“Inspired By”

Elaine Watt Talk of Tysons

An Evening of Conversation & Inspiration With Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge

Sponsored by Ann Taylor

One of the pleasures of being part of the media presence in our community is participating in local events that we believe contribute to the health and vitality of our area. Thursday evening March 9th provided just such an opportunity when we attended a panel discussion hosted by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge at Ann Taylor’s Connecticut Avenue location downtown. The New York Times best-selling author of In the Company of Women, Grace brought her warmth and intelligence to the stage along with a panel of four wonderful local women entrepreneurs to discuss their experiences in pursuing their dreams.

Carolyn Misterek is the founder of Matine, specializing in USA handmade, fine leather handbags and accessories. While working full-time, Carolyn found herself inextricably drawn to her love of crafting meticulously minimalistic leather designs that would reflect the life experiences of their owners. Having moved to Washington, DC in 2013, her hobby quickly became a business that now boasts both local and international customers.

Molly Ledwith and Kate Kolbe

Jamyla Bennu and her husband woke up one day to realize their passion for natural, organic hair and body care products sensitive to the needs of individuals with curly, dry, or challenging hair and skin conditions had taken over their lives. Oyin Handmade Organics has grown from there. Headquartered in neighboring Baltimore, they joyfully develop and market a variety of products for their loyal clientele. Jamyla exudes a glow that reflects the quality of her products and the satisfaction she finds in doing what she loves.

A passion for advocacy and social responsibility led Ximena Hartsock and her co-founders to develop software to connect constituents to their elected officials and civic organizations. Phone2Action utilizes phones, social media, and email platforms to mobilize movements to influence the discourse of important issues of the day. It is a non-partisan tool to convey the messages of constituents to those who will be making decisions on their behalf.

Amanda McClements is the owner and curator of Salt & Sundry, with two store locations in DC. Feeling that entertaining at home is the way to foster meaningful connections, Amanda scoured stores for the perfect settings, ingredients, and accessories to set an atmosphere that encouraged relaxation and intimacy. Friends encouraged her to consider opening a business because of her obvious flair for creating inviting living environments. With a mantra of “goods for good living,” her business has flourished.

With such diverse and talented panelists, the conversation flowed spontaneously and the crowd of largely women, but more than a few very engaged men as well, welcomed the flood of shared experiences and advice. Although their paths may appear different, all the women conveyed the importance of believing in what you choose to spend your time on, embracing fear as not a barrier, but a motivator, and to reclassify what may seem to be a failure as a learning curve towards achieving goals. Having helpful spouses or carefully-selected employees that became part of their teams certainly contributed significantly to their success, and they were gracious with acknowledging how having people that believe in you can be essential to the entrepreneurial process. However, being able to be true to your vision and persist in the face of difficulties are keys to success.

Briana Pashcow and Alison Coglianese

In fact, when asked what factors are most likely to pave the way to a solid business future, these five cornerstones were given: 1) Make sure you have a customer; a product without a market is worthless; 2) Don’t wait for perfect; get started and you’ll improve as you go, otherwise you’ll never launch (perfect is the enemy of good enough); 3) Use today’s tools: social media, networking, and self-marketing make it easier than ever before for good ideas to get traction; 4) Trust your instincts, but never be afraid to ask for good advice; and 5) Persist!

Loving what you do naturally improves the struggle for work/life balance. And, growing pains can result in deeper satisfaction on the other side. Looking at the smiling faces around us, we could feel that this may have been a life-changing moment for more than one person in the room. Sometimes it just takes an extra little push or a few thoughtful words of advice to launch another dream.

Thank you Grace Bonney, Ann Taylor, and these lovely ladies for sharing their journeys! 

FOX 5 Erin Como and Friend

At Top: Grace Bonney, Caroyln Misterek, Amanda McClements, Jamyla Bennu and Ximena Hartsock