Meet The Hope Issue’s, BELLA BOSSES

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.

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RENEE Marshall-McKinley

Newark, NJ

FOUNDER AND CREATIVE IN CHARGE, KEEP YOURSELF SMELLING SWEET (KYSS)

myKYSS.com + Colorstreet.com/reneesonthegonails

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MY BUSINESS: KYSS provides solutions for women. We offer a full line of natural and organic body care products, as well as soy candles and so much more. With our products you can pronounce the ingredients you are applying to your skin. We put “good” in our products. We believe in “reach one, teach “ by offering educational DIY body care workshops for people of all ages. We host Girls’ Night Out/In spa parties, as well as offer private lessons. We participate in corporate and vendor events, as well as with local community events as a giveback.

WHY I LAUNCHED IT: In 2012, I was committed to supporting local and small businesses. I fell in love with handcrafted soap. One day while using the soap in the shower, I wondered if I could make a bar of soap myself. That little thought in a shower was the launch of KYSS. I was ready and jumped all in. I learned everything I could about the science behind it, the ingredients, and how to make it smell delicious on the skin. I could not stop thinking about KYSS. After my launch, I told everyone I knew about my new business. I pulled in my aunt, my sister, and my sister-friends to help me spread the word and share KYSS.

MOST REWARDING: The most rewarding part was that I did it…I am an entrepreneur! I am from a family of women who made and sold items but never used the term entrepreneur. They did what was needed to make ends meet. I’m blessed to be a fourth generation of makers. I still pinch myself. I have met amazing people who want to treat their skin better and built long-lasting relationships and partnerships. I have sold KYSS to local and international celebrities. I get to work with my children in this business, which is a dream come true by keeping the legacy going. The icing on the cake was receiving a thank-you letter from former First Lady Michelle Obama!

SECRET TO MY SUCCESS: Persistence. In the early stages of KYSS, I showed up everywhere. I was so hungry to show all the ladies my product line. I showed up on time, professional and ready. If I received a no, I would try another way. If I failed—and I did—I got up and pressed on anyway. I could not stop.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: My business almost halted until I shifted. Although we are an online company, I was primarily selling KYSS at vendor events and retail locations. I would never have imagined the world shutting down. Because of COVID-19, all of my vendor events were cancelled and the retail shops were closed because they were not considered essential. In my head, KYSS was essential. I shifted and started selling products live via social media. I offered a variety of DIY kits and communicated with our customers that we were still operating by practicing safe, social distance deliveries. We are in a good place because we did not freeze; we flowed instead.

JEANNETTE Mejias

Woodbridge, NJ

MANAGING DIRECTOR,KYNECT

Jmejias.wekynect.com

MY BUSINESS: We connect our customers to better value by offering savings on life-essential services such as electric bills and competitive wireless plans, and we recently partnered with Brinks Home Security, a proven leader in the smart home technology and securities industry.

WHY I LAUNCHED IT: I launched my business two and a half years ago to have more time and freedom with my family and bring in residual passive income.

MOST REWARDING: It’s building long-term relationships with my customers and creating leaders on my team to reach their optimum potential.

SECRET TO MY SUCCESS: Investing in my personal growth has been monumental, but surrounding myself with successful, like-minded people has been my success. There is so much you can learn from others.  I always say if you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: Thankfully my business has not been impacted during these challenging times. I found that people have been open to taking advantage of the savings for budget certainty or look at additional income opportunities in my company.

AMANDA Whitcroft

Jersey City, NJ

FOUNDER, PANDA PR AND MARKETING

PandaPRAndMarketing.com

MY BUSINESS: I am a psychotherapist working with children, young adults, adults, and families on challenges of anxiety, depression, and behavior. I specialize in developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism. I provide individual, group, family counseling, and parent consultations.

WHY I LAUNCHED IT: Figure 8 Therapy opened its doors in March of 2018. I had been working in another private group practice in North Jersey (my hometown area) since grad school. I had been thinking of opening my own space in my current town after moving here three years ago. I wanted to be closer to home and more available to my family, rather than commute an hour each way. Lastly, I was ready to have a space that was mine and where I would be able to freely incorporate my ideas.

MOST REWARDING: While this may sound like a cliché, it is my biggest reward when I see a client making progress. It is uplifting to witness the moment when a client successfully completes or “graduates” from our time together.

SECRET TO MY SUCCESS: So many things! I had a fantastic foundation between my internships and the group practice where I started my journey. It provided the support I needed to take that leap to go out on my own. I must give credit to my husband and extended family for their unconditional support as well. I believe in being genuine toward my clients during their most vulnerable times, and I think they can sense that. I provide an open, safe, and relaxed approach to my practice.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: When COVID-19 first began, I had a lot of clients who were hesitant to continue despite all the precautions I had instituted in my office. Once lockdown began, I went against my previous negative beliefs about teletherapy and now give the option of video sessions. I am happy to say that almost all of my clients continued, with a few new clients who started sessions amid the pandemic.  Additionally, I offer brief pro bono phone calls for anyone in need of support.

JODI Sharp-Brullo

Middletown, NJ

“ELEPRENEUR,” ELEVATE PRODUCTS

JodisJava.com

MY BUSINESS: I’m in the business of health and wellness. Our main product is “Happy Coffee,” which gives you energy, clarity, focus, and a bonus/side effect of weight loss along with “Xanthomax,” an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that gives off a calm chill feeling. Together, it’s called DOSE, which works on your Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins.

WHY I LAUNCHED IT: After the birth of my only son in October 2011, I had a mini stroke. I was on a plethora of medications, which included painkillers and nerve medications. I was left with atrophy in my muscles and nerve damage on my right side affecting my arm and leg. I was 40 years old with a newborn and a handicap tag for my car. I made up my mind to get off all prescription drugs! Jump to 2018 and a Facebook post about my now company and DOSE products (coffee and Xanthomax). Voila—I found what I needed. Within two days I felt like the old me. These products saved me; so I too, became an Elepreneur.

MOST REWARDING: The most rewarding aspect of running my business is helping others. When someone texts me and says, “I can’t thank you enough; I feel so much better,” it is so gratifying. Also, I reconnected with a high school alum, Maria Giambrone, who is not only my upline, but in the top echelon of this company. It is beyond rewarding because I’m getting firsthand experience.

SECRET TO MY SUCCESS: It’s the support of my husband Michael. We have been through so much in our marriage of 15 years. He is my biggest cheerleader. He pushes me when I need to be pushed. I didn’t work for many years due to my illness, and he was truly fine with that….I was not. Before my son I was a licensed esthetician and makeup artist in New York. I was devastated when I couldn’t go back. Thanks to DOSE, I’m able to do that again, too!

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: COVID-19 has affected my business a bit. Being an esthetician myself, salons and spas are a portion of my client base and they have been closed for some time.  Recommendations, social media, and having a great team of awesome leaders have kept me going and made me more passionate.  I’d love to add to my team with so many out of work. My company would be a great asset to them.  It’s an awesome journey, and I know they would love the ride.

YLETTE Luis

Miami, FL

CO-FOUNDER + CREATIVE DIRECTOR,XIO BY YLETTE

XiobyYlette.com

MY BUSINESS: XIO by Ylette is a unique monthly jewelry subscription service that provides four to five sterling silver or gold-dipped pieces carefully curated by Ylette. The company is a tribute to my Cuban roots and was inspired by and named after my grandmother Xiomara, who I credit with instilling in me a love for entrepreneurship, a passion for jewelry, and a deep admiration for the story each unique piece tells. Priced at $60 a month, XIO gals receive the beautiful XIO bag of carefully curated jewelry inspired by my love of fashion, astrology, and the latest trends. Each bag is valued at an average of $160 collectively and may include a variety of pieces, from necklaces, chokers, bracelets, bangles, stud or hoop earrings, and rings.

WHY I LAUNCHED IT: My husband, Eddy Luis, and I founded and launched our company in July 2017 because we truly wanted to be able to work for ourselves and dedicate more time to our kids and growing family. We saw XIO as an opportunity to put our expertise together and build something of our own. Having worked for three years as blogger relations and social media manager for subscription giant BoxyCharm, I knew I wanted to bring my talent and expertise to create something I am passionate about, given my strong ties to the fashion industry and influencer community and my husband’s motivation, business acumen, and sales expertise.

MOST REWARDING: Hands down, it has to be owning our time and being able to dedicate additional time to our young kids and growing family, which has been immeasurably rewarding.  My husband and I have also enjoyed watching our company evolve and grow from the brainstorming stage to where we are today. It is always special to celebrate any professional success with a spouse, but even more so when it has been a collaborative effort from the start. SECRET

TO MY SUCCESS: I attribute a lot of what’s gone right for us to the fact that I am very passionate about what I do. I genuinely enjoy accessorizing and creating pieces for others to wear and feel beautiful in. There are many long nights and early mornings involved in entrepreneurship, and I am a firm believer that it is our passion that really helps us power through those frustrating hurdles that inevitably present themselves.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: While most online retailers have been spared from the worst effects of this situation, we have had to deal with several hurdles during this pandemic. We’ve had to get creative with our monthly photo shoots and content creation, given we were limited in locations, studios, and most places being shut down. We’ve also had to alter the way we collaborate with each other. In addition, we have taken measures so that our fulfillment team can do their jobs safely without affecting the quality of service we provide our loyal customers. We’ve addressed some of these by coming up with initiatives to promote user-generated content, making it a point to increase the frequency of our Zoom meetings in order to simulate that face-to-face productivity, and of course frequently sanitizing workstations throughout the week.

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