Category Archives: Success Stories

Tiffany Kathryn Giardina, “Gia”, Singer, Songwriter, Actress and Model – Entrepreneur

Tiffany Kathryn Giardina Like most 18-year-olds, Waccabuc resident Tiffany Giardina is busy prepping for the SAT. But, unlike most of her peers, she is also writing and producing songs and music videos and touring the country, opening for the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. The oldest of three sisters, Giardina doesn’t come from a show-biz family: her dad is an insurance broker; her mom, a homemaker. “I’ve always loved putting on a show,” she says. “At family gatherings, I would take my cousins and sisters aside and we would plan out a show and then perform for our parents.”

Child Star

When she was just five years old, Giardina played Molly in Annie at the Yorktown Stage; at nine, she played Marta in The Sound of Music with the Paper Mill Playhouse Off-Broadway. She released her first Christmas album, We’ve Got Christmas, in 2005 and performed her single, “Sure Don’t Feel Like Christmas,” on Fox News in 2006. In between, she appeared in TV commercials for Cheerios and Major League Baseball, some of which are still airing.

Representing Mattel Worldwide

Now, she’s hoping for a much bigger audience as she makes the transition from teen to mainstream artist, using Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, and Lady Gaga as role models. “I’m at a turning point in my career now, working on a variety of different projects,” Giardina says. One of those is working with Mattel on a new animated film, The Princess and the Pop Star. “I’m the voice of Keira, the pop star,” she says. “It’s one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on—they sync the animation to my facial and body movements, so the character really looks like me.” Along with a new princess Barbie, Mattel will be issuing a talking Keira doll in Giardina’s likeness. (“When you push a button on the two dolls at the same time, our voices harmonize!”) The movie is slated for release this summer.

Works on Music Everyday

Tiffany works on her music every day, either writing some lines or a melody on her piano. When she is watching a movie, she often gets inspiration and writes about that. She wrote one song, “Casualties of Love,” with the upcoming film adaptation of The Hunger Games in mind.

New Album

What are her plans for the future? “My next album will be an extension of what I’m doing now, but with new music, a new sound. I hope my songs will be on Top Forty music stations, but I love being on stage best. Offstage, I’m very shy, but I become a different person when I perform—sometimes I don’t even remember the performance!”

Advice to Young Entrepreneurs:  ”If you have a gift or talent, find ways to use it in the world for the good of others.”

 

Farrah Gray, Farrah Gray Publishing – Entrepreneur

When most 6-year-olds were worried about what time their favorite cartoon came on TV, Gray was already an entrepreneur. He was going door-to-door in his inner-city Chicago neighborhood selling hand-painted rocks as bookends to help his ailing mother make ends meet. “I can remember being very young and my mom having a heart attack. I wondered how we were going to pay the bills and thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to be poor like this anymore,’” he recalls.

Founded and Operated Several Businesses

Trying to figure out a way to improve his family’s home life sparked something big: By the time he was 17, Gray had founded and operated several businesses, including Kidztel, a prepaid phone card company, and Farr-Out Foods, a food company targeting young adults, which grossed $1.5 million in sales before he sold it. At 20, his first book, “Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich Inside and Out,” was published.

Latest Venture – Publishing

Now, Gray’s focused on his latest venture, Farrah Gray Publishing, a boutique celebrity book publishing house he started in 2009, which includes titles such as “Transparent” by CNN’s Don Lemon. Gray also spends his time contributing to charitable organizations, such as the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Marrow Donor Program.

Advice to young entrepreneurs: For anyone considering starting a new business,  keep things small: “A lot of times we get caught up in trying to be the next Facebook or Apple. That isn’t necessary — niche yourself.”

 

 

Jess Conners, CEO and Founder Peppermint Park – Entrepreneur

Jesse Conners, CEO and founder of PeppermintPark.com had an unusual childhood: When she was 9, her parents joined a cult and — believing that the world was about to end — sold all of their worldly possessions. From then until she was 18, Conners traveled across the U.S. and to Mexico with her family, following the cult’s message and searching for work along the way. As unconventional as it was, she says her upbringing spurred the independence she needed to succeed in business.

From High School to Business

While in high school, she started doing the marketing for her father’s chiropractor practice, which eventually led to a job in real estate. At 21, she auditioned for and was cast in the first season of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” Although Conners didn’t win, her stint on national television landed her a job on the real estate speaking circuit. In 2008, she began building PeppermintPark.com, a membership-based fashion and luxury brand online retailer. The Web site has been up and running for a little over a year and has a ten-person staff.

Surpassed Network of One Million Dollars

Earlier this year, Conners’s “outside the box” approach to business helped her to surpass a $1 million net worth. In addition to running her company, she has offered charitable support to Elephant Human Relations Aid and provides resources to women who are victims of domestic abuse, according to her Web site.

Advice to Young Entrepreneurs: Conners advises budding entrepreneurs to be aware that daily obstacles are the norm, not the exception. “There is constantly some fire that you have to put out. That’s what running a business is all about,” Conners says. “Don’t let it discourage you. Try again, start again.”

 

 


Jill Blashack Strahan, Founder and CEO, Tastefully Simple – Entrepreneur

For Jill Blashack Strahan, starting her multimillion-dollar company, Tastefully Simple, a direct sales retailer of specialty food products, began with “a dream and a shoestring.” She grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota and later started selling gourmet food baskets, which inspired her business.

She Grew Her Business from the Bottom Up

In the beginning, the entrepreneur fed her fledgling company with $6,000 of her own savings and some loans from a friend and the Small Business Administration. Strahan’s first headquarters was a 1,200-square-foot space with a concrete floor and no running water. Early orders were packed on a pool table. Today, the Tastefully Simple offices take up nearly 200,000 square feet on a 79-acre lot.

Gives Back to Community

In addition to running a company that’s valued at more than $100 million, Strahan finds time to give back to the community. Tastefully Simple has donated more than $5 million to local causes, and in 2009 teamed up with Share Our Strength, a group that seeks to end childhood hunger in America. If you’re an entrepreneur with a good idea, she says to remember that there isn’t an easy road to building a profitable business: “The secret to success doesn’t involve pixie dust or a magic bullet. Having goals is absolutely critical.”

Advice to young entrepreneurs: “Having goals is absolutely critical.”

 

 

Alan Pfeifer, New York City Real Estate Broker – Entrepreneur

Alan Pfeifer has been creating success stories for many years, for both his clients, and himself. A native New Yorker, he began his illustrious career in the fashion industry where he rose from sales trainee to the National Sales Manager at Levi Strauss & Co. Alan then joined Calvin Klein Jeans as President of the Women’s Division. After almost 10 years there, he applied his know-how to his own company, developing product and lending his sales and marketing savvy to start-up companies, established retailers and manufacturers.

Reinvented Career to Enter Real Estate

After a brief early retirement, Alan decided to reinvent and reenergize himself, so he entered real estate in 2000. Once again, he rose to the challenge, all the way up to his current post as Executive Vice President and Associate Broker. Alan’s strong ethics, market savvy and thorough follow-up are among the many instrumental qualities responsible for catapulting his high level of expertise. While he has specialized in lofts downtown, he has also represented a diversity of property types, in all Manhattan locations.

Easy Winning Personality

Clients not only rely on Alan’s seasoned knowledge; they also benefit from his low-key temperament that eases them through their transaction, and his ability to listen carefully to what each individual wants. His enjoyment in working with people shines through in every deal, as does his fulfillment in making a positive impact in their lives. “Buying or selling a home or an apartment is one of the most critical decisions in one’s life, and I take my role in facilitating that very seriously.”

Contribution Beyond Career

Aside from serving clients, Alan is also highly active in other aspects of his field. He teaches at the Academy for Continuing Education inspiring and training tomorrow’s brokers. Plus he is a certified instructor at REBNY and teaches Continuing Ed courses twice a year. Alan is also a member of the Institute for Global Ethics where he participates in seminars. He served as Co-Chair for the REBNY Sales Council, which acts as liaison of important issues to the Board of Directors, often leading to resolutions. And he holds the position of Chairman Emeritus of the NYRS Credentials Committee from its inception as one of its founding members, resulting in the high-level Advanced Graduate Designation Course, New York Residential Specialist (NYRS) aimed toward successful associate brokers interested in raising the bar in knowledge and professionalism in the New York City residential real estate market. Alan was one of the first brokers to complete the course and receive the esteemed NYRS accreditation from REBNY.

Advice to young entrepreneurs:  Live your dreams with passion and commitment. Work smart and hard and remember mistakes are stepping stones to the next better thing.

 


Bert Jacobs, Co-Founder and CEO “Life is Good” – Entrepreneur

You’ve probably seen the beret-wearing, smiling face of “Jake,” the Life is good logo, on the company’s tee shirts and products. Co-founders Bert Jacobs and his brother, John Jacobs, 43, started peddling their tee shirts on the streets of Boston — going door-to-door at college dorms and sleeping in their van to save money — in 1989. It would take nearly six years, however, before their shirts finally caught on with consumers, thanks to “Jake.”

Optimistic Logo Became Instant Hit

The logo, which is infused with optimism, was created after a conversation about how the world was slammed with constant negativity. It became an instant hit. Now, the New England-based company has revenues in excess of $100 million, and each year more of it goes toward their charity, Life is good Kids Foundation, which helps children overcome life-threatening challenges.

Admit Business Mistakes

“In the beginning, we made every business mistake in the book,” says Bert. The brothers didn’t have a business plan or growth strategy — a formula for disaster, if you go by what’s taught in business school. Bert credits part of their success to listening to their friends and customers as informal focus groups, rather than “experts.”

Advice to young entrepreneurs:  ”Try to shoot for a timeless business.”

(One that works through good times and bad)

 

Catherine L. Hughes, Founder and Chairperson – Radio One, Inc.

By conventional standards, Hughes wasn’t destined to build a successful multimillion-dollar media company. She was a teen mom by 16 and a high-school dropout. However, she later completed high school, followed by brief stints at area universities in her hometown of Omaha, Neb.

Got a Mentor

Despite her limited formal education, Hughes, who credits publishing legend John H. Johnson as one of her mentors, worked her way up at Omaha’s KOWH radio starting in 1969 before heading to the nation’s capital to become a lecturer at Howard University. In 1975, she became general manager for the university’s radio station, WHUR-FM. By 1979, she bought her first radio station, WOL-AM in D.C., with her then-husband and founded Radio One a year later.

Homeless and Divorced

Those early years were rough. Hughes, who was divorced by then, slept with her son on the floor of her radio station because she couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. “My mother tried her best to talk me out of the radio business because of that,” Hughes recalls. It’s for this reason that she advises young entrepreneurs to be wary about who they divulge their challenges to — even family. “If I had listened [to my mother], I would be a government employee right now and there would be no Radio One.”

Hughes Builds Empire

Thirty-two years later, in addition to the radio company, Hughes’ empire includes her television network TV One and several interactive ventures, including NewsOne.com and HelloBeautiful.com. Her charitable efforts include serving as a board member and the main benefactor for the Piney Woods School, a boarding school located in Piney Woods, Miss., that serves students from financially strapped families.

Tips

- Do whatever it takes to be a success

- Believe in your ideas

- Give back


 

 

 

 

Scott Shannon, Radio Personality – Entrepreneur

Every weekday morning at 3:15, when most of us are sound asleep, Scott Shannon drives from his home in Purchase to Manhattan.   “The road’s fairly empty” he says, “You  can get right in.”

“Scott and Todd in the Morning” Show

He’s been driving in early to WPLJ 95.5 FM where he’s half of the “Scott and Todd in the Morning” show as well as the station’s program director – for 19 years.  He also hosts The True Oldies Channel, a 24/7 syndicated oldies station that airs on PLJ and other stations across the country, and the official voice of the Sean Hannity Show.  And every December, he spearheads Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Annua Holiday Spectacular, which is broadcast ton PLJ.

Wanted To Be a DJ Since He Was 10

Shannon had wanted to be a DJ from the age of 10, when he began listening to network radio.  At 17, he dropped out of high school to do just that.  He got his first full-time radio gig while serving in the army in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  He then hopped from station to station and also worked for a while as a record promoter.    ”I was just a kid messing around,” he says.

After Leaving the Army

After leaving the army, Shannon worked full-time in radio at WABB, where he acquired the name “Super Shan.   After a short time at WMPS in Memphis, Scott moved to Nashville as the evening disc jockey at WMAK 1300 AM.  Shannon later became program director of WMAK. Under his direction, the station became the market’s top-rated station.

TIPS:

-You can find something you love to do to be a success

-Love what you do and the rewards will follow

 

Craig McCaw, billionaire founder of McCaw Cellular – Entrepreneur

Craig is the second of four sons of Marion and John Elroy McCaw. McCaw’s father was a broadcasting magnate. He was in the business of buying and selling TV and radio stations, which brought in wealth but also incurred significant debts. Elroy entered the cable television business in the 1960s, and his four sons worked as linemen and door-to-door salesmen.

When Elroy died, the only company not sold to repay the debt was the small Centralia cable company with estimated 2,000 to 4,000 subscribers, which was in trust. He left his his senior year at Stanford to take the helm of the cable company and set out to rebuild his family name.  He used the cash flows from his growing cable company to purchase other remote cable companies, resulting in a profitable conglomerate. By the 1980s, McCaw Cablevision was the 20th largest cable carrier in the United States.

Tips

- Seize the opportunity

- Enlist people you trust to work with you

 

 

Stanley Kubrick, American filmmaker, Entrepreneur

Stanley Kubrick was an American filmmaker.  His poor high school grades made it impossible to attend college. He did take some photography classes at CCNY but never graduated from any college.  Having become interested in photography in as a teen, he became a staff photographer for Look magazine at age 17. His directorial debut came in 1957 with the film Paths of Glory. All of his movies express a formal visual style and meticulous attention to detail. His most memorable works include 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.

Tips:

- Do what you love to do and the rest will follow

-You can be successful if you put your mind to it.