Women Who OWN It

LYDIA CHICLES – BOLD! TECHNOLOGIES

Globe-trotter Lydia Chicles lived in Greece, South Africa and Canada before settling in Baldwin Park to start her business BOLD! Technologies in 2009. Her goal to be resource responsible while creating economic opportunities led to the international adoption of the products, platforms and connected technologies that she leads. BOLD! Technologies offers custom premier software products and services for mobile applications and connected devices. Lydia was nominated as one of six finalists in the 2013 National Association of Women Business Owners Business plan competition sponsored by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Duke Energy and Southwest.com. Serving as the 2015 president of NAWBO Orlando was an exciting opportunity for Lydia to give back to the community while supporting other female business owners. When she isn’t playing the part of CEO and founder of BOLD! Technologies, Lydia enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering at community events celebrating the arts, and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM fields through activities and workshops.

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

I love to read inspirational stories about entrepreneurs or people who have met and overcome challenges. I enjoy watching TED Talks and many times try to use this type of inspirational content to motivate myself to take on new challenges outside of my comfort zone.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

I would not change anything as it has led me to where I am today. Both successes and failures have been important in my life as an entrepreneur and have allowed me to grow and evolve. I believe that regret has no business in either my personal nor my professional life.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

There are many challenges I face daily as a founder and CEO. One challenge is the constant juggling of priorities. I have learned that in business, as in life, there is a season for everything and no matter how pressing all issues seem to be at the time, it is of the utmost importance to be able to prioritize my time and efforts.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

On a personal level, I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to spend quality time with my children, family and my close circle of friends regardless of how busy things can sometimes get as an entrepreneur.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

I love a hot cup of chamomile tea and watching my favorite reality TV shows: So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice and Masterpiece Theatre.

HOLLY KAHN – SNAP! ORLANDO

Art enthusiast Holly Kahn is the partner, co-curator and exhibition coordinator for Snap! Orlando. The mission of Snap! is to boldly increase the visibility and appreciation of the photographic medium as a significant cultural art form and to broaden the demographic of engaged art enthusiasts within our community. Snap! hosts highly diversified gallery events throughout the year, along with exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists and partners. Their warehouse-chic contemporary gallery was featured in BizBash as one of the 10 best venues in Orlando and is also available for unique events. Holly has worked in both the public and private school settings, as well as in museums in Orlando, Miami and Los Angeles. Through Snap!’s youth outreach, she has worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Urban Think Foundation, Page 15, Orange County Public Schools Visual and Performing Arts, Make A Stand Lemon-Aid and in after-school programs.

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

Motivation comes easily most days. I wake up to an early alarm, shuffle teens to school, and once the house is calm I kick start the day by reading national and international news and then focus on the art world, keeping abreast with the newest international exhibits, discovering emerging artists and following the stellar artists who challenge the status quo and invariably astound us.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t start over. I think every choice and encounter in my life has led me to the next stage and opportunity. Each experience has given me the insight and sometimes challenged me, while opening a new door and fresh perspective.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

In a growing city I feel the biggest challenge, in both business and family life, is to break the mold, to not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Bringing attention to Orlando’s emerging culture is challenging due to its strong theme park identity, until recently! As we interact with many international friends and artists, we surprisingly notice that the perception of Orlando is now shifting to being a grassroots, emerging cultural ground. That is very exciting and encouraging!

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my family, my marriage and our kids. I am proud that our children are big thinkers and have a worldlier perspective beyond their immediate surroundings. I am also proud of the growth of Snap! which is providing a space for creatives to thrive, and that we have a community eager to support the development of arts and culture.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

I make dinner, talk about the day as a family, and honestly enjoy the simple things of just being together. Nothing fancy, just real life. I’ve discovered that is the best way to unwind, to let life live.

MARSHA ROBBINS – DRAMATIC EDUCATION, INC.

Marsha Robbins is an experienced elementary school teacher and artistic director who combined her knowledge, skills and talent in both disciplines to develop an innovative teaching method and establish her educational arts company, Dramatic Education, Inc. Marsha said she takes pride in knowing that her employees are working to change the lives of students while earning a regular source of income that enables them to create a life for themselves and plans for the future. Dramatic Education, Inc. won the People’s Choice award at the 2012 B.I.G. Awards presented at Summit. At the end of a long work day, Marsha enjoys taking her daughter to gymnastics, which allows her to disconnect from the day and watch her practice while talking with the other moms.

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

Establishing an educational arts company that enriches and builds cognitive, physical and social development of school-age children inspires me as I am at the helm of directing a dynamic that will richly change the course of a student’s life. In terms of remaining motivated, I surround myself with individuals who energize and complement my zeal and commitment to reach children through the exploration of drama.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

With regard to my personal life, there are not many things that I would do differently. The knowledge I currently possess would have been highly beneficial in my younger years. However, I am resigned to the fact that my professional growth has solely occurred by virtues of the obstacles. Most experiences should be viewed as teachable events. Every victory and failure has prepared me for this moment in my life and career.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

As an administrator, it is essential for me to be decisive. The success of my business largely stems from my ability to make sound decisions in every situation at any given time. An inability to make a practical decision may adversely influence students, teaching artists and parents. As a result, I am committed to making choices for my clientele that are clear and concise.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am proud to be an entrepreneur who built a business despite several obstacles. As a result of pursuing my passion, jobs were created for individuals in my local community. Providing jobs decreases disenfranchisement and poverty. I am elated to be a person who has made an impact on the economy.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

In order to change my state of mind and feelings at the end of the day, I change my movements. There is a process that I undergo, which I have dubbed “downloading.” Downloading for me is a four-tiered action that begins with playing 1980s music and ends with meditation.

SUNEERA MADHANI – FATTMERCHANT

In just two years, Fattmerchant founder and CEO Suneera Madhani has established herself as a leader in the community. Her company is a subscription-based merchant services model that offers financial and strategic value to the everyday business owner. Since the launch of Fattmerchant, Suneera has been recognized for her vast achievements and strength in business plan through various medians, including Fast Company, Orlando Business Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes, TechCrunch, the Orlando Sentinel and more. Fast Company profiled Fattmerchant as a Top 10 Business Lessons of 2014, right under Netflix and Spotify. In addition, Fattmerchant was named as a top three merchant services provider from TopCreditCardProcessors.com and won first place at the NAWBO Emerging Business Plan Competition. Suneera has also won Young Entrepreneur of the Year from IACC, the Rollins Venture Plan competition, and was recognized as one of Orlando Business Journal’s 40 under 40 in 2015.

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

My team is what keeps me motivated. It’s the most inspiring thing to be able to go to the office every day and see their faces. We were four people in December 2014 and we closed the year out with 20, so it’s the most unbelievable feeling to have people come to work every day who love being here.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

I think a lot of the times at the end of every day, week or month you wish you’d done this or that differently. But when I really think about it, I would not change any one of those mistakes. I wear every one as a badge of honor. It’s because of those mistakes that I believe that we are here today. Because otherwise, I don’t know where our course would have gone.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

There are tons of challenges, from managing people to keeping a team culture to hiring. But I would say that one of my biggest challenges is how to keep up with growth. Last year we had over 2,000 percent growth as a company and that was enormous. Now, we’re coming into 2016 and wee need to keep that momentum and continue to grow.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

My biggest accomplishment has been growing our company at a 2,000 percent increase in just 12 months. Not to mention the most amazing press and honors we received throughout the nation such as Forbes, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, and now Orange Appeal!

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

At the end of the day I love nothing more than a good book and a glass of wine! Family time is also something that is extremely important to me and I always make time for those nearest and dearest to me! If I ever need an energy boost or need to release some stress I go for a workout at OrangeTheory [Fitness].

TUNI & PAIGE BLACKWELDER – TUNI

As a daughter of clothing manufacturers whose childhood playground was New York City’s Garment District, Tuni Blackwelder has been in the business of fashion for as long as she can remember. Tuni and her daughter, Paige, opened the self-titled clothing shop, Tuni, on Park Avenue, Winter Park, 30 years ago. They are credited with showcasing the most current, cutting-edge and fashion-forward collections of clothing, shoes and accessories from both well-known and up-and-coming designers. The store has won several “Best Of” awards from regional magazines. Tuni and Paige are active participants in the Park Avenue Merchants Association, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and also with the American Heart Association Circle of Red.

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

PAIGE: We always have our eye on the goal to see what’s new, fresh and different. Fashion is very motivating. Also, being in a store and working with clients, whenever a client finds something she loves, that’s motivating.

TUNI: We want our customer always to feel confident and powerful in the trends that we choose, whether she’s in the boardroom or on her latest travel adventure, and that’s where our motivation comes from.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

PAIGE: Buy the real estate! Buy the building, first of all. And that’s probably about all, I think, right? If we did something too differently, it might not be us.

TUNI: Yes [that’s it]. Because our world is forever changing and that’s exciting.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

PAIGE: Most definitely the work-life balance. We always have the challenges of staying on top of whatever it is – the changing fashion, changing economy, changing shopping patterns of our clients, how to reach them. But those are the same challenges we had in 1986 when we opened. We were late to the website shopping thing but we think that’s okay. We are very focused on what we do in the store.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

TUNI: Staying in business 30 years and still being strong is certainly one of the accomplishments. The other is being a mentor to so many successful women who started their working careers with us.

PAIGE: They haven’t all had fashion careers but a good number of them come back and say what a great start they had with us. We have a saying, “Once a Tuni girl, always a Tuni girl.”

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

TUNI: Dinner with the family. It’s been like that forever. We started when our family was young and they all had to be home in time and they’ve all continued it. Family is the best and that’s a way to keep it the best.

PAIGE: Yeah, when I grew up we had to be at the dinner table – had to be. If it was something like a club and we had to do that, it was excused. But, no, we couldn’t eat with our friends, we had to be home. We were allowed to bring our friends over. That’s the best way to unwind, table-side talk.

LESLIE CHRISTIN – CARA COSMETICS

Leslie Christin is the founder, president and creative guru behind CARA Cosmetics International. This native San Franciscan was raised in Spain and developed an appreciation for art an early age. When she returned to the United States, Leslie became a licensed cosmetologist and worked on many television shows and feature films. This experience allowed her to learn about the inner workings of the cosmetics industry and she began cultivating an interest in the business of cosmetics. Leslie realized that there was little education about makeup artistry among large-scale cosmetic and skincare businesses so she jumped on the opportunity to capture this neglected segment of the market by creating a complete product line and supporting it with education and good service. Education is the key to Leslie’s success and her passion is to “show women how to rediscover their own beauty.” She is also a contributing writer for trade magazines such as Dermascope and Les Nouvelles Esthetiques.

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

I am a quite energetic and motivated person by nature. I am lucky to be in the top 30 percent of people who love their career and I have been doing it now for 28 years! Being the president of a cosmetics company allows me to stay motivated by being creative and exploring new trends every day. Our industry is always changing and our clients come to us to discover their beauty and learn new techniques.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

Well, knowing what I know now is the eternal enigma. The cosmetics industry is so competitive and global that it is very hard to compete without huge initial capital. If I were to do things over, I would have apprenticed under a CEO. That way I would have learned more of the ropes of distribution, sales and marketing.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

My biggest challenge is balancing everything I do. I have the good fortune of continuous success with my company, CARA Cosmetics, my makeup studio, Studio CARA, and now my newest division, the CARA Makeup Academy. I do wear a lot of hats and often times what I do doesn’t feel like work so I’m constantly working and creating.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

As a driving entrepreneur, often times it is hard to sit back and praise my accomplishments because I always feel I could be doing so much more. However, we just celebrated the 20-year anniversary and that is quite an accomplishment, especially during the hard economic times. And I am also very proud of all of the successful makeup artists that have learned from me. I love to see others succeed and share the passion of making the world a more beautiful place.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

Very easy; my home is my Zen space – calming, relaxing and quiet. Meditation, gratitude and beautiful surroundings make my heart sing.

Story appeared in the March/April 2016 issue (pgs 96-107) of Orange Appeal magazine.

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