Women In Business: Kaila King – Kaila’s Kandles

Gardenia Tuberose: Available in 4 and 12 ounces.

We continue our series on Women In Business where we highlight a wide variety of businesses that are owned and operated by women all around the country. Our goal is to learn from, inspire, motivate and celebrate this strong, unique, and diverse group of women.

Our spotlight today is on Kaila King, owner of Kaila’s Kandles. Here’s what she told us.

What is your company?

Kaila’s Kandles, a candle company, located in Bowie, Maryland.

When was your company founded?

September, 2019

What inspired you to form your own company?

I was looking for something I could do that would fulfill my creative needs and be able to make money off of it. I am a single mom so I needed to be able to be my own boss for the flexibility.  

What is the best part of your job?

Being able to work around my life commitments. I’m the one in charge so I can customize my business however I choose. 

What is the hardest part of your job?

Since I am the only person running this business, everything falls to me. I am the owner, the social media content creator, etc. Things can get kind of hectic.

Have you found that being a woman owned business has helped your business?  

 I do. It’s empowering to be able to show another woman that we can do whatever we choose to do. 

What are some obstacles that you’ve encountered being a minority business owner?

Sometimes it’s assumed that because you are a minority business owner that your customer service or your product is going to be bad and that is just not the case for everyone. 

What is one piece of advice that someone gave you early on that you found to be invaluable?

Do not focus on whether your family and friends support your business. If you have 150 family and friends and they do not support you, it should not be a worry to you unless you are only trying to reach a total of 150 people with your business. 

What is one piece of advice that would you give to someone that is thinking of starting their own business?

Don’t compare your business to other businesses. It’s easier said than done but truly the best advice. 

What is one mistake that you made early on that you would re-do if given the chance?

Don’t over buy inventory and do not expect your inventory to take off right away no matter how excited people may seem to support. 

What is one future goal that you have for the business?

To become big enough to need a warehouse to keep it running. 

Who has inspired you the most in your business?

Other candlemakers always inspire me with their creativity and advice. It’s nice to have other business people that you can ask questions to. 

How has the pandemic affected your business?

The pandemic increased sales for me but has also been stressful because supplies have been hard to come by. Since people are working from home, they burn their candles more which means they buy more. 

On days that are particularly hard with the business, what keeps you going?

Reminding myself that if I don’t keep going, I will never reach my goals. If I keep going then the possibility of reaching them still exists. 

If you didn’t run a candle making business, what would you be doing? 

Either working in healthcare or the criminal justice field. I have degrees in both.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In 5 years, my business will be in multiple stores and have my own store as well. 

What would you like people to know about your business?

I take my time with everything I sell and no two things are alike. Everything is handmade and I care about quality greatly. 

What is something that everyone told you/warned you/shared with you about owning your own business that is not true?

That it’s normal for family and friends to not support your business. It may be common but it’s not normal. Everyone shows support in different ways. 

Were people supportive of you when you started your business?

Absolutely. Did everyone buy it as soon as it started selling, no. But they told others to check me out, and shared my social media posts and that meant alot. 

What do you say to the naysayers if you’ve ever encountered any as related to your business?

Just because you couldn’t do it or didn’t find success with it doesn’t mean I won’t. 

How would your customers describe you?

Amazing customer service and willing to make things right and go the extra mile. 

What has been your most favorite thing you’ve done with the business to date?

Any videos I make on Tik Tok I really enjoy making. It’s hard work but it’s nice to show behind the scenes stuff. 

What is one random fact about you that you would like people to know?

 I am in my second year of business but I still feel like a beginner. I have a lot to learn still so sometimes it’s hard to answer people’s questions.

You can find Kaila and Kaila’s Kandles here:

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Women In Business: Ann Brennan – ASMM Digital Marketing

We continue our series on Women In Business where we highlight a wide variety of businesses that are owned and operated by women all around the country. Our goal is to learn from, inspire, motivate and celebrate this strong, unique, and diverse group of women.

Our spotlight today is on Ann Brennan, owner of Ann’s Social Media & Marketing. Here’s what she told us.

What is your company?

ASMM Digital Marketing, based in Millersville, Maryland

When was your company founded?

2016

What inspired you to form your own company?

I was really unhappy in my previous job but I also had successes that were much bigger than I knew I could achieve.  The combination inspired me to step out on my own and help other small businesses achieve those same successes.

What is the best part of your job?

I love working with small business owners. I have become friends with many of my clients and several of my clients act as mentors for me.  Those relationships have been a highlight of running this agency.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Not being able to help everybody.  Our agency does very intensive work with social media accounts for our clients.  Because of that we often find solopreneurs who can use our help but who aren’t quite ready to hire an agency.  We have added some consultations services for those solopreneurs and we even opened a digital campus to help them.  But I would love to do more, especially for those businesses that are just starting out.

Have you found that being a woman-owned business owner has helped your business? 

Interesting question.  I just had this conversation with my son.  I have seldom given any thought to the fact that I am a woman-led business and most of my clients will tell you that they don’t think of me that way either.  This may be harder for me right now because I have three children who are bringing more awareness to gender these days and how often we lead with gender.  Most often I think of myself as a business owner without the gender label. I am not sure whether this is good or bad. It’s just a change of focus.

What are some obstacles that you’ve encountered being a minority business owner?

This is a strange one and it may have more to do with the fact that I am so short but people, women and men, hug me instead of shaking my hand.  At first, this really took me off guard.  But I reframed it and started thinking that maybe they just see me as someone who is so welcoming they have to hug me. 

What is one piece of advice that someone gave you early on that you found to be invaluable.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what your service is worth.  That was hard for me.  I have gotten better but I still find myself giving services away.

What is one piece of advice that would you give to someone that is thinking of starting their own business?

Don’t overthink it.  Fail fast.  

What is one mistake that you made early on that you would re-do if given the chance?

I didn’t have a service agreement.  It’s important to have an agreement, not just for yourself but also for your clients.  

What is one future goal that you have for the business?

I want to I use my business to help others grow theirs.  Yes, I want to help my clients but I am also in a unique position to hire writers and other contractors.  I look at my business growth as an opportunity to support these contractors.

Who has inspired you the most in your business?

My first employee. The way she thinks and the way she gives of herself to grow this business continues to inspire me every day. 

How has the pandemic affected your business?

We were lucky.  We started a podcast to help get our clients in front of our own audience and that podcast grew.  It ended up helping us gain exposure and grow in ways I had not expected. 

On days that are particularly hard with the business, what keeps you going?

My employees. It is a lot like a marriage.  On days that are bad for me, they lift me up and on days that are bad for them I try to lift them up.

If you were not running a Social Media Marketing firm, what would you be doing?

I would probably focus on my charity, Burgers and Bands for Suicide Prevention.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I see us having expanded to a full marketing agency. We are on our way to that now.

What would you like people to know about your business?

We care more about our clients than anybody cares about their clients. It’s what makes us stand out. One of our clients calls it, AUA, Ann’s Unsolicited Advise.  We go far beyond social media with our clients.  We are always looking for ways to make connections and help our clients build their businesses.

What is something that everyone told you/warned you/shared with you about owning your own business that is not true?

That it would be lonely.  It’s not.  Between networking, the relationships I have built with my clients and my employees, I am less lonely than I have ever been. 

Were people supportive of you when you went out on your own?

Yes.  I am really lucky to be surrounded by people who believed in me before I believed in myself. 

What do you say to the naysayers if you’ve ever encountered any as related to your business?

I had a consultant tell me that my business wouldn’t work the way I was doing it.  I didn’t say anything.  I listened and then left.  That was 4 years ago and we are still growing.

How would your co-workers/staff/cast describe you?

Caring and maybe a little bossy.

What has been your most favorite project to date?

The podcast.  It was really meant to simply be a means of promoting my clients but it has given me opportunities to meet business owners all over the world. 

What is one random fact about you that you would like people to know?

 I started Burgers and Bands for Suicide Prevention because I know how lonely people are when they or someone they love is struggling with depression.  I want people to know that they are not alone. 

You can find Ann and Ann’s Social Media & Marketing here:

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Women In Business: Michelle Ullrich-Kownacki – Paws pet boutique

We continue our series on Women In Business where we highlight a wide variety of businesses that are owned and operated by women all around the country. Our goal is to learn from, inspire, motivate and celebrate this strong, unique, and diverse group of women.

Our spotlight today is on Michelle Ullrich-Kownacki, owner of Paws pet boutique. Here’s what she told us.

What is your company?

Paws pet boutique in Naples, Florida.

When was your company founded?

1999 in Annapolis, Maryland

What inspired you to form your own company?

A love for animals and a desire to enrich the relationships we have with them.   

What is the best part of your job?

Meeting all kinds of dogs and making their lives a little happier

What is one piece of advice that someone gave you early on that you found to be invaluable?

Believe in yourself and follow your intuition.

What is one piece of advice that would you give to someone that is thinking of starting their own business?

Be ready to work hard, keep your focus on your clients and don’t be afraid to evolve over time.

What is one future goal that you have for the business?

Creating a more robust website that connects seamlessly with the brick and mortar store

Who has inspired you the most in your business?

Our clients! Their sincere support of wanting to see our small business succeed and their appreciation of the items and service we offer keeps us inspired!

How has the pandemic affected your business?

Interacting with our clients has definitely changed. Over the last year we have relied more on our online store, social media and email channels to reach and stay connected with our clients.

While we always offered curbside pick-up, we now facetime with clients and text/email in-store product photos to clients who are not in our physical storefront.

On days that are particularly hard with the business, what keeps you going?

Seeing a client leaving really happy with a purchase they made – or receiving feedback or a Review from pleased clients. It really means a lot when someone takes the time to ‘thank you’ for their experience with Paws.

If you didn’t run a store and e-commerce website, what would you be doing? 

Good question! Not exactly sure of the answer, but I would think it would include animals – perhaps volunteering with animal charities.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I see Paws pet boutique as a contributing asset in the local community – as well as the broader animal-loving community throughout the country. Clients will have an opportunity to enjoy in-person assistance at Paws retail location downtown and/or access Paws curated goods through our online shop. Social media will continue to play a prominent role in enriching our client relationships, communication and sales.

What would you like people to know about your business?

It is more than just a business, it is a passion to make a difference. While bills need to be paid, we also believe in a bigger picture of making every day life for people and pets a little brighter.

What is something that everyone told you/warned you/shared with you about owning your own business that is not true?

You’ll be your own boss and be able to take time off when you want!

Were people supportive of you when you started your business?

My husband, inner circle of friends and family were very supportive.

What do you say to the naysayers if you’ve ever encountered any as related to your business?

I try to focus on what I can accomplish instead of what others say can’t be accomplished.

How would your customers describe you?

An experienced Dog (and cat) Mom who is happy to help make someone’s day a little brighter.

What has been your most favorite thing you’ve done with the business to date?

My most rewarding thing was hosting a series of dog-friendly boat cruises in Annapolis, Maryland – ‘Ben’s Cruises for Compassion’ to benefit Animal Legal Defense Fund.

One Cruise raised over $20,000 to help protect the lives and advance of the interests of animals through the legal system. The Cruises were named after my terrier, Ben, who was removed from a hoarder with hundreds of other dogs, thanks to ALDF.

What is one random fact about you that you would like people to know?

My first job out of college was selling radio advertising. It was fun working with clients, writing ad copy and participating in station promotions.

You can find Michelle and Paws pet boutique here:

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Women In Business: Ingrid Sandy – Sandy Cleaning

We continue our series on Women In Business where we highlight a wide variety of businesses that are owned and operated by women all around the country. Our goal is to learn from, inspire, motivate and celebrate this strong, unique, and diverse group of women.

Our spotlight today is on Ingid Sandy, owner of Sandy Cleaning. Here’s what she told us.

What is your company?

Sandy Cleaning, a house cleaning service based in Annapolis, Maryland.

When was your company founded?

2015 part time, and full time in 2017

What inspired you to form your own company?

In order to take care of my kids, I need a job that will allow me to have time with my kids and take care of them, but at the same time be able to provide for them. I started working 1 – 2 days a week and when I got organized, I started working full time while the kids were at school.

What is the best part of your job?

My clients are family, to be part of the house and to be able to help and connect with their needs and make them happy.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hard part is when it’s time to let them my clients go – I work with a lot of military families and it’s hard when they say goodbye. Also, when I work, the clients aren’t home, but their lovely pets are and I love them like I love mine, so it’s hard to let them go too.

Have you found that being a minority business owner has helped your business? 

Being a woman and owning your own business is a challenge now. Which makes me very proud. It helps a lot to have confidence and commitment in myself and in the work that I do.

What are some obstacles that you’ve encountered being a minority business owner?

Being the owner and only worker has a lot of disadvantages when a crisis comes. We do not receive help like companies with more employees or when an emergency happens – whether it is a family or illness – we stop making profits.

What is one piece of advice that someone gave you early on that you found to be invaluable.

Be persistent and give effort to your work. If something does not work or does not go as desired, ask for an opportunity to impove. And never give up!

What is one piece of advice that would you give to someone that is thinking of starting their own business?

I would give same advice as above. It has helped me a lot, that persistence and perseverance leads you to success.

What is one mistake that you made early on that you would re-do if given the chance?

Not to be overly trusting, not listening to bad advice, and to always follow my own intuitions.

What is one future goal that you have for the business?

I have a main goal, which is to see my business grow, provide work. I’d like to not only have more work, but to be more involved with the community and at the same time help. I would like to return the genorosity that I’ve experienced.

Who has inspired you the most in your business?

My grandmother is my inspiration, being a single mom and having to work and take care of 6 children. She started her own business from the rubble, and worked for more than 40 years and she’s been able to leaven an inheritance in life for them to provide for their lives. I always help others and their community. She is my inspiration and motivation when the days are difficult.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

The pandemic has affected a lot, among the competition that is too much. Many of my clients lost their jobs or were relocated and other due to fear of the virus have stopped needing my services. I lost many customers so there is a decrease in income and accumlation of debt.

On days that are particularly hard with the business, what keeps you going?

I am the main and only source of income for my family and this is the reason why I try to give my best and continue even slowly with my business and work.

If you were not a house cleaner, what would you be?

It’s crazy because it really has nothing to do with what I do. I was studying computer programming and wanted to work for large companies doing online ads and making programs for companies. I also wanted to build a community center in my country where I am from (Mexico) to help many adolescents, who wanted to study but could not.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I see Sandy Cleaning with more employees, involved with the community and personally spending more time with my children and supporting their education.

What would you like people to know about your business?

It was created with hope, faith, determination, persistence and a lot of perseverance. I need to work, because there was a lot of need in my home. Sandy Cleaning was created with love, and each service we do we do so that our clients are satisfied, happy and above all give a good service. I do not work with clients…I help families which is more important when giving a service.

What is something that everyone told you/warned you/shared with you about owning your own business that is not true?

That is you do not know how to do your job or do not charge the right thing, or work in the same way as them, your business will go badly.

Were people supportive of you when you went out on your own?

Yes. I literally walked and knocked on doors. There were 5 people who trusted me and gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my work. Their recommendations and references helped and continue to do so in my business.

What do you say to the naysayers if you’ve ever encountered any as related to your business?

It has happened a couple of times. I do not say much with words, I really do not speak much (something that I have to change) but what I do not say, I say it with facts to show that your disapgreement is wrong.

How would your clients describe you?

Reliable, generous, hard worker, enterprising woman. And some have said that they admire me a lot as a mother and a worker.

What has been your most favorite project to date?

Over the years, I have been able to help many families, but my best projects have been two elderly people who needed extreme help in their homes. They have been projects that have made me feel super proud and happy when I see the reactions of happiness.

What is one random fact about you that you would like people to know?

I do not give up, whenever I propose something I achieve it. And if my goal is to make you feel happy and leave a good service, I am sure I will.

You can find Ingrid and Sandy Cleaning here:

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Women In Business: Lynne Childress – Building Better People Productions

Today we begin our series on Women In Business where we highlight a wide variety of businesses that are owned and operated by women all around the country. Our goal is to learn from, inspire, motivate and celebrate this strong, unique, and diverse group of women.

Our spotlight today is on Lynne Childress, owner of Building Better People Productions. Here’s what she told us.

What is your company?

Building Better People Productions, a theater for young audiences company based in Annapolis, Maryland. Everything that we do is for young audiences, and it’s all based in kindness and understanding. Our kid shows feature adult professional actors, and our classes are for kid students.

When was your company founded?

2015 in name, but we started programming in 2016.

What inspired you to form your own company?

I had known for awhile that I wanted to do shows for schools under my own shingle. I had been working with other amazing companies, but it was becoming apparent that I had my own things to say that could be said best by me, produced by me.

What is the best part of your job?

I love creating, and I love watching kids create, and I love watching audiences enjoy what we put out. It is quite the best feeling.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Getting our message seen by people and having people know that we exist.

Have you found that being a minority business owner has helped your business? 

Interesting question! I think it has helped over the last year in terms of awareness because after the death of George Floyd, there is renewed interest in hearing diverse voices, specifically Black ones.

What are some obstacles that you’ve encountered being a minority business owner?

Another interesting question. So in most ways, I have had students and audience members of all races, and I know that my race has not been a factor for them. In fact, for some families, and this is an answer to your question above, I know Black families who have said that they brought their kids to my classes because they saw my picture, and knew that their kids would be welcome. I DO wonder if there have been people who saw my picture and DID NOT come because they made assumptions about who I am based on race. But I don’t know because they haven’t come :).

What is one piece of advice that someone gave you early on that you found to be invaluable.

To decide if this was a business or an expensive hobby. That was a gut-punch, but REALLY helpful. As small business owners, we often pay ourselves last, and often make decisions out of wanting to help people that aren’t the best for our bottom line. I feel like 5 years in, I am getting a hang of this. And that it is unfair to me and my family to not make sure that we are solvent as much as we can.

What is one piece of advice that would you give to someone that is thinking of starting their own business?

DO IT. Do your research, and know what’s out there. But if you feel this in your bones, do it. There is always going to be one more project you can do for who you work for now, and if you wait until there’s not, you will never do your own.

What is one mistake that you made early on that you would re-do if given the chance?

I would not base my offerings on what other people with more financial backing are doing. I lost money on shows that I thought I should do because I thought I needed to keep up with other people. Don’t do that. Be realistic about what your financial commitment can be.

What is one future goal that you have for the business?

To have an official assistant. I have great contractors, but I want to be able to afford regular employees at some help. It is very easy to stretch yourself thin.

Who has inspired you the most in your business?

Our first costume and props designer, Renee Vergauwen. She believed in me from the very beginning, and her ideas for how to make our shows come to literal physical life gave us life. She has since moved but we still do some of the shows that she designed and I get to see her brilliance still.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

We lost a bunch of show bookings last year, and did not earn anywhere near what we usually do for in-person classes. What we did gain was money in donations and we got a big grant from Anne Arundel County and the Anne Arundel County Arts Council. We have also moved our shows and classes online, and have reached students and audience members from around the country (and Canada) and we would have never been able to do that before. I have also been a part of panels and workshops online and again, I would not have had those opportunities before.

On days that are particularly hard with the business, what keeps you going?

The giggles of the kids that show up, every week, who love being in class.

If you were not a theatre artist, what would you be?

I was planning on being a social worker. I had done theater through school, and sang in a band, but was not considering this as a career. I could not find a social services job after I got my BA in Psychology because I had moved to Miami and was not fully fluent in Spanish. I did retail and customer service, then got my very first acting job, which was doing shows with social messages that toured to schools. I thought that sounded like good outreach, and applied for grad school for Social Work during this period, but then realized I was doing what I love. I feel like theater is another way to reach and affect lives in positive ways.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I want to do a more regular season of shows. I would love to have our own space at some point.

What would you like people to know about your business?

That we care about your kids, and about the quality of what we put out. We do good work.

What is something that everyone told you/warned you/shared with you about owning your own business that is not true?

I keep coming back to this question. I think one thing is that it has to take you away from your family, and I have been very, very blessed to be able to mostly work at hours that don’t disrupt family life. Now, that has changed a bit since we have been home because all life now is family life, but I think that we have all adapted well.

Were people supportive of you when you went out on your own?

They were, mostly.

What do you say to the naysayers if you’ve ever encountered any as related to your business?

Again, most people were supportive, but I did have some people who didn’t know that I could do something like this. New doesn’t mean bad quality. I have been in professional theater a long time at that point. I had friends say, “Wow, that was good.” People don’t always have great expectations of theater for kids. But it has a heart. Kids see through phony. We want to be real and entertaining, even if it is a show about talking sheep.

How would your co-workers/staff/cast describe you?

I think exuberant. And that I send a lot of emails. But that this comes from making sure people are clear about what I am saying. But it is a lot of emails. But also that I am fair and want to honor their artistry and encourage them.

What has been your most favorite project to date?

I think “We Got It!: A Show About Empathy”. It’s the first show I wrote, and the first thing that we produced. It captures different sides of us understanding each other and seeing the value in ourselves and other people, even if they are completely different from us. It is a piece I am very, very proud of.

Where do you find inspiration to write a new scene, play, etc?

Sometimes it’s current events, like how “We Got It!” was written in response to our racial and political divide, and the last part of it is specifically inspired by the deaths of several black teenagers and how reactions from some people that saw them as less than human, and not children. It made me angry, and sad, and instead of railing about it on Facebook, I wrote about it. In the show, it’s about stuffed animals and not kids, but that was the inspiration. I have written one piece, and am writing another, about the pandemic and the need to try to make it either solely positive or solely negative. And I am also writing a show about counting sheep, inspired by a night that I had a crazy dream about magic dust bunnies. It will make more sense when it’s done :).

What is one random fact about you that you would like people to know?

I lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the early 80s when my dad worked as a consultant for the bus company there. Went to half of 6th grade and all of 7th at an international school there.

You can find Lynne and Building Better People Productions here:

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