Sarah Stone Spotlight Interview – September Newsletter
Tracy Carter: Today we are excited to have with us Sarah Stone, entrepreneur and Owner/CEO of Illumination Creative Group. Sarah is one of the dynamic presenters at EmpowHERment’s EntrepreneuHER Academy, which will equip and encourage up and coming entrepreneurs with knowledge and skills integral to starting and maintaining a successful business. Welcome Sarah! So tell us…what inspired you to develop your business idea, and how did you get started?
Sarah Stone: I was working as a GM at a design and print company in Tampa, from 2001 - 2011. I watched the day to day activities and how the market and client base were changing as the increase of online systems became more dominant, I saw the need to pivot and provide a more personalize touch for certain clients that needed it, not everything can be automated, so after some frustrations I made a decision to leave and start my own business. It had been a thought for a while but when you are not 100% happy where you are, it can be a great catalyst to make changes.
TC: That’s great! What resources were most helpful to you when you were in the planning stages?
SS: I love to read so I started looking at articles from the Small Business Association
(sba.gov) checking the benefits of which legal entity I was going to form and registering it (sunbiz.org), deciding which services I could better provide and reviewing competitor company profiles as to how I would be different and what I believed could be improved upon. I watched many Ted Talks, wrote list after list, strategized and made more plans!
TC: Those are great resources and I bet they’ll be extremely helpful to others who will be reading this. Can you describe a challenge that you have had to face and overcome as an entrepreneur?
SS: One of the first big issues I faced was financial, I had gone from a somewhat steady paycheck to nothing, I had a little savings but not a long term financial plan so it was an immediate challenge to know the value of the resources and items I needed but to be cautious not to spend everything I had all at once. I became very aware of how every penny mattered and how I needed to really consider each purchase and expense, it meant saying no to a lot of social events and changing my own spending habits for a while. Another struggle would be finding clients, I knew what I was doing but didn't love the idea of having to sell myself, just having to dig deep to find confidence to get out there and make it happen, you absolutely can not sit around and wait for people to call you. Once you do it, you know you are on your way and each time gets easier to pitch yourself.
TC: Have your priorities changed since you started your business?
SS: Yes I would say they have, just as an individual ,our goals change through life, it reflects in our business too, I don't say yes to everything as I once did, (that is still a challenge) I try to find some balance if possible, there are times when you are just overwhelmed, it is hard work and you have to take a moment to reset before you jump on the next project. I prioritize quality over quantity from my early days, but like most things, it's a stage you go through, how you get from A to B can be a learning curve and that only comes with experience.
TC: That’s so true, some things do only come with experience. Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
SS: I think that is so hard to answer as I wouldn’t be where I am without the good, bad and ugly! I would change everything and nothing!
TC: What a great perspective to have. What advice do you have for women who are interested in pursuing entrepreneurship?
SS: My advise would be to plan, strategize and then be ready for it all to change or fall apart, pick up the pieces and do it all again. Build a pathway to your goals, visualize the end result, wether that is a small step forward, a certain income for that year, obtaining a specific client, closing a deal or reducing your debt. Keep that goal in mind and reflect how you are making steps to get there, it keeps you working toward a relatable and visible target.
Secondly, be proud of the small things you get done or through, celebrate the wins even if it is by yourself and recognize the losses are a lesson too, find the ways you would change the outcome if you had to do it again and remember it, try not to make those mistakes again. Don’t sell yourself short, picture your future self; accomplished, content, evolving and confident in your line of work and never stop learning!
TC: And since you are one of the expert speakers for EmpowHER Academy, which launches this month, can you share a bit about what to expect in EntrepreneuHER
Academy, and how attendees can prepare in order to get the most out their experience?
SS: EntrepreneuHER Academy is an opportunity for 10 women in our community to
gain first hand knowledge on how to become an entrepreneur and the steps involved to take an idea and cultivate it through creativity and develop essential skills, specific to entrepreneurial success. This is a 8 week program that will help those who attend to launch their own business. Each week we will cover a topic or class from finances and accounting to business plans and both analytical and problem-solving skills. My contribution will be covering branding and creative, marketing and a mission statement also outlines of the customer journey and business model canvas. One of the many highlights Is that EmpowHERment also will issue to each attendee that completes this course a grant of $500 - It’s going to be such a valuable experience, we want to be a support system beyond the 8 weeks to really encourage these women to thrive and succeed together.
TC: Finally, how can people get in contact with you if they wish to support your
SS: Thank You Tracy! You can reach me at:
Ph: (813) 810-3975
. IG: @CultivationRepublic
TC: Sarah, thanks again for being here and sharing such great words of wisdom. It was a pleasure talking with you and getting to know more about how you got started in creating such a successful business. I truly believe that you will inspire many. We look forward to your participation in the EntrepreneuHer Academy.