I recently had the honour of connecting with a powerful leader and an incredibly creative business owner and interior design expert, Allison Crawford.  Allison is an interior designer and founder of Hotelette, an award-winning collection of luxury short-term rentals in Austin, Nashville and Dallas.

In this interview Allison shares with us about a bachelorette trip that inspired her business, why we do not need to have a huge budget to be effective in our marketing, and why the interior design doesn’t have to be a “fussy experience”.

Continue reading →

Over the many years since Leaders in Heels began, we have worked with hundreds of contributors, watched our six-figure community prosper and collaborated with so many talented experts. These experiences have taught us many things, including how different people hone their productivity. We’ve pooled some of this knowledge, including some hidden gems from super busy women, to create this guide for improving productivity.

Continue reading →

Great businesses are born and developed every day.  Yet with the constant pressure of making money, remaining ahead of trends, staying afloat and thriving in a competitive and overcrowded marketplace, it’s no wonder business owners turn their attention to ‘experts’ and outside opinions to improve their business.  As a business owner, what happens when a once-thriving business suddenly declines? Is it the market, the conditions or something even less conspicuous… you simply lost your way? 

How business owners can stay accountable and true to themselves

  1. Review your reasons for why you are in business

    List the reasons you decided to start your business in the first place. Once you have listed these reasons, ask yourself, are you still are aligned with these, or have things changed for you since you first established your business? Are you are still contributing in the same way you did when you first started? If not, what needs to change? Take the time to brainstorm to ensure you are really honest about your current feelings and reasons.

  2. Take a moment to get some honest feedback

    Our customers and clients can offer valuable feedback, as after all, they are the ones who already engage with you, and may continue to do so. These are the opinions other than your own, that you may need to explore.  Make a few phone calls to gather this information on their experiences with you. Listen to the feedback and consider the responses to this collective information. How can you adjust different areas of your business that may need improving, and strengthen the ones that are valued?

  3. Take time out for you

    What activities outside of your business make you happy? Ensuring we have regular time in our personal lives to exercise, connect with loved ones, engage in hobbies, or to simply rest, impacts our ability to feel happier, energised, and more engaged in our business. We are less reactive and more proactive in our business operations and decisions. This investment in ourselves is invaluable and allows for greater long-term sustainability to continue running a successful business.

  4. Do a ‘gap’ analysis

    Take an inventory of your business.  Where are you now and where do you want to be in one year, 10 years from now?  What are you good at? Who do you need to hire? Who are your clients now? What clients do you want to work with? Who are the clients you do you not want to work with? What products and services can you offer? Are there additional revenue streams? Take a broader look at your business, your life, your targets and be accountable.

  5. Project Manage Yourself

    Ask yourself what daily, weekly, and monthly action steps you can take today, that will create change or improvement in your business?  Use tools that can help you do this easily and successfully. Many digital applications now make this helpful to keep yourself, and your team, on track. This can reduce the feeling of overwhelm, improve efficiency, and develop a sense of achievement.

  6. Measure your success

    It is important to give yourself feedback about where you are now and where you are going. What activities are you doing now that will grow your business and help you achieve the targets you have set?  How can you measure those? Is it by looking at the numbers – an increase in revenue, profit or cash flow? Or is it looking at how much fun, joy and adventures are you having in your business? Or is it both? Whatever that measurement is will shine clarity on the choices and actions you would like to continue or adjust.

You create your experiences just as you create your business. You are also accountable for what you create. Be honest of where you need to improve, or become more efficient, and enjoy your business again.

Arlene Schmidek discusses businessAbout the author
Arlene Schmidek is a
Being You facilitator and has been in the industry of business, life and wellness development for more than 30 years. Arlene is co-owner of a multi-million dollar family-owned dealership, which is now celebrating its 44th year of operation, in addition to being a co-founder of a consulting and training business. She brings a wealth of experience across many disciplines, coupled with a passion for creating positive change with her work with Access Consciousness.

 


When thinking about hiring mums, I often reflect on years ago when I used to manage recruitment for a large online business. Whenever I’d get an application from an entrepreneur I’d immediately turn them down because I thought their skills wouldn’t be a good fit, they didn’t fit the brief and they wouldn’t want to work for someone else for too long. 

Wrong.  In fact, my mantra now is “Always hire the entrepreneurs!”. The skills, resilience and work ethic needed to be an entrepreneur means there’s a high chance they’ll be successful anywhere. 

Now my new hiring tip is mums. Why? Well, let’s look at the skills you want in an employee.

Time management

If you’re anything like me, chances are you get way more done on the last day before you head off on a holiday because you know exactly what you need to get done before you go and you have a hard deadline. This is how mums approach Every. Single. Day. They just don’t have time to muck around. 

Resilience

One thing you can be sure of in business that things will get hard on a regular basis. You want employees who can rise above the stress and keep a clear head. Being a mum dramatically changed my definition of stressful. Give me a tough day at work over dealing with a screaming, wriggling child whose nappy hasn’t been able to contain a truly astounding amount of explosive poo on less than four hours sleep over the past three days combined. Hiring mums cannot builds resilience in your team.

Flexibility

Things don’t always go to plan and the ability to be flexible and find a way around problems rather than grinding to a halt at the first sign of difficulty is a crucial skill. This pretty much describes every day of my life since becoming a mum. I feel like Macgyver half the time, using whatever is at hand to get the job done and changing plans at the last second to accommodate my daughter Izzy is the norm.

Empathy

In any team you need people with empathy, especially in your leaders. Empathy is the grease that keeps a team working well together, and customers happy. Needing to learn how to provide for a small human who can’t talk is a great lesson in empathy. And when they can talk, they’re still learning to control their emotions and feelings which can challenge and grow those empathy muscles in a big way.

Hiring mums is great for your leadership team

In my experience, mums tend to make strong leaders. Just like each child is different, with different needs and wants, the same is true of adults too and parents seem to intuitively get this with those they manage. It’s also pretty hard to get kids to do anything you want and you quickly develop mastery of creating a compelling vision and getting everyone on the same bus to get there as a team.

Ego

This is probably the most important one for me. Having Izzy quickly realigned what’s actually important in my life. So many things I used to feel were important suddenly didn’t feel all that important anymore. This has translated directly into business for me, I find it much easier to let things go and find myself asking questions like “is this the best for the business, or am I doing it for me?”. This is a trait I really look for in my team – the ability to check your ego at the door.

About Libby Babet

Libby is co-founder of upcoming immersive business and wellness retreat for women hosted, Nurture Her, hosted 18-22 October in Fiji, which has attracted fantastic speakers including Julie Bishop. A wellness guru who has appeared as a trainer on The Biggest Loser: Transformed, Libby also owns several fitness studios and a healthy snack business with two brands, Chief Bar and Beauty Food.


We’re proud to see so many women taking charge in industries that have previously been considered male-dominated. Hoping to dig a little deeper into this, Rajapack, a packaging company (themselves founded by two women in 1954), spoke to ten women currently working in male-dominated environments. Focussing on inspirational women from the construction, packaging, engineering and manufacturing industries, they wanted to find out what advice these women would have for others looking to get into. Check out these experiences from women working in male-dominated industries.

Continue reading →

Megan Hess is one of the world’s most well-known fashion illustrators, having illustrated portraits for the New York Times, Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair, Prada, Cartier, Dior and FENDI. Not only is Megan a talented artist, but she has also written and illustrated seven best-selling books, is a mum, an artist in residence to multiple international venues and has built a global business. She is a leader who inspires!

Megan was kind enough to share her experiences in starting a business and her reflections on being a leader.

Megan Hess Drawing

How did you land your first client? Were they in fashion?

I studied Graphic Design because it felt like a ‘real’ job in the art world, but I really always wanted to be an illustrator. I just never knew that it was a possible career choice! After working as an Art Director in Ad agencies for several years, I packed everything up and moved to London. It was in London that I worked in a million different creative jobs and my final job there realised that I had a burning desire to be an artist.

At this time, I was the Art Director for Liberty Department Store. While I loved art-directing fashion, I loved illustrating it more. I started to do very small illustrations for Liberty and from this other art directors saw my work and little commissions began to follow. After about a year I found myself with non-stop work. I wasn’t earning a fortune, but I’d never been happier, and I knew I was going to do this forever.

As my clients got bigger and better, I was able to be a little more selective, and just work on briefs that I knew had a great creative opportunity. Then in 2006, I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel ‘One Fifth Avenue’. This was when things took off at rapid speed for me. Her book became a New York Times bestseller, and I met with Candace, and she asked me to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of ‘Sex and The City’. Once ‘Sex and the City’ was released I was contacted by TIME magazine in New York to create portraits for them.

Following this, I began illustrating for Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman and Ladure. Ironically, at the same time as my work finally took off, I had my first baby!! It’s funny, I always tell people that I haven’t really slept since 2006!!

 

What was it like to go from working on your own to hiring staff and having to be the leader in your team?

At first, I was terrified of hiring staff because I had worked on my own for so long. But as soon as I had my first employee, I realised I should have hired someone years ago! My business dramatically grew, and I was suddenly able to get back to focusing on creating. It was the best business decision I ever made.

 

What do you look for in an employee about to join the Megan Hess team?

I always start with personality. I believe if someone has a great personality and is intelligent, they have the capability to do anything. My team is small, so it’s important that everyone gets along and respects one another.

It’s very important to me that everyone feels safe and loved. Even though it’s work, we all spend a lot of time together so everyone feeling good is so important. I’m so proud to say I work within a group of women that feel like family. I’m very lucky.

 

What achievement are you most proud of?

Getting paid to do what I love for a living and being a Mother. I see that as a huge luxury to be able to do both, and it’s something that I’m very grateful for every day. I’ve also been able to donate many pieces of my work for charities and causes all over the world, and in some small way, I feel proud that one of my drawings may have helped someone where.

As Creative Patron of Ovarian Cancer, I’ve also had the privilege of working with the most inspiring team of people trying to raise awareness and funds for the development of an early detection test for Ovarian Cancer.

Megan Hess Book

As your career has grown, you’ve worked with some incredible brands. How did you first initiate these client relationships?

I am very grateful to all the amazing brands that I have worked with. For me, it’s been years of building those relationships. Each new project attracts a new client, and I have been fortunate to have been commissioned by such diverse and creative companies all over the world.

 

What areas of leadership are you most confident in and are there aspects of it that you struggle with?

I’m a big picture person. I don’t like to micromanage. I’ve always believed in the theory that it is best to work with people who are faster, smarter and much better at certain things than me. I know my strengths, and I love to let my team manage and take ownership of their roles. I’ve learnt that autonomy is very important for people to grow and for a company to grow.

Megan Hess Desk

How do you find owning your own business and being a mum? Does your home, office etc always look as good as on Instagram?

Ha! Well, sadly no although I wish it did. Actually, my studio always looks pretty good because we all make an effort to keep it ready for both chic clients who drop by and last-minute photoshoots. My home is sometimes completely tidy and lovely, and other weeks I have piles of washing, dishes and school projects everywhere!! It’s a normal household full of lovely chaos!

 

You have such a diverse business including prints, commissions, books, homewares/styling and more. Can you describe your creative process?

I hand draw all my line work with a custom Montblanc pen and ink, then I either leave it black and white or add colour with gouache, watercolour and digital means. Some of my illustrations are very fast. I usually post a quick sketch on my Instagram account each morning (@meganhess_official) and I only ever give myself 10 minutes for that – because I have so many deadlines to get through! Most of my work can take anywhere from an hour to several days. It just depends on the complexity of the illustration.

If it’s for a client, it starts with a brief, and I always give myself a good amount of initial time to dream and get inspired about what I’m going to draw. Sometimes I’ll do initial sketches or create a mood board of concepts and ideas. Then I’ll discuss with my clients where my direction is heading. Then it’s to the physical drawing phase, and I’m usually in absolute joy creating the final image.

See the magical work of Megan Hess.

 

Anastasia BenvenisteAbout the author
Anastasia Benveniste loves anything digital or creative and is passionate about human rights. She gets enormous amounts of personal satisfaction through her work in digital communications, as it allows her to share people’s stories. She has a Masters in Design Communication, and her favourite academic experience was spending a semester studying at Yale University. Outside of work, she loves art history, painting and anything monogrammed! www.benvoa.com