Posts Tagged Entrepreneurs

Featured: Tracy Joy

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | Permalink

image of Tracy Joy courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

The best way to describe Chicago-area entrepreneur Tracy Joy would be as a modern day Renaissance woman. Juggling a family life with four demanding businesses can be tough, but Tracy pulls it off with a flair that is to be both commended and admired.  Her four companies (Tracy JoyPink Heels BoudoirProp Insanity, and The Joy Bag Collection) all stemmed from an initial love of sewing and photography.  Proving once again that if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.

37w: So as we were emailing back and forth, I noticed that on your email it states “Yes…I’m a busy girl.” You obviously wear a lot of different hats, was that always the plan or was it just how things turned out?

TJ: I’ve always been “busy”… coming from a background of entrepreneurs (men) in my family, I thought it should be the girls’ turn…so my mom and I started up TJ Inc in 2006, for our camera bag line. From there, I picked up a DSLR camera (a life dreamer and photographer by hobby), and realized the great gift of photography that I had!  From there…  my photography lead me to my love of all things “photography prop”, anything I could use on a baby or toddler, even an adult, to fancy up and bring a little fun into my photography… which is where Prop Insanity came from.   And my latest company, Pink Heels Boudoir, is my “baby”…shared with an amazing photography partner Jamie B.

In my life, things kind of come to me in a “stream”… my crafty sewing led to the bag line, which led to my photography, which led to my props… you get the point.   I’m a full-on, go-getter, never holding back to say “I wish I had done that”, I want to be the old lady one day who says “I did it ALL!”.

37w: In January 2010, you launched a new bag line The Joy bag collection (which we love, btw).  That had to take time away from your amazing photography, how are you able to split your focus?

TJ: My focus…that’s funny 🙂   I don’t focus on one thing, I don’t think I’m “engineered” to do that, lol…. which runs in my family.  A little bit of OCD, mixed in with the skill of multitasking-add a touch of caffeine to that and there is my day! Lol! I’m also lucky to have my mom as a business partner. Without her sewing skills, customer service qualities, and my father’s helping hand with my kids…my business life wouldn’t be possible.   Also, having all of my business’ surrounding the basic thought of “photography,” helps to keep it all in sync.  It all blends nicely together, in one happy insanely busy world of “Me.”

The Bliss bag from The Joy Bag Collection

37w: Family is a recurring theme in your blog posts, can you tell me a bit about the support you have received and how it has inspired your work?

TJ: My mother is “that” woman… you know her, the one who can do anything she puts her mind to?  She can see something in the store, on TV, whereEVER and replicate it.  T A L E N T (lol).  Lucky for me,  she bore that “talent” into me.  I’ve always tinkered and been more creative than “book smart.”   And then there is my father… we like to think of him “Grandpa Daycare.”  My kids are very attached to him, as they see him on a pretty regular basic (at least 3 times per week!).   My sister is a HARD WORKER, to the core. She’s always been busy busy busy, and about the #1 best’ola employee anyone could ask for. Every so often, she lends her time to us…in the form of her darling baby (my niece Georgia) to my camera lens! LOL!

However, my favorite people in the world who offer the most support… my husband and my kids.  As you image, I spend a lot of time w/my companies… so the one battle I have is work vs. family time.  Thankfully, they are all wonderfully patient with me, and supportive of me and my companies (‘cause they know what’s best for them if they want dinner on the table! lol). Little did my husband know, he married a creative junkie!

image of Tracy Joy and her family courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

37w: Let’s talk Pink Heels Boudoir Portraiture.  I know you feel that it is important to help women of all shapes and sizes express their beauty, but has this new venture also given you a newfound sense of empowerment?

TJ: It is AMAZING! Jamie and I created Pink Heels Boudoir in February this year, and it has exploded!   We do this not for the job of it, but for the women that we photograph.  Every, and I honestly mean EVERY, woman should experience this sort of photography. It’s liberating, empowering, and really leaves you feeling “awed” by yourself.  It’s amazing how so many women, us regular every day women, forget how stunningly beautifully we are, and how easy it is to get back in tune with our bodies and our image.  We like to stomp right on the conventional thought of beauty, and bring a new light to women and their thoughts on what beauty is.

image courtesy of Pink Heels Boudoir Portraiture

37w: Prop Insanity seems like a great way to bring together different suppliers in order to make props easier for photographers to find.  Did this site develop out of personal necessity, did you sense a need in the field, or a little of both?

TJ: It developed out of a simple LOVE for photography props.  When the idea came to my mind, I contacted a fellow photographer friend of mine, Gina of Peahead Prints, who I also knew was obsessed with Photography props… and we let Prop Insanity blossom!   It’s funny, when I go into a “home” store now.. I don’ think “Aww, that basket would be cute in my house”, instead I think “hmmm, can I fit a baby in that”, hahaha.

image courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

37w: As a highly motivated individual, balancing 4 businesses and a very dedicated family life, what advice would you have for people (especially mothers) who are stepping out of the box and trying their hand at more than one industry?

TJ: Don’t hold back… and enjoy the ride!  If you can, dive in feet first (never head first! lol).   When I get an idea, I run with it…. build up great customer relations… and join places like Facebook & Etsy to promote and sell your products and/or ideas.   Marketing and promoting are VERY important… if you don’t sell your own product, no one else will.

When it comes to photography….take advantage of your surroundings…offer up your services to friends, family, and even strangers! One of my best clients, who has referred 10+ other clients to me, was someone I met at the park on a sunny day with my kids.   So don’t be embarrassed, or hold back, people will enjoy you!

37w: So, what’s next for Tracy Joy?

TJ: Beats me!  I never say never… but for now, I think I have enough going on, lol.  I’d like to say I’ll win the lotto and buy a giant natural light studio in my town…  or just jet off my tiny clientele to exotic places for photography sessions.  A girl can dream…so who has a buck for the daily lotto for me?

image courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

Featured: Roula Rallis

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 | Permalink

Scarlet Blouse by Roula Rallis, image courtesy of Roula Rallis

You could say that Roula Rallis’ new venture is a product of fate.  A gradual building of small pieces of time and opportunity, adhered together by a relentless knowledge that talent should not be wasted, and excitement should not be forgotten.  We are proud to feature an interview with Roula, who is one of our newest clients and has a story that is inspiring to anyone who is lingering between pursuing their dream or putting it off for just one more year.

Having begun a few months ago, Roula has started small (continually growing!) and proven that it is possible to work a day job, stay married, and pursue your first love, all the while blogging about the adventure.

Interview with Roula Rallis:

Beth: First off, tell us a little about yourself.  Where are you from and what do you do?

Roula: I am married and live in the New Hampshire area. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Colby Sawyer College. I work for a Health Care Management company as an Operations Project Manager.

B: When did your interest in fashion begin and why did you not pursue it as a career (if you don’t mind me asking)?

R: My interest in fashion began from a very young age. My sister and I used to dress up in my mom’s clothes and pretend we were models walking the runway. Growing up I also had the opportunity to spend many summers over seas in Europe. My summers abroad exposed me to cutting edge trends and cultures where people pride themselves on how they dress. It was always really cool to come back to the states wearing fashion trends that were 2 or 3 years ahead. (This was before the internet).

I decided not to pursue a career in fashion because I thought a business degree would give me more opportunities and the experience needed to start my own business.

B: When did you start sketching and outsourcing your designs?

R: I think I was 16 years old when I really started to sketch clothes and outsource their design. My first design was for a prom dress. My grandmother sewed it for me and I remember feeling so proud when people admired it.

Apple Blossom Blouse designed by Roula Rallis, image courtesy of Roula Rallis

B: Was part of your desire to outsource designs because you wanted to wear your own fashions?  Do you design because you see voids in the fashion market?

R: Yes I have always loved wearing unique clothing that no one else has.

I design because I really enjoy doing it even if I don’t make any money from it. There is something to be said in this day and age about learning a craft that allows you to work with your hands. It feels great to be able to take a piece of fabric and mold it into something that wasn’t there before.

B: You talk in your blog about two catalysts that caused you to seriously pursue this venture.  You say, “Two things: realizing that I had officially lost my Kefi (the Greeks define Kefi as someone’s joy or passion) and coming across a random business card for sewing lessons at my uncle’s pizza place.”  How did you know that you would find your Kefi by pursuing your own business (albeit still small) in fashion?

R: I actually did not know that I would find my Kefi from starting a business. I’m a total planner so this was a nice surprise. All I knew was that I really enjoyed being creative and I felt that I had lost that part of myself (because there are no creative opportunities in my line of work). Once I started my sewing lessons I realized I had tapped into an existing passion and from there everything else seemed to fall into place.

B: What has been the most intimidating part of actually branching out and sewing your own designs, as well as publicly selling your clothing?

R: That I have no real sewing experience (I have only been sewing less than 2 months) and I know I have a lot to learn. That the designs that I think of in my head I can’t execute yet. For now I rely on basic patterns and modify them to make them my own. My goal is to eventually feel confident enough in my sewing skills to create my own patterns. For now I like to think of myself as a sponge I am continually soaking up as much sewing knowledge as I possibly can.

B: Where does your inspiration come from and who are some of the fashion leaders and icons who you look up to?

R: I get inspiration from everywhere and with anything that has color, texture or print.

A few fashion icons/leaders that I look up to are Diane Von Furstenberg because I love her use of contemporary prints, Michael Kors because his designs always flatter a woman’s body, ABS because I think it’s amazing that every year he takes couture Oscar dresses and re-designs them so they are affordable for the masses.

Bird Blouse designed by Roula Rallis, image courtesy of Roula Rallis

B: How would you describe your style and design?

R: I would describe my style as a mix between traditional and contemporary. I love clean and simple lines with romantic touches that make a woman feel chic and feminine. There has to be a good balance between classic and trendy. My motto is that less is sometimes more–you don’t want the clothes to wear you, you want to wear the clothes.

B: You also mention on your blog that in the process of buying your sewing machine, you had to promise to use it and not let it “collect dust somewhere in the basement.”  Do you ever feel, especially now that you’re up on Etsy and have the new blog, that there is a chance the work you are so charged about will not continue through this year?  I think one of the biggest challenges to new ventures is getting burnt out or bored.  How do you feel you can overcome things like that now that you’re already moving full speed ahead?

R: No I don’t think there is a chance that the work I’m doing will not continue through this year  because this is my dream and I am committed to setting reasonable goals and expectations for myself and my new business. For example a few goals I have in mind for the next 6 months are to attend at least 2 local craft fairs/festivals, present my designs to a handful of local boutiques in my area, and begin sewing off of my own patterns. I know it takes time to build something and I’m willing to put that time in.

I believe I will overcome the risk of getting bored by continuing to love what I do and by making sure the work I am doing is challenging.

To see Roula’s work, you can find her on Etsy, here.  And, you can find Sewcialite on Facebook, here and the blog, here.

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