What’s Your Story: Chained Exotics and Angels Spirit Divine

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Debbie Lefebvre last month to ask her a few questions about her growing businesses; find our interview below and all of her contact information at the bottom of the page.

Debbie

Tell me a bit about yourself
I am the sole Owner, Creator, Order Taker, Picture Taker, Shipper of Angels Spirit Divine and Chained Exotics.

I have enjoyed creating things since I was very young, I started with Knitting & Crocheting, then branched out to making Topsy Turvey Dolls and other things. Next came Square Dancing Costumes and Children’s Clothing. I have made Wedding Dresses and make a lot of my own clothes. I dabbled in cross stitch, and eventually branched out into making Aboriginal Jewelry and Leather Craft.

I love making Jewelry, I enjoy the creative side of all things. I have never been able to just make one thing and stick to it, I am always making something new, which you will see reflected in my business pages. There will always be a variety of things available.

Some of my passions are my Jewelry, French Beaded Flowers, Origami Kusudama Paper Flowers, Children’s Hair Accessories, I also do Wishing Wells for Weddings, Wedding flowers and much more.”

When did jewelry making start for you?
I’ve been making jewelry since I was 11 years old. It was always a passion of mine. Angels Spirit Divine has been registered for 5 years and Chained Exotics for 1 year., I chose to create two separate businesses because the products and target audiences are very different.

Tell me more about the separate businesses, they are both focused on jewelry making – why the separation?
At Angels Spirit Divine, I sell key chains, beaded flowers, origami paper flowers, buttons, figures, hair clips, rings, beaded jewelry etc

At Chained Exotics I create slave rings, nipple chains, anklets, waist chains, earrings, necklaces etc, all items are Chain related in some form.

With the possibility of adult content for Chained Exotics and the wide variety of products through Angels Spirit Divine, it makes the most sense to keep them separated and advertise differently.

Do you find advertising ‘adult content’ difficult?

*note that the chained exotics are not explicit at all.
sexy…yes crude…no*
It is quite difficult building a client base for chained exotics, it can be hard to market. That is the advantage to selling online, there is the feeling of privacy that allows customers to request items that they really want. They can inbox or email me and know that our conversation is totally confidential, this gives them the opportunity to be more open about what they would like to purchase. It’s a nice opportunity to make custom orders (almost anything I create can be customized) I find the customers I do have, always come back for more.

Slave Ring
Slave Ring Featured Above

I can see why, the pieces are so interesting. I love the slave rings/nipple chains. Where does your inspiration come from?… for either business.
I create as I feel inspired. The concepts naturally come to me and I create items that I think my customers will enjoy. I have the most energy in the evenings and allow items to develop on their own. I like unusual and different things and this is reflected a lot in the creations that I make.

What is the feeling that you want your brands to evoke?
I think the feeling of my brand is beauty, sexuality, empowerment, and confidence.

Who is your support system?
I would have to say my main support is my Children and Family, they have always supported and been behind me all the way. They have also helped with creative ideas, which I like to use too, as they are from the younger generation. I am occasionally surprised with a gift or beads or something that I can use, it means so much to me to have their support.

I noticed that you have a facebook group and also a facebook page for Angels Spirit Divine, is there a reason for this?
I had created the group first. When I later created a Facebook Fan page to take advantage of the page features and to give my new customers a choice of which they could join, I found that most of my regular clients stayed with the group instead. Most of the people on my page are New fans, and it is steadily growing. Now I copy and duplicate onto both platforms to gain the best of both worlds.

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Gorgeous Wire and Gem Tree

What would be your advice for entrepreneurs looking to start up a similar business?
Don’t give up and find a niche! Even when it looks like your business is slow or not moving, keep creating !! It will take off, it just takes time and finding the right people, networking is a big plus too.

You get face-to-face marketing at craft fairs, is there any way for you to predict which products will move and which will not?
You can never guess what items will be popular at each event. One year the beaded flowers will be the most popular and the next year it will be the paper flowers, or jewelry at the same event.   I am always open to taking orders online, no one misses out on an item they want.

Are there any upcoming new features that you are most excited about?
Yes, I have made it easier to receive payments. Accepting credit cards is made easy through paypal. I’m also looking to get the personal payment squares so that it will be easy to pay right at my booth during a show or event.

When is your busiest time of year?
The demand changes from season to season. There is always an interest during the end of school year for teacher gifts. The beaded and paper origami bouquets are big sellers for the wedding season, brides can keep the bouquets as a memento. The holidays (Christmas especially) are quite busy, I like to have pre made items as well as taking custom orders.

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Origami Kusudama Paper Flowers

I am looking forward to this July, I will be attending at the Napanee Country Jamboree, on July 11, 12 & 13th as one of the participating vendors. Link HERE to check it out.  I will have creations from Angels Spirit Divine as well as Chained Exotics at my booth. Come out and enjoy the wonderful country music and do a bit of shopping while your there. Do drop by and say Hi, I would love to meet you.

You can check out my Business Pages at these links, drop on by and share a like, and say hello, I will gladly return the favor. www.facebook.com/AngelsSpiritDivine
www.facebook.com/chainwear

I would like to say a Big Thank You to Catharine Snider from Direct Kingston, for the fun interview and photo session, as well I appreciate the many great things you had to say about Angel Spirit Divine and Chained Exotics.

Thanks Debbie

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What’s Your Story: Twirl Clothing Design

Promote Canadian art and look good doing it!

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For those of you who have not yet heard of Joanne Langlois and her latest project “Twirl Clothing Designs” you’ll want to get caught up. Creating more than just cool and comfortable clothes, Joanne has taken a trend to a whole new level.

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Follow our one-on-one interview below:

Tell me how this idea came about for you, how the idea developed.
I have always been inspired by Healther Hanes’ artwork, she’s been a long-time friend of mine who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on other projects. We wrote two children’s books together based on her artwork. One day the light-bulb went on for me, to showcase artwork and make it something that you can wear and take with you, it was something different.

What is the price range like for the pieces?
Many of the leggings are $90, dresses come in different styles from short and long and range from $80-$290. Not everyone can afford a Heather Hanes original, hopefully this will make art accessible to more people.

Where did you begin in taking this idea and making it a reality?
Heather was kind enough to allow me the freedom to use her pieces. It was last year that we started with shirts but when I held them in my hand, I was unhappy with the quality… physically and ethically. I made the change to a Montreal based company that prints the fabrics. The items are cut and sewn in Kingston. Twirl Clothing Design is proudly local.

Is that where the business will stay or do you have plans to expand? Would you like to take this concept global?
I would like to see this spread Canadian wide. I would like to introduce other Canadian artists and feature their work by creating custom pieces using their work. I would like to see our items in several provinces, we recently took our leggings to a yoga show in Toronto and they were a hit.

I love the leggings! And yoga clothes are very popular, does this make your demographic a young group?
I have customers of all ages, I do find the younger students will gravitate towards the leggings where the women in their 30s – 50s will find the dresses more appealing. Our line has a variety of styles for all ages.

I am surprised how popular you’ve become in such a short amount of time, tell me about that.
It can seem overwhelming with how the organic momentum is taking off. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me and helped to spread the work. I try to focus on staying on track and listening for feedback.

Who has supported you the post along this journey?
Heather has been a huge support system and of course my husband has been just wonderful.

What piece of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are trying to make their business dreams a reality?
Go with your passion and do what you have to to make it happen. Surround yourself with like-minded people who believe in you, and above all – believe in yourself.

Are there names that you can drop for individuals who helped with your marketing, photography, logo, etc?
Suzy Lamont and Tayler Simon have taken wonderful photos for me. Lindey Fair, Anna Greenwood, and Olivia Coughtrey (design consultant).

Last Question: What is something that you look forward to in Kingston during the summers?
Buskers, I always enjoy seeing the talented buskers in town.

Thank you so very much to Joanne for meeting with me, you can connect with her on twitter and facebook…
Look out for her website that will be launching this September (14 theories)
Find her CKWS debut HERE: http://www.ckwstv.com/2014/04/11/twirl-clothing/
Kingston Region Article as well: http://www.kingstonregion.com/news-story/4482410-ethical-and-wearable-art/

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What’s Your Story: FitAID Training

I’m so excited to post my first article for What’s Your Story Kingston!

This blog feature is a chance for us to get to know our local businesses on a personal level and connect with them as people, not companies.
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Dustin Gibson: owner of FitAID Training

Business: Personal Training Studio
Location: 206 Concession (near memorial centre)
Website: www.fitaidtraining.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/fitaidfitness

Although I’ve worked with Dustin on projects like his logo and online image, I haven’t gotten a chance to hear his personal story. I did get a chance to pick his brain during a 20 minute interview, and here it is below:

IMG_20140416_100628Dustin pictured above with his German Shepherd, Mishka

 

When we met, we were both working at the same boxing gym… while you were managing/training I was working as an admin assistant.  How did you come to that point in time? Where did your love for fitness come from?

Since a young age, I’ve always been involved with sports and fitness. It was the time when I went on to college when I had to make the decision on where to go with my career. It was there that I found that Personal Training was a viable option to choose. Since I started out it was a long vision of mine to have my own gym facility. But being young and inexperienced, working for others was something that I had to do before branching out on my own.

How did you go from working for others to working for yourself?
What sparked that change?

From my experience working in the field, I came across many people who were running their own business, although they had some good points to them I also found some flaws (how they ran things or what they were doing with their clients). Through my own experience, classes, courses etc I have a large knowledge base to what works and what doesn’t, when I don’t’ see those important elements being applied in the field, it really stands out to me. When you don’t want to make the necessary changes to your business to make it better, it can be frustrating. During those specific moments I had the real desire to open my own business, to do what I thought was right, and of course make my own mistakes on the way.

Right, not mentioning any names…. What were some of the big mistakes that you saw that held a gym back from success?

Well, Things like being able to open your eyes to your current situation. For example; being too caught up in your vision and seeing only what you think is right and not seeing what is wrong. Things like spending more money than you make, these big mistakes have hindered potential success.

We just published a blog with the topic “do you need to spend money to make money?” You do need equipment to have a gym, how do you avoid spending too much while still making your facility appealing to customers?

It’s really important to lay out a list of what you would like to have. You will have a wish list of what you would love to have but you need to work within your means. If you’re starting small you aren’t a multimillion dollar corporation. I chose to make a list of what I’d like to have, then put the items in order of priority to slowly build upon equipment as more clientele came in.

With your continuing education in the fiend and building upon expertise, how do you communicate that to your clients to stand apart from your ‘competitors’ who have just completed a weekend course, or worse, don’t have proper knowledge at all? Do you find it difficult to compete with the flooded market or are your clients asking the right questions to sort through the BS?

The problem with personal training is that it’s not a regulated field. There are many people out there who spend 4 years getting a proper education and others who spend little time on a weekend course, these are not the same things. There are people out there promoting themselves as ‘experts’ in the field who don’t have the proper training or education to back it up. It’s difficult for the average person to distinguish who is highly educated and who is not. It’s hard for individuals to market themselves and show that they do know what they’re doing. I always tell people to do proper research on their potential trainers, they are investing their money and time in people who are changing their LIFE.

More on getting yourself out there, I know that your business is new to Kingston, how are you going about advertising in Kingston and targeting your ideal market?

What I offer applies to a wide demographic; seniors who are looking to get rid of some extra weight to students who are in need of proper sports training. I find having such a large demographic can make marketing difficult because what works for some groups will not appeal to others. I do find that just reaching out to folks to answer their questions, it works best for me. To create that connection and relationship with the community and have clients approach me when they are ready to make that change.

You’re a sole proprietorship, as am I… I like to make all the decisions, I don’t mind collaborating with other experts, but being on my own allows me to go into the direction that I want to go. How do you feel about owning on your own? Is this something you would recommend or do you wish you joined with another trainer to ease the financial burden?

For people starting up, it’s tough to get rolling in the beginning. It costs money to get started, and in training, you need to build up clientele. In my situation, I had a small following and I found it to be of benefit to get a space for myself. Not everyone is so fortunate to have traffic coming through to help with that starting out. Like I said, I’ve had the experience working with others who had trouble listening to feedback and making changes. But now, working on my own, I can make all the ‘right’ decisions and see the growth that comes from that.

Was there anyone who gave you advice that really helped bring you success in business, a mentor who guided you or showed you the ropes?

Through the times I worked in the field, I really learnt the most from others’ mistakes. Seeing decisions that jeopardized others’ success taught me more than anything I learnt in school. Many people I worked for were quite successful, so there were positive habits to learn from as well.

Are there any mistakes that you made, that you would like to share, that you learnt the most from? Is there something that you would never do again, or are you cautious in the steps you take?

The biggest thing that I was not guilty of, but others might be cautious of, is ensuring that you make a plan before getting started. Even if you aren’t planning to land investors, things like a business plan are valuable; a plan lays a path that draws you in the right direction. I see a lot of people who put the cart before the horse and get out to start the business without a direction to go in, at that point you just lose money trying to catch up to mistakes in a poor foundation.

Do you feel like social media has taken the “professionalism” out of business? Do you find it has made things easier or harder for owners nowadays?

It is a big part of advertising and marketing, especially trainers without a physical space. Social media is how they find clients, they go online. Now we have access to our clients at all times. This is the direction that we’ve gone. It’s so important to be involved with the audience on the computer. That being said, there are so many platforms, that it feels like you could have someone working for you full time to take care of that properly.

I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk with me today. I have one last question for you Dustin, what is your favourite summer activity in Kingston?

I am a big fan of kayaking in the water during the summers, heading down to Ahoy Rentals and taking the kayak out for an hour or two is one of my favourite things to do. There are many things that I enjoy in Kingston though; it’s a wonderful place to be.

If you would like more information on the services that Dustin offers, you can contact him directly at 613-929-9794.

For any business owners who would like to be featured on ‘What’s your story Kingston’ please contact Catharine at catharine.snider@yahoo.ca

Grow a solid foundation on Facebook – WITHOUT THE STRESS

Here is my tip for growing a memorable reputation on Facebook, something you buisness owners might really want to do. 

Know where your business is at and work within your means to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Here’s what I mean: If you aren’t seeing many results on facebook and you are spending your time worrying about what day of the week or time of day to post, you’re just causing yourself more stress than you need.  Start focusing on WHAT you put up to create meaningful (and hopefully viral) content that people will naturally gravitate towards.

When you are looking to share content to your audience look at HOW you are displaying it to them:
  • Could your idea be better displayed with a photo?
  • Is there someone who has already shared this idea clearly who you could link to?
  • Are you providing easy to follow steps when calling your audience to action?
  • Are you ideas easy to read, relatable, and clear?

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Steps for making a facebook page that people can’t stay away from:

  • Make it Attractive – branded cover photo and profile image that shows your brand style
  • Make it Informative – is all of your information updated, will people understand what you’re about
  • Update it Regularly – make sure you’re getting content out there (but don’t annoy your audience with hourly posts)
  • Keep it Different – use diverse content that does more than promote your services
  • Find Appropriate Content – if your facebook post is more than a few sentences long, make it a blog post instead
  • Engage with your audience and topics related to your industry
  • Use insights to find out what your audience most enjoys and when they want to hear about it
  • Promote offers and events that your audience will enjoy
  • Ask for feedback – check to see what your competition is up to

Anyone can make a facebook page for business but following the steps above you can stand out from the crowd.  If any topics discussed were not clear or you need help making a content schedule, do not hesitate to contact me at catharine.snider@yahoo.ca

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Don’t Ask Yo Mamma!

My Familyfam mothers day

My mum, Louise, is one of the coolest chicks on the planet. She is so gorgeous, so fun, very natural and she really looks after me by sending me job postings or sharing my latest project on her facebook page.

  • Do I ask my mom for feedback on business projects? Of course I do!!
  • Do I take her advice as the ‘be all end all’? Never!

This isn’t because she doesn’t have valuable advice, it’s because she has a biased opinion that can’t be trusted. When you want to know what the public thinks of your latest idea, you have to ask the public. You need to get feedback from a person who isn’t afraid to tell you that you suck. Find a stranger, find an expert in the field, get collective feedback that works. Some consultants (such as myself) will even give educated feedback for free, just ask!

Family can have great insight but they also want to support you no matter what.

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mom and me

Do you need to spend money, to make it?

Q: When starting a small business
Do I need to spend money, to make money?

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A: That depends, Where are you spending it?

If you are a new business, there will be some obvious costs (business license, custom domain name, equipment) Some costs simply cannot be avoided and I feel that some areas of your business (bookkeeping) are worth paying professional fees.  When you get set up right, your foundation could save you money in the long run.  It’s less frustrating to do it right the first time then go back and spend money fixing it later.

But when money is being spent it needs to be SPENT SMART.

Start Small.  Avoid unnecessary costs and work within your means.

  • If you have one customer do you need to rent an office?
  • Can you start by selling your product without fancy packaging?
  • Do you NEED new equipment?
  • Can you borrow, rent, or ask for donations?

Don’t skimp on spending and look cheap, spend smart.  If you’re trying to save money on employee wages by asking people to work for free, that’s not okay.  If you want a service done right, you’ll need to pay for it. But there is no need to pay a full time admin to make telephone calls when you could be making them yourself.

Now ask yourself, Do YOU want to have money or do you want your BUSINESS to have money?  If you’re an owner who deposits all income into a personal account it needs to stop now!  Business income should be kept separate from personal spending, when you have enough to start paying yourself a salary, that’s when money goes into your pocket.