Supporting my family with a home-based beauty business

Tara will tell you… she was cheap before cheap was in style. She enjoyed luxury salon treatments, but she didn’t enjoy their inflated prices.

Why was it that having healthy, soft locks should cost a car payment?

Tara felt there had to be an easy way to deep condition her hair the way they did at the salon in her own home. Of course she couldn’t bring in a salon size dryer, so she set out to find the right mix of materials that would create the same effect.

After finding the secret ingredient while watching a marathon race, she had 100 of her deep conditioning caps made and sold them to different salons and beauty shops in her city. An infomercial company saw the product and began to market it along with some shampoo.

That’s when her need for deep conditioning started to fill her need for some serious dough. Tara realized that she had a business on her hands. Something that would be able to make money for her family and herself.

“Once the infomercial was on the air and did fairly well, I realized that this work could go from the realm of a fun hobby, something to do in my spare time, to a real business,” she said.

Soon afterward Tara came up with her second invention.

“Ever since high school, I had always had the idea of putting nail polish in a pen, like a felt-tip marker,” she says, “I was working on an art project with my daughter, with poster board and pens, and the idea came back to me. That was my genesis for a manicure pen.”

Trusting in her ideas helped Tara become successful. Follow her pointers and you can be a successful inventor too–in due time. Inventions take patience.

1. Create a prototype. Nobody buys an idea.

It’s important to get your idea to the prototype stage. Find something that’s like the product, even though it might be in a completely different industry.

For example, Tara contacted the manufacturers of the pen that she used in her daughter’s art project, and while they couldn’t do cosmetics because they weren’t cosmetic-qualified, they sold her the pen parts that she used to create the first prototype of Manicure Magic.

2. Have your prototype priced out.

Take a look at the marketplace to determine a reasonable cost to create your product.

3. Ask yourself, “How much do I want to invest?”

It’s usually not expensive to get to the point of a prototype, so after that, you need to figure out where the manufacturing money is coming from, and how much of the product you want to produce initially.

4. Figure out where to sell it.

Could you sell it on the internet? Could you present it to one of the shopping channels and sell it that way? Could you take it just down the street to your local store and see if they would carry it? Since Tara’s product was a manicure pen, she knew that if she could demonstrate it and explain it, it would sell. That’s why QVC was the perfect way to launch her product.

If you’re interested in taking your product to a large manufacturer or a large retailer that you think would have an interest in it, find an agent or a consultant to help you get in the door.

5. Define success on your own terms.

“You have to define success for yourself,” said Tara. “You don’t have to be the next Martha Stewart to be successful. If your vision of success is just to supplement your family’s income, or just to make enough money to take a really nice vacation, or help pay for tuition for the kids, then you should be proud of that success.”

For those of you with a fascination for new inventions, there’s always something new at the Inventor Spot, a blog that targets new creations from the worlds of food, technology and fashion.

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Smarter, Not Harder
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It’s Magic!
Buy Tara Murphy’s Manicure Magic set, available at QVC.

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How to have style that suits your shape

For better or for worse, Trisha’s parents always let her pick out her own outfits. She remembers most of her worst fashion moments happened in elementary school.

“I remember the first day of fourth grade—in the ‘80s, the skin-tight leggings, oversized T-shirts—and that T-shirt clip, of course,” she says. “Eventually, I grew out of the ‘80s. Thank goodness!”

She might’ve grown out of the ‘80s, but Trisha has never lost her love for fashion. In college she studied business during the day and fashion at night. She learned everything from pattern draping to sketching to collection development, and after graduation she works as a designer for a short time.

Wanting to merge her business savvy with her fashion sense, she started a style web site called Omiru.com, with the tagline of “Style for All.” It’s inspired largely by the fashion challenges faced by women of different shapes and sizes.

“My goal is to make style accessible to everybody, regardless of age, income or personal architecture,” she says.

At Omiru, visitors are able to ask specific fashion questions as well as start up dialogue with the Omiru community.

“It’s great that everybody has something to add, and two or three heads are always better than one!” Trisha says.

For Trisha, discovering how fashion works involves trial and error. It is not something you’re born with and it gets better over time. Her learning process started in elementary school and continues to this day. Along the way she tried out a lot of different styles and encourages everyone to do the same.

Here are few of Trisha’s tips for finding great style.

The most common problems Trisha sees on Omiru have to do with finding clothes that flatter a person’s figure. Trisha often finds people who say, “I’m short-waisted,” or “I have big arms,” or “I am looking for something to fit my tummy.”

Check out Trisha’s 4 must-have tops that every woman should own.

So remember these quick tips when stocking up on your must-have tops!

1. Tailored Shirt. A must for work wardrobes, note the sleeve length.

2. Patterned Shirt. Hides a multitude of sins!

3. Knit Shirt. Versitle and afordable!

4. Sweater. Work both for work and weekend, note the color.

Hungry for more fashion wisdom? Here’s Trisha’s advice for getting to the bottom — literally — of your wardrobe essentials.

1. Jeans, Jeans, Jeans!

There are a lot of jean styles out there. Recently, skinny jeans have been very popular, as well as wide-leg jeans. Trisha’s advice is don’t follow the trends, just know what works for you. If you want to wear skinny jeans, know that it’s really tough to get away with, unless you’re shaped like a model.

“If you’re anything like me — a regular person — a straight leg or bootleg cut will be the most flattering,” she says. “Wide-leg jeans also tend to be flattering, and what I love to do with them is wear sort of a fitted top over wide-leg pants for a small-over-big look.”

Trisha suggests taking a look at Zafu.com to find which jeans will suit your body type.

2. The Tailored Pant

The idea with tailored pants is that you want pants that drape really well, so make sure to look at the fabric and try them on. Trying them on is the most important thing with tailored pants because there’s no other way to know how they’ll fit your figure.

There’s some controversy over whether you should get flat-front pants versus pleated pants. In general, flat-front pants are going be more figure flattering. Pleated pants have their place, too, but generally it’s more an Italian sort of style, and it works best if you’re an older Italian gentleman. Basically, I don’t recommend them!

3. Skirts

What I love about skirts is that they’re so easy to fit, so they’re a lot easier to shop for than pants, and especially jeans. Pencil skirts, in general, are great for creating curves, and if you’re boyishly shaped and don’t have hips or a waistline, pencil skirts are the way to go. On the other hand, if you do have hips, I’d recommend a nice A-line shape so it’ll veer out slightly at the hip line. It’s generally most figure flattering.

Check out these other resources for more tips to flatter your figure.

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And Style and Fashion Sense for All
Trisha is using her stylish skills habit to do good at Omiru, a website that believes every woman, regardless of size or shape, has fabulous fashion potential.

Closet Case
Not that you need an excuse to buy more clothes, but the Pocket Stylist is one of those user-friendly, how-to style guides that actually makes sense.

From Head to Toe
Get stylish fixes for the fashion flops taking up valuable space in your closet or make-up bag at My Personal Style.

Be Yourself and Like It
With the Woman’s Guide to Total Self Esteem, those high pressure board meetings or day care politics won’t seem nearly as intense as they do now.

Fabulous Beyond 40
At Studious Stylist, two sisters have taken their interest in sewing and turned it into a fashion quest. Enjoy their spin on everything from modifying sewing tables to mentoring post-graduate students on what to wear for oral exams.

All About Jeans
Real Simple offers their top denim picks to flatter every figure. There’s a pair out there for you!

How to Feel Beautiful in a Bathing Suit

Beach vacations, pool parties, boat trips, weekends on the lake. The memories of good times past make you hungry for the lazy days of summer every year… until you realize that it means it’s time to break out the bathing suit.

Fortunately for womankind, Malia Mills was born.

Growing up in Hawaii meant that Malia thought of her swimsuit as a second skin that made beach romps and playful days possible. She never really gave much attention to the way a suit fits until she was 12 and her mom agreed to let her buy a new, striped knitted bikini.

“I brought it home and had to sew the cups down on the top because they were way too big for me,” she said. “It was one of those first moments where I was so excited, but it was a bit of a drag because I had to adjust it to fit. It made me sort of not feel great about myself.”

Malia took that experience and that bikini and moved with her family to New Hampshire, only to be confronted with feeling awkward in a swimsuit once again.

“Here I was at the pond in New Hampshire in this very surfer girl bikini with strings everywhere, and something that felt super comfortable in Hawaii felt super out of place in New Hampshire,” she said. “I realized what an incredible, emotional impact you can have in a swimsuit, and how something that feels so right in one situation can feel so wrong in another.”

Tapping into these life experiences, Malia decided to spend spring breaks with her parents and semesters abroad in Paris tracking down women who made custom swimsuits out of their homes. She became very inspired at the thought of helping women feel as comfortable in a swim suit as they do in street clothes, and in 1991, she launched Malia Mills Swim Wear.

From the outset, Malia relied on friends, family and her fellow waitresses for fittings, and that sisterhood has certainly contributed to her success as a designer of suits for real women.

Seeing women of all shapes and sizes settle into being in a swimsuit, watching them transform from insecure and vulnerable to empowered and free to enjoy all that a swimsuit involves lit a fire in Malia. She adopted the slogan “Love Thy Differences” for her company and set out on a mission not only to create suits that respected and celebrated women’s bodies but also to teach women how to appreciate themselves and the way they look.

Malia said that the first critical step in enjoying swimsuit season is embracing a new state of mind. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but she does have some helpful tips to make the anxiety-riddled bathing suit buy more of a pleasure than a pain.

1. Put yourself in a good mood.

Get a manicure or grab a cup of coffee with your girlfriend. Tell yourself that it’s going to be a good day, and take that optimism with you to the dressing room.

2. Be willing to experiment.

You may find something, you may not. But you must be willing to try things, and if they don’t work out, you don’t give up. It’s the same mentality you have when trying on blue jeans or dresses.

3. Bring a friend along.

Take a girlfriend with you to be your runner, to giggle with you when things really don’t work, and to keep you from getting down on yourself.

4. Ask for help.

The sales clerks are actually very knowledgeable, so ask them for guidance. Admit to them that you’re a little nervous about the process, and you’ll be amazed at how they’ll really be rooting for you. Tell them what colors you like and what styles you are interested in. Ask questions, ask for guidance, and reach out a little bit. You’ll be amazed at what you get back.

5. Take it all in.

Instead on turning around and zeroing in on your bottom or your love handles, look at yourself in the suit from head to toe. Appreciate the way the suit looks in the context of your entire body instead of focusing on how well or poorly it masks your least favorite areas. No one else looks at you in a swimsuit like that and you shouldn’t either.

With customers like Madonna, Cindy Crawford, and Elle Macpherson, you’d think that Malia Mills is only for the super glamorous, but that’s just not the case. Even as her suits show up in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and Victoria’s Secret catalogues, she remains committed to pleasing real women and creating swim wear that suits their various shapes.

Secrets for Building an Eco-Friendly Business

Even as a child, Summer was interested in saving the earth.

“Growing up, it was just my mom and me, and she instilled environmental awareness in me,” she said. “Even when I was really young, I’d knock on my neighbors’ doors and tell them to not use so many plastic bags.”

Summer carried her passion for the environment with her through college at UC Berkeley, where she majored in sociology and conservation and resource studies.

After graduation, Summer took a job as a 6th grade teacher. She loved teaching and the lifestyle that it afforded, but soon she found herself going through the motions a little too comfortably.

“I was busy all the time, grading papers constantly at coffee shops, and just living my life,” she said. “But at some point, I realized I had gotten away from those things that had been really important to me.”

As she concentrated her efforts more on reconnecting with her passion, she found she was spending a lot of her free time researching what she bought and what products were good for the earth. Especially when it came to buying clothes, it was difficult to shop responsibly.

“There was nothing I could wear to work. There was nothing I could wear out, going out to clubs or going out to dinner. Frankly, I couldn’t find anything I liked,” she said. “I decided to stop complaining about the fact that nobody had changed this and be the change, create my own resource.”

Summer is passionate about the environment because she cares about what happens in the future.

“Everything that I sell is certified organic, which means a third party comes in and certifies how it’s grown,” she said. “It’s also either domestically made by artisans who create their own wage, under U.S. labor laws, or it’s sourced through the fair trade federations. Every single product has a sort of certification that makes it definitely earth-friendly.”

Being able to help others make better decisions more easily is far more rewarding for Summer than she ever imagined it would be. She feels like she is living a life of purpose, that she is following the admonition on her favorite refrigerator magnet: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

“I feel really happy for what I’ve done,” she said. “I am proud of myself that I’ve really been true to what I believe in but have also made a livelihood in doing that, in doing something small to benefit the bigger picture.”

Check out Summer’s online store BTC Elements, it’s got everything from organic cotton tablecloths to recycled fleece winter coats.

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Green? Great!
Check out this comprehensive shopping blog that highlights eco-friendly apparel and goods from all over the web.

Mind Your Biz
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Why I Make Wedding Dresses with a Story

Anna grew up surrounded by fabrics and patterns and pins. Both of her grandmothers were seamstresses, and so was her mom. When she was little, Anna would be given the extra scraps of fabric, which she would use to make outfits for her dolls.

Anna is Armenian, and says that Armenians like to party. Oftentimes she would end up making many of the dresses she would need for all those crazy parties. She discovered she had a talent for whipping together beautiful pieces on the spot. She thought about designing other types of clothing, but for her it was all about the dress.

She says, “A beautiful dress makes a woman feel her best. When I wear a great dress, I feel very feminine, but also empowered.”

Anna discovered five ‘feel-good’ dress styles and then started making them in white to create wedding gowns.

“Within six months, I had developed five styles that were similar to dresses I had created for myself over the years. These styles were flattering and made me feel good because they hug you in the right spots and don’t hug you in the wrong spots. They’re sexy, yet tasteful. Now, when I work with a bride, we choose the style that flatters her most and go from there.”

Many brides that Anna works with bring something significant from their past to embroider into their wedding dress, whether it be their grandmother’s old pearls, their mother’s veil, or even a note they received as a child.

Anna has even taken the vintage wedding dress of a bride’s mother and used parts of it to make a whole new dress. “I think it’s so important to have a part of your past with you as you move forward, especially for something so special as your wedding.”

She says, “When creating a dress, I often combine some of my vintage materials with something significant that the bride brought in, or use organic silk and hand paint it. Whether the bride wants something simple or elaborate, my goal is to make something that is very special to her.”

Anna herself will be getting married soon, and now, she’s working on her own dress.

“For my dress, I’m combining two vintage pieces that I really love. One is a vintage kimono, and the other is an elaborate, embroidered cotton piece that’s very translucent and beautiful.”

Anna centers her designs around the idea of transformation and becoming your best. For her, she feels that clothing can help you do that.

“When we put on something that makes us feel really good, we can become that good, we can be at our best. That is something I hope to always put in the dresses that I make for myself and for others.”

If you love vintage and want a dress that truly reflects you, visit Anna’s web site for ideas or information on how to work with her.

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Real Brides, Real Life, Real Weddings
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So I’m a “weirdo.” Who cares?!

When Jennifer got a job as a secretary, the first thing she had to do was go and buy work clothes… she hated it. Going to work was fine–it paid the bills and everybody was nice–but wearing those stuffy clothes was a real drag.

“I’ve always been a little odd, but I really fit in. I thought, ‘They think I am just so Corporate America.’ I had on grey suits and little pink tops underneath. But the secretary next to me started noticing I had this crazy array of colorful socks, the ones where all the toes are a different color or with glitter or little animals. You go to enough corporate happy hours and eventually your secret is out of the bag.”

The receptionist would go on vacation, and it would be Jennifer’s job to cover the phones. She would bring boxes of beads and cubes of resin to work. “I would be sitting there with the phone in my arm, like, “Thank you for calling. Who would you like to speak to?” with my pliers, putting together jewelry.”

“I got featured in a magazine, and within three days, I had so many orders I had to make a life decision. I could either keep my job or make my jewelry orders. I ended up saying, ‘Why am I a secretary? I might as well do something where I can be more me and express myself.’ That’s what I’ve done full time for the last four or five years.”

The way that Jenifer feels free to express her creativity is both refreshing and inspring! “I try to express how I am in my work, in the way I look, in my house. Otherwise I would feel like I wasn’t being true to myself.”

So where can you see more from Jennifer? The Naughty Secretary Club. And as her grandma said,”You got to let it out, or you’re going to get sick.” So go and be yourself!

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Full figured and FABULOUS!

You know how you go out looking for the perfect dress for an upcoming wedding or party and you search high and low and then FINALLY you find what you’re looking for?

Well, what if after all that you walked into a reception hall with your head held high, feeling like a million bucks, and there, right in front of you, is a woman wearing the exact same outfit?

For Jessica, that happened one too many times.

“As a plus-size woman the only place I had to shop was Lane Bryant, which is fine until all the plus-size women out there are wearing the same thing,” said Jessica.

Sick of all the limitations put on her wardrobe choices just because of her size, Jessica set out to create a fashion line that complemented her curves and made her stand out from the rest.

Jessica had been internally stewing on her clothing line for 11 years. After pulling 80-hour work weeks and climbing the corporate ladder, she decided that wasn’t emotionally satisfying or exciting to her anymore. A chat with her employer gave her the opportunity to scale back to part time while she pursued her designer dreams.

Jessica started Svoboda Style three years ago. Women write to her all the time telling her that she has helped them go out in public more often. Her line gives them the right outfit, and along with that, the right attitude.

“I absolutely believe in what I am doing right now,” she said. “It is a pretty amazing feeling to know that I have transformed other women’s lives by helping them feel confident when they go out on a date or do things that they really might have never done before.”

Jessica’s passion for fashion has allowed her to go from a gal with no clothing options to a trend-setting fashionista and entrepreneur. She’s able to finance her life through her own vision. She’s also found success on her own terms.

“Success does not always mean money,” she said. “Success to me is to live my life without having to make any considerations about money, to go and do whatever I want to do without having to worry about money. And to look cute while doing it.”

For an inside look on Jessica’s fashion sense, check out Svoboda Style and these other resouces.

HerSpace
Check in on Jessica at MySpace to leave her a message, get new updates, and catch her passion for fashion.

Curvalicious
Follow the soft swells of plus-size fashion with Venus Diva Magazine, brought to you by ‘curvy’ women and teens on a mission to help big girls live big.

A+ Plus
At the Plus Size Clothing Scoop, you can stay on top of all the plus-size trends in fashion and activism.

A Little Diddy about Liis and Diane
With 20 years of combined experience as models, Liis and Diane are reshaping the catwalk to better suit plus- and real-sized women. Talk about walking the walk.