary relationship for us.” 

Wilbanks agrees, adding “I certainly would not have even attempted to start this business without Lydia. Because she definitely has the driving force that I don’t possess. But what’s really interesting is we have totally different skills and it is really nice how we can rely on one another; where I’m lacking in one, she certainly can pick up and move beyond that.” 

And with their resources combined, the two say they manage everything from marketing strategies to the development of new products. Because of this, they admit that their close involvement in these hands-on operations have not only brought them astounding levels of success but it has brought them closer together, for which they are immensely grateful. 

“My mom and I obviously are really good friends first,” says Mondavi. “I never thought that I could be any closer to my mother. It’s an amazing thing to not only have a respect for her as a mother and as a friend, but to have such a respect and admire her on a work level because I certainly couldn’t do this business without her.” 




Anita Wilbanks and Lydia Mondavi






Inventive Entrepreneur, Bestselling Author and Mom Shares Her Secrets for Balancing Family Care and Business Building

Posted in INSPIRATION by msceonet on May 30, 2010
Balancing your business and home life can be a struggle, so lighten the load by trying these expert tips
It is all about tightening your time management skills and finding the right resources to help with your children


By Nadiyah M. Jett, Ms. CEO Correspondent



During the early years of her company, Mom Invented, Tamara Monosoff was working feverishly to get her business—which included selling her first invention, the TP Saver—off the ground. So, she juggled packing products, shipping orders and being her own publicist, just to name a few of her many hats, along with raising her daughter, 21 month-old Sophia. 

Mom Invented is one of roughly 8 million businesses run by women across the country today, according to the National Women’s Business Council; and many of their owners have chosen to be a mom, too. 

So, the ever-constant challenge is how to juggle work and home so no one, from your kids to your clients, is left empty-handed.  

Well, to do this and keep from pulling out your hair by lunch time, Monosoff suggests creating strict schedules to complete tasks that are a must to keep your business going each day. 

“What I learned to do was to block out very specific times for work and then to turn it off and focus on the kids. It wasn’t working to try and do both,” Monosoff says. 

“I am very serious about my blocks of time more than anything. This is the thing; you need to have consistent periods of time. Otherwise, it gets too frustrating because it feels like you are taking 10 steps back. So, in order to build your business successfully, you need to have blocks of time that you can count on because it allows you to get enough momentum to move things forward. When your kids are small, that is essential.” 

Fast forward to today. Although, Monosoff’s daughters are 8-and 6-years-old and in school, she still swears by these time blocks. As a result, the best-selling author has built an acclaimed brand. From having a presence in the international marketplace with her Mom Invented products to being featured on a number of shows, including Good Morning America Weekend, Monosoff and her wares are highly sought-after. 

She has even made time to write and release her fourth business book, Your Million Dollar Dream, which hit shelves in April 2010. 

You can mimic Monosoff’s career moves by testing out your ability to not only stick to time blocks, but to also make organized action lists. 

“Write everything down that you need to get done and then pick the top three to five things that you would like to accomplish in that day. Start out with those things and prioritize in that way,” she says. 

“If you have small kids you need to get some help. I know how hard it is with the little ones because I went through it myself,” she confides. 

“One of the things that I counted [on] was our community. So, look into your city’s resources. We had great art programs and activities for kids that were really inexpensive. Oftentimes I would get the kids into a two or three-hour art program or a camp. They learned. I got my time. It was a positive experience for all of us,” she says. 

“Really, even if you are busy, as long as your kids feel your love by you taking those moments to look into their eyes, give them kisses and tell them that you love them, they are going to know it.” 

Tamara Monosoff


Separation of Home and Business: Mother and Daughter Team Lean On Faith and Clear Cut Roles and Responsibilities to Build a “Dream” Boutique

Posted in INSPIRATION by msceonet on May 30, 2010
It takes two
The ladies of Pie in the Sky boutique demonstrate how to run a successful family business


By Nina Hemphill-Reeder for Ms. CEO 




Since the age of 8, Julie Dugger Elleby and her mother Debi Dugger shared the dream of starting their own business. The “where” and “what” of their dream business often changed, but the grand scheme was always the same. But it wasn’t until Dugger, a retired teacher, was diagnosed with breast cancer that the “when” of their dream was challenged by the question of “if.”  

“It was even more important after having cancer that I move forward with what I had said I was going to do. [And] that I didn’t let that interruption in my life be a permanent interruption in my dreams,” Dugger, the mother, says. “It was real important emotionally to revisit it— to still do it.”   

After winning the battle over the cancer, she and her daughter decided there was no better time to act on their dream. In 2007, their dream materialized when they opened the doors to Pie in the Sky, a gift and gourmet boutique in the Smyrna Market Village in Smyrna, Ga., which Julie, now 28, and Debi, now 57, solely own and operate.  

And it has been a dream come true in many aspects. 

“Everyday is pretty sweet. It’s fun to be at work with her,” Elleby says. “There is a little more security in it when you start a business with a family member.”   

Wayne Helms, Ph.D., the founder of Atlanta’s Consulting Psychology Group, which specializes in helping businesses foster fruitful workplace relationships, agrees that there are great benefits to family businesses.   

“The advantages are the opportunity to be together in a business setting and have that shared time,” Helms says. “In a mother-daughter business, it is simply more enjoyable to have your daughter or [mother] in the business. I think there is an inherent trust.”   

But Helms also warns of the same close-knit relationship can often create the most trouble for family businesses.   

“In other words, they can have a great personal relationship, but when you mix them into business—because of their different personal styles or their beliefs about the direction of the business—there can end up being major conflict,” he explains. “It gets a little more complicated when those two people are related because there is a tendency to personalize some of those differences.”   

Elleby admits that at the start of their business things sometimes got complicated, but they eventually decided to work through their problems by defining the line of when to be a family member and when to be partner.   

Helms firmly agrees that the best way to avoid conflicts is to clearly define roles, responsibilities and a chain of command before even entering business together.   

“Anticipate that each of you might have very different management styles and ways of leading—each of which could be effective,” he outlines. “Accept the fact that you cannot change the other person. Agree to sometimes disagree–sometimes it is the best solution.”   

He also advises mothers and daughters to avoid dealing with issues when there is too much emotion involved. When dealing with family, people can sometimes be a little more forthright than when in disagreement with a coworker.   

The mother-daughter pair confesses that navigating and nurturing a business relationship has been a learning process. But as they learned the “in’s and out’s” of their business, they also discovered more about each other—seeing each other beyond just a mother or a daughter, but as respected business partners.   

“We are both hard workers,” Debi says, but unable to resist a motherly dig, adds jokingly, “I’m just a little more punctual than her.”   

Julie and Debi Dugger


May 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month: Kitsy Rose & Melissa Hightower

Posted in INSIGHT, INSPIRATION by msceonet on May 3, 2010

Entrepreneurial publicists are like sisters in business

Fate brought them together, but it’s their friendship that makes them so solid

By Nina Hemphill Reeder
Ms. CEO Correspondent

Before Kitsy Rose started her eponymous public relations firm, she was an account executive at another local PR agency. Likewise, somewhere under the same Georgia moon, Melissa Hightower, was working as a PR and marketing manager for famed bridal designer Melissa Sweet. Whether it was the cosmos or, more likely, just the entrepreneurial spirit of the autonomous women, they both decided to go into business for themselves.

Kitsy Rose (L) and Melissa Hightower (R) are entrepreneurial publicists headquartered in Atlanta, GA, USA. Their firm, Kitsy Rose PR, works with a national roster of clients. Kitsy and Melissa are the May "Ms. CEO of the Month" feature representing the theme "Family & Friends." (click for larger view)

And while each found success independently, they were struggling to keep up with the workload on their own. Meanwhile the two had still never met; but it wasn’t until mutual friends suggested they join forces that they finally connected, uniting under Kitsy Rose PR. Now the rest is a three year history, a comprehensive client list and sister-like relationship (a bond so close that they even shared the same straw on set of our photo shoot. Now, do that with Myrtle, your coworker from accounting!)

Do you both like to travel?
Melissa: I have two kids so my travel days seem to be a little over until about 18 years from now.

Kitsy: I’m connected. I have the World Blackberry, so when I’m traveling, she can always reach me. But yeah, I’ve had great opportunities. I’ve spent time in Asia. I’ve spent time all over Europe. I love it.

What’s your favorite place?
Kitsy: Hong Kong. I would move to Hong Kong in a heartbeat. It’s like New York on speed. It’s just so crazy; there is so much fashion and so much food and just the hustle and bustle—it’s very energizing.

PR people are nonstop, always working around the clock. So is it hard when you are with family or on vacation to turn off that PR girl?
Melissa: I think when you start your own business and start your own company, you know what you are getting into—and especially in this industry. When you lay your head down on the pillow at night and you are ready to go to sleep, you still are thinking. I keep a pad under underneath my mattress and a pen on my nightstand because I brainstorm constantly. I think there is no off switch.  It is constant creativity.

Kitsy: We’ll both be on our Blackberries in bed, which isn’t great. I wake up in the middle of the night and check it and quite often send emails back at 3 and 4 in the morning, but it is also great because we are each other’s bosses. And we get to do what we are passionate about and what we love to do.

What’s your most rewarding professional moment?
Melissa:For me, it is definitely the product placement. It’s the client placements. Having [worked] three months to get them in a Marie Claire article and then there is your client with a five-page spread, it’s a really big deal. And again, it’s about the passion. You know the client is so excited, and it’s rewarding. You worked really hard, you got something great, your client is thrilled and you are thrilled. It’s not your name on that five-page spread, but you know that your relationship and contacts and your determination and persistence got that, and that is very rewarding.

Proudest personal moment:
Melissa: I have two [children], ages 3 and 4-months…I joke and I say anytime without the kids is great, but I was spending the night away from them last night and it is hard being away from them. So that’s definitely my proudest: being able to balance that and taking the time to be a mom and being able to be a career person as well.

Kitsy:For me, it’s definitely my relationship with my family—and then my friends. I’m blessed that I have friends from childhood and people that I have just met recently that I think drive me and are really good people.  They motivate me and keep me real.

What’s your most embarrassing professional moment?
Melissa: I have an embarrassing moment that is about to trump all embarrassing moments. So I’m in New York, I’m pitching editors, going from outlet to outlet, so… I have on my white dress—it’s spring…I have my SunChips and my Vitamin Water…so my hands are full and I’m going on top of the subway grate. So the subway comes under and my dress goes above my head. 

Kitsy: She pulls a Marilyn Monroe.

Melissa: I see nothing but white. And my Vitamin Water is open. I’ve got an appointment and so in that moment, I think, ‘Don’t spill the Vitamin Water on your dress.’ So I’m trying to get my stuff down, and I didn’t think to step off the subway grate [so] the wind would stop. And as soon as I stepped off, I look…and all these men are standing outside the electronic stores just smiling.

Is there something that you bought recently that you can’t wait to wear?
Kitsy: I actually just recently purchased a dress at Sandpiper, and it’s a real cute, bright, plaid, backless—I think it’s Alison + Olivia, and I’m really excited about that, but my legs need to see the sun first.

Melissa: I haven’t purchased anything recently, and I refuse to until I get all the baby weight off. I have these Marc Jacobs pants hanging in the closet and I say, ‘You will get into those.’ So I refuse to purchase at this moment.

How do you two work together?
Melissa: It’s funny because we do have different personalities, but we complement each other really well. She is very organized and very together. Somehow she’s able to balance that creativity with the organization. 

Kitsy: She calms me. But as far as work-wise, I think we have a lot of the same strengths, but [we divide things accordingly]. I love the media and the pitching. And I really like the knack of the local media; I’ve been doing it for 12 years now (you know since I was 16 of course). Melissa is really good at the branding and the national pitching, Web site content. She kind of does a little more of the marketing, and I do a lot more of the true PR.

What famous girl duo would you two compare yourselves to?
Kitsy: There is none like us. And you wouldn’t want us to sing.

What advice would you give to other friends or family members getting into business together?
Kitsy: Just really sticking to your passion and your strengths, but not being afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and break down boundaries and barriers. You can’t take no for an answer; you’ve got to go around and figure out another way.

As far as our partnership goes, we have worked together for three years, and we have had our disagreements [but] it’s how you get through the bad times. You learn to walk away and rebound from them, and you come out stronger and more connected. And we have a lot of respect for each other. And I love her.

 Melissa: Don’t cry.