Guest Expert: Stephanie Michele
This month we are delighted to welcome Stephanie Michele to the Textile Design Lab as our guest expert. We have worked with Stephanie for the past several years through Pattern Observer Studio, with Stephanie in the role of art director for one of her clients in the fashion industry.
Stephanie is the founder of SocialBling and wears many hats as an entrepreneur and marketing professional. She has worked with companies such as Match.com, AEG, Sony, Public Storage, Kaiser Permanente and New Balance and is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Stephanie also hosts “Relatable with Stephanie Michele,” a weekly live-stream show highlighting a deeper exploration of human interaction, connection and conversation for the purpose of wellness and leadership development. We are so excited to bring Stephanie’s wealth of experience to the Textile Design Lab guest expert role! On Monday, January 28th, Stephanie will be in the Lab sharing her thoughts on design management, and charting goals based on relationship development. We invite you to learn more about Stephanie in today’s interview!
Welcome Stephanie! Can you tell us a bit about your company, SocialBling, and what led you to starting your own business?
Before starting SocialBling in 2009, I held executive level positions in marketing and advertising agencies, and also worked directly with Fortune 500 companies such as JCPenney, Match.com, AEG, Sony, Public Storage, Kaiser Permanente, and New Balance. One of the main areas of expertise I developed and expanded on over the years is that of a deeper understanding of behavioral patterns. With data, auditing, and personal observation, I implement marketing, product development, and workforce peak performance plans designed to achieve specific goal-based results. These results typically fall into one of the following areas: 1) getting a specific demographic of people to do something (sign up, purchase, tell a friend, etc.); or 2) increase performance of a work team in areas such as agility, creativity, communication, and innovation.
I believe maximum success is always a result of relationships; people working together in their best environments and circumstances. I also believe as we work to maintain healthy mutually beneficial relationships with co-workers, vendors, clients, and customers, our profits increase as our expenses in marketing and HR decrease. I started SocialBling to provide clients with data driven marketing and performance services that are based on the relational principles I have learned and expanded on over the years.
What does a typical work day look like for you and what are the different hats you wear?
Ahhh…so many hats! I work mostly with freelance professionals outside of my office, which means I am taking the lead on operations, sales, creative development, and project management tasks. There are three main focuses to my work:
- Business Services: this involves answering the question “where are businesses vulnerable and missing out on life-time value and sales from relationships with employees, vendors, and customers?”
- Personal Services: teaching relational formulas for achieving goals.
- Fashion and Home Good Mass Market Development: positioning brands for success on QVC.
I tend to do my best thinking in the mornings, so I organize my tasks based on the level of difficulty required to complete the work. I do creative writing and strategic plans writing in the morning. I keep the morning quiet for this reason. The reward comes after this when I have human contact, making calls and appointments with favorite colleagues, mentors, and clients in the early afternoon. By the end of the work day, I am completing easier tasks, setting plans for the next day, and appointment setting for the following weeks. I also tend to do a lot of reading and research in the late afternoons and evening.
What have been some of the challenges/surprises and/or exciting moments in running your own business?
When you start a business, I think the biggest challenge is maintaining focus and consistency while also being available for learning. I am surprised when clients want to change things before momentum has a chance to build. I have learned repeatedly how momentum always produces something—either results and knowledge. I love it when people acknowledge a positive experience they are having as a result of the work we are doing together; especially when it surpasses the initial business goals we met. Life is too short to not enjoy what you do. I love the feeling of being in a productive and positive flow with people who are passionate about their work. Being able to help people experience the quality and value of their own interaction and work continues to be the most exciting part of what I do.
How have you tackled and overcome challenges you have faced in your career?
Short answer—with great people and a mirror. I have always put a high value on relationships. I am very strategic in building and maintaining important relationships in my life. I have a formula for charting personal and business goals based on making sure I have mentors, supporters, and even challengers in all areas of my life I am working on. When I get stuck, I know there is someone I can reach out to for advice. They are there for me and I am there for them.
I also have learned to pay attention to my level of fatigue, stress, and even general aches in my body. When noticed, I ask the question “what is my role in this?” This helps me to take an honest look at what is not working for me. Example: I use to have a stressful relationship with my daily task list. I would get tired just by writing it, knowing how many times in the days I would be changing gears (or hats as we often say) to complete the work. Now you will often see names on my list instead of the task because the relational aspect is what is most motivating to me. You will also see things like stretch, dance, breathe in between tasks that can be draining. This is my reminder to make sure my energy level is replenished.
What would you consider to be your proudest achievement or greatest business success thus far? What are your goals for the future?
I will be the first to tell you when I don’t know something and then discover something that works, I want to share it with everybody! For this reason, I love public speaking. I have spoken at conferences and to audiences as large as 5,000 people. In my earlier career, I was unsure of how to use my voice, as many women are for all the reasons that led to this #MeToo moment in time. I think for anyone; male, female, trans, and non-binary, one of the hardest and most fulfilling things you can do is to find your authentic voice and use it. As more automation and artificial intelligence technologies replace humans and human interaction, I will be guiding people through advanced human encounters so that we don’t lose sight on how important our connected humanity really is.
My work is taking a more soulful/spiritual path lately, which I am looking forward to exploring and sharing with other people.
What specific actions or decisions do you feel have made the biggest impact on your business?
Without a doubt, my ability to grow my business to the point where I receive the exact type of referrals I love is directly related to two things: 1) strategic networking/relationship building; and 2) committing to a life of learning. I attend at least three events a month to either meet new people or learn something new. I seek out knowledge based on challenges I am experiencing or a desire to improve skills I already have. I am also careful to not develop a FOMO (fear of missing out) relationship with new information and knowledge. Most of the content we are exposed to is what I call “fast food content,” content that has no real value on specific information. Instead of getting bogged down by my promotional inbox or social media scrolling, I search for information as needed.
Who are some of your role models and why? What about them has inspired you or influenced your work?
I love women that manage to lead with strength, while maintaining their authentic feminine energy. Oprah, Michele Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, and Donna Karan come to mind.
Is there any advice you have received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you?
Many of my favorite mentors have given me the same advice—be true to yourself. Be respectable to people and their time. Show up on time. Have integrity with your word.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring business owners trying to build successful brands of their own?
- Identify your unique value proposition and do the research to be sure there is target demographic that is aligned to the offering of your brand.
- Measure yourself and your growth based on your known variables, do not compare your success against another brand that you can’t account for what assets and challenges they have.
- It is also a good idea to limit your exposure to social media during times of heavy development where you are likely to be super critical of yourself. Social media is a good catalyst for the negative voice in your head. Trigger the supportive voice in your head by talking with people that support you and by maintaining healthy practices of physical exercise and mediation.
Before we wrap up, could you tell us a little bit about your experience with art directing?
Objective-based art creation is the result of subjective-based communication. This means that as we work together on teams to create something for a client, each team member has their own interpretation of what is required. This process is ripe for time waste and miscommunications unless you invest a little extra time at the beginning of a project to provide examples, color swatches, and get to know how team members communicate.
I like to ask a lot of questions up front.
- What do you need to do your best work? (time, samples, input, etc.)
- What part of what I am sharing is clear and unclear?
I also highly recommend “mirroring” communication at the start of the project and at all crucial feedback stages during approval process. Mirroring in terms of repeating back what your team member just said and then asking the questions:
- Did I get that right?
- Is there anything I am missing?
Can you give us a quick preview into what you will be sharing with the Textile Design Lab community later this month? What can people expect to learn?
I would like to divide our time together into two parts:
- Design Management: this is where I take specific questions from community as it relates to design project management, managing vendors, marketable commercial artwork, collection correction, etc.
- Charting Goals Based on Relationship Development: during this time, I will share my formula and worksheet for doing this.