Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today we chat with Johanna Tropiano, the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Made In a Free World. Johanna shares with us her inspiring journey and advice for others seeking fulfilling, meaningful careers.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I am married to my best friend and love that he’s an artist and creative. He challenges me to be creative in business. We live in Long Beach with our little pup, Rufio.
I’ve always had a huge heart for justice and inspiring change in people, so working in Anti-trafficking is my heart. I was a theater major in college and my career has had many different facets. I started out teaching 7th grade English and Theater, then moved on to Pharmaceutical Sales working for Merck and Amgen. I got my MBA, and then left a successful career in corporate sales to follow my heart in fighting for the voiceless and oppressed. I spent nearly 5 year at International Justice Mission before recently joining Made In A Free World. Now I am VP of Strategic Partnerships for Made In A Free World and we have developed the first ever tool that helps businesses determine and mitigate slavery deep in their supply chains beyond the factory floor all the way down to where the raw materials come from.
2. How did you get involved with Made In A Free World?
I’d been doing anti-trafficking work for several years and because of that was very familiar with Justin Dillon and Made In A Free World.[pullquote] Last year, during a particularly hard season in my work, I had this crazy realization that while I was working so hard to free slaves with my career, I was turning right around and enslaving people with my purchases. And that had to stop for me. [/pullquote]Joining Made In A Free World as VP of Strategic Partnerships to engage business on tackling slavery in supply chains was the best way to join that fight and end that cycle.
3. What does a typical work day look like?
Meetings and calls and emails! I work hard to bring new business into this fight with us. So I’m in meetings and on calls with current MIAFW business members and also potential members. I also do a little bit of fundraising for Made In A Free World because we are a non-profit, so I work with high net worth donors and investors on partnering with us.
4. How do you and Made In A Free World spread the word about your mission?
We are a very small team, so that’s a challenge. We work with a PR agency which generates a lot of press for us. We’ve been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, One Campaign, Vogue, and many others. We also use all the social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to engage consumers and businesses.
5. Are there any marketing tactics or channels that work best?
We recently did our first big launch event in New York for our brand and it went really well! We plan to replicate it in LA and other places. We were able to generate a ton of press from that event and top companies like Gap, SAP, Deloitte, and others are now interested in getting involved with what we are doing to bring slavery in supply chains to an end and that’s very exciting.
6. Your beautifully-written post on The Yellow Conference talks about your relationship with clothing. I love this part, “I no longer care to be known by the things in my closet, but rather by my strength and love of people.” How can other people, women especially, come to this realization?
Thank you so much! It’s been a 35 year journey to get to this place! First of all for me it took being deliberate about surrounding myself with people who love me for who I am. My husband is my greatest champion no matter how I look or what I wear. My friends are all very strong women, and we empower each other rather than judge and compare. Also, living in LA where so much is about image and looks can be really hard. I just want to push back on that mindset and continue to fight for inner beauty and strength of character. I’ve been very blessed to have found so many people here who fight for those things that truly matter too. That wasn’t always the case for me having come out of an abusive marriage, so it’s taken a long time to learn. My humble advice to women is to surround yourself with people who accept and empower you for who you are and to fight for the things that matter to you. Another thing I did was I stopped reading magazines that give unhealthy and unrealistic images of beauty. Magazines like Darling Magazine are a great option and none of the women are re-touched. Lastly, I’m very careful about where I shop and what marketing emails I allow in my inbox. I never go to shop or go to places like Victoria’s Secret. Lastly, I unsubscribe. A lot! We are so inundated with marketing messages like,“You’ll love these shoes forever” or “That dress you 100% need” or “The Season’s perfect leggings.” And it’s easy to fall for that messaging. I did for years! So I literally unsubscribe. If I don’t have those messages constantly telling me what I need, then I literally don’t miss it. I already have everything I need.
7. You’ve said that vintage and thrift shopping is a great way to “start your ethical fashion journey on a budget.” What are your favorite shops and sites?
There are several local shops that I love here in Long Beach where I live. My current favorite is Ay Que Vintage. I also love my friend Rodellee’s site Adored Vintage. I always run into places like Buffalo Exchange when I’m near them. I can usually find Madewell and other brands like that there. There’s a great consignment store here in Long Beach for more high end pieces that I really like a lot called Filmore and 5th. Also, you have to be vigilant, but looking on Ebay is a relatively easy way to find good thrifted pieces. [pullquote]But wherever you live, check out the local vintage and consignment stores. It’s like treasure hunting![/pullquote]
8. Is there a #BossLady (or ladies) that you look up to? If so, who and why?
I’m inspired by so many Boss Lady’s! My former mentor Lynn was an amazing boss lady homemaker. She has always spoken so much wisdom and truth to me. I’m also inspired by my female friends who take that leap and start their own business. My friend Kara Dykert of By Kara Elise is super inspiring to me. She just started a new business and I’m so proud of her. Lastly, my very best friend, Amy has one of the most brilliant business minds I’ve ever encountered. She does business consulting and kicks ass. I’m lucky that I can call her and get consulting for free. She makes me a whole lot smarter.
9. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Trust your intuition. It’s good and usually right.
10. What advice do you have for women looking to have a successful and meaningful career?
Be open to new opportunities and don’t be afraid of change! My career has taken me from a small town in TN to DC and now to California and I’m always open to what’s next. If you have a longing in your heart for more meaning, pursue that! Don’t ignore it and let it nag you. Find a way to act on it. Even if it’s small ways at first. Before I started at IJM, I served on a local board that fought domestic violence and rape and I also started taking trips to Nicaragua to work with an orphanage there. That was the start of my journey to a successful and meaningful career. Also, I don’t want to negate the importance of staying right where you are. That may be what you’re called to do, so if you’re struggling finding meaning in your career, but don’t have the opportunity to move or change careers, then I’d say find ways to get more engaged outside of your job like serving on boards, or traveling, or even starting a blog and talking about those things that matter most to you.
A few of Johanna’s favorite things…
More on Made In a Free World:
The Social Scoop is a series about what’s happening in marketing each week.
Facebook releases new search features including personalized search suggestions, search results with public posts and posts from friends, and the a search public conversations.
Instagram launched a new app, Boomerang, which combines photos into one second videos that are played continuously forward and backward.
Facebook‘s new search features are based less on who you know and more about what people are saying. It will also tailor your search results to your habits and interests.
Pinterest is expanding their Buyable Pins service to more commerce platforms, allowing more businesses to sell on Pinterest.
These are images I created for a promotional and educational email blast and blog post.
Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today we chat with Stephanie Surtida, a fashion illustrator who uses a unique style of sketching that she calls “intuitive illustrating.” Stephanie shares with us how she started and more.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I’m Stephanie living and creating in Los Angeles. I am essentially a Fashion Illustrator but with that I do fashion trend research and illustrate what’s influential in style, color, design, and other things. My main focuses usually include street style, fashion week, and of course fashion bloggers.
2. Describe your relationship with fashion. Why is that your artistic focus?
It resonates for some reason. I can never get bored of it because there’s always something new to look out for. Fashion is very playful and it goes beyond the clothes on a woman’s body. [pullquote]It serves as an inspiration for any subject like art, lifestyle, and beauty. It allows me to grow in other areas creatively.[/pullquote]
3. What prompted you to start your own business?
It started with the decision to just start doing the things that made me happy which mainly included drawing.. specifically fashion illustrating. I was just coming out of a dark period in my life where my dad had left and I was in a very turbulent relationship with my then traveling boyfriend. To cope with my pain I started drawing again which quickly became a hobby. It definitely brought a little light back into my life, and I wanted to continue to move forward with it. Fashion illustrating wasn’t a very known career at the time, but I found that there were more reasons to try than not. I began sharing my work with the public on Instagram and eventually was contacted to do collaborations and commissioned fashion illustrations. From there I realized how much I enjoyed getting paid to do what I love and decided to work towards being a fashion illustrator full-time. And everything just fell into place.
4. Describe a typical day.
I’m a morning person. I have a natural body alarm that wakes me up at 5am. I like to be up before the sun rises. Before I leave bed I take a few deep breaths to clear my mind and just relax for maybe 10 minutes. This time is actually essential to me because I usually get a download of ideas to play with throughout my day and I end up sharing them on my Instagram. After my little meditation I grab my iPhone, check e-mails, texts, scroll through my long list of reminders, add onto my reminders, and then I browse my Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and blogs for further inspiration. By 6:00 I’m out of bed and in the shower. I grab a quick breakfast, heading to my day job as a freelance technical designer in the fashion industry. Around 12:30 pm-1:30 pm I’m usually sketching the inspiration I’ve received earlier that day and posting it on Instagram. Within that time I also grab a good hearty lunch with a girlfriend. By 4:30 pm I’m out of the office heading home to continue more sketching, working on commission projects, and answering e-mails. At 6pm I make myself dinner and maybe have a glass of wine. 9pm I’m chit chatting with my boyfriend. By 10:00 pm I’ll close my day with a little bit of yoga and then I’m off to bed.
5. Is there anything you need in order to have a productive work day?
When I have a full day to myself I’d have to be in my comfy clothes, drinking hot jasmine tea, with a yummy scented vanilla candle sitting nearby, and a mini vase of flowers staring at me. These elements keep me calm and focused.
6. Where do you find inspiration?
Honestly it can come from anything. I am surprised by it every day. But what usually follows it is what supports the ideas I dreamt up. Like I’ll find words that relate to the feeling or pictures, and even hear music throughout the day that just resonates. And from there the picture in my mind’s eye just builds itself until I get it down on paper.
7. What is your most successful form of marketing?
Since the beginning, Instagram. It’s helped me extend myself to fellow artists, brands, work, and new friends. I treat my Instagram as if it were like an art exhibit that I’m showing. It’s funny because people have questioned why I don’t have such a huge following on my Instagram with all the work that I’ve done. And the thing is is that I don’t feel like I need to attain a huge following to have or prove my self worth. One month I’ll be sharing content where I’ll gain hundreds of people every day and another month I’m getting nothing. And I’m totally okay with that. It’s taught me humility, and most of all patience. It’s so easy nowadays to fetch you (fake) followers and likes instantly which is the last thing I’ll do. It would strip my work of its value. It wouldn’t be worth it to me after all the hard work I’ve done to get to where I am. [pullquote]I love growing an organic audience and attracting genuine likes. And I may not have over 100k followers, but I’m always getting discovered and work always finds me. Besides, I’m also enjoying my obscurity while it lasts![/pullquote]
8. Where do you see yourself and the business in 5 years?
Still doing what I love, but I would love to see myself working as a fashion illustrator full-time and being more at home creating. l would also love to continue traveling around the world doing trend research, but also have my hands full doing more brand collaborations and other fun and challenging projects as well. And possibly having my own illustration workshops too.
9. Which brands or designers would love to collaborate with?
I would definitely love to collaborate with Thom Browne and Chanel. I would also love to do work for Sephora.
10. Do you have any advice for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Being an employee will be a short lived experience as long as you keep that inner fire going towards doing what you truly love. Believe that the universe is willing to embrace and support what you desire as long as you are willing to do your part.
Just for fun…
More on Stephanie:
The Social Scoop is a series about what’s happening in marketing each week.
Facebook announces it’s newest feature, M, a personal assistant run through messenger.
2015 has been an exciting year for social media. Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook have all made various changes that are reshaping social media.
Facebook Canvas service updates will allow viewers to browse products on Facebook instead of redirecting them to an external site when clicking on an ad.
Instagram has launched a new page specifically for sharing tips and case studies.
Snapchat ends Snap Channel because of the lack of original content created due to the limitations of the platform.
Marketers have applied concepts from psychology to social media posts to increase engagement with consumers. Here are a few simple ways to create engagement by taking advantage of what we know about the consumer’s mind.
1. Images speak a thousand words
…because consumers don’t want to read a thousand words. Pictures are attention getters. Today, we are starting to communicate through visuals more and more. Pictures are the difference between viewers just scrolling past your post and stopping to look at it. Your pictures must make an impact on viewers. They must stand out among the crowding of news feeds and command attention, prompting viewers to stop scrolling and look. The use of photos with vibrant colors and patterns like this apple ad can help draw attraction to your posts.
2. Color choice creates a brand’s personality.
Studies show that there is a relationship between the use of colors and consumers’ perception of a brand’s personality. Choose one or two colors that can portray the personality you want for your brand. This dimensions of brand personalities chart shows the five core dimensions that play a large role in creating a brand’s personality.
Choose one or two colors that can portray the personality you want for your brand. This color chart is a great resource for choosing appropriate colors for the message you want to portray.
Also, by using a color or scheme for your brand it creates cohesion and can help with brand recognition. By using the same color in every ad and post consumers will be able to remember and recall your brand when presented with the color(s). For example: what brand do you think of when you see this ad?
McDonald’s of course.
3. Play on emotions.
Emotion is a key factor in attracting and relating to consumers. Readers always feel an emotion when looking at social media. Whether it’s an emotion you are trying to provoke or if it’s just boredom. Often times it’s best to provoke happy emotions to increase relatability and positive feelings towards your brand but in some cases a message could be portrayed by other, more negative emotions like sadness. For example: the ASPCA’s ads which purposely provoke sadness in viewers so they feel compelled to donate and make them feel bad for not donating.
Or for brands like Nike who play on emotions of pride, success, and happiness.
By provoking the right emotion for your brand and message, it emotionally connects your viewers to your brand and will in turn commit the message to memory. The best and most used emotions for promotional material are friendly, happy, generous, and helpful.
4. Keep it social on social media.
Engage your viewers with conversation. The best way to spark communication is to simply ask for it. You could ask a question, ask viewers to share their stories or opinions, take polls, or even have a photo contest like Marshall’s #fabfound contest:
Prompting your viewers to engage creates a brand personality and interaction. Followers will remember their positive experience with your brand next time they see you. Interaction isn’t just for your viewers; it also benefits you. Through conversation you can discover what they need, want, and what they’re interested in. In turn you’ll learn how you can satisfy them effectively. Target did this perfectly with their tweet: