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July Ms. CEO of the Month: Marshawn Evans

Posted in INSPIRATION by msceonet on July 8, 2010

Atlanta entrepreneur uses her unique appeal to help her clients stand out from the crowd

Marshawn Evans indulges in spa therapy to stay grounded, so she can take the careers of others to new heights

By Nadiyah M. Jett
Ms. CEO Correspondent

As we reflect on this month’s theme of “Leadership and Negotiation,” one of the best in the business of branding and innovation is giving us a sneak peek into her busy world at ME Unlimited in

Marshawn Evans, an entrepreneur in Atlanta, is July 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month, representing the theme, "Leadership & Negotiation". She's an attorney and founder of ME Unlimited. (Click image for larger view.)

The  Atlanta. Each day, Marshawn Evans makes and closes deals that ultimately bring her clients, from athletes to business notables, more recognition within their industry. Now, she’s slowing down a bit, so we can catch a glimpse of her world outside of the office.

What would you tell or ask Michelle Obama if you met her tomorrow? First, I would express my appreciation for the amazing example she sets for women. To combine style and substance as a mother, wife and an absolutely brilliant career professional is exactly what women and young girls need to see.  She is so much more than a fashion icon. What’s really iconic about her is her authenticity. She is true to herself, her purpose, and her family. That’s real success. I would want her to know how important she is for women at this time in history. If I could ask her anything, I’d like to borrow her make-up artist and hair stylist for a day, or two!

What stores are a must when you get time for retail therapy? I prefer saving my dollars, but when I do shop, I like boutiques. My favorite thing to do when I’m home, however, is to go to the spa. I make it a point to get regular massages. It’s relaxing but it is also an important part of a wellness plan.

Marshawn Evans, the perfect picture of grace and leadership, is July 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month. She has shown her brilliant negotiating skills in business and on Donald Trump's "The Apprentice." (Click image for larger view.)

What designer makes the best business suits? I love Michael Kors! I first met him in person when my team won a task on The Apprentice. Our reward was a shopping spree at his New York showroom. Thankfully, the men on my team were like fish out of water and had funds to spare from their allowance. I “kindly” offered to use their leftovers toward my purchases. And, I have an original purse designed and signed by him.

Of all of the national television programs and magazines that have featured you, what was your most amusing behind-the-scenes experience? I recently did a live interview in-studio and right before I went on-air, I accidentally “nicked” my false eyelashes, which I love wearing, by the way! The entire time I was trying to focus on the questions, but all I could think about was ending up on a horrible viral video, if my lash fell off on live television!

What are you like in work mode? I am a total CEO. I have a very clear vision of what I like and what pieces I need to connect the dots for my projects and clients. I love branding, preparing campaigns, proposals and speaking around the globe. I am definitely intense! But, I’m also extremely loyal. I have an excellent team and inner circle. They know that I trust them and that the reason I push is because I want to the pull out the very best.

What is your most exciting professional endeavor? I still pinch myself when I walk into a major bookstore and see my book, SKIRTS in the Boardroom: A Woman’s Survival Guide to Success in Business & Life, on the shelf in the business section. There are very few women of color in the business genre of books.


June 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month: Dr. Caroline von Fluegge

Posted in INSIGHT, INSPIRATION by msceonet on June 29, 2010

International upbringing prepares this family chiropractor for healing a world of people

Back-breaking thrills in her teen years led to calmer but still exciting ways to be happy

By Nadiyah M. Jett
Ms. CEO Correspondent

Dr. Caroline von Fluegge is June 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month representing the theme, Wellness & Bliss. (Click image for larger view.)

What better way to celebrate our June theme, “Wellness and Bliss,” than to go behind the scenes with one of Atlanta’s most innovative physicians, Dr. Caroline von Fluegge? At her office, Balance Atlanta Family Chiropractic, she makes sure her clients are happy and living a fulfilling life by, first, improving their health. As she dishes on her life before medicine and her love for rock music, we see why she has such a heart for her work.

With your many travels as a child, what destination inspired you the most to live an even better life? My father’s career in international business was the catalyst for our family being transferred from one city to another in Europe every few years, so traveling and experiencing new cultures has always been a part of my life since day one. Speaking multiple languages at home, meeting people of all types of backgrounds, eating foods from all over the world has given me the appreciation for diversity, history, heritage, tolerance and much more. We would spend summers in the U.S. where I would catch up on reruns of Happy Days. I’ve always had one foot here and one foot there. At the end of the day, a “better life” as you ask about is one where you are happy where you are, right here and right now.

What sport would you try that you’d consider off-the-wall? I’ve gotten a little tamer these days. I see no need to hang from fingernails, my nose 1/4 inch from a cliff, trying to scale El Capitan. There comes a point in life where being active for the sake of stress relief and keeping my body working well are the priorities, not auditions for the X Games. I miss downhill skiing, though. Adrenaline, fresh air and power snow—what a rush. One broken back in high school and one torn knee ligament years later has put this ski bunny into hibernation.

You dream of being a rock star, so if you ever get your opportunity to hop on stage, who would you most want to rock out with? Stomping around stage and belting it out with the Red Hot Chili Peppers until my face turns blue, and I collapse in a pile of blissful sweat would be cool!

Dr. Caroline von Fluegge, June 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month, shows off her bliss! (Click image for larger view.)

When you think of what’s blissful in your life, what images come to mind? The smell of Coppertone takes me back to being a kid playing on the beach with my hair clumped together like dreadlocks by salt water, juice from an overly ripe peach running down my chin and a crumpled bag of Pepperidge Farm oatmeal cookies in the bottom of my mother’s beach bag.

What is the one phrase that your parents or a family member always said that you still live by today? With regards to career, my dad’s mantra for his three daughters was something to the effect of, “Get the best education you can get, be a professional, do something you love, do something that makes a difference, do something that puts bread on the table.” The concept of “because you are a girl you can only do such and such…” is a totally foreign concept to me. It’s like having to teach George Washington about iPhones.  As a teen, my father lost his whole family as a result of WWII. With literally nothing to his name, he emigrated to New York and enrolled in Columbia University night school to get a college education while working in a bowling alley during the day to make ends meet. Perseverance is in my DNA.

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.

Pretty Successful: Profiles of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs – Rashidah Ali

Posted in INSPIRATION, NEWS by msceonet on April 9, 2010

Celebrity shoe maven expands her New York-based brand to Atlanta


Women with department store budgets can now step out in ‘bourgeoisie’ style


By Felicia Joy
Ms. CEO Correspondent 

Rashidah Ali is like your typical successful entrepreneur. Except she’s really humble. Surprisingly so. Like the twist at the end of a movie that was building all the time, but you didn’t see it coming. 

Rashidah Ali is an entrepreneur based in New York. She is opening B Chic Shoetique in Buckhead, an upscale suburb of Atlanta, on April 14, 2010.


Daughter of a nurse and train engineer, the Bronx-born entrepreneur says she wasn’t groomed for business success and nothing in particular sparked her to start.  It was something that simply built over time. “I’ve been this way since I was a child. It was just in me. I wanted to make my own rules,” Rashidah says. 

She has.  

By typical “rules” and expectations, the average 23 year old is in college, has just graduated or is working a job. In 2007, at that age, Rashidah launched Bourgeoisie Shoes, a shoe boutique in Harlem that has since become the go-to spot for celebrity shoe styling.  Rashidah is regularly called upon to find the perfect pair for a long list of celebrity clients including A-listers like Alicia Keys and Kim Kardashian.  She travels to the biggest shoe show in the world every year in Milan, Italy to stay on top of trends, and make the connections that enable her to bring the latest styles back to her everyday and celebrity clients. 

With her New York location flourishing, Rashidah is now expanding her shoe empire to Atlanta with the opening of B Chic Shoetique in Buckhead on April 14. “Every market is different. When I opened Bourgeoisie, I felt the New York market needed that kind of store. In Atlanta, I want to cater to the woman who wants to wear glamorous looking, designer shoes but pay a little less for them,” she says.  “Prices at B Chic will range from $100-$300 and we will provide the same great service we provide in New York.” 

Rashidah, who is also part owner in an importing and exporting business, has apparently learned the successful entrepreneurial tactic of collaborating.  The savvy young woman is partnering with Dia Simms in the Atlanta-area to launch her second location. Though she has partners and business is doing well, Rashidah says she never stops to admire her accomplishments. “Everyday is hard work and a struggle. I never sit back and say I’ve arrived.  There are things I might like to do in the future but one of the ways I have been successful is to focus on the goal at hand,” she says. 

Having started her business when the economy was tanking Rashidah says she did lots of research and prepared for the worse possible circumstances. “I approached my business with ‘rainy days’ in mind. I knew that great merchandise and expert knowledge would be key but my research indicated that I should be ready to work five years before seeing anything.” 

Word-of-mouth, the most powerful kind of marketing, has carried Rashidah a little bit faster and farther than she imagined. If you’re intrigued by her success you’ll soon be able to see how she makes it all happen. She shared an exclusive tip with Ms. CEO: Her reality show, Deals in Heels, will soon be airing on national television. Stay tuned. 

Atlanta Store Information
B Chic Shoetique
2770 Lenox Road
Atlanta, GA 30324 

New York Store Information
Bourgeoisie Shoes
2366 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10030

April 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month: Mimi Tin

Posted in GENERAL, INSPIRATION by msceonet on April 5, 2010

Artsy entrepreneur finds her inner peace in the snow

International human rights abuses would be her topic of conversation with the President

During our recent chat with April 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month, Mimi Tin, we learned that we picked the perfect time to feature her.  Our theme this month is “Cool and Carefree” which fits Mimi well.  Her business, Sushi Style, is all about cool creativity and carefree whimsy.  She makes ottomans that look like sushi.  And for children she has created Sushiami, a fun collection that includes the most adorable dolls, jewelry and sushi-style poufs.     

Mimi Tin, founder and CEO of Sushi Style Inc., is the April 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month representing the theme, "cool and carefree." (click image for larger view)


Mimi shared with us that Spring just so happens to be her favorite season. What a coincidence!  We love these lofty and simple surprises—and we are delighted by all that we learned about Mimi’s amazing life experiences so far. What a woman she is—and a business woman to boot.  Here’s what she shared with Ms. CEO correspondent, Felicia Joy:    

Who named you and what does your name mean?  My parents named me Khaymar Than, which means “cool girl million.”  Mimi is a nickname and means “little daughter” in Burmese.    

Did you have a business as a child or an interest in sales and leadership (for instance, Girl Scouts)? My cousin and I tried to have a lemonade stand in New York City once but a homeless man came by and ate all our cookies.  We cried and ran back upstairs.    

What was your favorite subject in school? Art.    

What is your favorite color? My favorite color of the moment is aubergine. (Ms. CEO: We scratched our heads too.  It’s a “dark purplish color” according to the dictionary.)    

What is your favorite food? Burmese and Thai—equally.    

You mentioned that snowboarding is your favorite past time; how in the world did you get into that?  Through the years, I have challenged myself to face my fears head-on until I learned to be fearless. I had always been afraid to speak in public, so I started teaching design classes.  I had been afraid of water, so I learned how to surf when I lived in Sydney, Australia. I was afraid of heights, so I learned to snowboard. I loved it so much, it eventually became part of my lifestyle. I feel a sense of absolute freedom when I am gliding through the snow; it clears my head and keeps me grounded. I wish I could do it year round.    

Winter, spring, summer or fall?  Spring!  I love everything about the Springtime—the color of the new leaves, flowers blooming everywhere, and the sense that everything is new and beautiful again.    

Are you intentional when it comes to business or are you laid back, allowing things to come to you as they may?  I am intentional, but throughout the process of creating and operating Sushi Style, I have learned to be more laid back about situations that are beyond my control.    

If people could describe you in only one word, what do you think ( or hope) that word would be? Gracious and inspiring—sorry, that’s two!    

What’s the most unusual place you have ever traveled? I am passionate about traveling so I have had the opportunity to see some interesting places around the world.  I guess one of the most unusual experiences I have had happened during a mission trip to a small village in Honduras. When we arrived, there wasn’t enough room for everyone to stay in the huts so a few of us volunteered to sleep on a concrete slab in the middle of the village. The area around us was clear when we went to sleep but when I opened my eyes in the morning I was face-to-face with a curious pig. I looked around and realized we were surrounded by a field full of other large pigs, goats and chickens; and I could see the silhouette of three men in sombreros sitting on a fence somewhere in the distance. It was crazy.    


April 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month, Mimi Tin, represents her business savvy, boldness and style in a classic Ms. CEO tee. Her company, Sushi Style Inc., brings a breath of fresh air to the world of furniture with ottomans designed to look like sushi! (click image for larger view)


 Is there a cause that you are super passionate about?    

Yes, I have been working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help Burmese refugees in Atlanta. My family had to start over when we arrived in the United States so I am very passionate about helping the Burmese refugees get settled here. I’d like to visit the refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border to see first-hand what can be done. I think it would be nice to deliver some of my Sushiami dolls to the children.    

What’s your favorite television show? Seinfeld was my favorite show.  I could watch the episodes over and over again. I don’t have a chance to watch a lot of TV these days but I try to catch episodes of Project Runway whenever I can.    

What would people be surprised to know about you? (Laughs.) Not too many people know that I was born in a remote jungle village in the middle of Burma. Our “house” was surrounded by exotic creatures that would visit us occassionally. My dad killed a cobra with a baseball bat and ran over a python with his jeep. He and my uncle used to go tiger hunting. For some reason, people often think that I’m a city girl who is afraid of bugs and getting dirty. I think they’d be surprised to know it’s quite the opposite.    

Are you married? Are you a mom? No, marriage has never really been a priority for me. I feel that if it is meant to happen it will happen one day and if it doesn’t, that’s fine too.    

Who, or what, makes you laugh out loud? My dad. He says the funniest things without meaning to and it makes us laugh hysterically. I love laughing with my friends as well. Sometimes we laugh until our cheeks hurt.    

If you could have a meeting with President Obama what would you talk to him about? I would ask what we can do to help countries like Burma that have been oppressed by a military junta for years. What can the United States do to help free political prisoners like the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi? What can we do to raise national and global awareness about human rights abuse that takes place in these countries? 

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I’na Saulsbery | The Starfire Group

Posted in INSPIRATION by msceonet on April 2, 2010

Emerging, ‘explosive’ entrepreneur runs a red-hot event planning firm

She is working to create a legacy like her hero, Madam C.J. Walker

By Felicia Joy
Senior Correspondent     

Once you meet the red-headed I’na Saulsbery you’ll never forget her—and if you see her card before you meet her you won’t forget that either. She is the founder, and energetic CEO of The Starfire Group, an event planning and management firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.     

I’na Saulsbery, CEO of The Starfire Group, is our Ms. CEO of the Month for March representing ‘Meaning & Legacy’. She has the bold and spirited work ethic of one of her heros, Madam C.J. Walker (click for larger view).


Typically we think of a CEO as the chief executive officer—but I’na might tell you she is the chief explosive officer at her company. They don’t do anything with fireworks—at least not yet—but she has branded herself and her company as the creators and producers of the hottest, most memorable events for clients and their guests. Judging by her schedule and reputation she’s living up to expectations.     

“People talk about thinking outside of the box,” I’na says. “I don’t ever have to think outside the box because I already live there.”      

This gutsy, bold mentality, wrapped in a professional and diplomatic demeanor has sparked success for I’na who started planning events at the ripe young age of 16.  “It was something that I always enjoyed doing,” she says.  So she stuck with it.     

Unique branding and ideas, plus her three Es—explosive, exuberant and extraordinary—have given I’na entree to work with some of the most well-known personalities in entertainment including Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Atlanta-based recording artist, Monica, best known for her top hit with singer Brandy, “The Boy Is Mine.”  I’na says she loves planning and managing all events—from small get togethers like baby showers to big-deal events like television show launch parties.     

Beyonce’ and Usher are the dream celebrity clients that she has yet to work with, but she has her hands full, in the meanwhile, with plenty other projects. “How many hours are in a week?” she asks, smiling. “That’s roughly the amount of time I work. I am always working,” I’na says.     

I'na Saulsbery, March 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month, shows off her business savvy, boldness and style in a classic Ms. CEO tee.


She is endeavoring just as one of her heroes—Madam C.J. Walker—did to build a substantial business that creates a legacy for others to admire and emulate.  A quote from Madam Walker in I’na’s e-mail signature reads: “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. If I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”     

Madam C.J. Walker was the first self-made woman millionaire in America. A widow, working mother and daughter of former slaves, she turned her beauty product business into a multi-million dollar empire before her death in 1919.


I’na who thought at one point that she would be an entertainment attorney says, “I decided to become an entrepreneur because I felt like it was time for me to showcase my true talents as my own boss. The toughest thing about being in business so far is having to be responsible for making all of the decisions. I have to make sure I am making the best decision for my business all the time and that can be a lot of pressure.”     

When asked if building a multi-million dollar business and hiring others—like Madam C.J. Walker did—are important to her, the Columbus, Ohio native doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely!” I’na says.

Pretty Successful: Profiles of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs – Kathleen Plate

Posted in EVENTS, INSPIRATION by msceonet on March 17, 2010

Kathleen Plate: Redefining ‘beauty in a bottle’

Eco-conscious entrepreneur shows off her creative genius

By Felicia Joy
Ms. CEO Correspondent 

It’s a cool, dusky evening and chatty socialites are mingling in “environment,” an eco-chic furniture store near downtown Atlanta.  Though the sun has set it seems to still be shining in the form of Kathleen Plate.  A tall and statuesque blonde, she comes across as a happy-go-lucky California gal, but says she’s from Washington state.  

Kathleen Plate, creator of recycled glass jewelry, dresses and decor, has a playful moment at her recent show in Atlanta (click photo for larger view).


An entrepreneurial artisan, Kathleen is the pioneering creator of glass bangles and other jewelry that she makes from recycled bottles.  If you’ve been to any fashion forward boutique or clothing retailer lately you’ve seen her work—or knock-offs of it.  Those shiny glass bracelets that sound like a million bottles clanking together once you put them on and wave your hand are everywhere; but many of those on store shelves are fake versions of Kathleen’s work. Oh well.  Imitation, some say, is the highest form of flattery.  

At environment, cocktail-and-h’or douvres passing hostesses are working the crowd adorned in Kathleen’s jewelry.  It’s beautiful for sure, and she’s been making it for 17 years, but that’s not the focus this evening.  Today it’s all about her latest innovations: curtains, pillow shams, chandeliers, tabletop arrangements—even dresses—all made from glass. 

A dress made of glass?  How does one dream that up?  “By trying to challenge myself,” says Kathleen.  “I always loved to make stuff.  I grew up with one of those moms who often had crafts projects for us to do,” she said.  Her first ever creation wasn’t jewelry though.  “The first thing I can remember making is a cake in my Easy Bake Oven,” she says smiling with a fleeting flash of nostalgia. 

“Making stuff” has worked out well for Kathleen, who has been said to “mesmerize” audiences with her recycled glass works.  She has traveled all over the states to show her pieces and install custom commissions.  Her sights are next set on international showrooms.  “I’ve flown everything to Los Angeles for a show and been many other places across the U.S.,” she said.  “But abroad is next.  I think I’d love to do a show in Milan, Italy.”  

With too many sources of inspiration to name just one, Kathleen says she loves the simplicity of working with re-cycled glass.  “I only have about three or four colors of glass to work with so I’m constantly stretching myself to make it look different.”  

A hostess serves h'or douvres adorned in a Kathleen Plate recycled glass necklace (click photo for larger view).


She is also inspired by feedback from fans of her work.  “I love it when people tell me that something I have made has become their go-to piece or good luck charm.  Ultimately, it’s not about my work.  It’s about what it means to the people who wear or acquire it.” 

With Aveda, Coca-Cola, the Guggenheim Museum, Christina Applegate, Amy Smart, Sienna Miller—and numerous television programs—embracing her work, Kathleen is quite a busy artist and entrepreneur.  To take a break and rejuvenate she likes to travel.  “I love to go on a long trip.  I’m probably the only person in the world who loves sitting in an airplane,” she says.  “When else do I get to sit on my butt for five hours and do nothing?”