Sky’s the Limit: What it means to be an ethical brand with Marisa Flacks of RISE Creative

Hi!!! I’m so excited you’re here for my next edition of Sky’s The Limit, a blog of Q&A-style interviews featuring women entrepreneurs I admire. My next interview features Marisa Flacks, founder of RISE Creative—a creative marketing agency for ethical fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands.

Believe it or not, Marisa and I met at a networking event and hit it off right away even though I’m considerably older. That’s right, Marisa is only 24 years old and has been running a kick ass AND successful creative marketing agency for two years now. She employs three people and services many brands I love, including: Acacia Creations, UNCVRD Jewelry and Saint La Vie. I’m pretty sure her story will inspire you to chase your dreams and live fearlessly. Enjoy!

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You see a lot of companies and small business state that they're sustainable, eco-friendly, vegan, etc., but what do you believe makes a business ethical?

I believe our responsibility is with people. As long as the brand is treating its people fairly, I consider it ethical. That means no child labor, no sweat shops, and fair wages for all employees. Sustainability and impact on the environment is also important. The more transparent the company is with their production processes, the better.

Why did you decide to create an ethically-focused business?

Fashion has always been a passion of mine. I grew up outside of New York and started working in the fashion industry when I was 12 years old. In college, during an anthropology class, I learned about the negative effects the fashion industry has on people around the world, which really affected me. While working after graduation, I noticed there was a need to help new businesses, non-profits and social enterprises with their marketing and that’s when I decided to start RISE Creative.

What's your company’s expertise?

Everything digital marketing, meaning social media, emails, newsletters, blog posts, SEO and paid ads. We're also starting to offer new creative services that will shift our business into more content production such as product photography and styling.

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Who is your ideal client?

I wouldn’t say we have one ideal client. I categorize each client into one of three groups: beginner, developing and established. We help beginners set their brand strategy, and for developing and established brands, we manage and create their content. I love working with brands who have a creative vision and a good mission. We also work with bloggers to help them find brand collaborations, which is one of my favorite things to do.

How can “ethical brands” stand out in a crowded market space?

You will stand out if you strategize from a consumer mindset. Consumers aren’t willing to sacrifice convenience for sustainability or ethically made products. Beyond the production of your products, you need to figure out what your target audience cares about. More often than not, being an “ethical” company is just a bonus.

How can a consumer shop more ethically?

The barriers are always budget and convenience. Intention is a big part of shopping ethically. Do a little bit of research and follow bloggers who live in the ethical space. Social media is a great resource to find ethical brands. Every single account we follow on Instagram is ethical, so be sure to check out @risecreativeco on Instagram.

You also run a podcast—I want to hear about it!

It’s called Mission Driven Marketing and the purpose is to provide brands advice from experts within the marketing industry. Recently, I interviewed Natalie from Sustainably Chic, and we discussed the importance of paying bloggers.

What’s your marketing philosophy?

Although I consider myself a creative person, I strongly believe that your campaign or marketing tactics should be influenced by data analytics. It’s important to know your audience and how they spend their time and money.

With the New Year just around the corner, what are your goals for 2019?

I have my sights set on expanding into Canada and Australia because they both have huge ethical industries.

Wow! How will you do that with three co-workers?

We divide and concur—I foster relationships with new clients and develop the brand strategy. My co-workers will help execute the day-to-day activities. We have a great system.

Name a fear or professional challenge and tell me how you deal with it.

I’ve had a few people say that I’m younger than they expected, and sometimes I suffer from Impostor Syndrome. (Impostor Syndrome is defined as: an individual who doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of feeling like you’re not good enough). I remind myself that my fears and thoughts are internal and that I am an expert in my field. My faith reminds me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

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What are you most proud of?

I’m able to do what I love every day. That feels like success to me.

What do you think someone should consider before starting their own business?

I think it’s important to identify your niche, especially with all of the new businesses you see. I want people to know starting a business that’s successful is hard work. You have to be persistent and consistent.

What social media tips do you have for business owners?

Don’t buy followers or engagement—I can’t stress this enough! Also, don’t depend on a social media platform you can’t control. Invest in your dollars in your email list and your time in real life conversations. Engage with your followers—ask them questions, respond to their comments and be authentic.

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You can check out everything Marisa and RISE Creative has to offer on her website here: https://www.risecreativeco.com/. Also, make sure you follow RISE Creative on Instagram by clicking here.

XOXO,

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Sky’s the Limit: Daydreaming with Ashley Rector of Harness Magazine

Hi there—today I’m finally bringing you my next edition of Sky’s the Limit, a blog of Q&A-style interviews featuring women entrepreneurs from Columbus, OH. I know it’s been a while since I last shared a Q&A sesh with someone who’s inspired me, but today’s badass lady boss will not disappoint.

Ashley Rector is so many things—she’s definitely a magic maker, she’s a lawyer, small business coach and the creator of Harness Magazine, a digital and print publication that features articles, artwork and poetry from women around the world. Her mission is to elevate the voices of women everywhere through Harness. It’s a go-to read of mine because the stories are authentic and raw. The women contributing to Harness Magazine aren’t professional writers; you get to hear from real women who are facing the same challenges you are, and that’s what makes the publication unique. When you read a Harness story, you’re giving someone like you a chance to have their voice heard and you’re telling them their stories and artwork matter. Below is Ashley’s story and advice for young entrepreneurs and wannabe bosses. I hope Ashley’s story inspires you to live fearlessly and pursue your dreams. Enjoy!

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Harness Magazine was founded in 2016—Can you tell me a little bit about it and why you started it?    

I started it out of necessity. I wanted to connect with like-minded people. At the time, I felt the material I was reading in other magazines was superficial; I knew there had to be something more. My friends were navigating heart break, relationship problems and loss, but I wasn’t reading about those experiences. I wanted to know what was going on in the lives of the women around me; so I created a space for those stories!

How would you categorize publications like Thought Catalog or The Lala?

I love how they feature real, organic stories but you have to be a professional writer to contribute to those publications. That’s why I started Harness Magazine—so real women can write real stories, and they don’t have to be perfect.

Did you have a gut feeling that a publication like Harness Magazine would resonate with a lot of people?

I launched Harness Magazine not knowing if anyone would contribute to it, and it has exploded. Now we’ve published over 1,000 articles since inception, AND it’s global. When someone finds us from India, Australia or the UK - I’m blown away. Our mission is so real and it’s obviously connecting with people on a deeper level across the world. We recently launched our second print edition and women from ten different countries are represented. (Get a copy here!)

When writers send you their pieces to get published, what do you look for?

Our requirements are pretty lax, and I’d like to keep it that way. Obviously, no racist material, sexuality explicit material or offensive material will be published.

Tell me about Harness Coaching – what is it, when did it start and why did you start it?

Harness Coaching was a natural progression for me. Since I started this journey, I’ve met so many women who’ve told me their stories of wanting to follow their true passions. So unintentionally, I was coaching women long before I made it official with Harness Coaching. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and a doctorate law degree. Coaching is psychological and I understand how to set up a business. I love talking to people and helping people get their businesses off the ground, so it made sense to formalize my relationships with coaching. I’ve had really amazing experiences with my clients so far.

Who is your ideal customer?

Harness Coaching is for someone who has multiple passions and needs help to narrow in on what they want to get off the ground as a business. Another ideal customer is a small business who knows what their idea is and needs help launching. I can help them formalize their LLC, figure out their media strategy and refine their pitch. I help them work the sales funnel and all the hard stuff you have to do within the first year of starting a business.

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It’s hard to believe Harness Magazine is your side hustle. What do you do full-time?

I’m an attorney at a real estate investment trust. I negotiate contracts for tenants who rent space at malls.

I read that entrepreneurship is in your blood, did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My great grandpa started an auto shop which my grandpa took over. Almost all of my uncles and my dad run their own businesses. I grew up with a mentality that being an entrepreneur was the best path to financial freedom and happiness. So it was logical for me to start my own business! Actually, Harness Magazine wasn’t my first business. I started an organic tote bag company that I ran for a year. It was a humbling experience because owning a retail business is so hard. I started Harness Magazine while I was running my tote bag business and I was a new lawyer, so something had to give. I decided to focus on my law career and Harness Magazine.  

In your opinion, what are the top two things someone should consider before starting a business?

My legal brain says research the name, idea and competition. Make sure your finances are set. The other side of my brain says to make sure your new business venture is something you are passionate about because you are going to be working on your new business every moment of your day for a long time. You want to be working on something that makes you happy or is worthwhile or else what is the point?

What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in running your own business?

Balance is hard for me. My husband I have to set aside time to go on dates. It would be nice to come home on a Friday and not worry about doing work on the weekends, but my weekends are so perfectly planned I don’t have a lot of free time to relax. I’d like to have no guilt sometimes.

What does success look like to you?

It’s always changing. Ultimately, I hope to see Harness Magazine on newsstands and when you think of a magazine where you read good authentic stories, you will think of Harness Magazine.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Having self-doubt can be a big challenge for entrepreneurs—you are your biggest challenge. You have to be easy on yourself. You’re going to fail 100 times. Fail and get up. Don’t be afraid to use the resources you have.

You have built a following of 15K Instagram followers, do you have any tips for business owners looking to grow their following?

If you are growing your following, you need to think about your end game. For example, for Harness it’s to get more readers and get women to contribute to the publication. You have to be very purposeful about what you’re posting and you have to interact with people organically. Look up hashtags that are purposeful to your brand, find like-minded people and start interacting with them by liking and commenting on their photos. Photography is also key. Think about why you started following some of your favorite accounts? Often they have a unique voice or tone. Find yours.

What do you think our Columbus community needs more of?

We’re just starting to thrive as a small business community. I think there needs to be a central place for all small business owners to connect in a thoughtful way to push each other forward.

I could have chatted with Ashley for hours because she’s the type of person you love to be around. On top of that, she’s offers great business advice so if you’re interested in her coaching services, click here. Also, check out Harness Magazine and support the Ashley and the contributors by purchasing the second print issue here. You can follow the publication on Instagram here as well as Ashley’s personal account @magicinfluencer.

                                                      

                                                         XOXO,

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After - Living Room Refresh with Spicy Salty Sweet Home

Last month I shared that I was working with Jan Verhoff of Spicy Salty Sweet Home to help style my living room. My room didn’t need a ton of work and we had all of our main pieces, but I wanted help making the room feel complete. Check out the ‘before’ blog post to see how my living room looked a couple of weeks ago.

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I wanted help finding pillows that brought out the different colors in our new Heriz Serapi rug such as olive, blue, and black. Jan sourced pillow options and created a mood board so we could see the different options against our main furniture pieces. This was beyond helpful with the decision-making process.

One of the biggest transformations was the styling of our bookshelves. Jan did all of the shopping at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods to find a couple of affordable accessories that meshed well with our current décor. She told me she found each new décor item on different trips to the store, which I think is important to share. I believe you should love every single item in your house. Don’t feel like you need to go to the store and fill your house with things just to fill space. If your décor takes a little longer to curate, that’s okay. In the long run, your house will be filled with meaningful items that won’t end up in the garbage because you get sick of looking at them.

Finally, the biggest complaint about our living room was that we didn’t have a good lighting source to turn on at night while we were hanging out in the room while watching TV. We told Jan about our issue and she found a great option from West Elm. Our space was limited, so where it sits, behind our tiny side table, is perfect.  

In conclusion, working with Jan was incredibly easy. She is also a fun person that you just want to be around, which is also extremely important when you are looking for interior stylist. She did all the shopping and styled everything, and the best part was that she shopped my house so I didn’t have to spend a ton of money finishing the space. I could not be happier with the final result. If you're curious about what Jan can do for you, contact her here!

                                                                        XOXO,

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Before - Living Room Refresh with Spicy Salty Sweet Home

Hey there, if you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen I'm working with Jan Verhoff, interior stylist and blogger of Spicy Salty Sweet Home, to help me style my living room. I met Jan through Instagram—follow her here! She purchased one of the very first rugs I sold and we've kept in touch ever since. Jan offers a wide variety of services including interior design and styling. Before we do a big reveal, I wanted to share where we are in the design process (because we are about halfway!) as well as 'before' pictures, so you can get a feel for what my living room looked like before I started working with Jan. 

I approached Jan to help with my living room because my husband and I had recently made some decor changes for the first time since moving into our home two years ago. We inherited a couch from a family member and I had just found the perfect antique Persian Heriz Serapi rug that I wanted to keep and not sell on Sky Trading Co. See below for pictures of how our living room looks today. 

From the photos, you'll notice we already have our key pieces of furniture, including: our light fixture, couch, chairs and side table in our small sitting area, coffee tables, TV and bookshelf. I also love our wall decor, which includes vases from STUMP, a mirror that was gifted to us and custom artwork we collected while traveling.

Although a lot of the design elements were already chosen by me and my husband, there were a few things we didn't like about the room:

  1. The lighting. We have one drum-style light fixture that hangs from the ceiling. We love it, but when we watch TV at night we'd like to have another light source so we don't have to keep that one on.
  2. The bookcase looks unkept. Currently, our one shelving unit in the room has a lot of books, records and random trinkets we never touch. It's messy and cluttered! 
  3. It's missing final design elements. I wanted help styling my current decor with new pillows and accessories to pull the entire room together. 

Once I established what I did and didn't like about my living room, I invited Jan over to see it for herself. She came prepared with a Q&A document to get to know my style and what I wanted to change about the room. I let her know that I didn't want to spend more than $500 on decor, and she recommended we start with pillow combinations. I also let her know that we had gift cards to West Elm, CB2 and Crate and Barrel left over from wedding gifts. I was hopeful this would keep the budget within reason, and Jan reassured me that my budget was more than enough to accomplish what I wanted. She also took pictures, and the whole process took about 30 minutes. One or two days later, Jan sent me a proposal with a description of items she would be looking for and total number of hours she estimated it would take to complete my project. In total, she estimated six hours to shop for and style my living room, which translated to $360 ($60/hour) for her design fee. 

Within a week of Jan leaving my house, she sent four mood boards with pillow combinations. The way she created the mood boards against the decor in our house made it extremely easy to give her feedback on the design. See the original design concepts below.

We loved that she gave us so many options! She also sent direct links to each of the pillows online where we could get a better view of each one and check out the price before we made any decisions. We ended up telling Jan that we weren't crazy about the mustard pillows, so she sent us two additional concepts.

You'll have to wait until the reveal to see which pillow combination we picked, but now that we've chosen and ordered the new pillows for the living room Jan is working on the remaining items for our room. Stay tuned for the big reveal! In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below! If you're curious about what Jan can do for you, contact her here!

                                                                   XOXO, 

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Sky’s the Limit: Talking Biz with Meredith Diamond of Auburn and Ivory

Hey there—It’s Kate, owner of Sky Trading Co. with my next edition of Sky’s the Limit, a blog of Q&A-style interviews featuring women entrepreneurs from Columbus, OH. Each boss lady I get to meet inspires me to live fearlessly and I’m hopeful their stories will inspire you to pursue your dreams. Enjoy!

My next interview features Meredith Diamond of Auburn and Ivory, an editorial and event styling business. I met Meredith by chance when I was interviewing Alaina Cherup, owner of Cheer Up Letterpress, and the stars must have been aligned because we connected instantly. Meredith radiates creativity and has the bubbly personality to match. She creates magical wedding scenes so swoon-worthy that part of me wishes I could get married all over again just so she could create a beautiful experience for my friends and family. If you don’t believe me, creep her Instagram profile by clicking here.  Below is Meredith’s story and advice for young entrepreneurs and wannabe bosses…

Describe what Auburn and Ivory is and what services you offer.

It’s an art and styling business. I do editorial styling, prop styling, and wedding planning and styling. Basically, my business is a giant excuse to be creative in a way I feel like being. I went to school for art, and my degree is in history of art. I taught myself calligraphy, I am a water color artist, and I like graphic design. I do all of these things under the umbrella of my business, Auburn and Ivory.

How did you discover your passion for event and editorial styling?

I’ve always loved weddings—I bought my first wedding magazine in 7th grade, and I loved everything about reading it. I started planning weddings when I was working full-time and the first wedding I styled got published on Style Me Pretty. Two days after that wedding was published, my company eliminated my position and I was laid off. It felt like fate—I left on good terms, took a severance and started my business.

When working with clients, what is the process?

If I’m working with a bride and they are looking for full service wedding planning and styling, I have them fill out a survey to make sure we will be a good fit for each other. Then we meet. I ask a lot of questions to get into the bride’s head. It’s up to me to figure out what’s going to make a bride cry tears of joy on their wedding day.

Why do you think brides should hire you?

If you hire me, no one will have a wedding like you. I spend hours researching, going through craft stores and looking at the latest materials to go beyond what brides are seeing on Pinterest. I love to collaborate and try new things. I want to love my couples and I want them to feel served, and that’s what my business is all about.

What advice do you have for couples who are newly engaged?

Enjoy it, but get your wedding venue! That’s practical advice. Also, make a list of your priorities, think about the story you want your wedding to tell and the experience you want yourself and your guests to have on your day. There are a lot of decisions to be made and they’re easier when you ground yourself in the experience you want your guests to have.

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What was the first step you took when you decided to start your own business.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do. I had a mortgage and a son, so I started selling my art at craft shows to give me time to meet potential brides. I also made things to post on my Instagram to show people that I was a creative force. I slowly built my business by meeting people and making connections.

How did you learn the ins and outs of running a business such as pricing products, writing contracts, creating a website and finding clients?

I’m still learning a lot. I research—I stay up late at night watching workshops online. I read a lot and I have a lot of conversations with other business owners.

Did you have any fears when you first started out?

I’m not afraid of failure. I fail all the time on a small scale and I always learn from it. I don’t want to let people down—that’s my biggest fear.

You’re a very creative person. How did you learn to be creative—was it something you were born with?

I think everyone’s creative—some people just have a more natural tendency to embrace creativity as a lifestyle. I think creativity begets creativity. It’s amazing how you try an idea and it opens your mind to other ideas. It feeds on itself. I think I’ve always embraced my creative side.

How do you promote your business?

For me, social media works so well because it allows me to put myself out there without putting myself out there. I can post photos of my work without posting photos of myself. Relationships are huge. Connecting with people is so important and referrals have been a big part of my business. I am not very good at saying ‘I’m Meredith and I have a business called Auburn and Ivory, or I’m a painter or a stylist,’ but I think I’m good at loving people. If nothing else, I think being good at loving people can warrant another conversation.

Do you have any social media tips?

Don’t let it define you or freak you out. Put out what you want your brand to be and don’t be afraid to curate it carefully. I try to make my Instagram a mix of the creative things I’ve done and the people I’ve loved.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of owning your own business?

For all the insecurities I feel about owning my own business, I feel very secure that I should own my business. I love the life it has given me. But business is personal especially when you are the only person in your business. You have to walk that fine line of not letting things get to you while learning to take criticism to make yourself better. It’s hard to put yourself out there, but often the hardest things are the most rewarding.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t where you want to be right now. Work hard and trust where you are in the process. Life experience is good and will make you a better business owner.

If you want to get in touch with Meredith, click here and don't forget to follow her on Instagram here

Let me know if there is anything you are curious about or think I should ask during my next interview in the comments below! 

                                                                    XOXO,

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Sky's the Limit: Talking Biz with Katya Philmore of Splendor Revival

Hey there—It’s Kate, owner of Sky Trading Co. with my next edition of Sky’s the Limit, a blog of Q&A-style interviews featuring women entrepreneurs from Columbus, OH. I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, but I’ve been taking time to readjust to a full-time job while running my side hustle. Both have been amazing and rewarding, and I cannot wait for you to see what’s in store for this year! I’m also hopeful that this next blog post will inspire you to live fearlessly. Enjoy!

I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to Katya Philmore of Splendor Revival! Katya is a girl after my own heart, collecting and curating magical handmade and vintage goods. Splendor Revival is a lifestyle brand that encourages women to savor ordinary moments while feeling magnificent. Katya believes that those ordinary moments seem a bit easier to find when you look and feel like a queen. Follow Splendor Revival on Instagram, and be sure to visit Katya’s adorable studio space at 400 West Rich Street. You can shop her pieces by private appointment or during Franklinton Fridays, a community wide event showcasing local art and science that take place every second Friday of the month. Below is Katya’s story and advice for young entrepreneurs and wannabe bosses…

Can you describe Splendor Revival?

It’s a lifestyle brand and shop that carries vintage and handmade caftans, maxi dresses and other unique items, including home goods, accessories and purses. My mission is to carry items that inspires color and delight in people’s lives. My business is a true love letter to women. I want to help women indulge without feeling guilty.

What or who sparked your interest in fashion?

My mom is my original fashion icon—when she was my age she was put together, graceful and unaware of how beautiful she was. I've always been a tactile person and I love to create things. In middle school I taught myself how to sew by making up-cycled handbags out of jeans for my friends.

How would you describe your customer?

My customer is someone who’s not afraid to be a little daring. They don’t feel like they need permission to put on something that’s a little bit unconventional.

When did you decide that you were going to start your own business?

I started working on Splendor Revival when I was doing corporate social media marketing for a major footwear retailer in Columbus, OH. Splendor Revival was my creative outlet. The day I decided I was going to start my business was Valentine’s Day. I was scrolling through Instagram and I saw an inspirational quote that said ‘create the things you wish existed,’ and it clicked for me. 

Going back to the early days, can you tell me about the process of launching Splendor Revival from concept to reality?

It wasn’t methodical. The process was organic, and I kept what I was doing a secret for a long time. I slowly collected things, and it was created through a lot of small moments in-time. I had a cocktails and caftans-themed birthday party where I told my friends what I was going to do, and they loved it. I hosted a shopping party at a historic house in German Village and it was very successful. Then, I vended at Community Festival and I was hugely successful. That's when I realized Splendor Revival wasn’t just a hobby, and it’s been a year since I opened my space at 400 West Rich.

Did you have any fears before you launched?

I feared that people wouldn’t respond to what I was doing. You don’t see a ton of people in the Midwest or in central Ohio wearing caftans, so it was a big gamble for me. 

For the dreamers looking to start their own business, what advice do you have for them?

Feel the fear, push through your doubts and do it anyway. You don’t have anything to lose—there’s a lesson in everything.

How did you fund your business when you were first starting out?

Everything has been bootstrapped by me. In the beginning I invested my paychecks in inventory. When I make money now, I always invest back in my business.

What is your favorite social media platform and do you have any tips?

Definitely Instagram. I don’t think people utilize the rule of thirds enough. Composition is everything. When you take a picture, look at what’s filling up the frame and make sure you have something interesting in each third of the picture. Be intentional with how you are composing your photos. Natural light is key.

What has been difficult about owning your own business? What has been rewarding?

Self-discipline and procrastination. Being your own boss is great, but you have to know how to manage your time. Clothes are such an emotional thing because it changes the way you feel, so the most rewarding times are when someone falls in love with a piece.

What do you want people to know about what’s next?

Splendor Revival is a lifestyle brand, so there will be a lot more workshops and other interactive events that encourage positivity and growth. I’m also working on a self-care handbook that I can’t wait to share.

What does self-care mean to you?

I want to encourage women to take time to make space and find out what makes them feel good, and learn to prioritize those things without guilt. I’m all about shedding shame, indulging and taking care of yourself.

If you want to schedule a shopping appointment with Katya, click here and don't forget to follow her on Instagram here

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Let me know if there is anything you are curious about or think I should ask during my next interview in the comments below! 

                                                                    XOXO,

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