These Brothers Want You to Know That It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

When we first interviewed Two Bros. in the Kitchen, they were excited about their cake and cupcake baking business. It’s been just over a year since we first interviewed them and wrote about them on the blog, and 12-year-old-Nigel and 13-year-old-Shane are still running their own business.

These phenomenal young men have donated hundreds of meals to the homeless, supported Fort Bend Cares, and have been helping JB Dondolo with their efforts to renovate Hospital Hope in Igusi, Zimbabwe. Recently, ABC News picked up their story as did Essence Magazine.

These boys aren’t just exceptional for their baking business and young foray into entrepreneurship. They’re also attending college. Shane is taking math and engineering courses as an 8th grader and Nigel is taking pre-calculus at a local community college as a 7th grader.

The 2 Bros. in the Kitchen just published their first book – Beyond the Kitchen: How to Cook Up Success with Life’s Mistakes, and I was happy to pre-order a copy of it. The young teens wrote the book to inspire other kids to make a run for their dreams. Currently, for every copy of the book sold, the boys are donating $1.00 to the JB Dondolo Foundation.

About Beyond the Kitchen: How to Cook up Success with Life’s Mistakes

A lot of people give up before they even begin because they’re afraid to fail. The thing is, everyone makes mistakes, and it’s normal to make them. In fact, it’s learning from those mistakes that helps us to become successful. That is the idea that Nigel and Shane are trying to get across in their first book.

Their book is filled with anecdotes and life lessons they’ve picked up along the way. Each chapter ends with thoughts like: “Some opportunities knock on your door once in a lifetime. Be ready when the knock comes,” (12) and “Lack of communication reduces morale and efficiency.” (p. 36)

Beyond the Kitchen is a great book to remind us all that mistakes are a normal part of learning & growing, but specifically to help kids who want to carve out their own paths to success do so.

Get your copy of Beyond the Kitchen:

Find out more information about Shane and Nigel, and order a copy of the brothers’ book today by visiting their website. Remember, these teens are currently donating $1.00 of every book sold to the JB Dondolo Foundation.

Ben Lecomte Starts a New Journey: The Vortex Swim

Photo credit: @thevortexswim

When last we updated on Ben Lecomte’s cross-Pacific journey, Ben had arrived in Hawaii and made the call to end his journey there – with the promise that he’d get back in the water and continue to swim the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness about plastic pollution at a later date. That time has come. Ben is planning to complete a 300 nautical mile swim through the plastic Vortex – also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He’s seventeen days in on this journey, and approaching 50 nautical miles.

Photo Credit: @thevortexswim

The Vortex Swim

According to an Icebreaker Press Release, “Single use plastic is the most obvious of offenders when we consider ocean plastic pollution. Yet the biggest offender of plastic pollution is something that might not be front of mind: our clothes.”

In fact, it seems that “[w]ashing clothing can release up to 700,000 synthetic microfibers per full load” – and these fibers then make their way into our water ways and ultimately our food chain. The Vortex Swim’s primary purpose is to raise awareness of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced in the world each year. Ben’s 300 nautical miles will include taking samples every 30-50 nautical miles to obtain an extensive sampling of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California.

Photo Credit: @thevortexswim

Ben’s Journey So Far

The Vortex Swim will span over 100 days, should all go as planned. As with The Big Swim, Ben has a crew and a boat, The Discoverer, following him and providing resources and a resting place. Thus far, they’ve had no problem encountering a variety of debris. With larger debris, Ben and his crew face a dilemma: “Most of the Plastic we find has life growing on it and fish using it as shelter. The question is: Do we leave it to save those animals now? Or take it to stop it from breaking up into smaller and smaller fragments potentially hurting more animals in the future?”

Photo Credit: @thevortexswim

Follow Ben’s Journey

We’ll be checking in on Ben as he completes his goal of swimming 300 nautical miles through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. You can also keep abreast by following The Vortex Swim live tracker and checking in with Ben on his Facebook Page as updates are posted. I have no words for how proud I am of Ben Lecomte – and how excited I am – for him to be undertaking this new project.

Interview with Dr. Michele Wright of My Water Buddy and Family

Dr. Michele Wright wanted to find a way to encourage children to drink more water. As a result, she founded My Water Buddy®. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Wright a few questions. Here’s how she responded.

1. What brought you to found My Water Buddy and Family®? What does your organization do?

I developed My Water Buddy and Family® as a result of my passion to help inspire children to drink more water and achieve better health.  My Water Buddy and Family is a multi-faceted brand with a mission to bring awareness to the importance and health benefits of drinking the recommended daily intake of water for a healthier and more fulfilling life.

The Main character of the brand is My Water Buddy®, a unique personification of water (H20) and the human body. My Water Buddy embodies “The Family”, which consists of various anthropomorphic body parts and organ characters that drinking water positively impacts, including: Airy and Breezy, the Twin Lungs; Boney, the Bone; Brawny, the Muscle; Flowy, the Blood Drop; Flushy and Gushy, the Twin Kidneys; Pumpy, the Heart; Tummy, the Stomach; and Whizzy, the Brain.

Inside every boy and girl are an adventure and a battle to keep him or her strong, healthy, and alert so they can live the best life possible. My Water Buddy and Family unit sets out on a journey to use edutainment and their unique powers to educate and encourage children and their families to understand the benefits of water and to bring global awareness about the importance of water to the extended family of all living species, the Earth, and the environment, while adventuring into life topics important to children and parents such as bullying, self-esteem, obesity, peer pressure, autism, health, and education.

2. Can you talk about the health effects of not drinking enough water? 

Did you know that Water – Yes, H2O – is Every Body’s Best Friend? Drinking water is very important to outer and inner good health. Water can make the difference between sickness and health as well as life and death. This reality is even more concerning as it relates to children, because they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight than adults.

However, kids don’t always recognize the early stages of thirst, which can make them particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, especially during times that can drive up their body fluid losses, for example, when they are playing sports or during warm weather. Dehydration, even if only mild, can cause tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration, reduced mental performance, and dry skin. Chronic dehydration can lead to fatigue, allergies, obesity, high-blood pressure, reduced longevity, heart and kidney problems, and other organ damage.

My Water Buddy and Family edutainment concept makes water cool, fun, and inspirational to children. The characters and stories are meaningful to a kid’s point of view and are full of excitement and adventure. Moreover, learning is being done without kids even realizing they are being taught. The brand cleverly motivates children to learn about their bodies, how the body is made up of water, the benefits of water on each part of the body, and all the nutritional outcomes of drinking water. Additionally, they will learn and understand the consequences of not drinking water, such as becoming dehydrated, being low on energy, and becoming fatigued. Kids and their parents will adore these characters, thus helping to make water their best friend.

3. What do parents need to know about preventing dehydration in their children?

They need to know that Water is an irreplaceable “Friend for Life”!  Water makes up roughly two-thirds of the human body and is essential for all life to exist.  Water is the best source to prevent dehydration and to keep the body and its organs strong and healthy, including:  

1. Your Lungs (AIRY and BREEZY, the Twin Lungs)

2. Your Bones (BONEY, the Bone)

3. Your Muscles (BRAWNY, the Muscle)

4. Your Blood (FLOWY, the Blood Drop)

5. Your Kidneys (GUSHY and FLUSHY, the Twin Kidneys)


6.  Your Heart (PUMPY, the Heart)

7. Your Stomach (TUMMY, the Stomach)

8. And Your Brain (WHIZZY, the Brain)

Water helps nearly every part of the human body function efficiently and has a vital role in keeping the body operating properly.

4. What other causes are important to you?

Having an extensive background in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), I am very passionate about helping underrepresented students pursue careers in STEM. My commitment has allowed me to serve in various capacities on 501(c)(3) non-profit boards, including my role as President of the Milton Pitts Crenchaw Aviation Training Academy (MPCATA), an organization named in honor of Documented Original Tuskegee Airman, the Late Milton Pitts Crenchaw, with a mission to provide young people an opportunity to pursue Aviation and Aerospace careers. I am also the Technical Executive Officer for the Arkansas Mentoring and Networking Association, Inc. (AMNA), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting opportunities for historically underrepresented STEM students in Arkansas, including opportunities to gain valuable exposure to STEM careers and professionals.

On a personal level, my mantra is, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living will not be in vain.” That is what is important to me – making a positive and impactful difference in the lives of others whether it’s with a smile, a helping hand, an encouraging word of wisdom, a gift of love, or an act of kindness. But it is difficult to be your best when you are dehydrated or you lack access to water.

This is why I admire, appreciate, and celebrate pioneering champions like Lumbie Mlambo for providing life-changing charitable services to benefit underserved and impoverished communities worldwide. My Water Buddy, Inc. looks forward to collaborating and growing with Lumbie’s charitable organization, JB Dondolo, that she founded to make a difference in the fight against poverty, hunger, and thirst for not only today, but for generations to come!

5. What do you do to bring balance into your life?

It is important to take time out for one’s own well-being. I take time to spiritually meditate, connect, and positively reflect. I make sure to invest time to relax and muse on where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, where I’m going, and the exciting voyage ahead! There is always a bright spot in the cloud, and I make sure to enjoy the rainbow and embrace the journey as much as the destination.

6. Is there anything else you’d like for our readers to know?

Believe in yourself and stay positive! Become your BEST advocate and cheerleader. Be the BEST you that you can be and know that the BEST is still yet to come! Lastly, remember to drink your water, because, “Water is Every Body’s BEST Friend!”

Interview with Author Angie Ransome-Jones

One of the 2019 Honorees at the 4th Annual Equanimity Awards Gala, happening in October, is Angie Ransome-Jones. She is best known for her bestseller, Path to Peace: A Guide to Managing Life After Losing a Loved One, published in 2015. She offers ghostwriting services and mentoring. In fact, she is being recognized for her hard work mentoring others at our awards gala. I’m honored to have been able to have her answer a few questions for our readers.

Interview with Angie Ransome-Jones

Ronda Bowen (RB): You’re a ghostwriter in addition to being the author of your own book, Path to Peace: A Guide to Managing Life After Losing a Loved One. Can you talk a bit about what prompted you to write your own book to help others in their grief journey?

Angie Ransome-Jones (ARJ): I was inspired to write my book after the sudden loss of my father in 2013. During the process of grieving his passing, I gained so many learnings on everything from the importance of therapy to the importance of preparing our families for the inevitable i.e. death. I had no idea the book would take off and become a best-seller the way it did when I self-published, but I am extremely grateful because it has helped to open up dialogue within our families and communities about a subject that makes most of us uncomfortable. In the book, I share my experience from beginning to end — from making the “first phone call” to my experience in settling my father’s financial affairs and finally to my grieving process. As a spin-off from my book, I also host workshops (Life & Legacy Planning) in which I employ subject-matter experts — from estate attorneys to life and pre-need insurance experts and even grief counselors to educate on preparation.

RB: How did you get started with your ghostwriting and mentoring services?

ARJ: Some would call it an accident, but I know it was God’s divine purpose for my life to help others who do not have the “gift” I was blessed with, to tell their stories in writing. Nearly two years ago, I was approached by one of my sorority sisters about helping her brother with his book. At the time, I was working on my 2nd book, but stopped work on it because his story was so compelling and inspiring, that it was worth the sacrifice of delaying my own book. Two years later, I have completed four additional book projects “for hire” by either writing them, editing or consulting on them and am on track to complete five more, including 2 anthologies by year-end. My entire 2020 will be devoted to writing and releasing the book I started. My newfound passion is helping and mentoring future authors who have stories within them, to help “birth” and tell their stories through the written word.   

RB: What has been the most rewarding mentorship experience you’ve had?

ARJ: I would have to say that my experience mentoring PK Williams into his destiny as an author has by far been my most rewarding. To hear his story as one of the “Carter Six” as featured on the 30-for-30 ESPN documentary (What Carter Lost) and work with him on reliving his experience, as well as conveying his lessons learned, was life changing for me. Since publishing his book, PK has changed the lives of those who have not only read his book, but that have also heard him speak on it. I am proud to have played a part in that and am thankful that he trusted me to write his story with full transparency and dignity.

RB: What causes are important to you?

ARJ: Wow, great question. I have so many causes that are important to me. I have a heart for helping the elderly as well as mentoring our youth. I volunteer monthly with the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) and have been for over a decade, delivering Meals on Wheels. In addition, I regularly mentor undergraduate college women at the University of North Texas (UNT) and wherever I am needed. To me, mentorship truly matters and it’s all about paying it forward to whomever — the elderly, women, children, new authors — needs my help!

RB: What do you do to balance your life?

ARJ: Another great question! I can tell you, it has not been easy but I derive my guidance, discernment and strength from God to be able to do everything in this life that he has blessed me to do. This past year in particular has been a very trying and telling year for me in the sense that I have truly tightened my circle and re-shifted my focus. I have learned to be very intentional about the activities, events and projects I take on as well as the people I allow into my space. This allows me to prioritize appropriately and ensure that I am only lending my time to those things that matter — at the top of my list are my God, my family and myself — it’s not a cliché, self-care is important!

Interview with JustUs® Founder, Stacy Killian

Sometimes horrific things happen, and people do overcome those things. JustUs® Love Corporation founder, Stacy Killian, is one such person. After coming to terms with being a survivor of sexual abuse, she went on to found this amazing company that helps inspire other survivors and bring awareness to sexual abuse suppression.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Stacy a few questions, and here’s how she responded.

Ronda Bowen (RB): You founded the Justus® Love Corporation. Can you talk about what prompted you to start this amazing company?

Stacy Killian (SK): The Justus® Love Corporation developed its structure more than twenty years ago, after I admitted to a counselor I was sexually abused when I was nine years old. As a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I began journaling after those counseling visits and wrote about the following: Compassion, the Spirit, Happiness, Forgiveness, Perseverance, Words, Integrity, Humility, Courage and Confidence. These character commitments found in my first book, Be Beautiful Being You, led to the release of my second book, The Ten Character Commitments. As a hairstylist for more than 27 years, people often open up and share their greatest struggles in life. I commonly found over the years that they too were hiding from a childhood episode(s) of sexual abuse and trusted me enough to share their story.

I believe my pain is my purpose and do not think my past is in vain.  Hoping to give survivors and victims (those still suppressing) a voice, I built the website as a tool for others to use to help them cope with the struggles of being sexually abused.   You can’t heal what you don’t speak and while I openly use my story as a platform to connect other informative, inspirational individuals who are survivors’ of sexual abuse,  the main purpose in the website is to offer resources, referrals, and inspirational stories of like-minded people for those still hiding from sexual abuse. On average, our website currently has 700-1000 hits a month and is serving its mission.  Every survivor’s story we produce, including survivors’ letters, blogs, press releases, and merchandise we provide on our website, sends forth a message of empowerment! We create what we have survived, and whether we are using pictures, adventure, inspiration, and even a laugh or two, it’s never a waste of time when pitching our concept to people. “Survivors are thrivers,” and they are strong, confident leaders.

The JustUS® philosophy is and will always be “Our Words Give Life!” 

RB: Can you tell our readers about Justus®? How can those interested get involved with your company?

SK: The company’s sole-purpose here on Earth is to unite “Informative, Inspirational Individuals” with lifestyle and leadership goals. The Justus Love corporation has evolved into a leading visual concept whose approach is to help adults who were once victims of sexual abuse- take ownership of their past.

The company was created for television and internet, the first and only of its kind, also known as the brand; JustUS® it is the “infotainment” headquarter for sexual abuse inspiration. Most of our survivors are counselors, therapists, authors, teachers, volunteers, and businessmen and women leaders in their communities. And, even though sexual abuse can be defined in various terms such as sexual assault, rape, molestation, sex trafficking, or any other negative sexual insinuation you can conceive of, the synopsis of these stories is not bound to the difference in these categories. We believe that anyone at any given moment, through watching one of our survivors’ stories, could have that “aha” moment and discover their own truth through the stories that’s offered.

Currently, the company is looking for investors with the sole-purpose of building a brand for sexual abuse survivors on a global level.

We believe God is doing His greatest work yet. There are currently 42 million children who are Survivors of sexual abuse in the United States. That’s 42 million children who were once victims of sexual abuse protected by government agencies and programs designed to help them.

In the past, we did not have this protection offered, or we did not choose it, or perhaps we were silent because we did not talk about sex at all.

Nonprofit organizations, churches, individuals, and our government on local, city, and state levels joined together to make a stand when it came to protecting our children from sexual abuse, and The Justus® Love Corporation supports all of this.

However, we create platforms for adult survivors of sexual abuse to speak out. We are designed to bring together millions of (adult) survivors who stayed silent, and allow them to openly discuss their past in an informative, inspirational way.

We ask everyone who visits our website share with another person the JustUS® brand.  Whether you are a victim, survivor, friend,or fan visiting our website, please unite with – JustUS®.

RB: What are some of the biggest red flags that women can watch for in preventing sexual abuse?

SK: I am not a counselor and I do not have a Phd, so I’d rather tell you what I do know about thriving and surviving sexual abuse and what a person can do to strengthen their confidence and relationships with other people so they are no long victimized.

We do share with our supporters the following; how to be a THRIVER of sexual abuse.

  • Find strength in your adversity.
  • Pledge accountability and become an advocate against sexual abuse, so you will share your story when given the opportunity to inspire someone else.
  • Arm yourself with good information.Get support and maintain a direct line of communication with someone you trust.
  • Know your enemy, and stay away from that person!
  • Create a magic mirror or vision board, and write words of affirmation on it for you to appreciate about yourself … every day.
  • Pray with thanksgiving.
  • Always talk positive about yourself and others.
  • Avoid reacting like a victim.
  • Laugh, laugh, and laugh some more.
  • Expect greatness.
  • Always have a copy of our pocket-sized devotional Be Beautiful Being You nearby. It serves as a quick reference when you need to take a breather.

RB: What do you do to balance your life?

SK: All of the things listed above and I follow the Ten Character Commitments still to this day, I wrote about in those journals so long ago. I firmly believe in treating others the way I would want to be treated. Other than that, I listen to a lot of Tony Robbins advice when it comes to being an entrepreneur and building the brand JustUS®, at least twice a week I watch Pastor Steven Furtick’s sermons online and connect to Scriptures and advice concerning the Word of God, and I am inspired by the sexual abuse story of thriver, Joyce Meyers, and trust the godly wisdom she shares with us concerning self-improvement and how to treat other people.

RB: Do you have any other words of advice or things you would like to share with our readers?

SK:  My best piece of advice -” be a living example of love because no one can make a difference in the life of someone else unless they are kind to everyone they meet.

“Taking control over your life starts with an honest assessment of who you are. You don’t need to be perfect, but you have to be real. Then you focus on the here and now, and how you interact with people. To accomplish that, it is really helpful to have an explicit philosophy on conducting your life. My hope is that The Ten Character Commitments serves as a blueprint to help motivate people to move forward in a positive direction.”

Interview with SOL Yoga’s Catherine De Francesco

Catherine De Francesco founded SOL Yoga after years of dreaming about having her own business. Life was quite busy, prior to her project, and juggling parenting four children, her busy household, business as a real estate and investment agent was starting to cause her to experience a decline in her health and wellness. After she stumbled upon yoga as a means for slowing down while also staying healthy, she found that it affected all areas of her life in a positive way. She wanted to bring that positivity into the lives of others.

Recently, we had the chance to ask Catherine a few questions, and here’s what she had to say.

Interview with Catherine De Francesco

Ronda Bowen (RB): What led you to found SOL Yoga? Can you talk about your business a bit?

Catherine De Francesco (CDF): During my early adult years, I was always very active. In my 20’s and 30’s, fitness was a big part of my life, which typically meant 4-5 intense cardio workouts every week.  By the time I turned 40, my life was one big juggling act! My family moved from Canada to the US. I had four children under the age of ten, a husband who traveled a lot, plus an investment and real estate business to run. My health and wellness was beginning to slide.  Something had to give! And that’s when I found yoga – or more like, yoga found me. I went away on vacation with a girlfriend and decided to try a private lesson, hearing yoga could not only change my body for the better, but relax my mind, increase my focus, and so forth.  One or two lessons later, and I was hooked! So much, I made yoga a regular part of my routine and scaled way back on other workouts. Yoga became my ‘Secret of life’. And by that, I mean it seeped into every area of my life for the better. I became a more mindful person, more attentive, and a better listener. I changed my diet to include more plant-based foods. Mostly, I eased up on having to control things all the time and surrender to what life was bringing me. As a Mother, I believe yoga helps me be more present to my children and their needs.  I don’t want to waste a minute on negativity, and practice gratitude daily.

Eventually, I completed a yoga teaching certification with the dream of owning my own studio. Fast-forward four or five years later, and my dream came true.  SOL Yoga opened in Miami, Florida in 2018, and I’m now opening the doors to a second location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with more locations underway.

Featuring beautifully designed, extra-spacious, infrared-heated studios, my vision for SOL Yoga is to give people a place to disconnect, to move their bodies and minds.  To feel as though they’ve done something truly good for them – their inner and outer health and happiness!

Infrared heat was very important to me to have in the studios, as this type of heat has been used for centuries for its amazing, detoxifying and anti-inflammatory health benefits.

Along with yoga, each of the locations are beautifully designed with luxe amenities and retail boutiques featuring curated health, beauty and skincare products, yoga gear and apparel. There’s also a smoothie bar, skin rejuvenation atelier and acupuncturist on-site.  Next, I’m introducing SOL Yoga developed skincare and health products containing CBD among other exciting, therapeutic ingredients.

Like so many others, I believe self-care is absolutely essential to keeping-up to today’s busy pace! And sadly, not enough of us are doing it.  It doesn’t have to be yoga per-say, but it must include time for our selves, to do things that bring us joy, without looking at our phones!

My hope with SOL Yoga is make this kind of self-care easier and more accessible to everyone possible!

RB:Can you talk about how one can start adding a yoga routine into her life, and the benefits of doing so?

CDF: If you’re new and just starting out, I highly recommend taking a private class with an instructor to first learn the basic poses and flows. For me, this was the perfect intro that helped me understand the physical components of yoga, while also learning the importance of breathing throughout my practice. Breath is essential to yoga, as it is to life.  If a private seems difficult or costly, there’s plenty of free videos one can find on youtube for example. All you need is a mat and some emptied space in your home to follow-along. From there, you can try classes at your local studio and let the rest unfold.

Like with everything new, it may take a 5 or more ‘tries’ before you get used to this kind of practice.  The more you put into trying, the more likely you will experience yoga’s effect on your body and your mind.  And despite what you may hear from others, you do not have to have a flexible body to do yoga! Not at all. More like, have a “flexible mind”, be open to trying, falling out poses, and letting go.  Like everything in life, the more we let go of what we have planned for ourselves, the more the universe steers us in the right direction. I’m paraphrasing my favourite Joseph Campbell quote.😊

RB: Natural alternatives are important to you. Can you talk about why and maybe share a few of your favorite natural treatments for things with our audience?

CDF:I find the word ‘natural’ can imply so much and then, not a lot as every brand out there likes to say they’re natural…when are they really?  Where possible, I like to stick to things I know and trust, and more often this means eating foods that are in their purest form. Apples that are in-season. Eggs that have been pasture-raised and finished.  Water that’s from pure, natural springs. Where health products are concerned, I supplement with what my diet may be lacking such as iron or collagen for my energy, joints and skin. I also take a high quality probiotic for gut support and enjoy magnesium in the evenings for its calming benefits.

RB: What causes are important to you?

CDF: My first child was born just one pound, and thanks to the phenomenal care we received at the hospital, he is now a healthy, amazing athlete, a professional race car driver in fact! Because of this, I am a big supporter of hospital care programs with a focus on preemies, including Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Canada where my son was born.

Supporting women is also very important to me.  In Miami, there’s an organization called Lotus House which SOL Yoga has partnered with, and always look forward to helping out in any way.

RB: You’re a busy entrepreneur and a mom. What do you do to stay balanced?

CDF: Balance? That magical word we all strive for…lol! Does it really exist? I find more often my kind of balance includes saying ‘no’ to things I would like to do, but know I’m better to save for another time.  And that’s okay.  A daily sweat – whether yoga or a morning run always makes me feel better too, so I include something active every morning I can, scheduling it in like a meeting. I’m also big on delegating. Ultimately, I cannot do everything, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, when one needs it, right?! By doing this, I allow myself the opportunity to be more present, versus juggling 5-6 balls in the air.   Thankfully, I’m surrounded by an incredible group of positive, thriving, empowering women, who genuinely can finish my thoughts and sentences!  The support we have for each other and for SOL Yoga is one powerful sisterhood force.

Interview with Laura Alotaibi

(Reposted from “Allen mother of triplets switches careers to fill need, open time for kids” in StarLocalMedia with permission. Header Photo Credit: Fredshots Photography).

Allen resident Laura Alotaibi has her hands full. Alongside husband Samir, Laura spends her days chasing 7-year-old triplets Adam, Sami and Zeina (and Spike the bearded dragon) and still finds time to run her online party marketplace, Venues N More. The site features birthday party packages, venue spaces, party entertainment, catering and other party planning resources for busy parents.

What made you want to start a business like this?

I started Venues N More out of my personal frustration when planning, booking and hosting parties. I was formerly a teacher for 10 years, so I never had excessive time to call try and find venues, call, inquire about the different options, availability, etc. I simply found myself wondering why I was spending so much time, energy, and just being frustrated when trying to book what was suppose to something exciting a special, which was my kid’s birthday party.

Although I wanted to solve the problem I faced of booking venues, I also wanted to create more family time in personal life. Since my profession as a teacher was time consuming, I would generally get home around 5:30 or 6 p.m. most weekdays. I knew I needed to change this and make a profession/career change that would allow me to spend more time with my family and be a better profession and personal balance. Starting my own business and being a mompreneur (mom plus entrepreneur) not only allows me the opportunity to spend more time with my triplets but also allows me to volunteer weekly at their school.

Do you ever miss teaching?

Going from a teacher of 10 years and switching my career to Founder of Venues N More is empowering! That being said, I do miss teaching. I miss the connections with the students and their families. It’s a good thing I still live in the Lovejoy community where I taught, so I still get to see former students and families.

One of my favorite things to do as a teacher was read to my students. Anytime I’m really missing that, my kids are all ears. They love when I read to them!

Was it intimidating going into business for yourself?

Starting a business and being an entrepreneur has always been a dream of mine. I started my first business when I was only 9 years old, Red Roses. Since then, I have come to realize my dream. I don’t find going into business for myself as intimidating, I see it as a personal challenge. Every day is something new!

When starting my new business, I knew I had to get involved with the local Allen Fairview Chamber of Commerce. Attending my first meeting was out of my comfort zone, but I quickly made friends in the chamber and they have been an excellent resource for me! I highly recommend joining your local area chamber of commerce and getting involved.

Photo Credit:  Emily Bragg

What made you decide to include a food drive along with the Nov. 20 ribbon cutting?

If I’m ever in the position to give back to the community, I will. I’ve never had this opportunity on a larger scale to give back, so I’m excited to make a difference with my new business.

Donations to ACO will be accepted at Bar Louie in Allen from 4-6 p.m. Let’s come together as a community and restock the food pantry.

Do you hope to work more with nonprofits like ACO going forward?

I hope to continue working with nonprofits such as ACO and Samaritan Inn going forward. I love being able to give back to my community.

What’s your favorite Allen hangout?

My favorite Allen hangouts are: Mio Nonno and Gloria’s. We love the fresh italian food at Mio Nonno’s, and our kids love it too! We also bring out kids to Gloria’s on Friday “Date Night.” They love the unlimited chips and running around in the splash pad right next to the restaurant.

As a working mom, how do you balance your career and time with your family?

Finding a work and life balance as a mompreneur can be difficult. I’ve tried to allocate time for both and prioritize the right time to dedicate time for each. For example, when the kids come home after school at 3:30 my focus is completely on them. When they are at school, I then focus on Venues N More. Having a team also helps me with this, so we can always be available to support our venues, bookings, and those looking to book parties on our marketplace.

Photo Credit: Emily Bragg

What’s one thing people may not know about being parents of triplets?

Being a parent of triplets can be overwhelming at times. One of the best-kept secrets is that there are moms of multiples clubs to help you through each stage of life! I joined Plano Area Moms of Multiples when I found out (at 5 months) that I was having triplets. I was in shock and completely overwhelmed. Within days of joining, I had a team of moms who had been there and done that. They were, and still are, a tremendous help!

What do you do to “get away”?

My favorite thing to do to unwind is to meet up with friends. Catching up with friends is medicine for the soul. If I’m too busy, a phone call is good too.

Interview with House of Dasha’s Quiana McDaniel

Quiana McDaniel, left, showing her line at the Fashion X Dallas 2018 show

Fabulous and fashion-forward – that’s how you could describe Quiana McDaniel’s House of Dasha line. House of Dasha is a cosmetics line and an inclusive line of women’s fashion, fitting sizes small up to 3X. House of Dasha has both an online presence and a brick and mortar store. Inspired by color and textile choice, she wants to create clothing that appeals to every woman.

Needless to say, Quiana is a very busy woman, but recently, I had the opportunity to ask House of Dasha’s owner a few questions, and here’s what she had to say.

Interview with Quiana McDaniel

Ronda Bowen (RB): What inspired you to start your own business and your fashion line? 

Quiana McDaniel (QM): The inspiration for the House of Dasha actually came from my love of fashion. I have always had an eye for style and makeup. I started Dasha Cosmetics because I had a need for a product that was safe to use and still had vibrant colors and style. Our clothing at the House of Dasha is made for all women. The unique prints and styles are always crowd pleasers. I have loved fashion since high school; I would say I was born for this! 

RB: What inspires your design aesthetic? 

QM: I’m inspired by color! I believe a beautiful print is a girl’s best friend. It will hide any woman’s imperfections and highlights your body in areas we would like to show off. Most of my clients like to play it safe with blacks and nudes and that’s great but there is nothing like a great print for inspiration. I love African Prints like Ankara, Ukara and Dashiki, but also do show a range with trending prints like Camouflage and Versace-Inspired prints. Fabrics also inspire me. A great lace or chiffon is a timeless classic. 

RB: What events do you have on the horizon? What do you want our readers to know about your collection?

QM:  I am currently working on our first Style Session for our Dasha Dolls. It’s designed to give clients a closer look at their own personal style. Details and dates will be posted in our mobile app (iOS, Google Play) or on our website. We also have several beauty events at House of Dasha that will allow our clients to test and try many of the Dasha Cosmetics products first-hand and get makeup tips from our in-house makeup artist Dr. Faith Oliver of Faces by Dr Faith.

RB: What causes and charities are important to you?

QM: We have supported various charities over the years, but the one we have continued support would be the Mario A Finnel ALS Foundation. 

RB: What activities do you do to bring balance into your life? 

QM: I actually love to create things. Sewing will always be my favorite hobby but I also love to draw as well. 

Where to find House of Dasha’s Cosmetics and Fashion Line

Shop In Store:
621 N Hampton Rd Unit 104 Desoto, TX 75115 
Shop Online:
Download the House of Dasha App:
iOS Android

Follow House of Dasha on Social Media: Facebook and Instagram

Interview with SaRatta Reeves Murphy of Expressions Bracelets

It’s often said that when one door closes another door opens, and that’s certainly been the case for SaRatta Reeves Murphy, founder of Expressions Bracelets. She’s an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and professional coach.

Recently, I was able to catch up with her to ask this busy lady some questions about her businesses. Here’s how that went.

Interview with SaRatta Reeves Murphy

Ronda Bowen (RB): How did you come to run Expressions Bracelets?

SaRatta Reeves Murphy (SRM): I was laid off my corporate job in 2010 and by the end of 2011, my side hustle, the speaking company I was contracting with, was slowly dissolving. I was in need of another stream if income and was considering entrepreneurship.In the fall of 2011, three things happened that led to the launch of my beaded bracelet company, Expressions Bracelets:

  •  I created blue beaded bracelets for my family. This was the first time I had ever created jewelry. My niece, Storm, is autistic, and we wore them during a local Autism awareness walk.
  • While in NYC for a speaking engagement, I happened upon a billboard of two women wearing wrists full of beautiful beaded bracelets in Time Square. Later that night I discovered the women in the billboard picture actually owned the company. It was a beaded bracelet company called Honesty Bracelets.
  • After doing some research on starting an accessory business, and at the encouragement of my boyfriend (now husband), I created a line of beaded bracelets to list on January 2012, expressions bracelets launched on Etsy and with pure hustle and grind I was able to be a full time entrepreneur within 6 months. 

RB: What inspired you to start the business? Seeing those two women of color on the billboard, just selling bracelets, inspired me to take the leap.

SRM: Seeing those two women of color on the billboard, just selling bracelets, inspired me to take the leap.

RB: What has been your biggest “win” with your company?

SRM: There are so many things that I could list, big and small that I am just amazed that I have been able to do with this company. But the biggest win of all is being able to continue to create jewelry for women across the world for the last (almost) 7 years.

RB: Can you talk about SaRatta Speaks and what you do and talk about with that business? 

SRM: SaRatta Speaks is an online business coaching site designed with women in mind.

On March 1, 2019 I will launch several online classes for women seeking to build an empire like a boss. Some of the topics will be:

  • How to launch a business in 30/60/90 days
  • Running an Online Business
  • SEO
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Automation
  • Hustle and Health Balance

RB: What do you think is the most important thing for female entrepreneurs to keep in mind?

SRM: Nothing great is built in a day. Plan and then execute one step at a time.

RB: What causes do you support?

SRM: Autism Awareness and Female Entrepreneurship 

RB: You’re obviously quite busy. What do you do to maintain balance in your life?

SRM: Prayer, meditation and date nights with my husband. 

Be sure to check out Expressions Bracelets website and the Expressions Bracelets Etsy store. To learn more about SaRatta, and to keep up with what she’s doing, you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Meet Austin Perine: The Superhero Kid

He’s been named one of CNN’s most influential people of 2018. He recently won the Vulcan Park Foundation 2018 “Spear Award.” He’s only 5 years old.

Austin Perine, a superhero kid working against homelessness and hunger, has been showing people how to love for a while now-since he was 4, in fact. He wears a red cape and goes around town handing out Burger King chicken sandwiches to the homeless saying, “Don’t forget to show love!”

Austin, or “President Austin,” as he’s known to his fans, has done a lot in Birmingham to show that even little kids can be superheroes. He earned his moniker because he believes that what he’s doing is exactly what a president is supposed to do.

President Austin was inspired to help those who were hungry and homeless after his father explained to him what it meant to be homeless. He spends his monthly allowance on food and drink for those who are homeless. His father was inspired to start a non-profit to support these efforts, and that nonprofit is Show Love INC.

So far, he and his father have raised over $88,000 dollars on their GoFundMe, and they are just $500 short of their most recent goal on the platform.

In May of last year, President Austin donated the first $1000 toward a new homeless shelter, working with Mayor Randall Woodfin.

The Vulcan Park Foundation 2018 “Spear Award” is an award presented to those who are working hard to make a difference for a better Birmingham. Austin Perine hasn’t stopped with his own city, though. He is now traveling to make a difference in many cities – San Juan, Detroit, and thirteen other cities.

It wasn’t long before the nation took notice of President Austin’s big heart. He was honored, most recently, by CNN as one of the five most inspirational people of 2018. We have no doubt that as President Austin grows that he will continue to inspire others and share his message of hope and love.

To keep updated on what this phenomenal child is doing, you can follow his website, President Austin. You can also follow him on Twitter @presidentperine, Facebook @presidentperine, and Instagram @presidentaustinshowlove. You can donate to his efforts via his GoFundMe page.