****This blog is no longer updated at this address!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

"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!

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