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.