Running a thriving business takes drive, determination, and a whole lot of hustle! We’re spotlighting seven fierce, fabulous, and fearless BELLA bosses who have founded their own companies and proven how a little belief and a big leap of faith can land you a leading role in your own life.
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
AIMING HIGH INC., FOUNDER/CEO
MY BUSINESS: Aiming High Inc. is a transformational training company that empowers people and organizations to get from where they are to where they want to be.
WHY I LAUNCHED IT: I launched Aiming High over 20 years ago as answer to an inner calling, greater than myself, that had me on a single-minded mission to use my life and gifts for making a positive difference in the world.
MOST REWARDING: Empowering people to annihilate limiting beliefs that deny them the greatest and most fulfilling version of themselves.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: I draw inspiration from my relationship with God, the people I surround myself with, the beauty of nature, and the power of the human spirit.
HOPE FOR 2021: To be a catalyst for world peace and empower the maximum number of people to achieve their dreams and live their purpose.
Los Angeles, CA
FOUNDER AND CEO, GEMIST
MY BUSINESS: Gemist is the first digital platform that allows consumers to fully design their own jewelry and try it on at home before they buy. We want to empower anyone to be able to custom-design their own jewelry regardless of budget!
WHY I LAUNCHED IT: When I find a problem, I have to solve it. With Gemist, I experienced how hard it was to customize jewelry when I was attempting to custom-design my engagement ring. There were noon line platforms that did what I needed, I couldn’t see my design before buying, and retail stores felt out of reach and crazy expensive. I ended up having to manually work with a jeweler in person. I realized there must be another way. So I decided to create it myself with Gemist.
MOST REWARDING: Solving problems! Everyday is a new challenge; I’m constantly solving puzzles. You never know what you may get each day, and I really love that. I’m always learning, always growing.It’s a never-ending journey; this isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. I’ve fully decided to enjoy the journey because I really love what I do. I’m so passionate about creating something out of nothing, believing in a vision and finding a way to get there. It’s a liberating way to live life. I feel very grateful that I fell into the world of entrepreneurship.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: I’m a super creative person and have no shortages of ideas. I’m always dreaming and thinking big, and I gain inspiration from experiences. If I hadn’t gone through the process of designing a ring, I never would have started Gemist. I will say that being creative is fantastic, but it’s also important to learn how to focus your creativity—if you don’t, you won’t maintain growth of one idea. The amazing thing about starting a company is that you can focus on just that company while having millions of ideas on how to grow it, how to brand it, how to connect it with consumers. Growing companies has become my art form.
HOPE FOR 2021: I hope for continued health, love, and joy in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. I hope for continued growth and success of Gemist as we take the business to the next level. I am hopeful that all will work out and we will come out of this stronger than ever!
SARAH JORGE LEON
ACTOR/PRODUCER/WRITER, LIONSDREAM ENTERTAINMENT
MY WORK: I am an actor, represented by the Buchwald Agency in NYC. Apart from acting, LionsDream as a production company seeks projects that are artistically fulfilling and where we envision commercial success—whether we co-write or commission these projects. We produce material like free form mini series, an example [of which is] “Camaleón,” currently in development that is being co-produced with my sister Nina Jorge León’s production company, A Role to Play. We also develop features and documentaries. Our main goal is to find universal stories that inspire, connect, and bring to light the human experience.
MY MOTIVATION: There is no better way to bring awareness or change the dialogue/ziegiest of the times than through stories. Stories connect us beyond creed, gender, race…they touch the heart, and when the heart is moved, change happens.We want to tell stories that matter.
MOST REWARDING: Knowing that somehow, somewhere, we are impacting lives; even if it’s one life—it is worth it.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: Nature, people, the human condition, connection to others, children, senior citizens…acts of kindness.
HOPE FOR 2021: May we take the challenges that life brings us an opportunity to grow, reflect, and create the change within ourselves. And may we not forget that we have each other in our journey through life.
Toms River, NJ
CIRZ PHOTOGRAPHY + JERSEY SHORE STUDIOS, OWNER/PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
MY BUSINESS: My business is a versatile photography studio, capturing all varieties of photos from celebrity portraits, real estate photography, real estate drone, maternity, boudoir, weddings, children, newborns, headshots, and more. I am based out of my studio in New Jersey, but can bring my equipment and my team to locations as needed.
WHY I LAUNCHED IT: I launched my photography business when I was in my teens. I was trained in traditional photography and commercial photography using color and black and white film. I hand-developed my photos and printed them in a darkroom. As I got into my 20s, photography was changing over to digital, and by 2010, I fully transitioned from film to digital equipment and haven’t stopped since. I feel the need to be creative every day. It feeds my soul. I didn’t realize until I was in my forties how important it is to follow your dreams. Doors will open for you because people will see your passion.
MOST REWARDING: People come and go, grow up, move away, pass on, etc. It means a lot to be able to hold on to those memories, and I think my clients feel that way too. That is what is so rewarding for me. “Pictures speak a thousand words” is not just a saying—they mean so much more to me than just pictures.They’re a way to hold on to all the moments and people at that time. It documents important parts of people’s lives that they cherish. It’s something that isn’t lost in an endless cell phone gallery of images.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: What inspires me is how unique every subject is. Everyone has a different smile, expression, family, and story that I get to be a part of, even if just for that session. When the people leave with their photos, the reminder of that day and what I was able to capture for them never goes away. A lot of times they come back for me to capture new ones. This makes me like a spectator, watching my clients grow and change rather than just one encounter at one frame of their lives. It becomes a moving picture and documentation of their lives through my eyes.
HOPE FOR 2021: My momentum from before the pandemic has definitely slowed, but my hopes for 2021 are to get it all back, reconnect with old clients, and make countless more.
New York City
JLDELLO ARTWORK & DESIGN, CEO + CREATIVE DIRECTOR
MY BUSINESS: JLDELLO Artwork & Design is a full-service design and art studio that handles a multitude of creative projects for professional clients. Ranging from international exhibitions and national publications to marketing and branding, we bring creative ideas to life in a tangible form. I am a painter and graphic designer, so I utilize original art and can create highly custom work.
WHY I LAUNCHED IT: I started my business in 2007when I decided to dedicate my career to my creative work. I was passionate about graphic design as soon as I learned about it, and I launched my company because I was creating projects for friends and starting to get more clients. It was growing, and I realized there was a demand for high-quality, detail-oriented design work. I give my clients personal attention and really listen to their needs, and I have found that is very appreciated and valued by the businesses I work with.
MOST REWARDING: Being able to help people bring their ideas and visions to life is extremely rewarding. I know that my work is helping businesses succeed by serving as the face of their brand and the first thing customers see when interacting with them. Visual design is important to us in so many ways; we rely on it for accurate communication of information and also to beautify our world. My motto is, the world is design.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: I am inspired by other creative people and seeing what people put out into the world. It takes courage and talent to push limits or come up with new ideas and make them reality. I also find inspiration in nature and the lesson of taking things slowly. Sometimes we all want things to happen so quickly, and it is a good reminder that some of the best things take time!
HOPE FOR 2021: I hope that this challenging year is actually a blessing in disguise for us. It has been a time to really reflect on our true needs and wants, and perhaps see ourselves in a different context than what we were accustomed to. My goal is to utilize the lessons I have learned at this time to move forward into my work and life with deeper wisdom and understanding, and to continue to help and inspire as many people as I can along the journey!
New Jersey/Wall Street
CEO/CO-FOUNDER, BOLD NYC
MY BUSINESS: Bold is a full-service web, design, and marketing agency located on Wall Street. We partner with brands around the globe on web development, graphic design, Google/Facebook/Instagram advertising, social media management, SEO, PR, and more.
WHY I LAUNCHED IT: Bold NYC was born in 2018 out of pure frustration and rebellion to the idea that “This is just how it is…” when it came to marketing companies. After years of working with apathetic firms, we knew in our hearts there had to be a better way. Experience taught us it was common practice for marketing firms to overpromise, overcharge, and underdeliver.At Bold, we simply do this because we love this, we’re good at it, and we genuinely want to build long-term relationships with like-minded, enthusiastic businesses. We’re always upfront with our clients and let them know exactly what to expect, even when it’s not what they want to hear. We work hand in hand with brands big and small, and are upfront about all costs and expectations from day one so there are no surprises.
OUR MISSION: My co-founder, John Benemerito, and I have experience working with hundreds of different types of clients all over the world in addition to running more than one of our own businesses. We know firsthand what it takes to start and grow a successful company. We are all on this mission together and are ready to share our expertise, experiences, connections, and knowledge to make our clients’ dreams a reality.
MOST REWARDING: It’s all about the people behind these brands. When you work with us, we become your marketing partner. This means we’re intimately involved ingrowing your business. Through the process, we get to know the people behind the businesses; we learn why they do what they do and what their biggest aspirations are. It’s the greatest feeling to help them tell their story, reach the right audience, and hit their ultimate goals.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: Working in a creative field is always exciting. It means the team is extremely passionate and the clients we work with are equally passionate about their own businesses. Sitting in a creative office, we all draw inspiration from each other, and that inspiration is fueled by our client’s enthusiasm. We also have our own sources of inspiration in our personal lives that led us to where we are. I grew up with a badass “Mompreneur” who always rebelled and did her own thing, so that was a big guide for me, especially once I had kids of my own. I never for a second thought I couldn’t have my dream career and my dream family at the same time because I always saw my mom rock both.
North Bergen, NJ
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR + PERFORMER,THEATRE DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, AND COACH
MY BUSINESS: Group.BR—New York’s only Brazilian theatre company—is an organization I co-founded in 2011. We are a multicultural, woman-run and led organization that focuses on the performing arts to include off-offBroadway immersive theatre, signature cultural experiences with live music and performances, and community-focused educational initiatives. Our mission is to share the diverse culture of Brazilian traditions and explore the intersection of feminism, original productions, and art as a platform that supports unheard voices in the arts in both English and Portuguese. Aside from also being a performer and director, my role at Group.BR as co-founder and executive director is as much creative during all stages of production as it is in ensuring we are compliant as a non-profit.
WHY I LAUNCHED IT: I co-founded Group.BR for a few reasons. By the time we launched, I had traveled extensively in Argentina, Japan, Chile, France, and other countries as a performing arts educator. One driving force to have a creative company rooted in our human right to express ourselves was inspired by living in my hometown of Curitiba, Brazil at the tail end of the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985. The experience of being censored for a play at that time and literally having officials show up to edit our theatre production changed me forever. I struggled long and hard to retrieve my voice. Also, I embrace my Brazilian, Afro-Brazilian, and Indigenous-Brazilian roots, but I haven’t always understood how to be all of who I am. Art offers me that and creative collaborations that have resulted in lifelong friendships.
MOST REWARDING: Having the ability to see all forms of artistic expressions and points of view taking shape in the real world. I love seeing how the work I do can touch people and make them reflect on their lives.I think that is why we make art: to reflect shared experiences and bring the unconscious to the conscious realm where we can take ownership or precious moments most people just call growth. It is definitely a form of balance and healing through mental health.
WHAT INSPIRES ME: As a creative, my main inspiration comes from other historic artists and also those artists around me. But also, a third and essential element is day-to-day life. I believe art is a reflection of the way we live; it is to say that just the act of breathing is inspirational. Being alive and able to—cathartically—put stories and lives in text, music, poetry, and theatre is the pure exercise of artistic expression.
NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: I hope we all remember that these tough times are a test of our emotional intelligence as human beings and challenge us to learn from our experiences and be able to retain information on what needs to be changed or improved. Our intelligence as human beings is being fundamentally challenged to the core with this devastating disease, through the shadow pandemic of inequity resulting in global peaceful protests in support of the BLM movement, and also through urgent environmental issues. I wish that all of us, through learning these unforgettable lessons, would leave a better world for our children. I really hope we don’t forget but rather keep on pushing forward to a better future.
LIVE YOUR MOST BELLA LIFE!
BELLA Magazine is a national subscription- and newsstand-based lifestyle publication offering a curated guide to fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrities, and entertainment.
At BELLA, we spotlight the ideal that Life Is BEAUTIFUL!
Don’t miss a beat! Subscribe + #follow @bellamag.co!