Spotlight On: Alexandra Pagano, Founder of Look Sharp Events

I know I say this a lot, but this one’s a good one. I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing Alex Pagano, founder of Look Sharp Events, this week and couldn’t be more excited.

Alex Pagano Alex Pagano 2 photos courtesy of Look Sharp Events

She has a great ‘tude, great message and is all around one of the most passionate people I’ve had the opportunity to meet…about everything. This is someone who truly makes life her playground and a person I am happy to say I have the privilege to know. Read on, Dear Readers!

Briefly describe your past life and what your journey was like to get from “there” to “here”.

There has definitely been a journey, and the most important transition was in the mindset. I always thought I would exist somewhere in the corporate world. I started my career at a conference and trade show planning company and learned a lot about the business so I just assumed this was my path. All the while, though, there was this need in me to be creative, and after several years I found myself drained. At 26 years old, I just couldn’t be ok with that. I remember thinking, “Self, you are far too young to be miserable.” So I changed everything. I decided to leave my job at the conference company and took one at a less stringent media agency. This was a huge step because it meant no more constant work travel and time to take the next step in my life and career. I started a health and wellness plan and realized that being healthy not only leads to a long life but a happy one too. 2013 was a big year for me I shed a lot of weight (literally and figuratively) and that allowed me to create and launch Look Sharp Events. Starting my own company was always an idea I toyed with, but with the constant travel and corporate America continually told me that it was always a distant dream. This year, on a lot of levels, dreams started coming true.

What is an instance- career or personal- that you would handle differently today? 

I would have started taking my future into my own hands sooner. There will always be a reason to push something off. You will always be busy. However, the older I get, the more I realize that time really does fly and you can’t get it back. So if you are unhappy, fix it sooner than later. I wasted a lot of time being complacent.

Tell us about a person who has had a profound impact on your life and what that impact has been. 

This may sound cliche, but my mom has had the most profound impact on my life. My father passed away when I was very young so for a long time it was me and my mom. I watched her be both father and mother, and she is stronger than anyone I have ever met. I am able to take the steps and risks I take because she gave me the confidence and strength to do so. She also shaped my career as well. While some parents may rely on movies or games to entertain their kids, my mom had the almighty craft bag. Whenever we were home and I was bored, she would go up to the attic and bring down a large red duffel bag filled with felt, tissue paper, ribbon, paints, hot glue guns etc. We were DIYers before DIY was cool. Now I have my own craft bag which helps me add the special touches on the centerpieces and favors for Look Sharp Events!

What would you say to women who have a dream/ambition but are discouraged from reaching from it or are told that ‘it’s going to be difficult.”?

This is easy…If someone tells you it’s too difficult, accept that as a personal challenge. Too many people are afraid to take a leap and then you get stuck. Everyone has the right to be tremendously happy, and the path to that is rarely easy. Put your head down and get to work!

What is your #1 tip for a healthy lifestyle?

Being healthy isn’t just about diet and exercise, although it;s ALOT about diet and exercise. What I mean is, being physically healthy is huge and very important, BUT it is just as important to be mentally and emotionally healthy too. It is all about making the right choices for you and your life. I found a program that worked for me that flipped the switch for me physically. I also took a scary leap and started a company and that flipped the switch for me mentally. On top of all that I found the love of my life. I can say today that I am 100% healthier than I was last year mind, body and soul. All because I made a choice to make it a priority. That’s the big secret.

Want to connect with Alex for your event planning needs or in general? Here’s how she can be reached:

Spotlight On: Ashley Feinstein, Founder of The Fiscal Femme

This one’s a good one, dear readers! As we land squarely in 2014, maybe you’re thinking about getting your finances in order. Or maybe you’re thinking about your relationship with money- in other words, how you relate to money and finances. Let me introduce ya’ll to Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, Founder of The Fiscal Femme. Not only am I lucky to call her a dear friend, but I’m also loving what she’s putting out there for women in terms of being a kick arse finance coach and most importantly, knowing your worth!

First, meet Ashley:

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photo courtesy of Ashley Feinstein Gerstley

Now, let’s dive right into the conversation!

Briefly describe your past life and what your journey was like to get from “there” to “here”.

A few years ago, my life was a whole lot different! I was in a prestigious job that I thought I was supposed to be in, I had no time for my friends and family and my relationships and my health really suffered. I wasn’t that unhappy (considering how bad that sounds) because I didn’t really know any better. I thought this is what the “real world” was supposed to be like but I had had enough and knew I needed something more. First things first, I found a job with better hours. I knew I needed some time for myself to get healthy, rebuild my relationships and figure out what I wanted. I started reading, meditating, regained my gymrat status, and got a coach. My experience with coaching was so transformational that I decided to become a coach myself and enrolled in a coaching program through The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). The rest is history! I have since made it my mission to help others break out of the status quo, redefine success on their own terms, be fearless and go for it! It’s been an incredible experience launching my business and living my passion, and I’m so excited to watch it grow.

What would you say to women who have a dream/ambition but are discouraged from it or are to that ‘it’s going to be difficult?’

First and foremost, I think it’s really important to find the “why” behind what you are doing. Why is this dream or ambition important to you? That way, during a more challenging time or when there is a bump in the road, there is a guiding motivation and reason for why you are going after this full-out. Next, take this big dream and “chunk it down” into bite-sized steps. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”- Lao-tzu. You only get somewhere one step at a time and typically the first step is the hardest. Once you start taking the small steps, you’ll build momentum and the ball starts really rolling. I also think there is a tendency to want to have something perfect before starting. For example, you don’t want to start your new business until you have the perfect website, the perfect body, or the perfect workshop. I think taking action and starting is much more important than being perfect. You can adjust as you go. “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week” – George S. Patton.

What is your #1 tip for a healthy lifestyle?

Life can get very busy and we often notice our healthy habits are the first thing to go. We skimp out on sleep, lose focus on our nutrition, stop going to the gym or skip our morning meditation. There will always be something else to do so I find it really helpful to set some boundaries. For example, regardless of what is going on with my week, I make sure to go to the gym X times. Or no matter how many things I have left to do, I turn out the lights at 11:30 pm. These “rules to live by” are non-negotiables to keep us happy and healthy despite how much we have going on. And in the end, I think we end up being much more productive. How efficient are we at work when we didn’t get enough sleep or ate a huge unhealthy lunch? Figure out what works best for you. What things can you commit to do every week that will keep you feeling good?

Talk about a time in your life where you felt stuck and what you did to stop feeling that way.

Feeling stuck is not fun and it can last for as little as a few minutes (i.e. stuck in a bad mood) to as long as a few years (stuck in a job you hate). Regardless of how stuck I am, I find a few things work really well – gratitude, helping others and meditation. Keeping a gratitude journal or even mentally recounting all that you are grateful for is an amazing way to pull yourself out of a stuck situation. It draws your attention to what IS working rather than focusing on being stuck (i.e. what’s not working). It reminds us of all that we do have and all that we have to give. Helping others, whether it be through volunteering, helping a friend or even listening to someone vent always helps when I’m feeling down and out. Not only does it feel good to help people but it also gives us perspective on what we are feeling stuck about. It reminds us things could always be worse. Finally, clearing our heads and just “being” is another great way to get unstuck. We often have so much going on in our minds that we are actually meditating on being stuck. Being stuck is on auto-repeat in our head. Stopping the cycle and getting back to who we are and why we are here really helps.

Ashley Feinstein Gerstley is a certified finance coach based in New York City and works with her clients on demystifying money, whether they are creating a financial plan, negotiating compensation, maintaining work-life balance or setting expectations in a relationship. She provides one-on-one coaching as well as workshops, lunch and learns and group coaching. Ashley started her blog, The Fiscal Femme, to share her passion for personal finance education in a fun and accessible way. She has worked in the financial services industry for more than five years: first as an investment banker and more recently in corporate finance. She graduated with a bachelor’s in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. You can learn more at Ashley’s website, www.thefiscalfemme.com.

Keep in touch with Ashley!

 

Spotlight On: Meghan Fitzgerald, Founder of The YOUForia Experience

As we prepare for the oft-described arc of the holidays- the anticipation and excitement, followed by the copious amounts of eating (Mexican lasagna is big in our house), followed by the post holiday blues- I thought it was SUPER appropriate to interview Meghan Fitzgerald, founder of The YOUForia Experience, where she is a certified wellness coach.

Pay attention to her story below. She struggled with creating a balanced life- this challenge is one with which I feel we as busy women can resonate. I love what this inspirational lady is doing!

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

photo courtesy of Meghan Fitzgerald

1. Briefly describe your past life and what your journey was like to get from “there” to “here”.

I graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island with a Sports/Entertainment/Event Management degree.  Shortly after graduation, I began working at a large international conference organizer, traveling to shows and working closely with all of the different team members and business partners.  For two years I loved every minute of it. But when I turned 25 I was ready for my next challenge.  A co-worker introduced me to an opportunity for young professionals to work overseas.  I applied, was accepted and a few short months later set out to London to work for a well-known financial institution planning their graduate training program and other events.  The experience was amazing on so many levels.  Not only did I have the opportunity to travel Europe like I could’ve only dreamed, but I also felt physically and mentally sound.  I had a tremendous work/life balance.  I cooked all of my own meals, walked to and from work everyday and had a fantastic gym routine.  Things seemed to be perfectly in place.

But when I returned home to the US in 2010, all of that seemed to go out the window.  The stresses of work and the commute topped with trying to create a work-life balance took a toll on me, and that’s when I decided to make a change.  So I took my Christmas bonus and enrolled in IIN to be certified as Holistic Health Coach.  It was an amazing year.  Not only did I have the chance to meet so many terrific and inspiring people from my class, but I also learned so much about myself, my body and how each facet of my life has a direct connection to my health.  I was hooked and thus began my  journey of lifelong learning.  This interest quickly turned into a passion when I realized taking clients “every so often”  just wasn’t enough for me.  My 9-5 job was no longer fulfilling me and I made the decision last December to leave corporate America and birth The YOU-FORIA EXPERIENCE!!!!

2. What is an instance- career or personal- that you would handle differently today?

When I began my job search when I had moved back from London.  At that time I was in a transitional period mentally and emotionally and had two job offers on the table. To make a long story short, I took a position in an industry I had no interest in STRICTLY for the paycheck.  I let outside chatter get in the way of my instincts and my values. I am living, breathing proof that money does not buy happiness. And although I most likely wouldn’t make the same decision now, I’m so grateful for the experience and the lessons I learned during that time and for the unconditional support of my family and friends.

3. What is your #1 tip for a healthy lifestyle?

I love that you asked me this, because I tell people all the time that there’s no “One size fits all” lifestyle, so there’s no such thing a “one size fits all diet.”  What I will say is, that no matter what your goal is, do ONE thing each day to bring you closer to achieving it.  It could be anything from eating a cleaner, more whole (real) foods diet, exercising or engaging in an activity that keeps your brain and your body active a few times a week, or simply by surrounding yourself with positive people who bring out the best in you.

Nowadays I feel there are two extremes at play in terms of health.  You’re either severely overweight/out of shape, or extremely athletic.  People tend to base health on muscle mass and fat content and ignore everything else.   That’s where I come in!  Being healthy isn’t just about what we eat and it is not just about exercise. It very much depends on the individual and what her goals are for getting their health and well-being in check.  The first step to a healthier you is forgive yourself for past mistreatment of your body and take ownership for your future self.  Be patient and stay committed! The rewards are more satisfying then you can ever imagine!

4. What would you say to women who have a dream/ambition but are discouraged from reaching from it or are told that ‘it’s going to be difficult.”?

Have a long think about what your dream is.  If it excites you more than it scares you, then you know you’ve chosen the right path.  Now think about what you think achieving that dream will entail.  The road to success looks nothing like you think it does.  There will be many twists and turns, and you will for sure make mistakes along the way, but those mistakes are what makes every triumph even more significant.  There is no expiration date on success, so If it’s finances you’re concerned about, there is nothing wrong with taking as long as you  need to keep saving and developing your ideas and continue to take steps to get you closer to your goal.

5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

About 3 years ago I read my horoscope (I’m a Virgo) and it said, “You’re a magnet for good vibes.” That has stuck with me ever since then and whenever I’m feeling low or having a not so great day I always think of that phrase and it puts everything back into perspective for me.  I don’t have good or bad days. I make them.

6. What is the single-most issue facing women in our culture today?

I honestly think WE are the single-most issue today.   We’re “frenemies” to other females and to ourselves. I am not saying all females are like this, but I do think there is a feeling  of unspoken competition with each other, whether it be with body image, relationships, jobs, etc. We have a difficult time being truly genuinely happy for other women’s successes and can shy away from collaborations with one another.  Trust me ladies .. we’re a much stronger force when we’re together.

In addition, there’s an overwhelming presence of harsh criticism that we’ve all been guilty of giving ourselves at one time or another.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we need to look in the mirror, put on the lipstick, blow ourselves a kiss and say “girlfriendddd you’re gorgeous!!!” Enough with the negative self talk!

Wanna Keep in Touch With Meghan? Check her out at any of the outlets below-

 

Spotlight On…Ashley Tate, Freelance Writer & Editor

This week, I was lucky enough to interview Ashley Tate, who is a freelance writer and has had work published in several high profile publications. She also started the Money section at Real Simple magazine, which I find incredibly awesome.

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Here’s an excerpt of what we talked about:

1. Briefly describe your past life and what your journey was like to get from “there” to “here”.

My interest in writing stretches all the way back to either kindergarten or first grade when I won a state writing contest. (I wrote something about my best friend Emily.) I started working on the school newspaper when I was in middle school and was the editor-in-chief of my high school paper. Writing was my main focus in college: I was an English major and also served as the editor-in-chief of the college paper, The Villanovan. During college, I spent the summer of 2002 in NYC having an internship at Real Simple, a magazine that had been launched just months prior. Fortunately, a year later (after I graduated), they hired me as an editorial assistant in the fashion department. After a couple of years and a couple of promotions, I moved on to become the associate editor of the Simple Solutions section. Then, in 2008, I developed the Money section and became its founding editor. I served as the Money editor until February 2013. At that point, I decided to become a full-time freelance writer and editor and have been doing that ever since.

2. What is an instance- career or personal- that you would handle differently today?

About seven years ago, I had a coworker that was a bully. Normally, I hate that word and think it’s overused, but that’s exactly what she was. Not only did she verbally demean me constantly to my face, but she also went to our manager and tried to have me fired for no reason. (She did this to another coworker as well.) For months, I let this situation completely control my life. For the first and only time in my life, I dreaded going to work. I started having migraine headaches and spent much of the day nauseous in anticipation of her showing up at my door to berate me. Looking back, I realize that I should’ve gone to HR about this situation. I don’t really have a good reason for why I didn’t do that at the time, but the situation certainly merited that. No one deserves to be treated like that, and I should have had more self-respect to stand up for myself. Fortunately, she eventually quit (after 9 months of hell for me); it was amazing how quickly the anxiety I had about work just disappeared.

3. Tell us about a person who has had a profound impact on your life and what that impact has been. (you can use specific names, but do not have to)

Having a workplace advocate is priceless. The editor I reported directly to at Real Simple was this to me. Not only was her door constantly open to listen to me when I was frustrated about a particular story or writer or upset when I was having a personal situation. And when I wanted to work from home part-time, she supported me 100%, despite the fact that the magazine didn’t allow people to work flex schedules. (It was pretty ballsy that I asked for it.) She has continued to support me ever since I left the magazine.

4. What would you say to women who have a dream/ambition but are discouraged from reaching from it or are told that ‘it’s going to be difficult.”?

Anyone can do something easy. But if you can be your own motivator and push yourself, you set yourself apart as someone who’s willing to face challenges head-on. Those are the types of people that managers want to hire and people want to be friends with.

5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

Life’s not fair. I definitely heard that countless times from my parents (mainly my dad) growing up, and it’s true. There are people who do less work than you and they will be more successful and have more money. Others will just have great things handed to them. But that’s just life. If you dwell on it, though, you’ll be unhappy and stunt your own potential. And why should you let someone else’s circumstances affect how successful you are?

6.  What is your #1 tip for a healthy lifestyle?

Balance. I know that it sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you focus solely on one thing, you develop tunnel vision and lose all your creativity. But if you take the time to step away from one thing and direct your energy towards something else, you’ll be surprised at the insight you gain on your initial task simply by taking that break from it. Getting out of your own head can be so great, so take the time to have intellectual, creative, physical and spiritual pursuits. You’ll be more successful—not to mention less stressed—at everything them as a result.

7. Talk about a time in your life where you felt stuck and what you did to stop feeling that way.

I think that the recession of 2008 certainly made many people feel stuck, including myself. Not only was the entire economy in turmoil, but also my industry—print journalism—was being hit particularly hard because of changes due to technology and the internet. At the time of the recession, I had been doing the same job for a couple of years and was basically at the juncture of receiving new responsibilities and a promotion. But people at my company were getting laid off, so there was no way that was going to happen. I was frustrated by this and also bored after working on the same section for a couple of years. An opportunity presented itself to take on some additional work on a new section we were adding to Real Simple. It meant that I had a lot more work than the other people at my level, but I took it on. It was a creative outlet to me, but it also demonstrated that I was willing to do more during lean times. When the economy recovered somewhat, I received a promotion to a title that accurately reflected my responsibilities at the magazine.

8. What is the single most issue facing women in our culture today?

Everyone is weighing in on the whole work/life balance. Ultimately, I think the decision is very personal and something that everyone needs to make for themselves. What’s right for me isn’t good for someone else. But as someone who has a very strong work ethic, yet doesn’t want to work full-time and doesn’t have kids, I sometimes feel like I’m not living up to my full potential.

 

Bio: Ashley Tate is a freelance writer and editor. She was the founding editor of the Money section at Real Simple magazine, where she worked for almost a decade. Her work has also appeared in Women’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Money, Credit Sesame, Daily Worth, and PureWow. She lives in Chatham, New Jersey, with her husband and standard poodle, Normandy.

Want to reach Ashley? Click here. http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=5470563&authType=name&authToken=qs8e&locale=en_US&pvs=pp&trk=ppro_viewmore

Spotlight On…Unjumbler Professional Organizing

Heyyyy, Everyone! It’s that time again- this time I’m interviewing Carrie Gravenson, Founder of Unjumbler Professional Organizer and fellow NYC-er. Carrie’s an inspiration to me as a newer small business owner, and listening to the story of her journey was very empowering for me. Below are some snippets from our convo:

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photo courtesy of Carrie Gravenson

Carrie Gravenson was born and raised in New York City, went to college in the southwest where she got a bachelors in psychology.  She is extremely passionate about being organized and created Unjumbler Professional Organizing in 2007 as a way to help others create and maintain organization.  She maintains a policy of no judgments and openness to helping people reach their full potential through getting organized.

1. Briefly describe your past life and what your journey was like to get from “there” to “here”.

I feel like I had a million day jobs that just weren’t for me.  I was always so bored and restless.  I was temping to see what interested me and I noticed that wherever I was working, I would always ask if I could organize the closet or storage room or kitchen.  Basically, I just wanted to organize stuff.  The people in the office would say, “Have at it, kid” and look confused because it seems that people aren’t generally excited to organize a messy closet.  But I was.  And I still am.  I feel blessed that I get to do this for a living and work for myself at the same time.

2. Describe a time in your career where what you were asked to do/expected to do was not in line with your values. How did you handle it?

I’d love to be able to say that I refused to do work that wasn’t in line with my values, but the truth is, when I was young, I needed money so badly that I took some jobs that were just soulless and awful.  I would handle it much differently today but at the time, I just did the work until I could find another job and quit.  Even horrible jobs are great learning experiences though, so I don’t have any regrets.

3.  What is an instance- career or personal- that you would handle differently today?

Today, I value myself, my time and my energy much more.  I don’t waste my time with people who undervalue me.  It’s very empowering.

 4. What would you say to women who have a dream/ambition but are discouraged from reaching from it or are told that ‘it’s going to be difficult.”?

Nothing worth doing is easy.  Of course the path will be difficult – that’s part of creating a journey that is worth taking.  Take small steps toward your goal, find a mentor who believes in you and ignore the jerks.

 5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

I love this advice.  Work hard and the opportunities will present themselves.

 6. What is your #1 tip for a healthy lifestyle?

Drink more water!  (It’s also a money-saving tip.)

7. Talk about a time in your life where you felt stuck and what you did to stop feeling that way.

Whenever I feel stuck or bored, I travel.  It doesn’t have to be far, but get out of your comfort zone and do something you don’t normally do.  It’s a like a reboot for your brain.

Did you enjoy this post? Have a question for Carrie? Enter questions and comments below! Also, Carrie can be found at  http://www.unjumbleronline.com and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter here