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Walk A Mile In Her Shoes: Adriana Gustavson

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Hey StilettoGals, 

It is that time again to introduce you to another amazing entrepreneur, Adriana Gustavson.  I recently met Adriana at a women’s conference I spoke at a couple of weeks ago.  I am very excited to share her story as I absolutely love pretty things, especially lingerie.

StiletttoGal:  Tell us about yourself and your company?

Adriana Gustavson:  Well, I went to Harvard and got my Master’s in Business, after running away to join the circus, then used my fortune, after marrying Prince Henry, to startup… haha, just kidding! Isn’t that how we always think that it happens? Some kind of fantastical miracle?

My story is just as colorful, but not as pretty. I was born here in the valley of Los Angeles, to a teenage mom and a very poor family. Compared to the unique hardships my mother and grandmother have endured, I had it easy growing up. They worked very hard to provide a wonderful life for me, full of loving family. They instilled values that have helped me tremendously through starting this company, such as: spending money wisely, always giving back, having strong work ethics, taking the road less traveled, and always keeping others in mind.

I dropped out of college when I started my own tutoring company, because I realized I would much happier doing what I love and working for myself, than working a 9-5 job, building someone else’s dream. After teaching and tutoring math for 6 years, I realized that I preferred PEOPLE over numbers! Who would have guessed? Over the years I tried out different fields to figure out what I was passionate about: the restaurant business, the entertainment industry, real estate, property management, and massage therapy. The common thread in all of them was people, building relationships and building businesses. So, I became a Certified Life Coach, specialized in Relationships and Sexuality and did a tremendous amount of programs and trainings over the last couple years. Along the way, I discovered how important sexuality was to me, so I became an Educator at the Center for Positive Sexuality, where I teach on panels at local universities about minoritized topics around sexuality. I suppose you could call me a Jane of all trades at this point!

I started The Panty Drawer as an expression of myself. Yes, that’s right, panties are a way to express yourself, too. It’s a sex-positive, risqué company built to bring out both, the adorable, and the sexy. It’s a subscription-based panty sales company for women. You sign up for a monthly box to be delivered to your door, and you receive a beautiful box, with three pairs of new panties and a surprise along with it! The surprise will be something that makes you feel pampered, like hand-made bath salts, delightfully smelling body butter, or high quality jewelry. The box is meant to serve as a reminder to pamper yourself every once in a while, because you deserve it!! It’s like getting a gift every month!

I will also be using this company as a way to give back to the teen mom and pregnant teen community. Growing up with a teen mom was hard, but being a teen mom must have been a real challenge. If I can make a difference for someone like my mother, THAT is what will make this company fulfilling for me. As Sabrina Kay said, at SoGal’s event last month, “It’s PURPOSE that turns your career into your calling.”


SG:  What was the inspiration behind launching your company?

AG:  I’ve learned a lot about masculinity and femininity over the last few years, becoming a certified Relationship Coach. I’ve come to realize that the women in today’s society battle major challenges in the workforce. These challenges go beyond the glass ceiling and fighting for equality. They extend to our mental, emotional and physical health.  Forbes recently released an article about women in the workforce burning out by age 30, because they’re not taking care of themselves. Let me repeat that, AGE 30! Women are burning out before they even become real women! The term the “burnout syndrome” has become popular to describe it. Studies show that men are more likely to take breaks, get sufficient sleep, and take care of themselves, than women doing the same work. Women tend to set aside their own needs for long periods of time, in order to accomplish something. It’s like in romantic relationships, where women will go months, years even, going without what they really need, in order to keep a family together, or to keep her marriage working. It happens all across the board.

I wanted to start a company that helps women pamper themselves. That REMINDS them to pamper themselves, at the very least. That’s why it’s a monthly subscription, and that’s why each box comes with a surprise that women can pamper themselves. Panties are a symbol of the little things we can do to make us feel confident, sexy, and powerful. It’s the simple things that make the biggest difference. I can thank Steve Jobs for teaching me that one.

SG:  What has been your biggest challenges thus far in starting a business? 

Previously, with other business attempts, my biggest challenge was reaching out for help. Now that I successfully conquer that challenge on a daily basis, my biggest challenge has been letting go of doing things the “right” way.

I keep getting attached to doing everything “right,” before moving forward. I had to be the “right” age, have the “right” product, file the “right” paperwork, advertise the “right” way, etc, etc. Whatever that even means. Sometimes it’s helpful, mainly in giving me peace of mind and confidence, but that’s about it. Let me give you an example. I was waiting to launch this company next month, after I had the perfect video done, and the perfect advertising crew, to launch the perfect Kickstarter to take all of my presales. An incredible advisor of mine, Dominique Moralez, pushed me to JUST DO IT. He challenged me to start selling right away and make my first 10 sales that weekend. I had every reason not to even try. I didn’t have a functional website to take sign ups, I didn’t have the right plan of action, and it was a holiday weekend. Long story short, I took on his challenge, and in TWO DAYS, I had a fully functional ecommerce website up and not ten, but TWENTY sign ups!

If it weren’t for Dom, and his push, I never would’ve talked to Adam Maciel, who was also an integral part in my successful launch. Adam advised me to use a marketing strategy that made it all possible.

Failure, and doing things wrong, can be a scary thing. I have to conquer that fear on an hourly basis sometimes, but when I do, miracles happen.


SG:   What are three tips you could give to young entrepreneurs about launching a business?


1. Share

2. Share

3. Share!

Share about what you’re doing. Share about your goals. Share your ideas. Share with your family. Share with your friends. Share with strangers. Share your successes. Share your profits. Share your company.

You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to people. Ask for support. Be authentic. People are more willing to help you than you think. People WANT to be a part of your success, and WANT to be there to help you up when you fall. Let in the love, and share it with them. Get interested in what you can do for others. It’s easy to make it “all about me,” in life AND in starting a business. I know I was really attached to the first few businesses I started. I couldn’t let them go and grow on their own. I was too selfish to let other people take it over, and had too little self worth to ask for help. Give back to the community. I look at every business as an opportunity to be a community project. How can your ideas benefit the community? How will your service or product impact human kind? How can you give back to the communities you’re most passionate about? You’ll be surprised how many helping hands you have on board the moment you get outside of yourself, into other people’s world, and act as a part of a community.


SG:   What kind of shoe are you and why? (this is supposed to be the type of personality you are and what that shoe represents)

AG:  Bright pink, fuzzy stilettos with sparkles.

They’re sexy and adorable all at the same time! They look soft enough to pet and cuddle up with, but sexy enough to go out in a cute dress with. They demand attention, they’re out of the ordinary, they’re feminine, and they’re playful!


AG:  As a thank you to the amazing Angel that Hillary is, I’d like to offer all of you readers a gift!
Use promo code SHOES at www.pantydrawer.io to get your first box FREE when you sign up :)
Social Media:
Instagram: thepantydrawersubscriptionbox
Twitter: @ThePantyDrawer

Walk A Mile in Her Shoes: Pocket Sun

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There comes a time in our lives when we meet someone who reminds us of our younger selves.  If you don’t know Pocket Sun, you should.  I recently had the pleasure of meeting this amazing young lady at one an event she hosted back in November last year.  She has a very inspiring story and I am more than proud of all of her accomplishments thus far.

StilettoGal:  Please tell us about yourself and how you started GirlsUp.


Pocket Sun:  I was born and raised in northern China until I came to the US for college in 2009. I’m a travel enthusiast and I’ve been to 22 countries. Currently I’m a student at USC Marshall, studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I started GirlsUp in November 2014 when I felt the lack of female presence in the startup environment at USC. Everywhere I went, men were all over the place, speaking, judging, mentoring, investing, pitching or sitting in the audience. But where did the girls go? Entrepreneurship should not be a men’s world. I saw the need to create a chic community for young female entrepreneurs because there was no organization that focuses both on entrepreneurship and young millennial women.


SG:  Who inspires you and why?


PS:  The women I have met since I started GirlsUp are amazing! I get inspired everyday by women that I come across on my journey. Each of them has a different story, but they share the great energy and the willingness to help other women. Hillary is definitely one of them! I’ve benefited so much from her warm encouragement.


SG:  What has been your proudest moment?


PS:   It will have to be this Saturday! I’ve put in a good two and a half months of hard work into the SoGal Summit and it’s incredible to see it take shape bit by bit. I was very discouraged in the beginning, but Hillary and many other women and men helped get me back up. I am incredibly grateful for the great community that has shown so much support! I am super excited to see all my efforts turn into reality and to empower many young women to chase their dreams.

SG:  What is your favorite thing about owning your own business?


PS:  Taking ownership means tremendous responsibilities but also unlimited opportunities. I love seeing that my work is recognized and my organization is growing so fast. It’s been so rewarding for me even though I work like crazy. Owning it gives me more purpose and drive to put in whatever I have into it. I’m creating value and a positive impact to the world! It makes my heart sing.


SG:  Can you give 3 tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?

- Trust yourself. You are just as good and equipped as anyone else. If people tell you that you can’t, it’s they can’t. Have faith in yourself! (Thanks Alexis Jones!)

- Be ready to be in a relentless, constant execution mode. You own it now, so you can’t just quit! (Thanks Aaron Levie)

- Set a goal and implement the “be – do – have” methodology. Want to accomplish something? Throw yourself into that reality, do everything you can to make it more real, and you will own it. (Thanks Jason Okuma!)

- Bonus tip: Help people around you to reduce their stress. When you put yourself in their shoes, make their life happier and their work easier, people start to gravitate towards you. That’s how you succeed. (Thanks Mark Cuban!)

SG:  What kind of shoe are you and why?


PS:  Pointed flats. Feminine, ambitious, easy to make rapid strides.

We hope to see you this weekend at The SoGal Summit.  




Walk A Mile in Their Shoes: Marta Ferro & Ann Lawrence

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Hi StilettoGals!

As you know, StilettoGals are all about giving back, these two amazing ladies have reinvented the word with Pink51.

Marta Ferro, Co-Founder & CEO, Pink51 

StilettoGal:   Please tell us about yourself and how you started your business?
Marta Ferro:  I am a social entrepreneur, philanthropist, mom, wife, sister and daughter, and a soccer player.  I love building teams and businesses, and feel passionate about equality issues including gender equality.  When Ann Lawrence came to me with the idea for Pink51, I immediately knew it was something I needed to explore further with her.  We started the business by building and empowering a core, senior team of experts in marketing, finance, technology, strategy, and sales and launched the beta version of the Pink51.com site in summer 2014. We are about to launch an updated version this Spring.  Pink51 is creating a community of like-minded partners and businesses who care strongly about our mission to support and promote women’s leadership in business.  Pink51 is also a platform to reinforce that the most successful businesses are diverse and it is best for all of us to have greater gender parity in business leadership.  This community is driving the pink movement together.

SG:   Who inspires you and why?

MF:  A lot of people inspire me who are well known and friends but it starts with my two aunts, Rose and Angie Ferro, who were young adults during the great depression and built successful entrepreneurial careers and philanthropic legacies coming from a lower class, male dominated world.  On top of that, Angie was a trailblazing Lesbian around sexual orientation equality issues as well.  They inspire me because against many odds, they were successful as business leaders, investors, and social champions.  And they stayed true to their passions in both business and life, and built teams and a family of friends around them who were there throughout their 90+ years of life.  I have Rose’s “Miss Ferro” desk plaque on my desk and it makes me smile and motivated every day.

SG:   What has been your proudest moment?

 MF:  My proudest moment was giving birth to my son.  Being a mother has added richness in life, and a profound love, that I didn’t know existed nor could have described until he came into the world.

SG:   What has been your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?

MF:  Having enough time to accomplish everything I want to achieve is my biggest ongoing challenge. I have overcome this reality (of course not 100%) by building incredible teams in every business and initiative I am involved with.  I couldn’t do my work (or family life—shout out to my husband!) without a team, and feel grateful everyday for numerous people in my life who are working together to drive our common goals forward.

SG:  How do you define success?

MF:  Success is finding true purpose in life, sharing yourself and your good fortune with others, and feeling authentic in your own shoes.

SG:  Can you give 3 tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?


1.  Find the right partners, team members and/or mentors.  Working as a team is usually more dynamic, achieves better, more thoughtful results, and provides a sounding board and more people to get the work done.

2. Maintain existing and build new relationships with purpose.  Rely on these people as you are growing your business, need referrals, require talent, want to bring on partners, build a team, etc.

3.  Be analytical and test your business idea/model robustly.  Just because something is a hobby or passion, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good business opportunity.  Think about the opportunity cost before committing.

SG:  What kind of shoe are you and why?

MF:  Right now I am definitely a stiletto ankle boot!  I like making a strong statement with my shoes (and other accessories) and feeling inspired through how I dress.  The combination of the boot and high heel are me—practical, elegant, sporty, confident, and fun.


Ann Lawrence, Co-Founder & Chief Visionary Officer, Pink51 


SG:   Please tell us about yourself and how you started your business?

AL:  I am a partner at DLA Piper and work with small and large companies in a variety of industries. As a consumer, I was frustrated by the lack of transparency among brands and how difficult it was to find products that supported women in business.


SG:  Who inspires you and why?

AL:  I am inspired by women who make it happen and people who know they can be game-changers. The Pink51 team came together because we were all passionate optimists that know we can change the world and make an impact. When you put passionate people in the room, you can move mountains.

SG:  What has been your proudest moment?

AL:  My proudest moment was the first time our entire Pink51 team came together before our launch. We saw a problem, we had an idea for a solution and now it is a reality. To see so many women come together as a virtual team based on nothing but passion, is an amazing thing.

SG:   What has been your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?


ML:  I think our biggest challenge has been the cynicism around the women’s movement. There is a lot of negativity around women in business and how to solve the “problem” that women aren’t succeeding in business at the same rate as people had hoped. Looking back 20 years, there hasn’t been much progress and people have a lot of negative thoughts on why and how to solve the problem. We believe that transparency and positive action can and will change the economy. If women want to see more women succeeding in business, that will happen when they support those businesses by purchasing their products. We have overcome it by staying true to our mission and proving that women in business can work together and create better returns for companies that work with Pink51.

SG:  How do you define success?

AL:  Success for Pink51 is about creating an economy where women in business can succeed. We want to build the largest network of women in business and with more than 7 million women-owned businesses alone, we know we are an economic force if we come together and support each other.


SG:  Can you give 3 tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?


1. Be nimble but resilient. A lot of people will question your mission, and you have to walk the fine line of staying true to your mission while being able to hear and react to constructive criticism. Many entrepreneurs get caught on one side or the other and it can stunt your growth and success.


2. Work with people you love and respect. Building the right team is critical and you need to find people that have passion and expertise. The early days of any startup are stressful and you need to be able to have a lot of open dialogue and communication if you want to succeed. If the team doesn’t have trust, you won’t get very far.


3. Culture is not a buzzword, it is who you are. If you don’t have a voice you don’t have a company. A lot of people build companies designed to “target” an audience based on a report or study. Those people believe that if you throw marketing dollars at the idea then it becomes a brand. I think consumers are changing and demanding that a brand be more than marketing spend and I think you need to have a passionate core team that is your consumer in order to be authentic. If you aren’t living and breathing your brand, then today’s consumer will know it.


SG:  What kind of shoe are you and why?
AL:  DRESR’s new wing shoe. Because it is new and different, looks great but is totally functional. The unique design is subtle, but makes all the difference in giving you comfort while still rocking a 4 inch heel. (Necessary when you are barely 5’3″ and stand next to Marta and Diana).




Walk A Mile in Her Shoes: Kristen Ruby

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Hey StilettoGals,

It has been a while since we last posted on Walk A Mile in Her Shoes.  We have been very busy building our brand and I am excited to relaunch the series with an amazing woman entrepreneur, Kristen Ruby.  You may have seen her lately on Bravo TV, but Kristen is so much for than a pretty face on your TV set, she is the founder of Ruby Media Group, a PR and Social Media Agency based in New York City.  She has built her empire from the ground up and I am truly inspired by her.  I am pretty sure all of you will be too.


StilettoGal:  Please tell us about yourself and how you started your business?

Kristen:   I started my business when I graduated from Boston University’s College of Communications. I previously had 13 internships while in college and wanted to branch out on my own. I originally started working with Ted Miller of Datakey Consulting in strategic management consulting doing social media. Since then, I have expanded my service offering from social media to full service Public Relations.


SG: Who inspires you and why?


KR:  Powerful women definitely inspire me. For example, I had the pleasure of working with two wonderful women on my recent reality show on BRAVO. Angela Rae Berg really inspired me- she cares about her job but first and foremost about the quality of life of the people she is working with. She has a moral compass and sense of ethics in her work that is unsurpassed. She also inspires me because she taught me how to be a better communicator. Many people in life will let you get away with the way you have always been. Few people in life will shine a light on you and help you see a better way that works well for others. These are the type of people that can change the course of your life.  For me, Angela Rae Berg was definitely this type of person and I am forever grateful to have met her and had the privilege of working with her.


SG:  What has been your proudest moment?


KR:  My proudest moment is definitely when I am on air discussing social media and tech trends. I love being on air and connecting with the public on relevant issues that shape public opinion.


SG:   What has been your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?


KR:  My biggest challenge in business has been learning how to be “nice” and a people person. When people think of business challenges, they often think of Profit & Loss issues or ROI issues. For me, my biggest challenge has been growing and maintaing relationships. I had no problem growing campaigns, but there was always a disconnect between growing them and communicating that to the client. I thought just growing it was enough. Now, I realize communicating with clients is equally if not more important so they can constantly see the value add and feel the agency client relationship is strong.


SG:   How do you define success?


KR:  Success is defined by having everything you want. It isn’t monetary. It is inner peace. You have to redefine success around the life you want to live- the life  you create. Recently, someone posted on Facebook and said what would you do if you won the lottery? I responded, “I would do exactly what I am doing now and give the lottery money to my parents so they could retire early.” To me, winning the lottery doesn’t really mean much. When you have your own business, the world is your oyster and you always have the ability to “win the lottery” with the amount of work and dedication you put into growing your business. I would rather work hard for something I earned then be handed something.


SG:  Can you give 3 tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?



1. Be Resilient. You will get rejected 20 times a day in this industry. It’s normal.

2. Have a thick skin. Most people won’t like you. That’s ok. As long as you like yourself and feel like you are giving the world something of value that can benefit others, don’t listen to the naysayers.

3. Be kind. The best investment you will ever make is on your self- whether through continuing education or spirituality. Your inner vessel needs to be clear for you to shine as an entrepreneur with those you manage and those that retain your services. Make sure your house is in order before you build a business. If not, it will always come back to you.


SG:   What kind of shoe are you and why?


KR:  I am a thigh high Chanel boot- trendy with the thigh high leather, yet classic with the pearls and tough sole.


For more information about Kristen and her company visit rubymediagroup.com




Kristen’s Chanel Boots



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