Holiday Gift Guide for Her 2018

by charissa lauren, style

Tis’ the season to shop! Being in the final weeks of my pregnancy, I tried to get a jump start on my holiday shopping in October this year. I typically try to mix up my shopping with bestsellers and finds from local and small businesses.

Because my husband and I both love Christmas and picking out gifts, we’ve established a buying pattern that works for us. I pick out the gifts for the girls in our family and he shops for the guys. I love all things glitzy girly so shopping for the sisters and the moms is my favorite. Here are a few of my go-to finds for her and a few that are on my own wish list this year.

  1. Homebody by Joanna Gaines – $20 on Amazon. Is there a woman in your life who isn’t obsessed with Joanna right now?
  2. Amiery Women’s PJ Pants $15.99 on Amazon. My sister-in-law got me a pair of these for my birthday this year and I kid you not they are the most comfortable lounge pants I’ve ever owned.
  3. Faux Fur Throw Blanket$22.74 on Target. “It’s so fluffy I’m gunna die!” With a newborn coming our way this winter, I have a feeling the first few months will be home-bound and this calls for all the pj pants and fluffy blankets we could ever need.
  4. Laurel Way Glitter Mini Reiley Bag$119 on Kate Spade. Kate Spade is killing it with the sales this year. They launched a surprise 75% off sale and I may have casually sent my husband a few links to the bags I’d like. (Hey, I’m delivering a baby in two weeks, he can splurge.)
  5. In Love with the Koko Lip Collection$24 on sale at Kylie Cosmetics. I have a few makeup-lovers in my life and Kylie Cosmetics are all the rave. She’s having great online sales this season and you can also find lipsets at Ulta.
  6. Artisan-crafted soaps always make great gifts. I recently purchased this Finchberry soap from Whimsy on Fifth in Pittsburgh and it smells amazing – $10.99 on Whimsy on Fifth.
  7. Rhinestone Cuff – $98 on Havana’s Heyday Jewelry.

Shop Small for the Holidays

by charissa lauren
Shop Small this Holiday Season with 10 Pittsburgh Boutiques

Thanksgiving is creeping around the corner and before we know it, Christmas will be here. When I think of Thanksgiving, I have to admit it marks the beginning of the holiday season for me and I jump right into shopping mode. We’ve all shopped during Black Friday at some point or another whether by choice or force. But that busy weekend after Thanksgiving has even more retail perk in recent years with the launch of Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and the #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal campaigns designed to promote our locally owned small businesses.

One of the best parts of living and working in Pittsburgh is our strong sense of community. We support our own and encourage our small businesses. When you take your last bite of turkey this year and head out to shop for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, try to support a locally owned business this year. Pittsburgh is home to so many local retail gems. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite small, locally owned shops for this year’s retail rush extravaganza. Follow along as your local fashionista explores the best places to shop in the Burgh’ during the holidays.

Photo at Vintage Grace Boutique

The Shoppe Along The Way

31 East Main Street Carnegie PA 15106

This adorable little shop in Carnegie serves as both a storefront holding unique and handmade gifts and a workshop where you can actually DIY a home decor piece. Overall great experience, friendly owner and definitely ranks high on our #shopsmall list this holiday season.

Glam Earth Boutique

218 E Main St, Carnegie, PA 15106

The place to go for natural and organic beauty goodies. This hidden gem is locally owned by celebrity makeup artist Marianne Skiba. Offering great gifts, spa treatments, skincare products to essential oils, Glam Earth Boutique is made for the local beauty guru.

Whimsy on Fifth 

1 Forsythe Road, Presto, PA 15142

Unique gifts, home decor pieces, fashions and more, Whimsy on Fifth is a one-stop shop with a new location in the Nevillewood area. Enjoy the trendy selections of jewelry, apparel, shoes, home furnishings, custom gift baskets, greeting cards, balloons and so much more!

Moses Jewelers 

Clearview Mall, Butler, PA 16001

If you’re planning on popping the question this holiday season or just treating your sweetheart to something sparkly, support a local jeweler shop as opposed to Jared’s this year. Moses Jewelers is local and family owned in the Pittsburgh area.

ESSpa Kozmetika

17 Brilliant Avenue, Aspinwall, PA

If you’re searching for a deluxe spa treatment for someone special in your life, ESSpa Kozmetika in Aspinwall is owned by husband and wife duo Eva and Scott Kerschbaumer and offer an awesome deal on Thanksgiving Eve night. BOGO everything. Any gift card you purchase, get a free gift card of that value. Customers wait in a line that stretches around the block for these golden tickets and the atmosphere always puts you in the holiday spirit. This year’s BOGO sale will be held Wednesday, November 21st.

The Picket Fence

5425 Walnut St, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Originally launching in 2002, The Picket Fence opened it’s doors in Shadyside in 2006 and remained true to their roots as a family-owned business operated by three generations of women, Patti and her daughters. There aren’t many one-stop boutiques in Pittsburgh where you can find a little something for you, for the home and baby. The Picket Fence lies in the heart of Shadyside and is an L.A. inspired lifestyle boutique carrying both big and local designers

Vintage Grace Boutique

2991 W. Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Stepping into the boutique you’re greeted with sparkle and the season’s latest. Already in holiday fashion spirits, the shopping bug hits when browsing great deals and must-have accessories. The owners Lauren Lista and Adam Dzadony , a husband and wife team who met while working in retail, opened a second location in Washington, PA to add just a little more style to Western PA.

love, Pittsburgh 

301 Shiloh St, Pittsburgh, PA 15211

I’m probably most excited for this particular shop. love, Pittsburgh carries a collection of gifts and seasonal items sourced entirely from Pittsburgh artists and makers with two stores in Pittsburgh located in the heart of Mount Washington and in the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh. I love supporting Pittsburgh artisans so this is definitely a must-stop this year.

Better Than Honey Boutique

24 E Crafton Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15205

With a newly opened Crafton location, Better Than Honey Boutique is owned and operated by a fab Pittsburgher making the world more stylish one stitch at a time. Trendy, chic and affordable, this shop is what we love about local businesses.

Sottile Fashions

616 Brookline Blvd, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15226

This boutique was made for the south hills girl. Located in Brookline, fashion finds meet you at the door. Locally owned by Pittsburgher Jennifer Mendicino, this boutique has all the great finds for all the great prices.

Retail Rush Bundle

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Are you ready to promote your business during the biggest holiday shopping weekend of the year?

We’re bringing back the Retail Rush Weekend service bundle now throughout January 1st. info@charissalauren.com

INCLUDES:
SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTION
E-MAIL MARKETING
BLOG PLACEMENT & PROMOTION
PRESS OUTREACH IN HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDES

HOLIDAY SALES STRATEGY MADE EASY

So how does our retail rush bundle work? For the last five years, our team has worked hand-in-hand with brands developing promotion to sales strategies that work. We promote your business with the tools above and generate a sales boost during the busiest time of year. Utilizing CLC’s #ShopSmall campaign, we influence the online community to #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and throughout December. We’ve found effective marketing strategies through holiday gift guide placement, blog promotion, social media promotion and e-mail marketing.

TERM LASTS UNTIL JANUARY 1ST. 

E-mail info@charissalauren.com for more information or to sign up.

The Truth Behind Digital Media

business, by charissa lauren

Welcome to the New Age, an age thrived in digital platforms. Recently, a friend of CLC’s interviewed our team for a college assignment and put into insight a few differences that have occurred in our ‘New Age Media’. What has once been a print-driven industry, media and PR today is much more constant and complex due to modernized technology and our beloved social media platforms. Though digital media has created an easier system of sharing, publicizing and promoting, it has also opened many doors and obligations.

Social Media in PR

As stated earlier, pre-social media, the majority of advertisement and promotion was based on print and radio whereas today promotion and publicizing is an everyday task and competition. I actually think that a publicist’s and a PR Firm’s role is much more complex now than it would have been before our social platforms because it is constant and ongoing. We are constantly competing to attract the viewership and the viewership is constantly changing as quickly as tweets change on your feed. It’s a position that requires skill to be quick and strategic.

Though social media is convenient for brands and professionals to push a certain message, it is a firm understanding of relevance that defines the importance of a Public Relations profession. Companies frequently mistake the PR Professionals rule in today’s media and believe it is now simple to share topics with an audience, which is true. However, the PR Pro creates a customized aspect of developing an exact message that will specifically sell a brand to the public and consumer all while utilizing researched strategy and knowledge of current trends.

With so many social media sites, how do we balance? And most importantly, which platforms are most effective in business? The answer is not simple. Currently, though we hate to admit, they are all equally as important and necessary. Your business, your profession and brand should have every single social media platform out there. Reason being, you’re expanding your audience and market. Each are purposed differently. Those who use Facebook may not use LinkedIN, etc. You want your message everywhere. And at the end of the day, you should see social media as complimentary advertisement and promotion for your business and use it to full effectiveness.

Print PR versus Digital PR

In addition to social media in itself, we juggle with press platforms that have substantially changed over the last decade. We are now in a world where blogs and online magazines are in its prime, and in some cases, more successful in outreach than some print magazines and newspapers. Again, technology is to thank for this. Because of social media, online sources have the control to push their stories faster and more effectively. Digital media has been such a push that professionals frequently debate the current relevance of print magazines. Media professional Samir Husni argues that the print verses online debate has any relevance over a magazines success, however, “In fact, today, the question is not print versus digital media. Media now are not either/or, but rather all,” he said. “And at the end of the day, it is audience first, not digital or print first.”

In contrary, we have to point out argument with Mr. Husni’s observation. We do believe there is a power that digital media possesses over print media, and that power is full control. With technology, you have the control of where you are pushing your information towards, who you are attracting and where you want your brand directed whereas print relies fully on the subscribers and customers. Digital media is more effective when it comes to advertisement and promotion because it is limitless. You can post and repost and share and target as many times as you wish. And when mission one is not effective you can redirect your target.

So how does this make PR different? For starters, we have to question the value of an online placement verses a print placement. Our main goal is to have a brand and message shared to as many readers/viewers as possible. As of late, internet sources have proven more valuable. SPH Magazines said, “Another great point of social media is that an article can be shared through multiple platforms, allowing it to go ‘viral’ on the internet. When an article goes viral, it can reap in a few million hits. Article sharing also generates more publicity for the magazine.”

It goes unarguable that people today are clicking nearly every second of the day. You have to think of the statistics. How many times do you spend looking through a magazine over how many times you spend scrolling through the internet? The PR purpose is visibility and audience building, in summary. Of course we play a vital role in preparing the message but secondly we focus on whom we’re delivering the message to.

The PR Role in New Age Media

Our interviewee asked our team if we think the PR Role is more difficult due to the rapid growth in technology. The answer is yes, because it is constant. Technology and social media leave us with a constant source to allow our client messages to be heard. In media as well, stories are shared instantaneously. The digital new age has created an era where content is easily shared and promoted, but our job is to know how to make it effective. When media was based in print and advertisement, you pick up a story one time and that’s it, but an internet story is around to stay.

Promotion and press run hand-in-hand in proper PR. For press acknowledgement there needs to be promotion, for promotion and SEO tactics there needs to be press. It’s a vicious cycle that requires simultaneous efforts in message and brand building. When used in conjunction, it’s 100%. PR is a combination of press, promotion, advertising and marketing and all aspects must be acquired for a brand to truly thrive. A story and message thrive when controlled, directed and placed properly, proven best within digital platforms. Print effectiveness may not be dead in buried, but it’s fair to say that PR pros run with the digital era, our new age media.

 

8 Must-Reads for a #GirlBoss

business, by charissa lauren

These brutal winter months may be viciously cold, but you can’t deny they’re the perfect months to catch up on your reading list. Cling to those books that will lift you, move you and ultimately shape you into the thriving gal you’re becoming! Entrepreneurs especially undergo an intense learning process when establishing and launching a business, thus we take notes from the bad asses of the world.
Whether you are just starting up a business venture or heading towards your 3rd year in, these are a few recommended reads that every aspiring #GirlBoss must pick up. So sit back by the fireplace and let Tina Fey, Sophia Amoruso and Diane Von Furtenberg teach you a thing or two about life on the prowl.

  • a little extra inspiration from your fellow female leaders never hurt!

1.) Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso

2.) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

3.) The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane Von Furstenberg

4.) Fearless & Fabulous

5.) Everyone Worth Knowing

6.) Yes Please

7.) Not That Kind of Girl

8.) Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

Brand Spotlight on: The Shoppe Along the Way

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At 34 weeks pregnant, it’s a harsh reality that my nights out will soon be limited. Though I fully intend to try to make time for myself, I think it’s fact that the transition into mom life is a bit of a change. It may take me some time to adapt and learn to find my balance and swing as a new mother and entrepreneur, but I’m prepared for the challenge.

The beginning of the holiday season always brings out the happy little homemaker in me. I’m always excited to craft, bake and decorate for fall and Christmas. Tis’ the season to slow life down a little and make time for just enjoying the little things. To commemorate the season, a craft night sounded perfect.

As a celebratory last girl’s night before baby, my friend and I were excited to try a DIY Workshop at Carnegie gem The Shoppe Along the Way, recently opened this past August. After recently featuring the company on the Pittsburgh Property Diva’s interior section, I had to sign up for a class.

In the front entrance is a store where treasures such as soy candles, chalkboard art, holiday wreaths and jewelry fill the shop and ring in the cozy fall feels. Also featuring up-cycled re-purposed furniture and unique pieces, Carnegie’s hidden gem is definitely one to see. Walking into the rear workshop, nostalgia hit and I was surprised at how much it took me back to high school shop class.

Familiar with craft nights having participated in a Painting with a Twist or two, my friend and I are well aware that our crafting skills typically aren’t up to par but these workshops offered step by step instructions and all the materials to make a great piece for your home. We were surprised at the end of the night when our pieces looked near professional. I even got to play with power tools.

Being the end of October, we chose to dive into the December spirit and create something for Christmas. My Christmas spirit typically starts in August anyway so this was completely OK with me. The owner, Mary Kay, made the DIYing process super simple with step-by-step instructions and she was a blast to work with. She’s just like one of the girls and it’s obvious that she really has fun with her work making the experience even more enjoyable.

 

Brand Spotlight On: MetaMorph Jewelry

by charissa lauren

Statement jewelry has always been a signature of mine. Accessories have the power to make or break an outfit. When you come across a bold piece – my rule is always to plan the rest of your outfit around that piece.

Accent jewelry with bohemian flare make up local brand MetaMorph Jewelry. Inspired by global handcrafted textiles, each piece is a unique pop with a simple foundation. This week, we got to play dress up with MetaMorph accessories and chat with the designer Sarah Daigneault.

 

Q: When did you begin MetaMorph jewelry?

I started MetaMorph Jewelry in February of 2014

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I find inspiration in handcrafted jewelry & textiles from around the globe, ancient symbolism, nature and color. Often what I’m inspired by are ornate textile designs and their rich color palettes. When I go to design every piece I generally take shapes and colors from patterns I’m inspired by and narrow them down to something simpler. I really love the aesthetic of handcrafted metalwork, because it has such great organic textures that can only be created by hand working.

Q: What type of jewelry do you design?

Most of what I design falls into the “modern bohemian” category, which basically means that it’s a combination of minimalist and bohemian.

Q:  What’s in store for the future of the brand?

I’m extremely excited to be working on expanding MetaMorph Jewelry into more of a lifestyle brand, soon to be offering a small selection of handcrafted home goods and clothing. All of these designs are being collaborated on with other local designers in the Pittsburgh area.

Q: Do you have any tips for women in business?

My advice is to not be afraid to fail. Especially when starting out in small business, failing and growing lay the foundation for a more successful version of your business. Whether you have a product that flops, a bad show, a bad month in sales… expect it all and after your initial freak out, pick yourself up and dust yourself off sister!

“In order to continue to grow and be successful you have to be able to not only admit that there are weak points in your business, but you have to seek them out on a regular basis and create systems to solve current and future problems.”

Q: How would you describe your personal style?

A combination of boho, minimalist and rocker.

Q: What do you love about working in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has such a great arts scene, it’s so welcoming and down to earth. Though I’m used to cities that have more of a hub of everything happening in one centralized location, I do like that Pittsburgh has so many interesting neighborhoods with so much happening in each one. It’s a great city and I’m glad that I decided to move here

 

Follow MetaMorph Jewelry on Instagram, the Website and Facebook.

Brand Spotlight on: Almarose Bags

by charissa lauren

As a soon-to-be mommy, I can attest that style is just as important as function when it comes to my maternity wardrobe. Being in my 7th month of pregnancy, personal appearance and fashion have become more important to me than ever. Reason being is simple, it’s something I can do every morning to make myself feel and look beautiful during such a physically transitional period of my life.

I recently posted about how each day I spend time picking out my accessories, a new shade of lipstick and always have my nails painted (with a mama-friendly polish of course). Now I’m getting the final touches ready for our little girl to be here in just two months! When it came down to selecting a diaper bag, I knew I was going to need something stylish but multi-functional. I’m not a regular mom-to-be, I’m a business owner too so my looks are typically professional meets fashion and I need my laptop and day planner in my bag along with my baby wipes.

The Lydia AlmaRose bag was my match made in diaper bag heaven. Founded by Almashea’ Spotser during her own pregnancy, style, luxury and practicality was her goal. This week we’re spotlighting the diaper bag that’s changing the way we “mom” and the mompreneur behind the idea.

Q: When did you start AlmaRose bags?

A: The brainchild of AlmaRose first started when I was roughly 5 months pregnant.  It was one of those typical insomnia nights as a pregnant woman and I was thinking about everything that I was going to need as a first time mom.  My initial plan was to do a full maternity line.  Then it went off like a lightbulb and I said, “A BAG!!  I am going to need a diaper bag.”

Q: What was the inspirations to launch a more fashion-forward diaper bag?

A: During my epiphany of knowing that I needed a bag, I took to Google to find a stylish luxury bag.  What became of that search was a bag that was the value of my mortgage.  That wasn’t going to happen.  I liked nice things, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a bag.  Plus, I knew my parental expenses were going to be a lot.  It was at that time that I challenged myself to draw/sketch my own bag and see what I needed to do to make it tangible.  Keep in mind, my background is in marketing and sales; not fashion design.  This was such an impulse try and attempt.  I was literally jumping into this venture and giving it my all.  Tons of moms want nice things, but they should not have to spend an arm and a leg to get that.  In motherhood, it is so easy to lose yourself in the all of the demands that motherhood brings.  If you are a wife and you work, add a few more pounds that that load.

“I wanted to create something that was for the mom first.  Something that looked good and was affordable to last beyond the point of diapers.  I wanted to create something to be apart of a mom’s full journey and fit cohesively into her style.”

Q: What are your tips & tricks on balancing business and motherhood?

A: One main tip that I would say that helps me balance is flexibility.  Flexibility in your thinking and being able to adjust quickly.  Things happen quickly; kids get sick, juice spills, diapers need to be changed.  It’s just the nature of the motherhood.  However with that flexibility, having a plan for the day is still key.  It serves as your foundation.  I create calendars (my blueprint).  I also plan things with a 30 minute grace period just in case something pops up.  I depend heavily on crock pots, coffee and early mornings.  Early mornings allow me some “me” time to pray and get prepared for the day ahead.  Another thing that helps me through the day is creating and marking off my checklist.  It is helpful to actually see your accomplishments and be able to work towards them and be held accountable.

Q: Any tips for women starting their first business?

A: I would say to ask yourself if no one ever purchased your product and paid for your services, would you still believe in it?  If yes, that’s your passion and it is worth pursuing.  I get it.  Not every business is successful and not every business will make a million dollars.  However, how you show up for your business is how others will and starting out there will be times that it will be just you.  So, you have to get really comfortable in loving your business.  You can’t be afraid of the dirty work.

“Behind every beautiful Instagram page is a business owner who has gotten it wrong a time or two.  You have to be 100% invested in you and your brand.  There is no way around it.”

Q: Where do you see the brand in the next 5 years?

A: In 5 years, I see AlmaRose offering more products for moms on a national level.  I see her as a known brand that moms trust their journey with.  I see being an intricate part of a woman’s life and motherhood journey.

Q: How would you describe your personal style?

A: My personal style is edgy conservative.  I like to push the envelope just a tad.  I’m also a sucker for polka dots, floral and leopard print. Yes at the same time possibly.

Q: What’s a quote you stick by when you need motivation?

A: “On the other side of through” it is a saying that my mom says all of the time.  Until recently, I didn’t always understand it or accept the fact that you have to go through things to get to the other side of something better.  I value this quote because it can serve well in all aspects of life; professional, personal, with friends, your business.  It works and helps to know that getting through usually results in victory on the other side.

Follow AlmaRose Bags on INSTAGRAM, the WEB, and FACEBOOK.

AND TAKE 10% OFF YOUR LYDIA BAG WITH CODE CLAR10!

Brand Spotlight on: Greta Falvo Cicero of Soyil Candles

by charissa lauren

OK, fine, I’ll admit it – I’m a candle snob. I might have a slight addiction. I always have a candle lit in my home. I love the atmosphere and zen it creates. Unfortunately most of the candles we burn aren’t necessarily healthy for the environment. So many are made with chemicals and toxins that we unknowingly inhale when burning. With a newborn baby arriving in the Moses household this winter, I’ve become especially cautious with the products I use and that means candles too.

Greta Falvo Cicero had quality in mind when she founded Soyil Candles 7 years ago. Hand-poured with soy ingredients right here in Pittsburgh, Soyil Candles are all-natural and dye-free so you don’t have to feel guilty when burning. With fall and winter right around the corner, a candle burning always adds a welcoming scent and comfort to your home especially as the holidays approach us. I’m a sucker for all the fall scents so when Greta announced the new collection release, I came running faster than you can say pumpkin spice. In lieu of the season, we’re spotlighting the candle-pouring girl boss behind the all-natural candle label that’s been all the rave in Pittsburgh. Meet Greta Cicero and feel free to shop the fall collection now!

Q: So Greta, you’re a soon-to-be mama and a business owner – how do you find balance?

A: Well right now I am working harder than ever to prepare for the fall/holidays! This baby has given me so much more motivation than I have ever imagined! I love to work so I have really enjoyed focusing on the business and prepping for our baby boy due Nov. 2nd. I am nesting like crazy at home and at the candle shop. Women are incredible! The fact that I am growing a baby and working harder than ever is pretty cool!

Q: What makes Soyil Candles different from other candle brands?

A: My brand is about quality ingredients in the candle and not packaging. A simple, clean, minimalist design that is décor friendly and highly fragrant. It’s what’s on the inside that counts! I started this hobby turned business over seven years ago out of passion and love for candles and all things home decor/home design. I am a candle lover  bringing you quality ingredients to make an excellent product. I was tired of buying candles that barely scented a room once burning so I decided to create my own.

 

Q: What do you have in store for the future? Any upcoming promotions or events?

A: I have so many exciting things I want to do but I am so busy keeping up with production and every aspect of owning a business right now I am trying not to ‘bite off more than I can chew” :)  Something fun coming this fall is that I will be in the latest issue of Icons of Pittsburgh coming out this October. I was newly pregnant and sick for that photoshoot but you can’t even tell in the photos! Thank goodness lol  I am also currently working on my new website which should be done in the next month or so!

Q: What’s your favorite part about working in Mt. Washington?

A: I am born and raised in Mt. Washington so my heart is truly in Mt. Washington! I love waking up every day and coming to The Mount. My family is still in Mt. Washington so I get to see them every day even if it’s just to drop me off lunch LOL Besides being deeply rooted in Mt. Washington, I love this community. The people, the small businesses, the convenient location. Mt. Washington is easy to get to from all areas of Pittsburgh!

Q: What’s a typical day for you like?

A: First, COFFEE! Then to the studio to to start my day. The work at the candle studio never ends! Making candles, cleaning candles, cleaning the studio, labeling, taking candle inventory, taking supply inventory, packing up online orders, packing up wholesale orders,  researching new products, making donation baskets, taking photos for my social media accounts, having customers stop in, making candle deliveries and the list goes on and on. WHEW! Having your own business is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a lot of work and determination.

Follow SOYIL CANDLES on Instagram, Facebook and the Web.

My personal favorites:

Signature scents – Home Sweet Home, Almond Cake

Fall scents – Pumpkin, Farm Apple Cider, Salted Caramel, Autumn Apple, Pumpkin Apple, Macintosh

Brand Spotlight on: Inclined Designs

by charissa lauren

If it’s one thing I admire, it’s artistic ability. I live a cursed life in that I was given an eye for creativity, a passion for the arts and zero ability to actually construct a project. I’ve tested my skill in baking, painting, sketching, photography, graphic design, calligraphy, and failed miserably. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have some skill in calligraphy. Needless to say, I live vicariously through local artisans and am a number one supporter/cheerleader/motivator as PR girl for creative professionals and artistic brands such as these.

I first stumbled upon Inclined Designs when I was shopping for our baby coming this winter. I wanted to find a local shop in Pittsburgh that we can support and work with in the future. If you haven’t caught on, supporting locally-owned businesses is kind of my thing. Inclined Designs is fun, spunky baby wear but also home decor, adult clothing and jewelry too.

The shop specializes in fun, punny and unique items that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Chatting with the mompreneur behind the business, she was kind enough to send our sweet Savannah a gift to try and the baby Pittsburgh pants may be the cutest things I’ve ever seen. This week, spotlight’s on Inclined Designs and the making of the clever designs.

Q: When did you begin Inclined Designs?

A: I began Inclined Designs in January of 2018. However, I owned Hey Baby Boutique from 2011 until 2017 before the name change.

Q: Describe the designing process.

A: I love anything trendy and punny so I’m always asking my friends what they think is hilarious, and sourcing ideas from what my customers ask for regularly. I try to have my tried and true designs, and well as those trendy things like cacti and unicorns too. I do alot of hand lettering on my iPad pro, and have had friends collaborate with me for some more unique things like my Pittsburgh Burgh Bits Fabric.

Christmas onesie by Inclined Designs.

Q: What inspires you for a new piece?

A: My biggest inspiration is my daughter who will be 2 in February. I’m always trying to think up ideas that are representative of her personality and that I’ve not seen in stores but would be fitting for her.

Life as a mom is an inspiration itself. It’s trying and exhausting and rewarding all at the same time. And I feel like my clothing needs to express all those inner mom thoughts!

Q: What do you love about living and working in Pittsburgh?

A: Absolutely it is the kindness of everyone in the city as a whole, but alot the maker community. I’ve formed some of my best friendships with other makers and that comraderie is second to none. There are always events to go to and they are well attended because j feel like Pittsburghers love handmade.

Q: Any tips for women-owned businesses?

A: Oh man. Keep going. Even when you want to give up, as long as you still have a passion for it. Know that it’s okay to take a break, but always go back with fresh eyes to re-evaluate. And never be afraid to ask for help. We can be a great maker and lack business skills. Or be great at bookkeeping and suck at marketing. You have a community with knowledge, and I’ve found there is never anyone that’s perfect at ever business aspect. Most of all, never stop learning!!

 

Stay up to date with Inclined Designs, especially as the holiday season approaches and follow on the WEB and on INSTAGRAM.

Brand Spotlight on: The Picket Fence

by charissa lauren

Style for home, style for baby, style for mom.

As a lifelong traveler, founder Patti Staley would return home from her trips with one-of-a-kind gifts for her daughters and grandchildren that weren’t seen in Pittsburgh. This tradition sparked the idea that she’d like to open a shop for these treasures, a place where Pittsburghers can find something a little more unique.Originally launching in 2002, The Picket Fence opened it’s doors in Shadyside in 2006 and remained true to their roots as a family-owned business operated by three generations of women, Patti and her daughters. I personally always look for places like this because I like to support our locally owned businesses in Pittsburgh as opposed to mass retail stores. The fact that it’s women-owned is a plus too as I’m an advocate for women in business!

There aren’t many one-stop boutiques in Pittsburgh where you can find a little something for you, for the home and baby. The Picket Fence lies in the heart of Shadyside and is an L.A. inspired lifestyle boutique carrying both big and local designers. As a soon-to-be mama myself, treating myself has become a priority – even if it’s something little to brighten my day. Of course, I have to abide by the new mom rule which is you can’t buy something for yourself and not a little something for your baby too =) This one-stop-shop is the perfect stylish boutique for the fashionable mom carrying home goods and interior styles, clothing, accessories and children’s wear.

This week we’re spotlighting The Picket Fence and featuring an exclusive interview with owner Maureen + a fun giveaway!

Q: How did the idea for The Picket Fence come about?

A: My mom, Patti opened the boutique after visiting me in LA. She noticed the boutiques had an assortment of items catering to women, kids and home. She wanted to bring this model to Pittsburgh.

Q: When did the boutique open?

A: October 2002 in Oakmont and November 2006 in Shadyside.

Q: What differentiates The Picket Fence from other boutiques in Pittsburgh?

A: Family owned and three generation of women who combine their own sense of styles when curating our boutique selections. We also work with local designers and pop up shops.

Q: Any style tips for women in Pittsburgh?

A: Invest in staple pieces and mix in 2-3 trendy items per season. Indulge in accessories.

Q: Who are some of your top designers in store?

A: Frnch, GiGi New York, Modaspia, Larissa Loden for women. Nest, Kate Spade New York, Penn Chemist and Bens Garden for home. Tea Collection, Appaman, Egg Baby and Petit Bateau for kids.

Q: Any bestsellers for the season?

A: Sweet Rain Grey pullover with navy floral appliqué sleeves has sold well. Easy but on trend tops to pair with your favorite denim are key for our assortment this Fall. Statement earrings and necklaces turn a classic look into a must have outfit. For kids, Egg Baby is trending well with cool separates for girls and boys. Home items we love the Kate Spade New York and Ban.do office items for your desk. Klorebel  and Workerbird Pittsburgh kitchen towels.

GIVEAWAY

Want to win something for you from The Picket Fence? Here’s how to enter the 2-week long giveaway.

1.) Head to their website

2.) Pick out an item of $100 less

3.) Follow @PicketFencePgh and @CharissaLauren on Instagram

4.) COMMENT the item you want on the giveaway post!

Brand Spotlight on: Vintage Grace Boutique

CLC Network, Wear
I have to say, the best part about about working in Pittsburgh is our strong sense of community and our support for small businesses. I’ve noticed even moreso lately that Pittsburgh is a little big town. We shop local, we attend festivals and city fairs, and we support our own. We really are the heart and soul of this city. One of those small businesses in the heart of Dormont is Vintage Grace Boutique, a hidden gem offering one-of-a-kind style staples you can’t find at the mall.
Stepping into the boutique you’re greeted with sparkle and the season’s latest. Already in fall fashion spirits, the shopping bug hits when browsing great deals and must-have accessories. The owners Lauren Lista and Adam Dzadony , a husband and wife team who met while working in retail, opened a second location in Washington, PA to add just a little more style to Western PA. We chat with Lauren Lista, the wife behind the biz, about all that’s #trending at VGB.

Q: When did you open VGB?

A: VGB started in 2013 in my spare bedroom making jewelry to opening its first location in Dormont, PA in March of 2015. Our second location opened October 2017 in Washington, PA with the help of my business partner, a.k.a husband, Adam Dzadony.

Q: How would you describe the style in shop?

A: The style in the shop is very eclectic. We try to incorporate different styles and trends to make VGB a boutique where any customer can come in to shop and not break the bank.  Our store decor is modern with a nod to vintage design. When you walk in you will be greeted with crisp white walls and pops of pinks, golds, and unique vintage decor. Oh!… and we have a fun gum-ball machine at our Dormont location that the kiddo’s love! It’s a great distraction while mom is shopping. :)

Q: What are your recommended transitional pieces for summer to fall?

A:  Recommended pieces to transition from summer to fall would be basics, basics, and more basics. You can dress up a basic tee with a cute leather jacket and jeans and be on your way! You never know what the weather will turn out to be for the day in Pittsburgh, so having a basic to start building your outfit off of will make it easier in the morning.

Q: What do you love about working in Pittsburgh?

A: I love working in Pittsburgh, because 1. it’s home <3, and 2. because the city is great at engaging the community with fun events, festivals, and most importantly, welcoming small businesses.

Q: Any advice for women in business?

A: Advice for women working in business — your only competition is yourself.  There are so many things that we see on TV and social media that can effect how we see ourselves and our businesses.  However, I have learned and still remind myself often that it’s not a race nor a competition and to focus on what is in front of me, which is my customers, my family, and my well-being.

Pushing yourself to be better than who you were yesterday is the best type of competition to have in this business.

Q: What’s coming up next for VGB?

A:  What’s next for VGB? We would like to add a focus on athleisure wear and curvy apparel for our clientele. We are also working on creating an app for customers to easily customize their jewelry from the comfort of their home or office.

Q: Where do you see the boutique in 5 years?

A: We hope to see the boutique expand out of state and possibly a beach location, a girl can dream right?!

Follow VGB on the WEB and INSTAGRAM.

GIVEAWAY!

The team even customized a Special Moments photo swarovski bracelet with my logo on it for me! These Special Moments bracelets are able to be customized with any photo of your choice, from logos to ultrasounds to pictures of your babies and fur babies. How cute? We are teaming up with Vintage Grace Boutique to offer one of our readers a cool giveaway! Win a Special Moments Bracelet PLUS a $20 giftcard to Vintage Grace Boutique. All you have to do is follow Vintage Grace Boutique and Charissa Lauren on Instagram + tag two friends in the Instagram post! Each tag is a new entry! Winner announced Friday, September 7th

Brand Spotlight on: Ginger Lilly, Havana’s Heyday

by charissa lauren, CLC Network, style, Wear

Style Staples with a Bigger Purpose

A wife, a mom, a cancer survivor. Ginger Lilly isn’t your everyday designer and she doesn’t design your everyday jewelry. Everything about her company, Havana’s Heyday, has a bigger meaning. Accent, handmade vintage pieces with a history make up a collection of timeless style staples and shopping is guilt-free because each piece gives back to a worthy cause. Inspired by the glamour of Havana, a battle with cancer and newfound passion for charity, and an old love for vintage pieces founder Ginger Lilly tells the inspiring story behind Havana’s Heyday – charity with style.

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and what inspired you to begin Havana’s Heyday.
I have loved fashion since I was a little girl, especially jewelry.  (I always asked my parents for jewelry as a gift for my birthday!) I began collecting vintage jewelry because of its unique appearance.  As my collection grew and friends and family began to ask me for style advice, I decided to open an online boutique and Havana’s Heyday was born.
I named the boutique “Havana’s Heyday” because the city of Havana, Cuba holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I met in Havana and we named our daughter after the city.

In its heyday of the 1940s and 1950s, Havana was considered the quintessential portrait of style as it served as a tropical playground for celebrities and socialites that radiated glamour. My hope is that each piece adds a bit of “Havana’s Heyday” to someone’s personal style.

Q: Your personal battle with cancer motivated you to give back with your jewelry designs. What are some causes near and dear to you?

When I was diagnosed with colon cancer it was a complete shock to me and the scariest time of my life. My experience with cancer inspired me to do whatever I can to help others prevent a colon cancer diagnosis by promoting screening, and giving encouragement to those currently fighting the disease.

That’s why 2.5% of each sale from Havana’s Heyday is donated to the Susan Cohan Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to be the international leader in colon cancer prevention, support and treatment.  Consistent with Havana’s Heyday’s mission to provide fashion assistance, 2.5% of each sale is also donated to Dress for Success. This wonderful organization strives to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and life.
Q: What do you love about vintage jewelry and fashion?

I feel like each vintage piece tells a story. I love to think about who may have purchased and originally worn the piece and on what occasion.

The great thing about vintage jewelry is that many of the pieces are timeless and can be worn “as is.” I also have fun re-creating certain pieces into “new” designs that can easily be worn with today’s fashions.

Photo via Havana’s Heyday 

Q: How would you describe your personal style?
I would definitely say my style is eclectic and changes based on how I’m feeling that day or what I have planned for the day.  Of course, I enjoy changing up my jewelry and other accessories, too!
Q: When did you begin your business? And, do you have any tips for women starting their first business?
I just started Havana’s Heyday in February of this year so I’m a new business owner. One piece of advice I have is don’t give up. There are times when I feel discouraged but I have to remind myself that building a business and establishing a brand doesn’t happen overnight.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I love getting ideas from my friends, family, people with business experience and even strangers who may have an idea. I try to take it all in and see what works for me and my business.
Q: How do you balance business and motherhood?
Now that both of my kids are school age it’s much easier to get work done during the day. The summer is a bit more challenging, so I try find snippets of time either early morning or later in the evening to tackle my to-do list. The reality is that some days I don’t get much accomplished, but I’m grateful that my business is flexible enough that I have time to spend with my kids!
Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of fashion?
My husband and I have an older home in Ben Avon so we have spent much of our free time the past few years remodeling and decorating it. Our kids are now good ages to expand our travels, so we try to visit new places. I also enjoy snuggling up with my two dogs and a good book.

STYLED bycharissalauren

I share Ginger’s love of vintage pieces. I think it’s my old soul. I have an entire collection of my grandmother’s old costume jewelry and my wedding bouquet was even made of their brooches and served as my “something old”. To say I was excited about a collaboration with Lilly’s line was an understatement, I knew our styles were one in the same.
The end of August always marks the beginning of Autumn for me and I knew I wanted an outfit that would transition summer to fall effortlessly. Black and white is always classically chic and the perfect late August/early September look. My houndstooth-style zip-up is one of my favorite go-to’s for crisp mornings and being 6 months pregnant – I paired it with one of my black maxi-dresses, comfortable but classic. The gold pieces from Havana’s Heyday give it an 80’s chic look and make for a great transitioning statement. Gold ballerina flats are always my slip-on shoes that still make a statement and the maroon Prada bag goes unspoken. The full styled shoot is to come on the next STYLED #bycharissalauren.

To celebrate September: SHOP the look and take 25% off your entire purchase with code HH25 at checkout.

#GetSocial with Havana’s Heyday

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Brand Spotlight on: Pamela Salai

by charissa lauren
If you’re a Pittsburgh mom or mom-to-be, chances are, you know who Pamela Salai is. If not, allow us to introduce you to your new favorite photographer. Enchanting and ethereal, Pamela’s work captures all the fairytale and magic that maternity and childhood brings. Raising your children is a magical time, after all. These magical moments should be cherished, captured and remembered for years to come. This is what Pamela Salai shares with her work: perfectly enchanting moments. Her photography seems effortless; like it’s just a casual family day at the park and she’s just capturing the natural joy. We think that’s what family photos should be. Not forced, but natural. To really capture a moment is a gift that not all artists can do. This week, we are thrilled to share an exclusive interview with the local photographer that all moms need to meet. Salai is a mother of three herself and talks to us about the successes and struggles of starting her own business on top of raising her children. We’re all about #girlpower here at Pretty Living and love to honor working women and moms.

Q: When did you begin your photography business? 

A: Officially in 2012

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work? 

A: Everywhere really. I feel like I probably look at things differently than most. I am always day dreaming. I will pass a tree & than all the sudden my head is in the clouds. I do refer to Children’s books, magazines and even quotes.

Q: Do you have any advice for women just starting their first business? 

A: Yes, slow and steady. Makes sure you have all your ducks in a row before just jumping in.

Q: Why photography? And why families? What sparked your passion? 

A: Photography seemed to have found me. I was always creative. I would make jewelry, paint and draw. I dabbled in film in high school. However, I was actually modeled for most of my high school years. I found myself always tearing out pages of magazines because of the poses, make up, clothes or even just because I thought “I like this”. I look back today and realize that I believe my passion was always there I just needed to figure out what it was.

When I had my son in 2011 my friend bought a Canon Rebel and she took me out as her muse. She handed me her camera and said, “here you play.” I fell in love. It was that moment that I knew – this was it.

I chose to photograph maternity, families and children because that is where my heart is. I tried other things such as weddings, engagements, newborns, etc. I just never was as happy as I am when I shoot maternity, families and children. I have to be honest. Children are my favorite. I love getting super creative. I think maybe I might be a kid at heart too – which is probably the reason.

Q: What have been some of your successes and failures in starting a business? 

A: My successes would be 1. finding my shooting style 2. Shooting for a children’s clothing line. 3. Making the front and back cover with a full spread of nationally published magazine.

When I have failures I kinda dissolve them by turning them into something else. I don’t like the feeling of failure. I like staying positive and thinking – well that just happened for a reason is all.

Q: Who are your muses? 

A: My three Children.
 

Q: Do you think Pittsburgh has a good market for photography? 

A: Yes, there is so much here with everything in-between. We have 4 seasons, We have areas that mimic a beach look, industrial, rural, urban areas.
Q: What makes your work different from other photographers? 
A: I think that I am a bit more whimsical than others. Every session has a concept or theme. My whole session has “a reason” whether that be why they are wearing those colors, why they have those props or sometimes why I chose the location I did.

Q: How do you balance business and motherhood? Any tips? Any personal struggles? 

A: This actually was VERY hard for me. I am finally just getting the hang of it. I have a 6-year-boy who is just in first grade full time this year. I have 4-year-old twin girls that just started preschool three times a week. However, for the first time ever I opted for morning childcare on those three mornings. It was really tough decision at first for me because I thought I wasn’t doing my job as a mother – the first job I have. I actually opted not to do it last year because of that reason. Then, I found myself really stressed out this year. I wasn’t getting my work done because I was constantly shooting ( which is great) and spending time with the kids and by nightfall I was so exhausted I didn’t want to work my photography job. Now, I am starting to feel the balance. I learned that it’s OK to put your children in childcare. I have time to work out to stay healthy for myself and my family, I have time to get my housework done and work on my photography. It feels really good.

Fun Facts:
Q: How would you describe your personality? 
A: Quirky hahaha.
Q: Any hobbies or outside interests? 
A: I love to SUP ( stand up paddle board), I love shelling ( when at the beach)
Q: What are you currently listening to? 
A: I have ” The miracle morning” by Hal Elrod on my Audible.  When it’s not a book I am listening to Reggae
Q: What are you currently reading? 
A: A mix of magazines
Q: Favorite place you’ve traveled to? 
A: St. Thomas
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: Boho chic
Q: How would you describe your home style? 
A: Modern Farmhouse
Q: Where are your favorite places to shop?
A: Clothing : Free people and for everything else you will find me between Target and the craft stores- haha

Follow Pamela Salai:

Brand Spotlight on: Rutz Naturals

style, Uncategorized, Wear

Best Local Natural Products for Expecting Mothers

When I found out I was expecting our little Savannah, I stopped using a lot of products that I was using and sought out the most natural mama-friendly brands on the local market. Call me a hippie at heart. I first came across Rutz back in 2014 when we were publishing a piece on the products in Pretty Living Magazine. Rutz Naturals was founded in Pittsburgh (a win for me), made with the most natural ingredients, and infused with Reiki energy for those feel-good vibes. If you’re unfamiliar with Reiki, it is an energy infusing technique based on chi – our universal life force. I really love holistic remedies and natural products so this is a brand that stuck with me even years later. Now as an expecting mama, I’m obsessed with four products that have been my pregnancy go-to’s.

  • Body Nectar – the moisturizing serum. I rub this all over my growing belly every morning because I really think an oil base does more for stretch mark prevention, and hey, the natural ingredients and positive energy is a bonus.
  • The peppermint + lavender kitchen cleaner. I stopped using any chemical-based cleaning products the second I found out I was pregnant. Better safe than sorry right? Peppermint + lavender are two of my favorite aromatherapy scents and it definitely gives my kitchen a cleaner feel.
  • Just Breathe – facial wash. This is just really refreshing in the morning and definitely hydrating.
  • Physical Attraction – hydrating facial serum. Maybe it’s the pregnancy glow, or maybe it’s this little baby but my skin has been flawless. I use this under my eyes and forehead to prevent wrinkles, hydrate and give me a healthy glow.

I chatted with the owner, Steph Schuler, about the Reiki-infused products that have been everywhere in Pittsburgh. Definitely recommended for expecting mothers.

Q: When did you first launch Rutz naturals?

A: September 2013

Q: What was the inspiration behind the brand?

A: I actually felt this crazy force driving the creation of Rutz. From the name, to the backbone and heart of the line—the infusing of energy into the brand. It was unheard of to infuse products with reikki back then. I dreamt about it and names of products would just come to me in the most random ways. My gut told me it was the right thing to do, so I just kept moving along and thankfully, it’s gained a lot of traction.

Q: How exactly are the products infused with Reiki?

A: We have a super cool space in our HQ that is our Energetic Humidor. It’s a space that has sound, images, and specific tools that heighten the energy in the space and all the products we house in there before they get sent to their new homes. We have reiki masters and attuned practitioners on staff that infuse this chi (let’s get force) into the products before they make their way into the humidor. The space is like this amazing energy cave you never want to leave—it’s awesome!

Q: Do you have any products you prefer or recommend?

A: I have a few absolute faves! Body Nectar is my numero uno—I slather it all over my body after I shower or take a bath. My skins drinks it up…year round. My skin feels so soft and smells amazing. I am also in LOVE with our latest serum, potent c—my skin looks so radiant after I use it and I just love how my skin feels afterwards—vitamin c is definitely my friend. Just Breathe—seriously, favorite cleanser I’ve ever used and I’ve tried soooo many in my lifetime. I love how it takes away makeup and the crap from the day, without stripping my skin of moisture. And the smell…YUM! It’s super fresh and neutral even for the most scent sensitive like myself.

Q: What’s your beauty regime?

A: My beauty routine is pretty low key…clean face with tinted moisturizer, blush is a must for me, and a fast coat of mascara and lip balm. I love a natural and healthy glow.

Q: What would she advise to women who are looking to start a business in Pittsburgh?

A: Do your research, only start  things you absolutely loves and are passionate about, and listen to your own intuition. If I listened to the advise of many, Rūtz (pronounced roots) would be another name and would not exist—seriously. Only you know what drives you and what your path should be, not your mom, family,  friends or really anyone else knows what lies in your heart and soul’s desires.

Q: What makes Rutz stand out among other brands?

Our brand has been reiki infused since day one. Before the surge of crystals hit the scene, we have been super charging each of our products with reiki energy. We are a close knit group of creative chicks who just really love what we do. I think it shows in our brand.

Q: Does the brand intend to stay in Pittsburgh?

A: You never know what the future holds, but as of now, our HQ will stay in Pittsburgh. Satellite offices elsewhere…very possible.

Q: What are the business goals for the future?

A: We have a wide mix of distribution channels: our website, new flagship store  online retailers, box retailers, as well as brick and mortar boutiques and spas around the country. Something we have been really excited about is an opportunity to do work with luxe national hotel chains—we hope to have some exciting news in the near future.

Q: How do you balance business and motherhood?

A: Ha! Well, it’s a delicate dance—some days it’s graceful and I feel like I’m nailing it…then, on occassion, it’s an epic fail. I have three teenagers, all in high school so our house can be complete chaos at times. I just remind myself that family first, work second and that allows me to keep my priorities pretty much in check.

I have always worked around my kids schedules because it was important for me to be home before and after school. But in doing that, my hours are certainly not that of a typical schedule. I work a lot of weekends and often start my days at 4 am. I remind myself that life can get hectic and sometimes messy. The white picket fences and 9-5 hours were never really in the cards for me, so I embrace the life/work balance I’ve created for myself. It works for me!

FUN FACTS:

Favorite inspirational quote: What you think of me is none of my business. Dr. Wayne Dyer
What are you listening to currently: I go from Mozart to Pink, to Billy Joel…I like variety!
Describe your personal style: I’m a minimalist…love casual atheleisure wear…with a pair of cool kicks. I’m about understated but hip and accessorize with baseball caps and head scarves. Very boho sporty if there’s such a thing.
What are your hobbies: I love high intensity sports like running, skiing (water+snow) and tennis. I can turn it down with meditation and my biggest passion, which is reiki. If laughing could be considered a hobby, I’d be a total enthusiast. Spending time with my family and close friends talking about deep stuff is part of my  of my favorite past times.

Spotlight on: Wanderlust Weddings and Events

business, CLC Network
When I was planning my wedding this year – I knew exactly who to call, Wanderlust. I went to high school with co-founder, Ali Simcho, and was excited to see her making moves in the wedding industry in Pittsburgh. When it came time to execute the vision I had for our wedding day, I knew I could trust the dynamic duo behind Wanderlust Weddings & Events to perfect the plan. As a PR gal and planner myself, I’m really particular when it comes to the little details in an event. I had seen Ali and Sam’s work and knew they’d pull together to make a great display.
Ali Simcho and Samantha Loshelder founded Wanderlust Weddings & Events in 2015 and have since built a recognizable name for themselves in the Pittsburgh industry + beyond. With an eye for creativity and a knack for organizing chaos, the sister team specialize in weddings, corporate functions and social events. Many happy clients and three years later – the two are party perfectionists and networking pros. This week, we’re spotlighting Wanderlust and all the pretty little details that make an event complete.
Q: When was Wanderlust Weddings & Events started?

A: We began developing Wanderlust Wedding and Events, LLC behind the scenes in late 2014, with a formal launch of our official business in November 2015.

Q: Where did the idea come about?
A: Sam’s educational background is in education.  For a few years, she worked at an early childhood center that offered kids classes and hosted birthday parties. She really loved planning the parties with the parents of the kids and executing them the day-of.  During this same time, as a volunteer, she also helped planned events for her college sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, which included single-handedly planning a large alumnae luncheon held yearly for roughly 75 women.  She was always very good at choosing little details and making everything come together in a really dramatic way! When planning her destination wedding in 2014, I (Ali) served as her Maid of Honor. Throughout the wedding planning process, we both came to realize how much we enjoyed it and also making all the details come together (especially for a wedding outside of the country, it was a challenge – but a fun one)! At that time, I personally had over a dozen years of experience in a luxury event space, where I spent time as a waitress and on a catering team.   Once Sam’s wedding was over, we discussed officially starting the business. We felt the mix of our past jobs and combined unique experience, and our work ethic and drive, could really help us to succeed!  Several friends allowed us to be a part of their wedding days in a coordinator type of role to get our feet wet, and once we decided we liked the type of work, we took the leap of faith and decided we were going to make this business happen! My brother in law, Mark (Sam’s husband), was very impressed with their own wedding that Sam and I had so thoughtfully put so much hard work into and he really encouraged us and helpedus make Wanderlust possible. The three of us are all business owners together, and it works well as we all have different areas of expertise.
Q: What is the most enjoyable part of event planning?

A: I think the most enjoyable part of event planning is actually executing the day to the clients expectations (and beyond). While it’s not always fun and glamorous, we take pride in piecing together all the small details to perfect the vision or theme of each event. It is amazing to watch event spaces transform into what the client (and we as planners) dream of. Every small piece comes together by seamlessly planning and executing the set-up and it’s really remarkable to actually have a vision on paper and make it come to life.  We especially love seeing the reaction of the bride and groom when they finally see the venue the day of the event.  We always try to make time for our clients to see their reception space especially, before all of the guests get in there and mess it all up! :)

Q: Do you have any tips for women starting their first business?
A: Our tip to women starting a business is to remember to take time for yourself. So often in this business we forget to take care of ourselves because we are busy taking care of someone else. We wrap so much of our time and lives into our business and into our clients that it’s important you take care of yourself. If you’re tired, miserable, and just plain not healthily taking care of YOU – your business is going to suffer. It’s okay to take a day off, it’s okay to be a wife, or a mom, or a girl who just wants to binge Netflix and shut off her phone for a day instead of being a busy entrepreneur! There are so many hats we wear as women and we think it’s extremely important to run your business, and not let your business run you.

Lavender Leigh Photography

Q: What are your work-life-balance secrets?
A: Ugh! If there is a secret – please let us know what it is! Haha. We think the biggest thing is allotting time for work – and STICKING to it. Often times I forget that, because email and texts are right at our fingertips.  I have to remind myself that work doesn’t need to be done 24-7. Emails don’t need to be answered 3 minutes after they’re received. I have other part-time jobs, too. I have a husband and two German Shepherds who want to run and play very often. Sam is a very active and wonderful new mommy to a 19 month-old baby girl, who has lots of weekly activities and demands a lot of time and attention!  We both take the time to remind each other about taking time off from emails and working so that we can enjoy our family lives. We are sure to schedule work times so that we still have time for ourselves and time to efficiently get our tasks completed.

Lavender Leigh Photography

Q: What do you love about the industry in Pittsburgh?
A: The wedding and event industry in Pittsburgh is actually SO extremely supportive.  When we first started out, one of the first industry people we met was another planner, and rather than being competitive and secretive, she was so open and encouraging!  She has remained one of our dearest friends in the industry, and has introduced us to so many others, and we are so thankful!
Q: Any favorite quotes?
A: A quote that we often hear that describes the industry so well is “community over competition”.  So many of the industry pros exemplify this so well and we always try to do the same.  There are plenty of weddings to go around!
Q: What’s coming up for the future of Wanderlust?
A: Every year, Wanderlust strives to book more unique and style-specific weddings than the year before.  It’s not as much about quantity as it is about quality for us.  We love weddings that stretch us to think outside the box and go beyond the parameters that we have been before.   We love exploring and working in new venues, and ideally, we will open up a venue of our own, some day down the road.  This has always been a hope for us and a dream that we aspire to make a reality.  But we aren’t in a rush and are waiting for the time and place to be right.

Brand Spotlight on: Juniper Briggs

by charissa lauren, CLC Network

I was originally introduced to Juniper Briggs when I was assigned to cover her story for a national magazine. Since then, I’ve followed her work and success and watched her grow tremendously as an artist. Art has always been a big part of my life and upbringing. I was raised in theater, the arts and fashion and grew up around creative-minded people that I’ve always admired. This is probably why I work hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs and creatives today.

Juniper’s work captured me because it brings a fresh face to the art scene. Bold and vivid colors have taken her Instagram by storm attracting the likes of thousands. A now social haven of creativity, Juniper’s work truly captures the female embodied.

Eccentric sketches, paintings, and mixed media collages express a representation of the inner strength within all women. Browsing her collections, her creations present confidence and empowerment on the surface versus the beautifully complex struggle we, as women, contain within.

I am thrilled that Juniper will be commissioning one of these very special pieces for my daughter’s nursery this fall and excited to see what she will create for my Savannah Jo. I told her a little bit about what I envisioned for Savannah’s life and with her painting she literally captures a story or a vision to create a unique piece of art.

Curious of her creation process, I recently interviewed Juniper for the CLC blog. This week’s spotlight series highlights the gal behind the canvas, Juniper Briggs.

Q: Who/what inspires your work? Any particular artists or muses? 

I grew up in a community of artists in the Appalachian mountains where I learned at a young age to incorporate creativity into my everyday routine. Later in life, my travels in Indonesia, South America, and Europe impacted my love of art from around the world. From living in a Hindu ashram and watching the Balinise dancers in their intricate crowns at age seven, to immersing myself in the works of Picasso and Miro while living in Spain after college, these travels continue to influence my work to this day.

My paintings draw from the simplicity of folk art while at the same time grappling with the complex nature of the human spirit. My muse is the female form and face, which seems to allow me to navigate this subject best.

I think of my paintings as an outward reflection of the intertwined relationship between the body and the soul. I am fascinated by the juxtaposition between a calm outward stare and the wilderness of thought and emotion within. The clean confidence we present to the world versus the beautifully complex struggle we contain.

Likewise, I enjoy exploring the notion that our thoughts become things.  I believe that whatever it is that we focus the most energy on is manifested. The things around us are a reflection of our spiritual cravings, revealing something of who we are internally.

Q: What does an average day in your life look like?

During the school year it’s a balancing act between motherhood and art. I wake up and make my girls breakfast. They eat and then we snuggle on the couch and talk while I drink my coffee. Depending on how nice the weather is I’ll either walk or drive them to school. This is the first year that both girls will be in school full-time, which opens my day up a lot. Typically I will come home and do some kind of exercise. I’ll either go for a run, do some yoga or hop on the elliptical. I’m also trying to incorporate a little bit of reflective time to into my morning where I’m able to either read a devotional, write in my gratitude journal or just meditate in quiet for 15-20 minutes. That has really helps me focus and find my center before I head into the day.

I usually go down to my home studio late in the morning. I’ll turn on some music or a podcast and start painting. Time gets away from me when I’m working. I’ll look up and hours have slipped away while I paint. It’s a good feeling though when I get in the zone like that. Once I do find a good stopping place, I’ll come upstairs and make a late lunch. Then I check my e-mail and do more logistical things for the business or our family. I might go back to painting or I might  un an errand or ship some paintings before picking my girls up from school. Then it’s all about them and hearing about their day, giving them a snack, doing homework etc… I may be able to sneak down to the studio for another hour or so of painting before I start cooking dinner. Then my husband gets home and we eat. It’s important for us to share a meal together as a family and connect and hear about each others day. Afterwards the girls get some down time. They’ll either play or watch a show and I have a glass of wine on the couch and chat some more with my husband while plays guitar. Then it’s baths and bedtime for the girls. My husband and I will watch a show together and I will do more e-mailing and work on my website or editing photos for whatever needs doing on the business end of things. Then it’s off to bed for me around 11:00.

Q: Can you explain the creative process of painting and sketching? What do you listen to while working, what do you visualize?

There’s no set formula when it comes to my creative process, which makes it hard to articulate. Sometimes my work starts with a sketch and other times it starts with a feeling. Something I heard or read or saw will spark an idea that leads to that first brushstroke on the canvas. Overall my work is filtered through and inspired by my experience as a woman. I’m not quite sure where creativity comes from or how it works. One thing I know though is that I’m a co-creating with something greater than myself. My faith in God has grown immensely through my work an artist. The best way I can describe it is as a current that flows through me. I have to get out of my own way to allow it to do its thing. It’s very freeing to let go of myself in that way. My mind is never so clear as it is when I’m painting. I follow my instinct and rely on it to lead the way.

As far as what I listen to while I’m working. It just depends. I love music (ALL KINDS) and what I play really sets the mood in the studio. Whatever I’m feeling, happy, melancholy, energetic, or introspective, music helps me delve deeper into those emotions, which ultimately benefits the work I’m doing.

Q: When did you decide to become a full time artist?

I don’t know that I can pinpoint the exact time that I made the decision to become a full time artist. It’s been a gradual process. Motherhood led me back to making art after my second child was born in 2013. Being a mother is a beautiful thing. It’s the most important, sacred job I’ll ever have. It’s also incredibly draining at times.

I needed a creative outlet that would replenish me and remind me of who I was as an individual and a woman. I slowly started sharing my work on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the supportive online community there. The business that I have now grew out of that simple decision to start painting and sharing my work with others.
Q: What advice can your offer to aspiring artists?

Make lots and lots and lots of art and share it with others. Reach out to other creatives and collaborate. Social media has changed the art scene completely. For the first time in history artists are able to interact directly with their collectors on a daily basis. Let them see your work and hear your story.

Q: How do you balance motherhood and creation?

I’m very lucky to be able to paint from my home studio and work around our family’s schedule. My husband is a huge support too. I wouldn’t have been able to grow my business without his encouragement and help along the way. He’s an artist too (crafting handmade guitars) and understands that I need to have time and space to create. We try to support each other in that way while also prioritizing our family time. I think it’s important that my girls grow up seeing how passionate their mama is about what she does for a living. They paint with me in the studio a lot and create masterpieces of their own. I want them to choose something that brings them this kind of joy one day but also to understand that it takes a lot of work and dedication.

Q: How would you describe your personality?

That’s a tough question. I asked my husband (who knows me best) to give me a few adjectives that describe my personality. He said, sweet, quirky, creative, and curious. I would add, stubborn and with a sarcastic sense of humor

Q: What are your passions outside of art?

I’m most passionate about my family and growing spiritually. I believe in the law of attraction. That idea that our thoughts become things and what we put our energy into is what we manifest. My art business is certainly proof of that. I also love spending time with my friends. I enjoy good food, drink and hearing live music. I love interior design and fashion and want to get back to traveling again when the girls are a bit older.

Follow Juniper Briggs on INSTAGRAM and the WEB at http://www.juniperbriggs.com and create a custom piece of your own.

Spotlight on: Lenise Williams

business, CLC Network
I was connected with Lenise Williams a few years ago when she actually featured me on her own blog. Since then, I’ve watched her build her own company with complete success. Lenise is an Attorney, Business Consultant and Entrepreneur also known as the Mompreneur, Esq. She is the author of three books, “Mompreneur: Business, Babies, Balance”, “Entrepreneurship: My Guide, Your Story,” and “31 Day Guide to Building a Personal Brand”. Talk about a role model for women in business.
The bar for today’s women is set much higher than it used to be. Today’s women work and raise families, it’s a balancing act and an art we aim to master as women. As I get ready to start my own family in the next few months, there is no better way to learn the ropes than from women who have raised both babies and businesses. I, too, think it’s so important to have career flexibility to be present in a child’s life but to also stand as an example of hard work ethic. This week, we’re chatting with Williams on her keys to success and how she balances both the boss life and motherhood.
Q: How do you balance motherhood and business?
A: It is incredibly hard to find the perfect balance. I try my hardest to calendar everything so that I can see what I have to do and plan accordingly. I also make it a point to stop working at particular times. I work really hard while my kids are at school and some during the afternoon. However, I carve time to be with my children. We eat dinner together every night at the kitchen table and they have extracurricular activities. I am present during those moments and tend to not accept calls or work tasks during those times; that is my time for my kids.

Q: What’s an average day in your shoes?
A: I prepare breakfast for my kids, get them off to school and then I work. I typically have calls scheduled and possibly a few meetings per week. I handle those and then try to be home before or closely after the time that my children get home from school. I then work a bit more while I am cooking dinner and they are doing homework. We then typically head to basketball/football practice, training or something surrounded around a sport…lol. We then come home and have dinner together. After dinner we talk/ hang out a bit until they go to bed. Once they are in bed I typically pull my computer out and do more work until around 12 or 1 am.
Q: What inspired you to start your business?
A: I started working as a lawyer in a law firm right after passing the bar exam. My first child was only 4 or 5 months old when I started working. I hated the long hours away from him; I felt like I wanted to be there for him as I was the first few months of his life. I became frustrated with that among other things and decided to leave the firm after only about six weeks. I eventually opened my own law firm and began to arrange my schedule around my child’s schedule. I was happy being able to spend time with my son as well as make a great income without having to be in a traditional office setting all day. It had even more benefits when I had my second son. I scheduled my work schedule around his scheduled birth and had the freedom and flexibility to be there for him more than a traditional mother in corporate America.
Q: What do you love about business?
I love that no two days are the same; it is always something different everyday. Also the fact that my businesses are mostly online. It allows me the flexibility to work from anywhere and also the privilege to work with and meet people all over the world.
Q: Any favorite quotes?
A: “Never try to be the smartest or luckiest person; just make sure you outwork everyone.” – Grant Cardone
Q: What do you do to take YOU time?
A; I am a single mom. My ex-husband resides in another state. My children spend the Summer months as well as a few holidays with my ex husband. I used to feel really sad when I sent them for their visits. However, I have learned to take this as my “me time”. I do lots of relaxing and try to travel during these periods. It is essential to have that down time. Otherwise I would not be a good mom. An overwhelmed/ stressed woman cannot be a good businesswoman nor a good mom.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A; My still is classic/ timeless with just a little pop!
Q: What do you think is the most important part of being a mompreneur?
A: The most important part is to be a good example to my children. I want them to understand that they can make their own money and also that regardless of what they do they must have a good work ethic. Showing examples of procrastination or not following through is not the impression I want my children to have of me. Also constantly working and not spending time with them is also not the mindset I want them to adopt. They need to understand and see that family is more important than the business.
You can connect with Lenise Williams at her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

Spotlight on: Lauren Klein, Pittsburgh Property Diva

business, CLC Network

There is no better way to end a work week than with a spotlight of an empowering woman. This Real Estate superstar has taken Pittsburgh properties by storm since 2008. Lauren Klein of Pittsburgh Property Diva is #Goals. No one gets the job done like a diva, after all.

When thinking about the work ethic of women, a quote that always sticks is “You can have unbelievable intelligence, you can have connections, you can have opportunities fall out of the sky. But in the end, hard work is the true, enduring characteristic of successful people.” by Marsha Evans. Every bit of this quote proves to be true with Mrs. Klein. She is a force to be reckoned with in the Real Estate business and her personal branding is on point.

This week, we’re having coffee with Lauren Klein, the #GirlBoss behind Pittsburgh Property Diva. Kick back, grab yourselves a cup of coffee and meet the local business-savvy gal making waves in the Real Estate industry.

Q: When did you begin your business?

A: 2008

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

A: Reading magazines, my imagination & when I’m out working – I have lots of creative moments will I’m driving in the car by myself (which is a lot!)

Q: Do you have any advice for women just starting their first business?

A: Stick with it – don’t give up & give it 100%.

Q: Why Real Estate? What sparked your passion?

A: I grew up in the real estate industry, my dad was a broker back in the 70’s and we had rental properties.

Q: What have been some of your successes and failures in starting a business?

A: I think every transaction is unique – my clients come from all different backgrounds & I consider all closing a success! Even if the road was bumpy J My failures ….wow…there are plenty – it’s how you bounce back that’s important. Early in my career I accidentally gave away my sellers’ stove. They had no stove at their new house, so I had to buy them one – OMG! Mistakes are all learning experiences & I learn something new all the time.

THINK LIKE A QUEEN, A QUEEN IS NOT AFRAID TO FAIL. FAILURE IS ANOTHER STEPPING STONE TO GREATNESS.” -OPRAH

Q: Who are your muses?

A: My husband, my children + I super dig Barbara Corcoran (Real Estate Mogul) & Rachel Zoe (Stylist)

Q: What makes your work different from other Real Estate Agents?

A: I treat my clients (and everyone I know) like my family from start to finish. I’m part therapist, part real estate agent! I have system that I use religiously with every client & it seems to streamline the process for both the client & me. I have a dedication to perfection (or darn near close to it) with every client. I want my clients to feel well taken care of special.

Q: How do you balance business and motherhood? Any tips? Any personal struggles?

A: I think being a mother is the hardest job on the planet. I raised 3 children (2 boys & a girl) and worked full time in town for many years. When my children were in middle & high school I started my real estate career. This job requires so much time & attention with no time parameters, so as the kids got older it got easier to balance. The challenges of balance are always a struggle for me, but I plow through & hope everyone is happy. Thank god for my mom & dad & my husband during the really busy seasons for rides, meals, etc.

Q: How would you describe your personality?

A: A little silly & quirky, but when it comes to work I’m very type AAA

Q: What are a few of your favorite quotes?

A: “What other people think of you is none of your business” & “Treat others as you wish to be treated”

Q: Any hobbies or outside interests?

A: I love love love to shop. Boutiques, malls, internet, you name it. It relaxes me even when I don’t buy anything. I used to crochet (anything square or rectangle), but I haven’t had much time in the last 2 years.

Q: What are you currently listening too?

A: Little bit of talk radio, Pearl Jam on Sirius XM & some disco at home LOL

Q: What are you currently reading?

A: Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends & Influence People. I read it at least once a year.

Q: Favorite place you’ve traveled to?

A: Tuscany, Italy with my husband

Q: How would you describe your personal style?

A: Classic with a trendy twist. Love Gucci accessories & Gucci luggage

Q: How would you describe your home style?

A: Very modern, sleek, & a little mid-century.

Q: Where are your favorite places to shop?

A:  I love local owned boutiques like No. 14 in Lawrenceville, Carabella in Oakmont, Barrett Boutique in Murrysville + Nordstrom & Banana Republic.


All photos by Nathan Joseph Dodson

If you’re looking to buy (as I am in the next year) make friends with Lauren:

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

Spotlight on: Amy Caplan of KLEAN

business, CLC Network

I was recently introduced to Amy Caplan, the owner of KLEAN, from the one and only Pittsburgh Property Diva – Lauren Klein. Amy quickly fell into my network of local women in business and I loved her go-getting attitude and felt her old-school etiquette really added a personal touch to her professionalism. Amy’s business, Klean, specializes in detailed cleanings from move in’s to move out’s, after construction cleans, to event clean-ups, you name it – she is the queen of clean and an organizational pro. Her typical clientele ranges from real estate agents, homeowners, renting companies, event planning companies to contractors and interior designers. Welcoming Amy Caplan to the Charissa Lauren Collective (CLC) network of #womeninbusiness today with an exclusive spotlight and interview. Get to know the gal behind the business and how she balances business and motherhood.

Q: How do you balance motherhood and business ?

A: Balancing motherhood and being a business woman is a difficult task but I have transitioned extremely smoothly into both worlds. I honestly have a passion for both of them so it comes naturally to me.

Q: What inspired you to start Klean ?

A: After hearing from many people and researching the market I found that there was a need for a company that would provide the services that I provide .

Q: What do you love about business ?

A: I love the building stages of the business. From building the website, learning about social media to researching and discovering the best products to use. And a thrilled client gives me a great satisfaction. I have also loved networking with other business women.

Q: Any favorite quotes ?

A: “You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness” -Diane Von Furstenberg

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else .” -Sara Blakey (founder of spanx – worlds youngest female billionaire)

Q: What do you do to take YOU time ?

A: Running or sitting outside reading – I love the outdoors

Q: How would you describe your personal style ?

A: I feel comfortable in sweats with no makeup on and my hair in a ponytail or in a little black dress with pearls and a full face of makeup and heels.

Q: What is the most important part of being a mompreneuer?

A: The most important part of being a mompreneuer is that you need to make time for your children and for your business so if that means waking up two or three hours before the children to get things done then you need to do that because when the kids are up it should be all about them. Of course, there are always those times when you are exhausted or when you think how am I going to do everything that I need to!!!

 

Follow KLEAN by visiting their website, Instagram and Facebook.

Pittsburgh Professional Minds: A Social Movement

business

In the early twentieth century, Millionaires Row housed many well-heeled members of Pittsburgh’s high society. Our city was in it’s development prime and the home to many turn-of-the-century industrialists and financiers like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. These civic-minded individuals set out to increase job percentage while attracting the attention of thousands of immigrants who flocked Pittsburgh in search of work, education, and a better life. With the steel industry booming, our job market indeed made Pittsburgh a highly populated area. The early 1900s set the bar for Pittsburgh profession.

Fast forward over one hundred years and our city is still the home of great professional minds who returned to the late Millionaires Row to mingle at the Mansions on Fifth luxury hotel, one of the last among the city’s grand mansions. The Pittsburgh Social Exchange hosted an upscale business reception ‘Mingle At The Mansions’  to bring together like-minded professionals within our city for network opportunities and career enhancement. The evening consisted of delicious hors d’oeurves, auctions, and musical entertainment by Quinta Voce Woodwind Quintet. Standing in the same place that Henry Clay Frick and his attorney Willis F. McCook (the mansion’s original home owner) once stood over one hundred years ago, Pittsburgh’s professional growth is put in a much greater perspective.

Though we’re not the steel town that we once were famously known for, our city’s professional social veil has only enhanced in further development throughout the years. Back then, one’s social status defined your ability for career advancement, whereas Pittsburgh today glorifies all aspects of business while recognizing all forms of leadership. The Pittsburgh Social Exchange (PSE) is to thank for their acknowledgement of professional and social growth by providing upscale events to welcome all levels to network, connect, and advance.

Chatting with PSE’s President, Ethan Nicholas, put social status in perspective and exemplified the importance of social interaction in today’s business world, “What’s awesome about today is it doesn’t matter who you are and where you’re from as it did then, social networking brings businesses and people together in all forms of leadership and wealth. PSE has an open door policy regardless of your economic status and leadership.” Perhaps this social acceptance and interaction is the reason for the continuance of career advancements in today’s businesses. “Social settings will always impact business,” said Nicholas, “The most important element of networking is knowing people, people do business with people not technology.”

While mingling among the last of the great mansions in hopes of seeking career opportunities, it was proven that the social status which existed in the Frick-era and impacted such growth, does not matter in Pittsburgh’s profession today. “Back then, everyone knew who was wealthy and it was evident of where they lived. There are more millionaires in Pittsburgh today than there ever were, Nicholas explains, “In the next 2-3 years that number will double because of technology providing the ability to connect with others and facilitate business so quickly.” Our day’s business drive is the result of social interaction and acceptance. The famous quote, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is PSE’s ultimate mission and though the twentieth century housed many great minds on Millionaire’s Row, many more great minds were housed last week. “If the Pittsburgh Social Exchange existed back then, I think Phipps, Frick, Carnegie and others in those executive realms would be in attendance to our events, it would be an unapproachable and difficult social veil to pierce. But economic status isn’t as important today as it was then,” says Nicholas, “At PSE we’re appreciative of talent regardless of status, we’re an integrated system of social acceptance which makes business thrive today. We bring together all levels of leadership and diversity.”

This social-driven mindset is exactly what made PSE the most diverse social chamber in the tri-state area. What started as a small 40-person Facebook group in 2009 has now become a network of 15,000 subscribers and has expanded to Cleveland, Atlanta, Erie, and Washington D.C. Soon, the PSE team hopes to connect 30 different cities within the US. “Our reason for growth is simple, Nicholas says, “It’s the way you treat people, inviting in all levels of leadership.” After all, people grow businesses; people of diverse talents and skills, when we welcome in all people, we are welcoming all business.

For more information on the social networking events hosted by the Pittsburgh Social Exchange visit http://www.PittsburghSocialExchange.com.

4 Tips to Prep Your Brand for Press

public relations

Before beginning press outreach for a brand, there is always a series of steps that need to be met and structured to guarantee a press placement. I work with numerous clients that may not initially know of the specifications that press platforms look for before featuring a company. How do you know when your brand is ready for press? The first company necessity that I recommend is to have your brand developed and finalized before any press outreach. The purpose of press and publicity is, after all, to inform the public of your brand. However, a huge ‘PR No No’ is to jump the gun and push your company message before it is entirely ready. Just for our entrepreneurs and fellow professionals, we bring to you all the necessary steps to take before pitching to press. I’m dishing out the secret and providing the brand development and brand awareness steps that should occur before taking the brand public.

Brand Development

Developing your brand to its present and future goals is highly important in both visual and verbal awareness efforts. Take the time to finalize exactly what your brand is and what it will be seen as to the public. Don’t pitch a story without a clear ending.

1.) Logo Design. Having a proper and professional Logo Design that will best represent your brand is vital. Your logo will serve as a visual trademark for your brand for the next several years in business. Many press platforms will incorporate your logo into the placement to best represent your brand to the readers.

2.) Professional Website. I can’t stress enough how necessary it really is to have a professional website developed, by a PROFESSIONAL. Your website is the first representation of your company. It is what people will automatically seek out when coming across your brand. It should visually and organizationally stand for your work efforts. Press platforms will also link to your website and many times, press will not publish your story if they see that your brand is poorly represented.

3.) Social Media Setups. If you’re trying to gain recognition for your company, you will also want to obtain necessary social media sites. Many times, press and public will search your brand on social media. Develop a consistent strategy so that when your company is being shared, it is easily ‘searchable’ but also well put together. Which social media platforms should you have? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram first and foremost.

4.) Professional headshots or stock images. When obtaining press, you want to make sure that you have plenty of represented brand images to include in publicity and press stories. Typically, press will request a professional headshot of the owner of the company and product images. One secret tip: Have an assortment of images to use with publicity! You don’t want repetitive images on every press platform!

Brand Awareness

At CL Collective, we not only offer press outreach and publicity services but the development steps to occur before taking a brand public. Brand Awareness is the development and formal plan of your defined message and how you’re going to have your message heard.

1.) Develop a Brand Awareness Strategy. Before beginning your brand awareness strategy, of course, make sure your brand identity is set. Who are you as a company? What is your company goal? Do you have a tagline? These are the factors you want to consider before developing the specified ‘brand message’ you want to put out into the public. Then, develop the plan in how you intend on gaining brand awareness and recognition.

2.) Public Push. Making the customer and brand consumers aware of the brand before seeking out press placements is highly recommended. Before securing a story, many editors research the brand’s credibility and
Reputation before publishing. Make sure you have a brand that is google-able, so to say. How do you gain awareness and recognition?
Leveraging the Web. One word-Bloggers: The ultimate perk of the ‘new age media’. Engage with bloggers to cross promote your brand with their platform. Offer your company as an addition source of web leverage.

3.) Social Engagement. Social Media outreach and management should be utilized to interact with your ideal audience and overall, make people aware of your brand. Utilize image-based content for maximum interaction. Secondly, develop an e-mail list and create a bi-weekly newsletter. This will help develop and increase consumer outreach.
Giveaways/Contests. How else would you want your product seen other than pushing your product to the public; Don’t be afraid to offer a giveaway. Generate the hype and get people talking!

4.) Product Placement and Reviews. Take my word for it, make best friends with community bloggers, and bloggers around the country even! They are the leading source in raising brand awareness.

Once you’re on the roll and finalized with brand development and awareness, congratulations! You are ready for PRESS!

To develop brand finalization, brand identity, or a press plan for your company, e-mail charissalaurenl@gmail.com.

Business benefits of blogging.

public relations

Let’s be honest, in this day and age businesses revolve around social media. If you have a website, but you do not have a blog, consider yourself on the B-List. One of the first things I ask a client when discussing their PR package is ‘Do you have a blog?’ Not only do blogs provide constant traffic to your website, but they are an engaging news source for company events, and a social network in and of itself.

Get on the Blog Bandwagon: A blog alone can:

  1. Increase brand visibility
  2. Develop your company’s reputation
  3. Generate sales

All of which are the very aspects any PR Firm strives to maintain for their clients, whether a brand or an individual. An essential part of a content marketing strategy, your blog should consist of news, products and upcoming events, while also maintaining an active relationship with fans or readers. They are excellent tools in providing both visual and textual information to your viewers and can be easily promoted through social media. And in our world at Pretty Living PR — representing fashion, beauty, and lifestyle; we aim to make blogs as visual as possible!

Let’s SEE it: While text is beneficial and informative, you want to be a visual as possible with your customers, fans, and readers. Yes, there are still readers out there (myself being one of them), but one PR Girl trick is to make sure every blog post caters to both: those who thrive on information, and those who prefer to see the news visually. Utilize headlines, appropriate images, and fonts. Your post is much more likely to obtain more attraction when it caters to both mindsets. Not to mention, who doesn’t like a little pop of color? See how that works!

Tag Me: Search Engine Optimization, or as we know it as, SEO. In essence, this fancy term makes it more likely to attract search engines to your webpage. How do you secure this tactic? If you have a PR Girl, she’ll take care of that for you! But, to fill you in, Public Relations specialists are typically trained in SEO strategies such a keywords, tags, and links that are trending and will be most likely to boost your brand’s blog visibility. Read more on useful tactics here.

Sharing is Caring: Oh Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Instagram, whatever would we do without you?! Thanks to our many social networks, increasing blog visibility and readership is as easy as 1, 2, 3. When publishing a new post: Share it! Facebook can be your best friend, and probably will be in business. There are many niche Facebook groups that can promote your post directly to your target audience. Not to mention twitter and Instagram. One of my secrets? (And our blogs are quite successful) Immediately after publishing, I share, everywhere. But it’s not all about promoting. You ideally want to aim to promote your blog posts within your niche to gain the most readership.

Interact: It’s a blogger’s world, and we’re just living in it. And these blogs and bloggers do, indeed, rule the world. Blogs get the news out first, and we, as brands and individuals control the publicity and viewership of every piece, the media doesn’t. Become best friends with other blogs and bloggers, it’s some sort of secret code, but it works. Bloggers support and inspire each other. They are the first to share your story and you are the first to share theirs. It’s all about getting in with the crowd.

If you don’t have a blog for your brand, consider yourself warned. Join us! We love blogs, and bloggers! For more branding and business tips, shoot me an e-mail:  charissalaurenl@gmail.com or follow us on @CharissaxLauren on Twitter and http://www.charissalauren.com on the web.

<3, Charissa

Why entrepreneurs need a professional headshot.

public relations

Whether you are in business, representing the public, a model, an actress, a writer, an author, a philanthropist or even real estate agent, a headshot is a professional must-have. Some of you may ask, what is the purpose in having a professional photographer capture my headshot if I have a perfectly good camera phone? Save yourself the agony. It all goes back to my favorite word: BRANDING. When you are visually representing yourself to your public, you need to set across a professional image, because, after all, you are marketing yourself as a professional.

A photographer’s specialty is knowing how to capture you in the best light, the best angle and with an expression that best suits your personality. You only have one chance to make a first impression and a photographer has an expertise in positioning you properly so that you are making the truest impression of yourself.

In this day and age, in our world of internet-savvy individuals, your headshot is usually the first contact people have of you. A professional headshot will help people warm to you, inspire confidence in you, and help people trust you. You brand your business as a business and its your job to brand yourself as a professional.

Where do you use a Headshot?

Everywhere and anywhere. This world is one big network and you are networking every day whether you see it or not. Headshots should be properly placed on every online account you own: LinkedIN, Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Avatar, Blogs, Website biographies, Instagram, etc. When positioning your headshot online, always use the same headshot! I always say consistency is key. One of your main goals with your professional headshot is making sure that people are recognizing and remembering you.

Claire Boyles, Start-up Professional, said, “The more professional, yet approachable your headshot is, the more likely people will reach out to ask you about you, your business and your products.” Very true. Some may not realize the power of these online networks and how you can easily attract or distract business opportunities.

But social networks aren’t the only place headshots are used. Professional headshots are frequently positioned in your business biographies, press releases and press placements, and any form of public communication. You would be surprised just how often a media personal or even fellow professional will request your headshot. As a publicist, I need headshots and professional images of my clients almost daily.