We’re all surrounded by talented women in our lives. It just so happens that we’re super extra fortunate to be a part of a co-operative work community that is chock full of badass female creators, innovators and community builders. They wear many hats. They take on a bunch of responsibilities. And they do amazing work. So this post is for them.
We want to celebrate their spirit, tell their stories and amplify their voices this month. While we are fortunate to have many, many female members in our community…too many to list here. But these are just some of the folks doing big, cool or interesting things worth noting. Our challenge to you…read their stories, connect with them, follow them. They have causes you can support, skills and knowledge you can hire and stories worth sharing. When women thrive…we all thrive.
PS: There are 12 actually…we couldn’t help ourselves. 😂
Amy Johnson Ely
Amy is the Executive Director for The Palmetto Cycling Coalition whose mission is to make South Carolina bicycle and pedestrian friendly, by improving safety through better access and education, to promote healthy lifestyles and livable and economically viable communities. Amy is a huge advocate for bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities and livable communities; activating stakeholders, citizens and evangelists alike.
Bianca is an entrepreneur, wife, mom and a pizza and Prosecco enthusiast. Her favorite meal is brunch (check out her podcast Books, Brunch and Babes), a lover of all books (she still buys actual books), a branding photoshoot pro (check out her company, the Crawford Austin Agency) and a travel snob.
Dawn Dawson House
Dawn is fighting to preserve, celebrate and elevate African American cultural heritage in South Carolina and beyond. As the Executive Director of the WeGOJA Foundation, Dawn leverages her 20+ years as a tourism professional, storyteller and convener to document, preserve and activate African American heritage in South Carolina. Their wildly popular and award-winning GreenBook of SC provided one of the first of its kind travel guide to SC African American cultural sites. (a co-operative project with SOCO members).
Fiona is a competitive triathlete, founder of the worker-owned digital marketing agency FGM Internet Marketing, and an environmental activist. When she’s not designing digital campaigns for companies and causes she believes in, she’s competing at the highest level in triathlons around the world (competing in the ITU World Championships for Team USA). Fiona is a vocal advocate for the environment, sustainable development and equitable access for marginalized persons and cultures.
Founder and creative director of digital powerhouse HLJ Creative, Helen Johnson is passionate about combining eye-catching design with data-driven marketing strategies to create brands and websites that make the right impression, accomplish your goals, and lead to long-term growth. She’s an entrepreneur and a super mom. She’s seeing incredible growth and is evolving her team’s capabilities to serve the needs of a new generation of clients.
A high energy and highly impactful coach, consultant and thought leader in organizational culture, talent attraction & retention and leadership…Jada built and sold her first company in late 2022 and is now working on empowering CEOs to build incredible cultures and companies with several new ventures in the works.
Freelancer turned creative executive. Kaleigh Cox had a successful career as a freelance copywriter before she met fellow SOCO member Robert Gilbert in the early days of DxTEL. The two joined forces a few years ago and haven’t looked back. DxTEL is a fast growing managed services and platform company serving the rural broadband/telecom industry. Kaleigh has built a reputation as a savvy storyteller and influencer in the space. When she’s not evangelizing for access for everyone, she’s all about faith, family and community.
Kassy Alia Ray
After losing her police officer husband in the line of duty, Kassy was moved to take action and founded Serve & Connect with the mission to help police and citizens work together as one community; Serve & Connect works to heal the relationships between police and the communities they serve and by doing so, creating a future where police and citizens work together as one community.
Katherine Swartz and Bre Spaulding
This dynamic duo is transforming entrepreneurial education and building the next generation of student entrepreneurs at USC through the McNair Institute for Entrepreneurialism and Free Enterprise. Katherine has been transforming nonprofits and shaping the next generation for 20+ years. “Bre” is one of Soda City’s most dynamic young leaders. Working with stakeholders from across the university, the McNair team successfully launched USC’s first ever minor in Entrepreneurship.
Shannon is the Cofounder and COO of Consciously, a creative agency serving the needs of conscious brands including Akimbo (altMBA), B Lab, Black Wealth Data Center, and Planned Parenthood. Consciously builds purpose-driven, inclusive marketing platforms that help companies nourish their business ecosystem. In addition to being a mompreneur and a brand builder, Shannon has launched a life coaching business.
Starlitt Miller is blending a creative background with technology and data with her new startup Transity. In 2022, Starlitt graduated from Visible Hands, a high tech accelerator focused on investing in and lifting up underrepresented founders. She’s a vocal and active member of the Cola startup scene and the most recent Entrepreneur in Residence at the Richland Library.
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Starlitt Miller helps entrepreneurs, freelancers, and micro-business owners manage their money. She’s spent countless hours working with them to help improve their finances. As founder of Start Accounting And Business Solutions (SAABS), she’s an expert in helping people sort through bookkeeping problems and develop better financial management practices.
Spending so much time with business owners, she’s developed a keen understanding of what makes someone successful when it comes to a critical part of running a business: managing the money.
No amount of talent, customer service, or product matters if the books are off.
So, we asked Starlitt what she believes people need to do to keep their business finances in order. Here’s what she had to say.
The Biggest Struggle for Most People: Discipline
Establishing good financial practices early in the business is one of the most important keys to long-term success, according to Starlitt. And she said that’s hard for many people. Sometimes the business starts as a hobby or side gig but quickly grows into a larger income stream or a full-time job. So creating good habits and sticking to them is essential.
“Being disciplined about separating and treating the business like a business, like it’s separate from you,” Miller said.
In other words, you need a business bank account (and that’s the minimum).
And Starlitt noted most people don’t need a complicated system. You can track revenue and expenses using a spreadsheet.
Starlitt said she’s worked with many entrepreneurs who don’t establish good baseline practices. Instead, they use various payment methods and blend business expenses with personal. And this can cause problems when it comes to taxes and planning for the next year.
“But very often, even at the baseline, it’s like, there’s too much gray space [with] how it’s being organized.”
Starlitt said one of the critical steps for anyone, whether you’re full-time or just running a business on the side, is establishing an LLC, getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and separating your business finances from personal. This makes the organization easier, but it also helps protect your personal assets in legal cases involving your business.
Even established businesses don’t take proper financial management steps, according to Starlitt.
“So what I’m seeing is that that baseline of organizing, separating, it’s not taken seriously enough.”
Part of the problem?
Starlitt said she’s worked with many business owners who only look at their bank balance.
“They [businesses] often hired and retained the CPA firm. [And] from an operational standpoint within the year, unless they needed formal statements, they were looking at their bank balance to see how well they’re doing. The cash balance is one part of the picture,” Miller said.
Even after establishing business bank accounts and setting up an LLC, it’s essential to track transactions and understand cash flow.
Starlitt explained many people know they need to look at their financial statements but don’t understand them. And that’s okay. But, it’s important to work with someone (like Starlitt) to learn and be educated on the basics.
“I do encourage them, and I approach our work together in an educational way because I never want someone to work with me because they have to or if they leave me they won’t know what’s going on within their business. That’s not a good position to be in.”
Overcome Bad Habits with a Better System
If tracking finances were easy, everyone would budget, save enough for retirement, and never worry about having cash to cover expenses.
But human beings struggle to create beneficial financial habits. Starlitt said it’s tough to understand why people don’t manage their business income well because you deal with human behavior and everyone has different tendencies.
Starlitt noted each person needs to understand their relationship with money. Everyone has a different background and experience with how they manage it. Those habits will bleed into your business as well.
A critical step in establishing good financial habits is about connecting with the right tools and people, according to Starlitt.
Many business owners only focus on what they owe the IRS and it dictates their view of how their business is performing. Starlitt says the IRS shouldn’t be the driving force behind why you look at your numbers.
“I think it [the IRS] deserves some level of being shrunken down to see a bigger picture because the operational side of your business and how you potentially grow it is why you also need to understand your numbers,” she said.
For many entrepreneurs, it will require a mindset shift.
“The mindset would be the starting point in my opinion and everything else is really about what you need as a person,” Starlitt said.
From there, it’s important to establish a process to match your needs as a business owner and individual.
If you’re looking for a system, Starlitt recommends Profit First to help establish a structure. The priority should be finding a system to benefit your business and your money management habits.
Starlitt’s worked with many companies, and she said those who are most successful set up a system and stick to it.
“Those that set up a system and then maintain it at a basic level, right, so you set up the organizational bins and you put things back where they belong,” Miller said. “You keep everything in its place, and you’re not missing any information.”
When you have your data organized and in the same place, it makes working with partners like accountants and business coaches much easier.
Take the First Step
Finances are intimidating for many business owners. Lots of folks don’t pay much attention because they’re focused on running the company and doing what they’re good at. But, when you signup to be an entrepreneur, this kind of work comes with the territory.
Get yourself registered as an LLC. Or ask an expert (like an accountant) about the best structure for your business. Set up a business bank account (many have free checking). And start tracking your income and expenses using a basic spreadsheet. Each step will be another in the right direction toward good financial health for your business. And when you get to a place where you need additional support, find a great partner (like Starlitt!) to offer expertise.
What small steps will you take regularly to create momentum toward your goal?
If you’ve got big plans for 2019, you don’t want to miss out on setting goals. Last month, I had the chance to work with a small group of entrepreneurs, creators, and dreamers to help them map out their plans into actionable steps.
In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of how to turn your big picture plans into actionable goals.
Step 1: Cast a Vision
Take just a few minutes to dream about how your life will look three years from now. Specifically, consider the areas of livelihood, wellness, creativity, connection (relationships), and money. Don’t worry about making this part perfect, just jot down a few phrases that represent what you hope will be happening in each area three years down the road.
Step 2: Write REAL Goals
Take each area, one-by-one, and write a REAL goals for where you’ll focus in 2019. REAL goals are like SMART goals but better. Why? Because they include feelings. What does REAL stand for?
(R) Realistic, but challenging
(A) Aligned with your vision
(L) Linked to success
An example from my own life in the area of creativity: In 2019, I’ll switch up my morning writing practice so that I’m actively working on an article, short story or poem to share; the sharing will take some courage.
Step 3: Create a Habit
Think of things you can shift in your environment that will support you in taking action toward your goal. Do you need to expand or limit your access to resources? What small steps will you take regularly to create momentum toward your goal?
Step 4: Set Your Intention
An implementation intention will help you start and protect your habits helping you actually accomplish your goals. To help you start a new habit, use a when/where statement. To help protect your habit, use an if/when statement.
Here are examples from my own goals setting strategy:
Weekday mornings from 5-6, I’ll write at my dining room table.
If I miss a day, then I’ll add a weekend writing session.
Step 5: Make it Stick
Learn more about your own tendency when it comes to expectations and leverage it to set up accountability systems that truly work for you. To learn more, take this quick assessment by Gretchen Rubin: quiz.gretchenrubin.com.
If you’d like to learn more about these topics, check out these books that have been truly life changing for me:
Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin
Atomic Habits, James Clear
The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte
Want some help getting your plan out of your head and down on paper? Reach out to me for a free laser coaching session: jeanniesullivan.com/laser.
It’s a familiar cycle. We set a goal, tape it to our desk, and think real hard about it for a few weeks (or minutes, if you left email open). Then something happens. Whether it’s a move, a kid, a layoff, or lack of willpower, most of our goals derail.
Since this is such a shared pain point, SOCO figured what better time to chat about it than in January.
For the first Slack Session of 2019, we met up with a group of members in the #slack_sessions channel to chat through setting and achieving our 2019 goals.
Picking a target for the new year
Some members had big targets, others had small habits they wanted to improve. Things like:
Get into digital illustration
Cut out (gasp!) caffeine
Plan a few snowboarding trips
Bulk up various savings accounts (have you read through the Personal Finance session, yet?)
Coach a child to a basketball championship
Go through the mail every day
Take a full month off for vacation
Finish a book
Figuring out how the heck to get there
Once members know their goal, it’s less of a matter of what they want to achieve, and more about how. And a lot of members think small steps are the way to go.
How NOT to hit your goals
Just like you can set yourself up for success, you can also set yourself up for failure. If you want to ensure you don’t hit your goals, here are some foolproof ways to do that.
Members’ recipes for nailing goals
Thankfully, members have just as many ideas on hitting your goals as trashing them. When we asked what’s tipped them toward “nailed it” and away from “failed it” in years past, here’s what they had to say.
To reach a goal, you have to put in daily effort. And you want to make sure you have the kind of support system that encourages you to do that. Because doing the work day in and day out? That’s far from easy.
Hey you, don’t miss the next Slack Chat!
If you’re already a member, make sure you’ve joined the #Slack_Sessions channel. It’s where we post updates about topics, times for the next chat, and other related info.
If you’re not a member, how about scheduling a free tour? You’ll get to check out our space, meet a few members, and see for yourself why we rave about SOCO.
“I love data no matter where it’s from. I take it as my mission to make sure you know what it can do for you if used correctly.”
What do you love about Soda City? What don’t I love? I’ve lived here my whole life and still find amazing things I never knew existed in my own back yard.
What is your favorite part of being in the SOCO community? SOCO gives me the chance to work near people that are smarter and more creative than me. I’m hoping some of it rubs off.
How do you take your coffee? The way God made it. Black.
Brag on yourself, what is the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? An advertising company wanted to place ads on semi trucks. I was able to take highly trafficked routes and find all potential advertisers in proximity to the planned routes, increasing ad revenue.
Last book read or podcast listened to? Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis; The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaimen; The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons.
In 5 words or less, what do you professionally? Make data useful.
I’m a people connector, problem solver, avid listener, social media junkie and huge foodie. I come from Florence, SC (but born in NJ so I’m a very southern yankee). I am SOCO’s Community and Sales Manager and will be helping with the day to day businesses at our coworking space.
What do you love about Soda City? I love the people that I meet here and the close community that exists here. Plus, the gorgeous rivers, the Soda City market and all the fun festivals here make it hard to want to live anywhere else!
What is your favorite part of being in the SOCO Community? Getting to know everyone and the community vibe. Everyone is super helpful and the Slack Sessions are really cool + engaging.
How do you take your coffee? Iced with a shot of caramel.
Brag on yourself, what’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? Helped bring together the first ever Columbia Food & Wine festival.
What’s the last book you read or podcast you listened to? Girl, Wash Your Face — by Rachel Hollis
In 5 words or less, what do you do professionally? SOCO Community Manager