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Zakieh’s Blog

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

A blog I am using to post different articles from different magazines. Eventually going to upgrade to sell bracelets in a year. I am trying this out for now. Thanks for visiting. I welcome any comments or suggestions on what to posts. Hope to hear from you.

With a Little Help From My Friends (and Family)

How to ask your loved ones to invest in your business.

by Elaine Pofeldt

Stephanie Schupp didn’t intend to start a business when she began buying furniture & decorative items for the house her family was renovating in Kansas City, Missouri. Her business found her.

“All of a sudden, friends and family started saying, ‘Your couch is beautiful. Where can I buy this?'” recalls Schupp, who was purchasing home goods returned to big box stores, like Pottery Barn, from liquidators.

She started placing larger orders for friends & family & charging them a shopping fee. At the same time, she built a following on Instagram & set up an e-commerce site.

Then one big problem arose: “Our garage became full,” she says & they needed to move the items into a local warehouse–which required a $10,000 security deposit.

Schupp & her husband turned to their parents and an uncle, who is the chief operating officer of a large corporation, for advice. “This uncle is a businessman & not the type of person who gives handouts,” Schupp says. “So when he said, ‘You’re onto something really brilliant. You need to protect this,’ it became more legitimate and our families wanted to help.”

The couple, who run The Schupp Collective, got a low-interest loan of $10,000 from their parents & gave it back in regular payments every month. Throughout the repayment process, they kept the lines of communication open with their parental lenders. “We always showed them what our sales were & what our progress was,” Schupp says. The business, which launched in December 2020, has successfully expanded to two warehouse locations & now has a robust client base.

Proceed With Caution

According to research from crowdfunding platform Fundable, 38% of startup founders raise money from friends & family, with the average investment being about $23,000. For some founders, this means taking a loan. Others sell shares in the company, known as equity, with the idea that the shares will appreciate & their backers will profit from their investment.

And it’s not just during the startup phase that this type of financing can come in handy–it can also help when enterpreneurs need money to navigate a crisis. A survey by the Federal Reserve found that in response to financial challanges imposed by the pandemic, 38% of black-owned firms, 34% of Asian-owned firms, 32% of Hispanic-owned firms, 18% of white-owned firms borrowed from family & friends.  (White owners, who got approved for Paycheck Protection Program emergency loans at higher rates, wer more likely than Black or Hispanic owners to take out debt or obtain funds through grants, crowdfunding and donations.)

Although friends & family financing is common, it can create an emotional minefield. Money can be a sensitive subject in general, & backers who do’t have much business experience may not fully understand the risks of helping a startup, despite your best efforts to educate them.

“I’ve seen many instances in which relationships are fractured because of money,” says Dave McLurg, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based serial entrepreneur & investor. “You can lose the money & the relationship.”

Even in the best of circumstances, taking financing from friends & family can change the tone of the relationship. “It definitely makes family dynamics more complicated,” says Gershon Morgulis, who advises small business owners in New York City.

So how do you win those much-needed funds from your biggest supporters without the risk of everyone unfriendly you? Here, entrepreneurs & financial experts outline the steps you should take for success.

Determine Your Idea’s Viability

It’s easy to get excited about a new business concept, but before you start fundraising, do some research to see whether it has legs.

Connect online or in person with potential customers to ask whether your product or service will solve a problem & if they would be willing to buy it. Doing a pilot–such as making a small batch of your product & selling it at a local venue or online–can also give you valuable insights into whether your business idea will have any takers.

For example, Taylor Smith, the co-founder of Broma, a maker of organic Almond butter spreads, started selling her product at outdoor markets in 2019 before the official launch of the Manhattan, New York-based company in 2020. “We wanted to see if it was something people were interested in buying & eating,” she says.

You’ll also want to make sure the business will generate enough money to pay back lenders, McLurg says. If there’s a gap between what you want to sell & what prospective customers want to buy, it doesn’t mean your idea will never fly, but you may need to fine-tune your approach.

Create a Formal Business Plan

Once you’re confident your idea has potential,  create a basic business plan. Small business-focused organizations such as SCORE or the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offer free templates.

Typically, a business plan will include an executive summary, a company description, an analysis of your potential market, information about your management team & its credentials (even if you’re the whole team), a description of your product or service, a marketing plan & the amount of money you want to raise.

You should also include realistic financial experts to develop attainable numbers that won’t mislead future backers.

And be sure to have your business plan fully developed before to start your money hunt. This way, you can make a strong impression from the get-go.

Decide on the Best Money-Raising Approach

Before you reach out to friends & family for financing, consult with advisors to determine whether it makes sense to borrow money from your supporters or to sell equity. You can turn to your local Small Business Development Center or SCORE for free advice or set up an appointment with an accountant or an attorney who specializes in small businesses. Knowing the pros and cons of each approach is important.

If you accept a loan, you’ll most likely have to pay some interest on the money, unless your loved ones cut you a break. But you’ll be obligated to start making payments on the debt at whatever date you agree on. This is money you can’t invest in growing the business, & the debt can make the business less profitable.

The advantage of taking out debt is that you won’t have to give away ownership stake in the business in exchange for the money. Consider using a lending platform such as Pigeon Loans or ZimpleMoney to create a formal loan arrangement. Make sure you & your lenders get tax advice, as loans can have tax implications & sometimes it makes more sense to treat them as a gift, which is what Schupp’s family did. (A donor can give up to $15,000/year per person as tax-free gifts under IRS rules.)

If you sell shares, you won’t have to pay the money back, but you’ll own less of the business. Selling shares when your firm is in its early stages & hasn’t achieved its highest valuation means you’ll have to give away more of the business than you would if you waited until the shares are worth more. That’s especially true if you later go after formal financing from private backers & venture capitalist in Series A & Series B rounds, or further.

“Many founders barely have anything left of their business after the B round,” says Genevieve Bos, an Atlanta-based serial entrepreneur & investor. “They gave away too much too early.”

You’ll also need to communicate with shareholders regularly, whether it’s through quarterly sit-downs or written updates. “Once you bring in $1, they are a shareholder, & the shareholder has rights,” McLurg says. “That becomes something else you have to manage in your business.”

In addition, you’ll have to hire an attorney to draft a term sheet & other documents to stay compliant with securities laws. “What if you get hit by a bus & that money is not accounted for?” Bos says. “You don’t accept a penny without a legal agreement.”

Think Through Which People to Approach

Although it may be tempting to reach out to everyone you know for funding & let them decide whether they’re comfortable with backing you, that can be risky, especially if some of those people have little business experience or limited funds.

“The people in your life who truly want you to succeed & are in a financial position to lend & invest are the only people you should be approaching,” says Samantha Terline, who runs Cedar Park Group, a construction & medical staffing firm on Long Island, New York. “If this is coming out of their grocery money or nest egg, that’s a huge problem.”

Terline & her spouse took a loan in the low six-figures from a close relative who runs a business in the same industry. They plan to pay him back when they close on an SBA-backed loan.

For her part, Bos says she will only raise money from accredited investors, people with an individual annual income of at least $200,000 or a household income of at least $300,000 & a net worth of over $1 million either as an individual or with a spouse.

“I don’t raise capital from anyone whose life would change in a material way if they lost every penny,” she says.

Janine Yancy–an employment attorney & founder of Emtrain, which helps companies improve & measure workplace social dynamics–sought funding from those who knew her industry. And like Terline & Bos, she focused on those who had the means to lend.

“You only want to take a loan or equity investment from people who can afford to lose it,” she says. “Early-stage companies are a high-risk situation.”

Start Slow and Set Clear Expectations

Maintaining good relationships with your besties & your loved ones when you’re fundraising begins with how you ask for money. Before she starts raising money for a new startup, Bos says she casually mentions her idea to family & friends to see whether any are interested. “I’m not asking for money,” she says. “I’m socializing the idea if there might be interest.”

If she thinks her listener is truly interested, she asks if they would like to have a more formal, 30-minute conversation where she can provide more details on the concept. “You don’t want them to feel put upon or like there I a bait-and-switch,” she says.

Smith stays in close touch with her friends-and-family investors who backed her Almond butter company. She said she communicated frankly about the risks of investing in a startup & made it clear that they might not see a return for 5 to 7 years, if ever.

“You have to set the expectation that this is not a sure thing, even if you are 100% confident in your business,” she says. “You have to make sure the people you see at the holidays are not going to be angry with you.”

That said, you do need to balance that out with being the business’s bigger cheerleader–or it will be hard to raise any money at all. “You have to make other people believe in your dreams as much as you do,” Smith says.

Talk money to me

Is money interfering with your relationship? It’s time to take back control.

By Brianne Walsh

Erin has a confession to make. She’s committed financial infidelity. In 2019, Erin’s husband went on a whitewater rafting trip with their two older kids for Father’s Day. So Erin, 39, an executive based in Savanah, GA, went to the car dealership & bought herself a used Mercedes SUV. It cost roughly the same as a Subaru Outback, Erin rationalized, & fit her six-month-old daughter’s car seat better. Safety first, right?

When he returned from his trip, Erin’s husband was too shocked by the purchase to say anything at first. But at dinner that night, as he was opening presents from his kids, he said, “Thank you so much for the new pair of boots. Do you know what your mother got for Father’s Day? She got herself a Mercedes.” The couple is still together, but the purchase has never been fully forgiven. “It still comes up anytime Father’s Day is mentioned,” Erin says.

Most–if not all–couples fight about money, even the ones who describe themselves as happily partnered. According to the 2011 survey by the British insurance company Esure, the average couple bickers 2,455 times a year, or 7 times a day. Among the top things they fight about? Overspending, money & bills. Couples argue more about finances than they do about sex or household chores, and money is the second leading cause of divorce after infidelity.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this situation, with almost 3 million women dropping out of the workforce in 2020, many to take care of young children or elderly adults. A 2020 survey by researchers at Indiana University found that this disrupted the power balance in some relationships: 30% of couples surveyed said that because of the shift, they are arguing more than ever.

But there’s the strange thing: arguing about issues like money, if it’s done a certain way, may be healthy for your relationship. According to a 2019 study published in Family Process, happy couples didn’t necessarily have fewer conflicts than unhappy couples, they just “argued” about them better–that is, they took a solution oriented approach to conflicts.

To improve your menage a trois with money and your partner, the editors at Millie conducted a survey to better understand your relationships and money habits. We than asked 3 financial therapist to analyze the data and weigh in on the most troublesome (but fixable) resources. Here’s their analysis:

“I don’t talk about money with my partner because it is stressful.”

When asked “what prevents you from talking about money with your partner,” more than 1/3 of respondents said, “it’s stressful.” Another 11.5% said “I don’t feel well-informed enough on the topic,” & about 9% said “it always leads to a fight.”

Nearly 1/3 of participants gave “Other” answers, such as “He’s not realistic about money,”I care more than she does so I want to avoid the ‘We’re talking about this AGAIN???” look,” “He trust me to handle finances. It’s a lot of pressure” and “so many distractions and priorities.”

You might be thinking, “Well of course talking about money is stressful.” Money can be, literally, a matter of life or death.

Maria, 38, a social worker based in Florida, often avoids talking to her partner about money because of stress. “I feel like I’m carrying both of us right now,” she says. From working full-time to managing the household, she’s already tapped out emotionally and mentally. “If something doesn’t change, we’re going to have to break up,” she says. “It shouldn’t also be my job to initiate a discussion on top of everything else.”

THE SOLUTION

To Erika Wasserman, CEO of Your Financial Therapist, a financial therapy resource for individuals and companies, the sentiment about money being a stressful topic is problematic.

“It’s a fixed statement,” she says. “It’s an excuse to ignore conversations about money. You need to start putting steps in place to reduce the stress you feel.”

The first step is asking why money conversations stress you out. Maybe your parents fought about money when you were a kid. Maybe you feel guilty about accruing credit card debt or taking out a student loan for a program you never finished. Maybe you just don’t know enough about money to tackle the topic and that gives you anxiety.

Next, tell your partner how you feel and that you’d like to work as a team to make finances less fraught. Then, get organized. We often get stressed about things that feel out of control, Wasserman says. So take back control. Don’t have enough money to pay the bills? Revisit your budget and decide what is a “need” and what is a “want.” Feel lost when it comes to understanding your student loan payments, investing, retirement accounts or other money matters? Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Educate yourself. There are tons of resources out there that can help.

“I’ve hidden purchases from my partner because I think they’ll disapprove of my spending.”

Some forms of financial infidelity are likely unforgiveable. For example, if your partner has a secret bank account that he uses to support his secret family.

But there are other forms that are more common, & less appallling. For example, according to Millie’s survey, about 15% of respondents have hidden purchases from their partners, including items from Amazon, skin care products, expensive clothing, junk food and Botox. In addition, about 8% have secret bank accounts–citing past financial abuses and a sense of control as some of the reasons why–and nearly 10% suspect their partner hides purchases from them.

Most worrisome to Jennifer Dunkle, a financial therapist based in Fort Collins, Colorado, is that 10.5% don’t know what their partner’s salary is, which is ultimately a form of financial infidelity because it’s an integral fact about their partner’s life. “It’s just such a basic thing to know,” Dunkle says. Note: 87% of respondents had been with their partners for more than 10 years; if you just started seeing someone, salary is probably not something you need to discuss right away.

Tara, 39, who is based in New York City and works as an elementary school teacher, often lies to her husband about how much she spends. “It just seems easier than dealing with that face he makes or his negative reactions,” she says. Plus, “He buys stupid crap all the time that he doesn’t talk to me about,” she adds.

THE SOLUTION

“People don’t just have money secrets in a vacuum, they come with lots of other issues,” Dunkle says. Financial therapy for couples committing financial infidelity is always a good idea, she adds. “Ideally, the neural third party will be able to get to the source of the problem & help you explore each other’s underlying history with and beliefs around money,” she says.

If you can’t afford financial therapy (the average therapy session costs $100 an hour) or re not sure you’re ready foro it, thre are other steps you can take to develop a healthier relationship with money, Dunkle says. First, set a firm liit on what you can spend without discussing it with your partner first. Then, work toward setting a shared household budget–that includes how much you’ll spend together on things like groceries and eating out–& decide how much each of you will contribute to these expenses.

Even if your partner doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their salary, at least you know that you are working toward common financial goals and will have enough money to pay your bills.

Dunkle also suggests starting difficult financial conversations with a “soft startup,’ which means talking to your partner as if they are a welcome guest rather than a lazy person who can’t do anything right, ever. This removes judgment–and will most likely inspire your partner to open up more.

“I need alcohol to talk about money with my partner.”

There were many things that our survey respondents said would make money discussions with their partner easier, like having a set date or tie to have financial talks (26%), having a discussion guide or reference aterials (24%) & having the discussion in the presence of a trained financial expert (20%).

And nearly one-fifth of participants said taht having alcoholic beverages during the talk would help.

“If people are depending on alcohol to get them through money conversations, it tells me there maybe some avoidance going on,” says Mariah Hudler, a financial therapist and financial health consultant based in Sacremento, California. Sure, it can serve as a little liquid courage & might lighten the mood, but it shouldn’t be used as a crutch & might hinder the importance of the topic.

Maria, for one, found that alcoholic beverages helped her to broach the topic of money with her boyfriend. “I can only say what I want to say when I’m drinking,” she says, But…her boyfriend didn’t take anything she said seriously.

THE SOLUTION

Hudler doesn’t necessarily think that you need to forgo an adult beverage every time you have a difficult financial conversation with your partner. “Having regular money ‘dates’ that involve a glass of wine are not unhealthy,’ she says. “You just don’t want to depend on it.”

Many survey respondents noted that having these types of discussions in a “relaxed setting”–like on a walk–would relieve some of the pressure, & others noted that also talking about the fun aspects of money would help, such as creating a list of “fun stuff’ to save for.

Furthermore, Hudler recommends not talking about money if you are experiencing a mood that falls under the acronym “HALTS”–hungry, angry, lonely, tired or stressed. “Doing so will help set you up for success,” she says.

“I’ve tried to talk about my finances with my partner while in bed.”

Sure, money can be sexy. But there are good times to bring it up–and bad times. More than one-third of survey respondents said they’ve tried to talk about finances with their bae while in bed. Maybe you were about to go to sleep and it was on your mind, or maybe you were trying out some new foreplay material–in the latter case, props to you for getting creative. Just maybe don’t take the phrase “talk money to me” too far into the bedroom.

Interestingly, about 30% of participants said that talking about how to improve their sex life was easier than talking about money, while 20% said that both topics make them equally uncomfortable. And nearly one-fourth of participants said that financial tensions negatively affect other areas of their relationship, like their sex life.

THE SOLUTION

Talking about money is obviously important, but you don’t want it to become the focal point of your relationship or a stealth saboteur of your most intimate moments.

“People can be activated by loaded topics, especially if there is a history of trauma,” Hudler says. “For example, if you bring up money concerns first thing in the morning, it may make your partner feel attacked during a moment of vulnerability.” Presetting a date & place to talk helps create a safe environment & gives each person time to prepare, Hudler adds.

“The pandemic has affected the tone of our money conversations.”

Hudler was not surprised that ore than one-fifth of survey respondents said that the pandemic made them approach money talks with their partners with more openness & mutual respect–while 5% said their conversations have been more heated.

Indeed, some people fared much better during the pandemic financially than others, which could explain why certain couples experienced more tension. B ut it’s also likely that couples who already had healthy communication patterns in place were able to continue relying on them when the world fell apart.

THE SOLUTION

If you weren’t one of these healthily communicating couples, don’t despair. It’s never too late to become one of them. The first step? Start talking about money.

Baby booties

It took me an hour to make one bootie. These can be worn by babies up to 3 months. If you are interested in purchasing the pair. Comment with your name and address. My PayPal is paypal.me/zalfdl.

Making Taboo Mainstream

Megababe founder, body acceptance advocate and author Katie Sturino on how she uses her platform to get candid about all theose things people avoid talking about–like money. As-Told-to by Emily Silber

Boob sweat, chafing, Money. What do these three things have in common? No one wants to talk about them. Why? They’ve been told that they shouldn’t. That these things are private and should remain private. Well, I’m here to shatter that notion.

I come from a fiscally conservative family. So when, as a 22-year-old, I decided to move to New York City from Wisconsin to pursue an internship, all hell broke loose. My risk-averse parents thought I was going to get swndled. But I made it to the great NYC, interned at Chanel for two summers and realized how much I love clothes. And accessories. and luxury. But …I didn’t really like the elitist vibe. That level of fashion can be very intense. Plus, I could never fit into the designer clothes (or afford them).

So in 2015 I launched The 12ish Style, now KatieSturino.com, a platform dedicated to helping women get dressed–and helping them feel confident while doing so. I have two main series, “Supersize the Look” and “Make My Size.” The first is when I take a celebrity look and recreate it in my size, which, in ccase you were wondering, is somewhere in the 16-20 zone, depening on the day. I wan to show women that they can pull off the styles they love no atter what size they are. The second is when I try on the biggest size a brand offers just to shed light on how small it is on me–this also led to a #MakeMySiz campaign. And some brands have actually listened.

Through my platform, I learned a lot about the things that make people feel uncomfortable. I guess you could say that I have no “filter,” so when I started talking about smelly armpits and butt acne, people responded. People understood. But the market? At first, not so much. Sure, there’s anti-chafin creams for athletes who cycle a hundred miles per day, but for your regular, everyday woman just trying to wear a dress or skirt without leggings or tights? Nope. Because obviously women don’t chafe. We don’t sweat. We don’t smell. We’re just magical unicorn Santa Clauses without any bodily functions whatsoever.

Sorry, but that’s just not true. So, I decided to start my own beauty brand, Megababe, with products like Thigh Rescue and Bust Dust and Le Tush Butt Mask. No beauty companies were addressing these needs because nobody was talking about those needs. And I wanted to see if I was right. Spoiler alert:I was. The products almost instantly had a waitlist and sold out when we launched.

Of course, without the kind of moeny major beauty companies have when they launch their brands, I had to bootstrap all the way. I called in favors with friends and even had my parents shipping orders from the basement of their house! But it was worth it. Women were responding. They felt seen. Tehy finally had a representative–a company that would acknowledge taht these “taboos” are actually not taboos at all.

All this was also a personal journey. I accepted my body and all its awesomeness and realized that I’m ot afraid anymore. I also realized that I have special skill for talkig about things that other people are shy about; that I could let light into those dark places ad allow people to feel less alone. That epiphany led me to start my podcast Boob Sweat–on which I tackle topics like divorce, fertility, dating when you’re older, dating when you’re plus size and, of course, money–and later to write my book, Body Talk, which is a guide to self-acceptance.

Women have been made to believe that money should be associated with secrecy, jealousy, and shame. But these are all jsut myths we’ve been fed to keep us in a certain place. As log as we’re not oney curious or power curious, we’re accepted. We should think about our weight, our looks, the scale. As long as we’re kept over there, in the corner, we’re not involved in what’s going on over here, where the real issues are.

I say, let’s talk about money. Let’s talk about success. Let’s talk about bodily functions and fluids and feelings and finances.

How to Talk to Your Boss About That Raise

These six tips will give you the knowledge and courage you need. By Kelly Meehan Brown

After two years without a pay raise, Katherine Brown–now founder and marketing director of her own company, Spyic–approached Human Resources armed with the knowledge that her male counterparts earned more than she did.  Brown felt belittled and hurt and let her emotions get the better of her. She didn’t come off as professional or prepared and her request was denied.

The most common reason employers give their employees for not granting them a raise is budgetary constraints–but 52% of women are given this excuse compared to 44% of men. And while one gender is not more likely to ask for a raise over the other, women are more likely to state that they’re comfortable negotiating a higher salary.

Some good news: Raises in 2022 are predicted to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to The Conference Board, a nonprofit data center. So what are you waiting for? You know you deserve it and it’s probably long overdue. Here’s how to ask your boss for a raise.

1. Time it right. The best time to ask for a raise is yesterday. Second best: today. Third best: tomorrow. You get the point. That said, Gala Jackson, director of coaching and lead executive career coach at Ellevest, advises first figuring out what the process is for getting a raise or promotion at your company–which might mean a series of conversations, not just a one-and-done pitch. There is also some value in waiting for particular times of the year, says Liz Hogan, career expert and professional resume writer. “Many employers conduct a quarterly review and a budget analysis at the end of the year. These are the times they’re expecting to talk with employees about possible raises.

2. Request a formal meeting. Don’t spring the conversation on your boss while she’s having her morning coffee or casually passing by in the hallway. Letting her know in advance, and setting up a formal meeting, comes off as more professional and makes the conversation seem more legitimate. “Don’t blindside them: set your boss up for success, too,” Jackson says. “Let them know that you’re thinking about your future with the company and about your goals for next year.”

3. Come prepared. You’re asking for a raise, so should come prepared to present the reason why you deserve one. Jot down all your accomplishments over the previous year–making note of particular you’re proud of and why–and gather specific data or statistics that demonstrate how effective you are at your job. “Be ready to show how you’ve contributed to the company’s growth and success, and clearly state what you personally bring to the table,” Hogan advises. If you’re struggling to advocate for yourself, Jackson recommends asking yourself the following questions: what would happen if I didn’t come to work? What wouldn’t get done?

4. Have a clear target. Go into the meeting with a specific salary or range in mind. Conduct market research beforehand to find out the average salary for your position. Note: Just because someone has the same title as you, doesn’t necessarily mean you should be making the same salary as them; they could have higher qualifications, more experience or stellar job performance. Jackson advises looking at the job description description for the level above you to help gauge how much you should be asking for: “If you see you still have room to grow, maybe ask for a lower percent increase in pay,” she says. “But if you’re already meeting the demands of the next level, that same percentage may not be enough.” Ask HR what the salary range is for that higher role, Jackson adds. “You should position yourself at least at the midpoint of that range.”

5. Don’t accept right away. You did it! You took charge, believed in yourself and proved your worth to your employer. Now, take a deep breath–and some time to consider the offer, especially if it’s lower than what you wanted. “Accepting an offer can be quite the adrenaline rush, but it’s important to remember that knee-jerk reactions can get you into trouble down the road,” says Matthew Warsel, president of resume writing firm MJW Careers. “What you do today can impact you later in life by tens of thousands of dollars.” This is ultimately a business decision, Jackson says, so don’t be afraid to counter offer. “This is a mutually beneficial relationship,” she adds. “Negotiate, it’s not a closed question and answer session. It’s a process.” Still not getting the pay you wanted? Proceed to step six.

6. Consider other benefits. Compensation can come in many forms, says Maia Monel, chief growth officer and co-founder of financial well-being platform Nav.it. Ask for other benefits like flexible work hours, transportation reimbursements or employee stock options. “But it’s important to maintain your momentum,” Jackson says. “Make sure to have a game plan for what you’ll do if you cannot reach negotiation terms that work for you.”

Final thoughts. Remember: if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything. And as the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed, use these tips to prep and try again! That’s what Brown did. Six months after her initial rejection, she followed a similar plan and got the raise she deserved.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Founder Emaan Abbass wants to talk about your private parts–and how she turned a forbidden subject into a brand that supports women. By Twanna A. Hines

Growing up in Hollister, a small town south of the Bay Area in California, Emaan Abbass was one of the only Muslim girls. Her parents, immigrants from Egypt, were very strict. “My dad was literally the president of the mosque,” she says. “I wasn’t allowed to take sex education with the rest of my seventh-grade classmates. I always felt different.”

Indeed, there are few things about Abbass’ upbringing that would suggest she’d become the founder of a new luxury feminine and sexual wellness brand–other than the name, Ketish, which is derived from Qetesh, the ancient Egyptian goddess of sexuality and pleasure.

“Sex was considered a taboo topic in my household,” Abbass says. “But that secrecy actually backfired because it made me even more curious. It was like the forbidden fruit.” Her curiosity, coupled with a diagnosis of cervical cancer from HPV (the most common sexually transmitted infection) when she was 21, inspired Abbass to start her company.

“I couldn’t turn to my family because pre-marital sex was essentially prohibited, so I started doing research and discovered huge gaps in the market,” she says. Although many companies sell body-safe products for women, few are owned by women of color.

At the time, Abbass had her foot in the beauty door, working at Sephora as a supply chain manager. But she wanted to get closer to the products. In 2016, while traveling to Dubai, she met Huda Kattan, foudner of Huda Beauty.

“I fell in love,” Abbass says. “She was creating magic and I wanted to be part of it.”

Six months later, she had a job with Huda Beauty, moved to Dubai and began creating products from the ground up.

Soon after that, Kattan announced a new venture: Huda Beauty Angels, a business initiative that invests in female entrepreneurs. And Abbass decided to go for it. She approached Kattan with her business plan for Ketish, and the rest is cooch-istory.

In August 2021, the brand launched its first product, “The Quickie” ($27 for 20), an intimate wipe for your vulva, though it can be used all over your body, that Ketish says is rich in probiotic enzymes and made with 99% natural ingredients–plus, they are individually wrapped so you can easily throw a few in your purse or gym bag.

The Ketish website also boasts positive messages and empowering images of women in their underwear, with a full “coochiology” section dedicated to educating women about “what really goes on down there.”

“I want to help women. I want to change women’s lives. I want to normalize the conversations around these important topics,” Abbass says.

It may have been an 8,000-mile journey from Hollister to Dubai, and an even longer journey from a girl who was forbidden to take sex education to the founder of a sexual wellness brand, but it made Abbass the powerful woman she is today: a proud descendent of Nefertiti and Topac (as stated on her Instagram), “It’s about accepting yourself,” Abbass says. “And showing up for all the other fearless females.”

Redefining Sustainable Beauty

This CEO wants to help the planet by educating companies and consumers about what being “green” really means. By Lambeth Hochwald

It’s no longer eough to by lipstick for the shade alone. Given that the beauty industry generates about 120 billion packagin units a year (with more thatn 90% of wrappers and other plastic waste never recycled), the Earth-friendliness of the brand is just as important.

Major companies like L’Oreal USA and Estee Lauder recently achieved their carbon neutrality and net zero emission goals, respectively, while other cosmetics companies are using biosynthetic ingredients like vegan collagen and palm oil alternatives to reduce their impact on the planet.

But entrepreneur Abena Boamah–founder and CEO of Hanahan Beauty, a “consciously clean” skin care brand based in Chicago that aims to bring humanity into the beauty space–says it’s imperative to be transparent about what it means to be a sustainable beauty brand.

“That term can easily become marketing jargon,” says Boamah, who lauched her business five years ago. “Companies now jus tthrow around labels like ‘green’ and ‘clean’ without any real FDA regulation. What’s missing is an understanding of holistic sustainability–the concept of being sustainable from beginning (product creation) to middle (product delivery) to end (product disposal).”

To help achieve this, Boamah works closely with the poeple who produce the ingredients used in her products. Her signature shea butter, for example, uses all-natural ingredients that are fairly sourced from the Katariga Women’s Shea Cooperative in Ghana–and she pays twice the asking price per kilo to help improve workers’ economic situations. She also hosts biannual health check-ins for the Katariga community, partners with the local hospital (which has served more than 400 women and children to date), and holds manager growth adn sustainability meetings, health education classes and more.

“I think some business owners hear the word ‘sustainable’ and get scared because they think it will slow down thier growth,” she says. “And yes, it’s a lot of work and time to build an eco-friendly model, but this is what an increasing number of consumers want, so it will ultimately pay off.”

New data from the 2021 CGS stae of teh U.S. eCommerce Consumer Survey shows that 61% of Gen Zers and 57% of baby boomers want their hygiene and cosmetics products to be made sustainably, and one-quarter of millenials want American-made products to reduce carbon emissions and waste.

“The best thing to do is to educate yourself about the brand’s mission and goals before buying a product” Boamah says. “Don’t just buy something because it says ‘sustainable’ or ‘conscious’ on it. Those words can have many different meanings that don’t exactly reflect the underlying values of the company.”

We need to hold companies accountable by demanding transparency and spending wisely, she adds.

Callie Merritt-Jones

SVP, Chief of Staff For Technology & Operations

I grew up in a household with a modest income. But my parents had us talking about money early on. My mom is the one who said to me, “You always need an emergeny fund that is yours–that’s in your name and no one else’s.

Amber Medina

VP, Product Strategy Hispanic Segement

As Latinas, it’s important that we set financial goals because we care and purchase for many people in our ecosystem, not just our children. Learning to save and invest early from my parents meant that I could be financially empowered for myself and my family.