****This blog is no longer updated at this address! Come check it out at http://thinkandgrowchick.com. All of the archives are available there as well****

This site is my online journal that documents my attempts to reach various goals inspired by the principles found in the book, Think and Grow Rich. Join me as I strive to meet financial goals, fashion goals, school goals, hair-care goals, and everything in between. I hope that other young women will relate and find my journey useful to read about; this blog is for me as much as it is for women seeking resources for personal development and freedom. To get a daily dose, follow me on twitter and facebook...and don't forget to follow my blog!

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Official, Your Girl is in Business!

Remember a while back how I said I had something up my sleeve? Well my project is complete! I, Think & Grow Chick, have made the leap into to world of online entrepreneurship. I am the proud creator of Think and Grow Vintage (thinkandgrowvintage.etsy.com), an etsy vintage store for all my Think and Grow Chicks! Below are a few of my favorite pieces that are on sale as of today:

Like I said, these are just a few of my favorites, so be sure to check out the rest at my store. From now on, in the side bar of the blog, there's a button that updates with my newest stuff and will take you directly to my store.

If you're a Think and Grow Chick (which I know you are), use the code TGC2009 to receive a 15% discount off your first purchase. How "Think and Grow Stylish" is that?

"Think and Grow Chick" of the Day: Meet the Urban Paper Princess Kia Howey

In an effort to showcase other Think and Grow Chicks who are achieving their goals and reaching their dreams, I'd like to present to you the first interview of the series with Kia Howey, founder of UrbanPaperLoft.com

(Photo by Jasiatic @ createtressphotography.blogspot.com

Hello Kia! Welcome to Think & Grow Chick, a blog were I document achievement of goals important to young, black women. Can you start off by telling our readers what it is that you do? What is a typical day in your life like? 

Pretty busy. I work full time as an Internet Communications Manager at a company that makes arts and crafts products. So my 9-5 day is pretty busy. Often I work on my own collection at lunch. I have two children who are 8 and 2 which also keeps me busy. I work a lot on my own business in the evenings and on the weekends. I try to make time each day to do something. Sometimes it is two hours and sometimes it is 15 minutes. I use my days to plan what I need to so, so that when I do have time I can hit the ground running. I keep running lists of thing that need to happen.

How did you get into your current space in life? Can you tell us about your background?

I've been interested in design since early grade school. When I was in high school, I took an advertising design class that exposed me to the world of graphic design and was hooked. I studied graphic design at Florida A & M University and Temple University. While at FAMU, I had a professor who had been a board game designer and was introduced to the world of product design.

When I finished school I moved to Atlanta. My first job out of school was a very typical layout design job. Then by luck, was able to join the IBM web design team (with no web experience). This was pivotal experience because it gave me a background in web design and exposure to project management in general-two skills I still use.

Several other important things happened in Atlanta. In no particularly order, I married my husband, had a child and made a big jump into working for myself- my husband and I opened a juice bar, and I also did freelance design work. This was at a time when the economy was very tenuous (similar to now), the dot com boom was crashing and 9-11 had just happened. My lesson from that was to always keep multiple revenue streams open and be prepared for change.

After several years, I had an opportunity to go back to work full time. Shortly after that, I went to work as a temp. at a company that manufactures products in the crafts industry and I've been there ever since. I started as a product designer and now work as the communications manager for the website. I've continued to gain a lot of knowledge from my job about product design, product development and marketing. I've also been delving deeper into the world of social media and web communications.In 2008, as part of my own business, I launched two websites: Kia Nicole (kianicole.com) and Urban Paper Loft (urbanpaperloft.com).

I understand that you studied both at FAMU and Temple University. What were your goals in college? Did they change over time, or did they always lead to what it is you are doing now?

Yes and no. I wanted to be in design and that has never changed. I did go through a period where I feel like I lost track of what it is I wanted versus school programs and curriculum. My lesson from that is when picking a college or job, you have to always ask "What do I want out of this?" It can be easy to began pursuing someone else's agenda for you rather than your own vision. If you can get something out of your situation that you need, whether it is experience, contacts, economic benefits—then that is cool. But if not, it may be time to move on or reevaluate.

Please describe some of the realities of starting and running your own business. How has it been for you? 

The biggest challenge for most small businesses is cash flow-managing your money as it comes in and out. The second challenge is usually time management or trying to wear too many hats at once. And that's no different for me.

You currently work full-time while working on your business; tell us about how that's been for you. Do you have plans to leave your full-time employment?

Well, it definitely requires big picture planning. My vision for myself is that I will be working for myself full-time in the future. I have done it before. I do want to have a level of stability with my business when I set out on my own again.

How do you attract clients for your business?

I've participated in The National Stationery show. I submit products to trade magazines like Stationery Trends and Greetings Etc. and have had work in both. I am about to do some big pushes to national magazines. Also, word of mouth and internet-blogs, facebook, etc.

What is your stance on entrepreneurship verses employment? What are some of your personal entrepreneurial goals? 

I have a very entrepreneurial spirit and have a family that had had some success as entrepreneurs. I think it is a mind set. But I think it is always important to have a PLAN B (and maybe C) As we've seen with this economy, you can go from a six figure job to nothing at all with no prospects. You should always have something you can do for extra income, whether it is sewing or a trade or a full fledged business.

If you had to work with a young woman and help her start her business, what are some key principles you would be certain to stress to her? 

Do a business plan. It will stress you out and it will change over time, but it will let you know if you have a viable product. Sometimes the numbers just don't make sense. If the numbers don't make sense, you have to explore other options. If you can't commit to doing a business plan, you may not be ready for business. Ask for help. SCORE and SBA are great-all the free help you need is out there. Sometimes you have to be very persistent in order to get what you want but the resources are there. The most important thing is just do something! Don't overthink things--just get in action mode. You very rarely get it right the first time anyway, so you better get started now making mistakes and learning!!!

You also have background working with IBM in web development. How important has the internet been in promotion? What are some of your recommendations for promoting on the internet? 

Extremely. It is the primary way I meet and interact with people. There are great online tools for everything from book keeping to storing files that help with business. Also the world is moving from traditional 'advertising' to inbound marketing, which basically means that instead of just advertising (broadcasting out), you make yourself available to people who are searching for you. Social media, blogs and google are the way people look for products. People also rely on the reviews and opinions of their friends. The internet is integral in this. I do A LOT of e-classes and workshops and things like that to learn.

I love how you say that a turtle is your mascot and you motto is "slow and steady wins the race". Can you give us some of your time management and goal achieving tips?

Sure, very small consistent goals. Try to carve out some time each day for your own projects- even if it is just 10 minutes each day. Stay focused by writing things down. You can seem like things are going slowly and then have one big moment that changes everything, so you have to prepare for that.

The style of your designs are great; they really embody an urban, black woman. How did you come up with the concept?

I love the silhouette design trend that seems to be everywhere. You can find cute silhouettes of kids and horses and birds. But sadly, I've seen almost none with black women or any type of ethnic profiles. So that was my goal --but I wanted them to be funky.

Tell us about Urban Paper Loft versus KiaNicole.com. 

Kia Nicole is my signature collection, almost exclusively for kids. In addition to paper -party, birth announcements and such, I'm doing a very cool line of home decor that includes wall art, growth charts that I am hoping to expand. The cool thing about these products is that most can be personalized with skin tone and names. I wanted to do something so that every child can have things for their room that look like them. This is so important for children's self esteem.

The Urban Paper Loft line delivers custom stationery with urban taste for adults. This line will be expanded to include different types of stationery with funky designs. These designs are influenced by art, music and urban life in general.

Would you say that your personal style reflects that of Urban Paper Loft? What about KiaNicole.com? 

That is an interesting question. I would say both. Part of me loves the more lighthearted and whimsical style of the Kia Nicole products. I love children and it is easy for me to illustrate in this style. The other side of me goes a little bit more sophisticated but still very fun loving.

Describe your personal style. How has your personal style developed over time? 

I love color. I love patterns. I love fashion and style but I also like like no fuss and stress. I like to find brands and products that work for me. Once I find something that works for me I am completely loyal.

How does your personal style affect your approach to your business and clients?

I'm learning more and more not to be afraid to really put my personality into the things that I am doing. The more I've been able to do this, the happier I have been with my work personally and also gotten more accolades.

How can those of us without a design background, use design to make the simple things more interesting, like you do with your line of stationery?

I'm working on creating a more beautiful environment every day. Whether that is my home or car or desk. It is a challenge for me. I'm a pack rat, so I am having to learn how to edit and tr how things away and only keep things that I love.

What are some of your tips for developing a unique, fly sense of style in this poor economy?

More than ever, I plan purchases. I've been doing an inventory of what I have, what types of things I really need and I shop accordingly. It takes a lot of the guilt out of shopping and makes it easier to discern between wants and needs. And don't get caught up in the Brand/Name game.

What is your advice for women who want to break out on their own, but have families or other possible constraints?

Surround yourself by positive people and things. Motivational resources like books and pod casts are great. Write down your goals and plans in a journal or
sketch book. We all have personal challenges. When you read bios of successful people they have all overcome some obstacle or challenge.

Do you have any upcoming projects? 

I'm expanding both collections. For the Kia Nicole line, I hope to have design for all the most popular themes in kids room decor by early next year. I am also working on some different distribution plans for all my products.

What are your personal measures of success? By your own standards, do you consider yourself successful? 

If you do something you love and maintain personal integrity--I would call that a success!

What is a “Think and Grow Chick” to you? 

A fabulously inspiring woman who has a vision for her life and who uses her talents and gifts to create a better world for herself and her community.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to share some insight with my readers. You are truly a “Think and Grow Chick”! 

Is there anything else you’d like to share or that you want everyone to know about you? What are the best ways for one to get in contact with you? You can see my products at kianicole.com, urbanpaperloft.com. Thanks for taking time to plan this. Your blog is a great inspiration!

Kia is sooo freaking amazing; what an inspiring woman. Be sure to check her out regularly at KiaNicole.com and UrbanPaperLoft.

Are you a true "Think & Grow Chick" that would like to participate in the interview series? If so, email me a short bio and links to whatever it is that you do so that I can prepare an interview for you!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Workin' It Out with NS1463: A Mini-Story

Hey everyone! Here's a quick post with a video I was recently in for my friends start-up clothing company NS1463. He describes it as "A clothing company owned by a Nigerian...we're changing attitudes." Check it out!

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Stay Chic When "On the Grind"

Fall is officially here y'all; it was incredibly cold, dreary and rainy in The District today. As one who's not particularly fond of gross weather, I did what I always do on bleak, miserable days—I immediately went to grab the frumpiest outfit I could find and proceeded NOT to do my hair, all of course, with my usual “I'll be darned if I waste looking cute on such an ugly day” rational.

It wasn't until I waltzed into class, almost proud of my decided commitment to “disheveled-ness”, did I realize how alone I was with this philosophy. With their leather boots, girly hoodies, and fitted wool coats, every single female classmate of mine arrived to class in style, apparently ready to get both their learn, and their fashion game, on.

I sighed with exasperation as I slumped into my seat; every time I try to slack on Howard's campus, I'm quickly reminded that being on your grind is okay, but slippin' on style is not. So, in an ode to school pride, I've put together a list of things that will help stay on the chic and narrow, even when I'm on the grind...

Oh how I LOVE Andrea from Fly. She is another one of my imaginary best friends, but I digress. The point is, she's always on the grind finding creative, interesting stuff to post on her blog, yet she can come up with the cutest hair style in no time! Besides being adorable, this look is great because it's a style within a style. Before bed or in the morning, wash your hair like normal, then put it in little twist. If your lazy like me, pin it up in a cute 'do like Andrea and leave them in for a few days or until you feel like taking them down. When you do, you'll have the cutest 'fro ever. How time/energy efficient is that?

I couldn't include the staple of a leather jacket without featuring my girl Meagan! Now I know that many blogs have criticized Meagan over the years for seemingly wearing her favorite pieces too much, but I think Meagan's go-to outfit choices are just a testament to how real women operate...if your staples are fabulous, then you will certainly wear them more than once. Repeated wear, especially in this economy, is in fact, the point. Do yourself a favor and get a leather bomber before the weather really breaks and they get to expensive. If you're like me and not to scared to buy secondhand, then you can find some great leather jackets at area vintage stores or online.

Jeans are a no brainer, I know, but you'd be surprised at how often you'd find yourself back in those busted sweatpants if your jeans aren't easy to wear or don't have the proper fit. Allow me to (re)introduce you to Gap, particularly their fabulous jeans. I have been all around the jean world, from Sevens to Earls to J Brands to Forever 21 and let me just tell you — Gap 1969 Premium Denim is the truth. Gap's denim rivals most premium brands; I own both a boyfriend cut and a skinny jean and I LOVE them! So why was I caught slippin' in class today you ask? Well, I'm still waiting on next weeks paycheck so I can run out and get the above, which is the "Real Straight" cut in "dark wash". There is nothing in the world more versatile. Mmmm, straight-leg, dark denim jeans...

Ah! A simple, low-top converse. Chic in it's simplicity, this is the lightest, easiest sneaker to just throw on and go. Plus, they don't get so beat up looking because (1) they're black and (2) they're canvas, which means you can just throw them in the washer from time to time. These are the perfect shoes to put on when you have something better to do than think about what shoes you want to put on...

So that's my list for "on the grind" chicness—a cute twist-up/twist-out 'do, a black leather bomber, some dark denim straight legs, and some simple black converse. What are your "go-to" items when you don't want to get caught slippin'? Share your comments below.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The power of editing...learn it by watching Bravo TV

Watching TV is a dangerous trap that seems to creep up during my strongest bouts of procrastination. What I should have been doing this morning was writing, but instead I was slipping into the vortex that is Bravo TV. While the ideals of entrepreneurship will always be my first passion, I get so easily sucked into anything that relates to fashion because as a concept, it's self-gratifying and liberating...much like entrepreneurship. My love affair with the world of fashion is especially dangerous when Project Runway reruns and the vintage clothing category on eBay are, respectively, a channel change and mouse click away...

Halfway through the end of the season finale of The Fashion Show, my boyfriend called to reprimand me for my fashion-induced lack of focus, given I hadn't updated my blog all weekend (apparently he's an avid reader). Though I knew he was totally right, there was something about today's episode that felt like more than mindless TV. Here I was, in awe of one of the contestant's fashion collection only to watch all of the judges shoot her down for lack of consistency. At first I disagreed with the judges criticisms as I felt the contestant had designed brilliant clothes with lots of interesting patterns and shapes, but it wasn't until the last judge made her comments that I suddenly "got it".

I paraphrase, but the judge said to the contestant, "What you've done with your work is create lots of beautiful, interesting chapters. I worry; however, that with all of these brilliant pieces that you've lost the storyline. You've forgot how to edit."

I never expected to find today's post topic from reality TV, but what that judge said was genius. So often as ambitious, spritely, young adults we dive head first into a lot of truly exceptional projects only to lose the "storyline" of our true goals. I am so, so, SO guilty of this as I am blessed and cursed to be pretty good at a lot of different things. If we want to be truly successful at the things that mean the most to us, we really have to learn what it means to edit and ratchet our efforts down.

A great article on this is The Power of One, from Life Learning Today (via Leo Babauta of Zenhabits.com). This article suggests that you rank all of your goals in order of importance, then work solely on the most important one until it is accomplished, then move down to the next one. Essentially, this method is the debt snowball of goal setting.

While I agree that you have to create a hierarchy for goals if you ever hope to complete any of them, working on one at a time is just too limiting for me as there is a lot that I want to accomplish. My method for editing is to choose one goal per category in your life to accomplish at a time. The trick is then to pick goals that still relate to the other categories. For example, I have a goal of finding an effective workout routine that I can do on a consistent basis. Though this would fall under the "health" category in my life, it's related to my productivity and spirituality goals. In other words, its okay to work on more than one goal at a time as long as you're being incestuous about it; keep it all related. If you're really determined, keeping everything in an excel spreadsheet or a simple notebook can help.

I know all this goal talk may seem geeky some, but it's really important to continuously edit yourself so that you can keep all of your energy focused. Had that contestant learned that, she might have had the winning collection.

Had I learned that, I might have had this post written a whole lot sooner.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Up My Sleeve...

Firstly, I'd like to apologize for the sporadic posting. Not only have I been knee deep in school work, but I've been working on a project that should be up and running by the end of October. What is this project you say? Well that, my friends, will be a secret until it's ready to be revealed.

Because I'm really bad at keeping secrets however, I'm posting an article from Clutch Magazine that (1) has some great information and (2) alludes to what it is I got my hands in. If you think you know what I'm up to, tweet me @thinkngrowchick on twitter with your guess to receive something special when my project is out. Enjoy, and keep your eyes open ;-)


The word on the street is vintage is back and better than ever! With the release of “Factory Girl” staring the fashionable Sienna Miller and celebrities rocking 70’s high waisted pants everywhere you look, vintage is definitely smoking hot. But honestly when is vintage not hot.

In fashion, there is rarely a new idea or concept. Most current trends can be traced back to a vintage look or style. Many famous designers have made their mark by adding new twists to old looks. Marc Jacobs borrows heavily from the 80’s in his latest collection, and look no further than 70’s for Christian Louboutin platforms inspiration. So why go to the designers to spend thousands of dollars to recreate e a look when you can buy vintage, get the original look and spend much less?

When buying vintage you want to set a price range. For instance, if you are going for a 60’s look and have a higher budget, invest in a Pucci piece. If your range is lower you can get the 60’s look with a funky mini dress and scarf. The Pucci piece will be more of an investment but the cheaper look will give you the same look without the price. Also, make sure not to look like your going to a Halloween party. You can avoid looking too costumey by not dressing in head to toe vintage. Mix some cool vintage finds with current pieces for a new twist on an old look.

Inspect the vintage piece you intend to buy thoroughly if you can. If you are buying online, try to buy from a seller with a return policy. And read their ad carefully. Some vintage pieces can have extreme wear while others can be in almost new condition. Vintage doesn’t mean old and used. Look for pieces that can last for years to come.

Now that you know what to look for when buying vintage, here are tips on where to look to get a great vintage find. Remember to go for classic pieces, invest wisely and put your own spin and flavor to old school pieces.

Set it and Forget it: A Natural Hair Care Plan for the Lazy and/or Rebellious

With all the information out there supposedly showing black women how to have fabulously long, strong, and wild natural hair, it's a little hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed. I mean, what on earth is a "baggie" and how often do I have to do it? Why do have to "protect my ends"...what if I want to show them off? Why do all the "natural" hair products cost a million dollars? Do I trim or don't I trim? Do I need to see a hairdresser when I'm natural, or not? Is shampoo allowed or am I forced to wash my hair with just conditioner for the rest of my life? What happens when I go on vacation and the airport takes away my 16 oz bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Do I have to do a hot oil treatment before swimming? Why are there so many RULES???

All of these questions weigh infinitely heavier on me when you couple them with the fact that I am a bum. Well not a total bum, but I do tend to bum out on things when I feel I have something more important on my plate. Don't get me wrong, hair is important ("hair is a woman's greatest accessory") but what happens when...oh I don't know, you have a 10 page research paper due for class next week? What happens when you're finally gaining traction on that clothing line you've been designing for 5 years? When you get that promotion at work and your hours increase? When your boyfriend comes over more often? When you're taking more time to volunteer with your church? What happens when, oh I don't know, life becomes kind of interesting and you can't spend 4 hours before bed every night massaging your scalp and "deep treating" your ends? Are Black women forever relegated to that back of the Pretty Hair Bus if we don't spend infinite amounts of time (and money) on our locks?

Call me rebellious, call me lazy, but I simply refuse to spend exorbitant amounts of my time on my hair anymore in the hopes of achieving hair greatness. Back in August, in my "Think and Grow Fabulous Hair" post, I prescribed myself the following plan:
  1. Track my progress obsessively
  2. Tie my hair up every night or at least sleep in a silk pillow case to deter breakage
  3. Continue to wash and style my hair when it's parted into four sections for less breakage and easier manageability
  4. Keep hair inspirations nearby in either a physical or online scrapbook
  5. Use natural products
  6. Use Henna regularly
  7. Style my hair using the Twist n' Curl method to promote growth
  8. Get a support system! (i.e. naturallycurly.com hair forums)

In a nutshell, I totally fell off from that plan. I wrote it because it was the best distillation of everything available online for natural haired women that I could come up with. Now that I am thoroughly exhausted with "doing my hair", I've stubbornly decided that oodles of effort is not what it takes for a Black woman to have nice, natural hair—especially if she's got other things to think about. My new plan is as follows:

  1. Track my progress obsessively Spend time on my hair when appropriate
  2. Tie my hair up every night or at least sleep in a silk pillow case to deter breakage Sleep in a satin bonnet cap—it's easy and it works on a myriad of hairstyles
  3. Continue to wash and style my hair when it's parted into four sections for less breakage and easier manageability Wash or co-wash my hair whenever I feel it needs it (generally every 3-4 days)
  4. Keep hair inspirations nearby in either a physical or online scrapbook When I see nice hair, I'll mentally note it and keep it moving
  5. Use natural products Use products that work (Raw Shea butter, Aubrey Organics Shampoo and Conditioner, and Kinky Curly Leave-In seem to do just fine)
  6. Use Henna regularly (Henna was way more hassle than it was worth...more on that in another post)
  7. Style my hair using the Twist n' Curl method to promote growth I like Bantu Knots—they take 10 minutes, require no heat, tools or supplies, and look great when you take them out
  8. Get a support system! (i.e. interact with people with nice hair who actively pursue other goals so that I don't sucked back into the "do your hair" vortex)

So I don't know, maybe I'm a lunatic and will fail miserably with my new "set it and forget it" approach to my 'fro, but since I've been actively "doing" my natural hair for 6 years with pretty mild results, I think a more hands off plan is exactly what my hair needs. We shall see...

How are all you naturals fairing with your quest for great hair? Is a certain amount of time on your hair required? Let me know by leaving your comments below...