Monthly Archives: October 2015

Turning passion into profit with Betsy Hughes, founder of Punch of Creativity

Turning passion into profit with Betsy Hughes, founder of Punch of Creativity

Turning passion into profit with Betsy Hughes, founder of Punch of Creativity

Nothing thrills me more than seeing a fellow SisterLadyGirl winning in business. In this case, she just so happens to be one of my oldest and dearest friends, which makes it even sweeter.

Meet Betsy Hughes (I call her Lou, which is her middle name), an award-winning, barrier-breaking, risk-taking creative genius. She is the epitome of the term #ladyboss.  Oh … and did I mention that she’s one of my best friends?

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Betsy Hughes, founder, Punch of Creativity

She’s the founder of two successful businesses (BLH Consulting and Punch of Creativity), wife of #guyboss George (he designs home theater and automation for mid-high-level homes), and mom to 8-year-old creative prodigy Sophia (the apple of both their eyes). “Together, we are doing what we love and we live and happen to work,” she says.

In this revealing profile, Betsy opens up about how she turned her passion into a career, how she stays motivated and which Williams sister she prefers: Venus or Serena.

Pretend we haven’t known each other for the past 25 years and tell me about yourself, your life and what’s important to you.

I was born in the late 60s, during the end of segregation, however, I was created by a white woman and a black man. Given up for adoption at 6 months, I landed in foster care for a couple of years until my “forever” parents were paired with me by my social worker. Those “forever” parents happened to be white, and had a son, my brother. They became my family at 2-1/2 and now I’m 47. Life hasn’t always been easy in regards to being accepted, but the two biggest decisions in our lives helped make it easier. The first was when we moved to West Germany in 1983 when I was 15. I was finally not liked because I was American versus because of my skin color. It was refreshing to be in the same boat as my parents for a change. Exposure to other cultures, languages, customs, and influences impacted me deeply to be an even more open and accepting person. The second big decision was when I chose to go to Florida A&M University for my college education. Not only did I meet lifelong friends like you, and professors that are like family, I learned even more about myself and got even more comfortable in my own skin and left feeling I could conquer the world. I launched my career and climbed to levels I didn’t know were possible by (the age of ) 30.

Tell me the story of Punch of Creativity. What sparked your interest in this business?

I have always enjoyed expressing my creative side personally and
professionally. I started my career at Hallmark Cards, surrounded by creative geniuses. I caught the entertainment bug from my mom and my aunt who always made pretty big deals out of holidays; stressing the details from a themed napkin to a matching floral arrangement and place cards. So,during the economic downturn, when clients pulled back on marketing and PR, I thought to myself …”What else am I good at and would do for free?” I would always receive compliments for decorating and hosting parties and adding the special, personal touches to memorable gift-giving and events. I would often be asked for advice on “how to”, and I would give it away freely…and still do on occasion. But, to avoid heading back into Corporate America, I thought for a few days about what else could I do to bring in income, and Punch of Creativity was born. I realized that one of my strengths is helping to take things to the next level…to add a little punch of creativity to an event, an occasion a gift or a room. So, in addition to my 15 year-old PR firm, BLH Consulting, Inc. in Atlanta, I deliver my ultra creative side through Punch of Creativity!

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I also created and trademarked the Pregnancy Brain Challenge gift/game. Individually customized, it features onesies with important and meaningful dates to the mother- and father-to-be. It’s a shower game like no other because it allows the mom to share a little bit about herself and her journey. The focus is on her, and she gets the onesies in the keepsake tin for the baby to wear near the dates noted on the front.

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Who is your ideal customer?

Customers who seek my help typically are those who know they want
to do something a little more special but just don’t know how or don’t have the time themselves to make it happen. They are the people who prefer the unique gift giving experience versus the Toys R Us gift card. They want to stand out by having an event that people are talking about for days and weeks afterwards.

What do you think you’d miss most if you were not an entrepreneur? 

I would miss working in whatever clothes I want to wear and being available to help my daughter’s school during work hours. As an entrepreneur, I pretty much work 24 hours a day (but) I can choose when I’m going to work those 24 hours. I can also decide how much money I want to make by how much time I want to spend working. I’m in control now of not only my time, but also my income potential.

Starting a company and running it for as long as you have is an amazing accomplishment. What keeps you motivated?

Freedom. Plain and simple. Having the freedom to call my own shots, work on what I’m passionate about, have lunch with my husband, visit my daughter’s school, generate new business the way I feel most comfortable – through true relationships, and not have to ask another grown person if I can take a day off!

What advice would you give to women trying to start their own business but don’t know where to begin?

First thing is first. Know what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about. Figure out how to turn what you love to do into a business that people are willing to pay for. Ask potential customers questions to see how you can adapt or change your offering. It may not be obvious at first, but think it through. Be careful about investing in equipment and products that require a lot of out-of-pocket expenses. Services can reap great rewards without the heartache of inventory and production. But most important, don’t overthink things to the point of paralysis. That’s where most people get stuck! I started my first business in five days and my second business in three days. I didn’t spend six months on a business plan. I knew what the minimum amount of income I needed to stay afloat was and that’s what drove me to make sure I could take care of myself. With passion, money comes, but even now, it’s not about the money. It’s about the freedom and the time it can afford me to spend with my family and friends. Also, become legitimate to be taken seriously. Become an LLC or incorporate. Get a business accountant to help you leverage your business write-offs. Have professional collateral and a website. My husband and I created the Punch of Creativity website on Vistaprint. It works! We’ve had customers from Florida to California to Canada and beyond. It’s been amazing!

Following are lightning round questions and purely for fun, so tell me the first thing that comes to mind for each: 

What can’t you live without?
Love.

What woman (living or deceased) would you love to have lunch with and what would you order?

Michelle Obama. Although she would be looking at me with a side-eye because of her emphasis on eating healthy, I would order Alaskan king crab legs, twice-baked potato, a glass of wine or a margarita (which you introduced me to in college!) and key lime pie for desert.

Finally, your preference: Venus or Serena?

Both. They are a team and have helped each other be better over the years.

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Me with my mentor and friend back in the day.

I think that kind of sounds like us. Thanks for making me better, sissy!

 

Stripes, the quintessential style staple

Stripes, the quintessential style staple

Stripes, the quintessential style staple

Peas and carrots.  Tom and Jerry.  Stripes and fall. These things just go together! Anyone who is the least bit familiar with me and my style aesthetic knows I have a deep and abiding love for all things black and/or white. Stripes in particular (although lately, I’ve been a little sweet on olive green). No matter what though, it’s the black and white stripe that will always hold a special place in my heart. There’s a reason this simple, yet masterful pattern has been a mainstay on the fashion scene for well over 150 years. They’re simultaneously flirty and sweet, steadfast and edgy, elegant yet casual. In a word, they’re  perfect. And the fact is you can never have enough in your wardrobe. Stripes are the perfect pattern for adding a little something-something to any ensemble. Tell me what you think. Do you agree that stripes are the quintessential style staple?

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Elevate your shoe game with these black beauties

Elevate your shoe game with these black beauties

Elevate your shoe game with these black beauties

Helloooo, lovelies!

Today, I’m introducing the first in a series of posts that will chronicle the top 10 personal style staples according to … well … me! And, I’m kicking things off with one of my absolute faves; the basic(ally bangin’) black pump. When it comes to versatility, polish and sass, it doesn’t get any better than this. I mean we’re talking fashion’s holy grail here, people! Want to make a pair of ripped boyfriend jeans look runway ready? What if you’d like to take a pair of culottes like these I’m wearing from casual to classy? Or, maybe you want to feel like a million bucks in your favorite thrift store find? Then, trust me, you need these shoes in your life! They’re the one fashion staple that can transform your look from frumpy to fabulous in roughly 2.5 seconds (or the guesstimated amount of time it takes to slip a pair of these bad boys on). So, what do you think? Do you agree that these black pumps are anything but basic? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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It’s my blogoversary!

It’s my blogoversary!

It’s my blogoversary!

I can hardly believe it, but this month marks the one year anniversary of SisterLadyGirl.com! I’m so incredibly thankful to each and every one of you who has read what I’ve written, posted an encouraging comment or simply had something nice to say. Truly, it’s what keeps me going.

Over the course of these past 12 months, I’ve had lots of stops and starts. Some were self-imposed, but many were not. If I’m being honest, I started my blog on a complete whim and my vision for it didn’t extend much further beyond the initial launch.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and I now know that if I had it to do all over again, I would have done a few things (well … a lot of things) much differently.

Where many bloggers mark this very special milestone with a cool giveaway to followers, I’m not one of those bloggers. I believe knowledge is far more valuable than “stuff” so, instead of offering merchandise, I’ve decided to share information in the form of some lessons I’ve learned about how to build a better, more engaging blog.

So pull up a chair as I spill the tea on my short list of things I “should have” done when I launched my blog:

  • I “should have” given more thought to the brand: The purpose of any blog is expression and being able to share your viewpoint. But, everyone has an opinion, so why should people care about what you have to say? This wasn’t a question that I fully considered when I first started, so my content was a little unfocused and believe me, some people were not exactly shy about telling me so. People who read blogs are looking for something. No matter if you’re blogging for fun or you’re hoping to make it a full-time career, if you want to hold their attention for the long haul, you’ve got to give them something they can’t get anywhere else. My vision for SisterLadyGirl became much clearer when I asked myself a few key questions like what was important to me, the objective for the blog, who I thought my ideal reader was, and what they’d be most interested in reading about. Once I did that, the light came on and I realized that I wanted SisterLadyGirl to be a resource for sensible style inspiration aimed at grown, classy and sassy women just like me.
  • I “should have” taken my time: Part of my blurred vision for SisterLadyGirl was as a result of my fondness for reading other blogs. For every one I read, I came away with two to three ideas I wanted to try on my blog. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I had started to compare my beginning to everyone else’s middle. Many of those blogs were much older than mine. They were established brands with loyal followers. They were everything SisterLadyGirl wasn’t. After a while, all that content and all those ideas got really hard to keep up with. There was so much information swirling around in my brain that it got confusing and the content I was posting was a direct reflection of that. It took a while, but SisterLadyGirl finally started coming into its own once I took the time to understand what content was most interesting to my readers. I did this by installing Google Analytics, which gave me the insight I needed to narrow my focus.
  • I “should have” only posted things that inspired me: Just because it’s pretty, cool, irreverent or edgy doesn’t mean it will work well for your blog. The best (and possibly worst) thing about social media is the instant feedback. If people don’t connect with something I’ve written or a photo I’ve posted, the numbers will tell me. Remember those Google Analytics I mentioned earlier? Seeing only a handful of people click on a post and even fewer comment can be sobering. Early on, it made me question why the heck I was even doing this because it didn’t seem that many people were interested in what I had to say. This wasn’t the case at all. SisterLadyGirls are women just like me. And, like me, they want to see content that’s reflective of being confident in their own skin. The moment I started consistently providing the type of content my readers wanted, I saw the blog’s numbers start to grow.
  • I “should have” reached out for advice sooner: Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And, very few people achieve it without help from someone else. When I discovered a few bloggers who I really admired, I decided to reach out and ask questions. More often than not, they were happy to share their knowledge and point me in the direction of resources they thought would be helpful for a fledgling blogger like me.

Now that the first year is under my belt and I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know before, I’m excited about what the future holds for SisterLadyGirl. Going forward, you’ll see a lot more diverse content. But, never fear, I’ll always be committed to providing sensible style inspiration for the grown, classy and sassy woman.

Thanks again for hanging in there with me! Xoxo