More Than Monday featuring Nigeria Q. Rolling-Ford of Couture Cake Boutique

The Neophyte Author is excited to present a woman who went into business to dispel the myth that black businesses have horrible customer service. This week’s “More Than” Monday feature is a sweet treat coming from a mom who demonstrated the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman when it came time to provide for her family. Nigeria Rolling-Ford owner of Couture Cake Boutique, LLC shares how to overcome when you feel like giving up and the process of re-branding, which is something important to consider when trying to elevate your business or stand out from the crowd. Not only is Nigeria a great baker she’s my name twin (LOL).

What motivated you to start Couture Cake Boutique?

Couture Cake Boutique began with the realization that my family’s financial needs outpaced what we were currently earning. We would corset cakesoon have a high school senior that would need a ton of financial help and I needed to generate more income by doing something that I loved to do.

Your company recently underwent the process of rebranding–can you explain what that is and what prompted you to do this?

Yes. Rebranding is when a business changes their logo, mission statement, and/or advertising with the goal of taking the business to another level.

My rebranding began in January of 2014.  As I mentioned earlier, when I began this business it was more out of a financial need.  However, Lil Man Bronx Fondant Cakeas my customer base began to explode through word of mouth and social media, I decided to make a real go at it with the hopes of being able to one day leave my day job and focus solely on Couture Cake Boutique.

How do find time for yourself in the midst of running your own business, running a family, and working full-time?

I multi-task.  Those of us who are moms or actually anyone in today’s fast-paced world knows what it means to wear multiple hats.  I have extended hours and am always available to return a request for a quote or question from a client simply due today’s technology.

Has there ever been a moment in which you considered giving up? How did you resist that feeling?

Yes.  I recently took on a job that was larger than I could handle.  This particular job simply did not turn out well and I was crushed.  I wanted to all but hide under a rock.  But, I learned what my limits are.  The very next day my phone began to ring off the hook with potentialruffle cake business.  Lol.  We don’t actually have phone hooks anymore.

What advice would you give to any woman who desires to be “more than”?

My advice to any woman who desires to be “more than” is to simply be more than.  Sometimes if you walk in the actions of what you want to be, you will find that you have become just that.

 

For some custom made cakes, cupcakes, and excellent customer service (trust me I know Couture Cake Boutique supplied the cupcakes for the Born at Dawn Cover Reveal Party) please visit Couture Cake Boutique online at: 

More Than Monday featuring D. J. Blackmore

This week our “More Than Monday” feature comes to us from Down Under. The Hunter Valley of New South Wales Australia is mostly known for coal mining and Sermilon, however it is also the fertile ground that author D. J. Blackmore grew up on. D. J. began writing at the age of fourteen and has not stopped even though she was told that only “the very good and very lucky” become published authors. Despite rejection and five children D. J.’s words have grown into more than what was predicted, but exactly what she wanted them to become. 

 

What motivated you to become a writer?

DSC_9302altI liked words. Right from my very first days at school, I have vivid memories of the first learning words on cards, and having the pleasure of recognising them. I was encouraged by an English teacher in my teenage years never to give up my writing. I don’t know that I ever could. It is both my master and my friend. It drives me on to create, and comforts me when I want to talk.

 

 Are you a full-time writer?

I am a mother of five, so there are days when I don’t write at all. I’m not perturbed by this, and I don’t feel especially guilty, because there are times when I work day in, day out, and it’s a hunger that drives me on. There’s always some laziness when I put something down and have to sometimes push myself to start over where I left off. Yet when I do, inspiration eventually flows, but only through the effort of labour.

 

Ultimately, what is your vision for you, your books, and your writing career?chartertoredemptionlarge

I don’t know how many books are in me. I don’t know how much time I have on this earth to share all I would like to, but I’m in a hurry. It’s important to me to give this gift of words while I can. My vision for my career is ultimately to flourish, but in all honesty, from the moment of
publication, that was honour enough for me. The years of hoping, and trying and waiting, the years of rejections are over. The hard part is over. The best is yet to come. 🙂

How were you able to overcome and deal with the frustration of being rejected? 

I suppose that for the most part, I didn’t take the rejections personally. Sometimes I did question whether I was wasting my time in continuing to write, but the fact was that the enjoyment and the thrill of writing didn’t diminish, regardless of outside opinion. I had enough belief in my ability that I thought that determination would win through in the end.

What role does your family play in your writing career?–support system or inspiration?

My daughter Sarahane has been an endless inspiration and encouragement to me. We have plot talks that we share as friends, and it’s an enjoyment to both of us.

What advice would you give to any woman desires to be “more than”?

We can never rely on anyone else to give us belief in ourselves. No one can ever truly give us a sense of worth of who we are. That’s something that comes from within. In the long run, if you think you’ve got it, keep going, long after everyone else has forgotten about you. Continue on with determination. Don’t feel the need to try and win people over with your talent, because your ability will shine in the end.

And for those of you desiring to become published authors, If all else fails, have your work professionally edited, check to see if that particular publisher is looking for the story you’d like them to accept. It may be that the manuscript is too long, or too short. It may be that there’s such an influx of work that they need to delve into, and they just happen to be having a bad day when they look at your work …  

 

To learn more about D. J. Blackmore and her work please visit http://www.djblackmore.com.au/

If you’re looking for a great historical fiction read or you want to try something new please order D.J. Blackmore’s debut novel, Charter to Redemption.

Connect with this fabulous mom of five and author of Charter to Redemption of Twitter @DJBLACKmore1

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If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley{at}hotmail{dot]com with “More Than” in the subject line. 

More Than Monday featuring Shaw Bernard

Boy or girl. Adult or child. We have all pursed our lips together or practiced raising our eyebrows in an effort to ensure that we give good face in any photograph being taken of us. For Shaw Bernard giving good face comes so naturally that she is now image (1)molding the next crop of models and actors at Strut Modeling House, Brooklyn’s Premiere Modeling School. As CEO of Strut Modeling Shaw Bernard demonstrates that at the end of the day it isn’t just about what on the outside that counts. 

This Monday she shares with the Neophyte Author the importance of having a backup plan, self-confidence, and how to stay rooted and grounded when you are successful. 

How did you get your start in the industry?

At the tender age of fourteen (14) people started suggesting that I should consider modeling because I was standing at almost six feet (6’0) at the time. I had no idea how to go about pursuing that and neither did my mom. Eventually, I started getting connected with people in the industry, (makeup artists, hairstylists and photographers) who wanted to work with me. I enjoyed the experience and everything that I have learned has been very beneficial in the operations of my very own modeling school.

With your stunning features and portfolio you could easily just be a model–what led you to step behind the camera to groom future stars?

Being just a model is unrealistic, at least for me. Unless you are a super model, you should always have something to fall back on, especially since longevity in the industry is very few and far.  At this stage in my life I am concerned with building a brand, and not just being seen as a model.  I am extremely passionate about modeling and I also feel compelled to empower young people. So, starting Strut Modeling House was the perfect combination of my two loves.

How do you manage to maintain your sense of self in an industry that is focused on the image or appearance of things rather than reality? 

First things first, I have to give credit to my relationship with God now. Prior to that, I did fall prey to pressure of the industry standards to the point where I did not even feel adequate to model anymore. Now, I understand that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and no one can fit me into their box of what is considered beautiful.  I also have a ton of love and support from my husband, relatives, and close friends.  They keep me grounded and constantly remind me that I am capable of being anything I want to be.

Since you run a specialty business how do you manage to turn a profit during difficult economic times? 

Fortunately because what I do can translate into an academic atmosphere, I receive contracts from schools and non-profit organizations to teach modeling as a way of enhancing self-esteem and building strong characters. When things are not progressing as I would like them to at my studio, I have those other outlets to keep me a float. My studio is 1100 sq feet so I also rent it out for various events and that covers the bases as well. Needless to say, I am able to capitalize on many different levels.

The fashion industry has gotten a bad rap when it comes to embracing the beauty of African-Americans, have you found that to be true? If so, what does it take to make an impact in an industry that isn’t always accepting of African-Americans?

image (2)100% yes. I have personally encountered situations where they blatantly expressed no desire to cast black models, or agencies saying to me “you’re not what we are looking for.”  I believe that doing the work I do at Strut is a step in the right direction of change. I expose my students to the industry and teach them about having self value, the importance of perseverance, and to never let anyone discourage them by projecting their own insecurities on to them.  The industry is the way it is because not enough people are standing up for the injustice. Since the desire of many is so strong to make it as a model, they compromise at all costs.  Personally, I am not interested in doing so, which is why I am making my own path.

What advice would you give to any woman who desires to be “more than”?

Women should know that they are more than, rather than desiring to be so. It is important to have self-worth and surround yourself with others who value you as well.  A woman who is more than lives according to her own rules. She is not confined to the limitations placed on her by others. The first step to knowing that you are more than is embracing who you are, the good, bad, and indifferent. Believing that there is no one else like you. And lastly, a more than woman should not be afraid to stand out from the crowd despite when others are playing it safe.

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If you’d like to learn how to give good face and strut down the sidewalk or catwalk like a pro with Shaw Bernard please visit:

Follow Strut on Instagram @strutmodelinghouse

 If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley@hotmail,com with “More Than” in the subject line. 

More Than Monday featuring Nikki Gwinn of Beyond Kids Foundation and Rich Girls Chocolate

This Monday the Neophyte Author is pleased to introduce you a CEO who is using her passion to effect change in the lives of young people through her fashion forward foundation, Beyond Kids Foundation, in Stamford, CT. Beyond Kids helps foster creativity and educate kids who want to get involved with the fashion industry. Besides ensuring that the future of fashion is solidified Nikki works hard at offering up couture chocolates for the woman who not only has a flair for fashion, but would like some flavor to savor as well. And she’s a mom. 

It takes a certain individual to work with children and it takes a certain kind of person assess a need and create the solution for it. Nikki is a blend of both. Take a peek at how Nikki Gwinn of Beyond Kids Foundation and Rich Girls Chocolate makes moves and maintains her home, to get “more than” out of every experience. 

Nikki, what motivated you to open a not-for-profit organization?

photo 2 Fashion has always been a passion of mine since my early childhood days. I’ve always been inspired to advocate for the youth, educate, empower, and instill confidence in the youth pertinent to fashion design and modeling. I look forward to bringing education growth and creative experiences to the youth.

How do you get through the difficult days of managing a foundation and working with at-risk youth? 

photo 3There always going to be obstacles and challenges we face throughout any journey, but positivity and keeping the faith is what encourages me. My program is a fun program so youth in general enjoy the curriculum and are intrigued by it. My belief and model has always been no child should be left behind. Having the ability to bring out the creativity within our youth and being able to teach them the adolescences of life inspires me to keep going.

In addition to running Beyond Kids you also run a specialty chocolate business. What prompted you to open another business in such a different field?

They are two different fields, but they both relate to fashion. Chocolate was something I used to eat in college to comfort me photo 4when I was designing. I had a best friend who specialized in making chocolate lollipops, but nothing pertaining to fashionable three dimensional chocolate. So, I decided why not invest into making fashionable accessorized pure chocolate candy called, Rich Girls Chocolate. Rich Girls Chocolate specializes in handmade premium chocolate. We offer a large variety of award-winning fashionable chocolate candy. We have a a wide selection of gifts whether it’s for a special business client, a loved one, to celebrate a holiday, or an event. We have many years of creativity design experience. If you don’t see exactly what you need, we cater to each of our customers, and provide them with personalized customer service to ensure their satisfaction! 

Do you find it hard to strike a balance between your professional and personal life? What do you do to maintain that balance?

Absolutely, as a single mom of two boys, I have a 19 year old who is currently in college and a 6 year old that I love dearly and wouldn’t trade them in for the world but they are very supportive and understanding. I make sure that I incorporate time in my schedule to ensure that I am being a mommy. My children are aware that they can utilize me as a resource, and I am someone who will always care. I have always managed to be a very active parent, which I think is important. Interacting with your kids is imperative whether it’s over the phone, or in person. I have learned to separate my personal life from my professional life, it truly boils down to how you manage your time.

What advice would you give to any woman reading this who desires to be “more than”?

There are always going to be trials and tribulations you’re going to face. Be strong-minded, never give up, and if you fail, then try again! Motivation, perseverance, and integrity are the keys to success.

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For those of you want to help develop the future of fashion by either enrolling your child donating your time, resources (materials or finacial support) contact Nikki Gwinn of Beyond Kids Foundation at beyondkidsfoundation@gmail.com *Beyond Kids is a not-for-profit foundation

 

 

 

 

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After doing your good deed get decadent with some customized chocolates from Rich Girls Chocolate

If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley@hotmail,com with “More Than” in the subject line. 

More Than Monday featuring Shana Lawson of GotCake!

Mondays generally aren’t days we look forward to, but that is going to change starting now. Every Monday the Neophyte Author will feature an inspiring woman who is staking her claim in the world. This “more than” woman is more than a mom, more than their day jobs, more than you expect them to be, and more than willing to share knowledge and inspire women to be everything that they want to be.

To kick off this feature is Shana Lawson, owner and designer of GotCake! GotCake! is a boutique cake shop creating unique and custom made cakes for the New York area. It was founded by Shana Lawson and she is the head designer of Got Cake! 

Just a few of Shana's creations
Just a few of Shana’s creations

In this interview Shana delivers some poignant advice on what it takes to be “more than” that is applicable to anyone in any field. Sit back, scroll down, be prepared to be motivated to become “more than” this Monday.

When did you discover that you had a passion for baking?

    I’ve been baking since I was a child, it was my contribution to dinner to make the cornbread or whip up some boxed cake mix. My family began to enjoy my cakes so much that they began to request specific cakes for events. By the time I was sixteen, I was responsible for the entire dessert spread for every major holiday (except sweet potato pie- that’s my mother’s expertise). Having that responsibility and reverence from my family made me want to experiment and learn.

How did you transition from baking as a hobby to being a professional baker?

     For my daughter’s third birthday in 2009 I created a treasure chest cake that impressed guests, suddenly, friends and family wanted decorated cakes and were willing to pay me for them. The problem was I had zero experience actually decorating a cake, so I took a few pro bono orders (with the disclaimer of inexperience) purchased a lot of books and realized that many techniques are similar to the skills that I developed as a ceramic sculpture major in undergrad. Each time I create a cake it looked better than the time before. I took my first real order in 2010 for a three tier wedding cake that I had no idea if I could actually create. Once I accomplished that task,I went into business.
 

Prior to opening GotCake! what did you do? How did you determine that you were ready to leave your day job?

     Prior to Got Cake! I taught art in a transfer high school in NYC to over age and under credited teens (ages 16- 21). I absolutely adore this population because they are completely disenfranchised but are great kids who have survived atrocities that would break the back of most of us. Working with my students was more than a day job, I am passionate bout helping these students see their value. However, there was a system wide change in the belief of the role of the teacher, students were not receiving the social emotional support they needed from all adults, and teachers were required to work off of a script.  I was no longer living out my dream as an educator, I was operating to bring someone else’s vision- of which I disagreed- into fruition. At the same time, I was seeing much progress in my skills as a cake designer and business owner. After a lot of prayer, tears, fears, thoughts, and conversations I determined that the season for this career in my life was coming to pass and it was time to step into faith and go in a new direction. This decision is scary and exciting at the same time!

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What are the most essentials things you need to launch and run a business?

     I believe the single most essential tool (as cliche as it sounds) is knowledge. Knowledge begets creativity!!!!  Obviously, you need to know your craft, but you also need to know everyone else in your industry, especially the  heavy hitters and the closest in proximity. You need to know yourself and what you offer that sets you apart from  them all and be able to articulate that (I can’t tell you how often I get asked that same question). You need to  know  other factors that are not your craft specifically but impact your function (like marketing, branding, graphics,  and  accounting). You need to know trends and people! Especially those in complimentary industries.  Most  importantly you need to know your Blue Ocean Strategy- how you are going to enter market and thrive (not survive) in the market.  Knowledge helps me become creative and solution oriented about my business.    
 

 What motivates you? What inspires you?

My biggest motivation is my daughter, I want to impress upon her individuality, work ethic, and brazen ambition. I don’t want her to ever feel that she has to follow one specific path, I need to show her that she can create her own! My day to day motivation comes from mini victories like establishing a new partnership, networking, or as simple as completing my to do list. I am inspired by those who came before me- people who were bold enough to change the course of their life from job security to happiness. 

What advice would you give to any woman reading this who desires to be “more than”?

I would advise to have a very honest conversation with yourself. Determine what it is that you really want, what skills you have that will help you get there, what skills you need to do the same. Be honest about habits and circumstances that are preventing you from going there- devise a plan to fix things that are holding you back and to develop necessary skills. Figure out what day to day actions and spending need to be rearranged to make way for your dream.  If there is something that you cannot do, find someone that can! 

If you want more from Shana Lawson of GotCake!–get some cake! 

www.gotcakeny.com

Facebook.com/gotcakeny

Fb, Twitter, ig, flickr: gotcakeny

If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley@hotmail,com with “More Than” in the subject line.