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Interview with Whitney Quaresma and Kevin Dorey, Founders Of Athletic Apparel Brand BELOFORTE

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BELOFORTE founders

By combining high fashion and athletics, Whitney Quaresma and Kevin Dorey created BELOFORTE, an eco-friendly athletic apparel brand cut and sewn in California. The Founders shared a vision in building a women’s lifestyle brand that promotes positive change in their local and global community through sustainable practices. Whitney uses her experience in athletics and combined it with her admiration of fashion working alongside Kevin’s branding expertise. BELOFORTE was recently picked up by Revolve and will be releasing their new athletic apparel collection in March. We had the chance to ask Whitney and Kevin about the athletic fashion community, their team, and lessons learned along the way.

BELOFORTE

 

What was your inspiration for BELOFORTE?

BELO, at its core, was inspired in our passion for health and wellness. Both of us have such a deep rooted love for taking care of oneself so that we can all live life to it’s maximum potential.

We have always been creative minded people with a lot of drive, and we decided to refocus that drive into a brand and products which promote movement and strong women. We don’t underestimate the power a well styled outfit can have on your mood.

Ultimately, we want to show the world what BELOFORTE really means, and it goes way beyond our clothes. We want to be remembered not only by our core products, but by how we brought the words that make up our name “beauty and strength” into the lives of people all over the world. We believe they should be synonymous and our apparel is created with that in mind.

What are your backgrounds?

Kevin: Worked as a civil engineer prior to a brief endeavor in developing a business associated with wellness. Former athlete, and current adventurer with a passion for people, community and the beauty in the world.

Whitney: Health and Fitness Specialist, Strength and conditioning Coach, Fitness fanatic, Fashion enthusiast! I love helping people find their best selves.

What does the brand mean to you?

BELOFORTE literally means ‘beauty & strength’ in Portuguese. To us, it it means finding your best self through fitness and one’s fashion. It means defying the odds, not giving in, not giving up! Being kind to others, and true to yourself. Shining your best light on the people around you and leaving them with that positive energy and power that we all have inside of us. Living the life you dream of!

Apparel is the one of the easiest ways to express yourself and give people a glimpse into who you are. BELO means, walking out the door every morning with confidence and a purpose, while empowering those around you to find their Beauty and Strength!

How does the fashion and athletic community affect your brand?

The intersection of these two communities drives our business. The athletic community is so powerful, and they are passionate about every aspect of their lives including their active apparel. We were part of this community, and ultimately we saw a hole in the market for active apparel with a more fashion forward aesthetic. We didn’t think there needed to be a clear division. It makes a lot of sense that these two influence each other and overlap in a big way. Everyone wants to be comfortable and look good, and that is exactly what our apparel is about. Brands are now bringing you functional, stylish, transitional pieces that you can wear anywhere! Our aesthetic is very tastefully sexy! You can wear our pieces day and night, out shopping or with some cute heels, as well as to your favorite workout or group class! Everything is made functional for any active endeavor and looks beautiful and unique!

How has your lives changed since launching BELOFORTE?

You always hear about how hard it is to start a business, but until you’ve done it, I think it’s tough to really understand how challenging it can be. What you find however, is despite those things, just how incredible pursuing a dream can be. We work a lot. There are really no days off, but the feeling we get from conceptualizing products, developing them, and working through all of the hurdles is incredibly gratifying. Let’s just say it has been the most beautiful chaos of our lives!

What were some obstacles you encountered along the way?

There were and still are a ton. Everything from building our infrastructure to identifying our sourcing and production partners. One of the biggest hurdles has been getting our product timelines figured out as far as development, sourcing, and production. Right now, our biggest challenge is simply getting the brand in front of as many people as possible.  

Describe your team.

Our core team is just us at this point. We work with a development and manufacturing consultant that assist in driving our product development and manufacturing and they are great. In addition, we work with a great PR team that is great at branding, marketing, and promotion. And last, we just brought on a great sales rep to help us reach more customers.

What are they like?

We are all hard working and fun individuals. We find that to be really important. It makes it easier and more enjoyable to take on the challenges of our days. Also, with exception of Kevin, they are all strong, intelligent, driven women.

What is the biggest lesson you learned?

Enjoy each day! There will always be so much to do and sometimes you will have bad news. I have learned to make the best out of a bad situation and push forward. Understanding what is in your control versus what isn’t and simply focusing on doing your best. Making mistakes is inevitable, but making the same mistake twice is not. So learning everyday and applying those lessons to be better prepared for what the future holds.  

Describe what it’s like being picked up by Revolve.

It was an absolute thrill. We couldn’t be more excited. Revolve is Whitney’s favorite place to shop. And they are the top destination for today’s generation of women to find trends, inspiration and buy incredible clothes. We were honored that among all the new brands available they put their confidence behind BELO and what we are doing. A dream come true.

BELOFORTE

BELOFORTE

BELOFORTE

BELOFORTE

BELOFORTE

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

Business

How To Get Funding For Your Small Business

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small business

It can feel very overwhelming being a small business owner. Sometimes you might not even know where to start. This article was created to give you some tips on how to obtain resources to grow your company. The most important thing is to never quit on your dreams. There are so many tools out there that can help you grow your company more efficiently. 

Visit the Small Business Association in your city

It is very important to write a business plan. Before you seek out funding, it is critical to have a clear outline of your business goals and objectives. The SBA can assist you with reviewing your business plan and help in advising you on available funding programs. They also have mentorship programs that you can sign up for. It is vital to network with other professionals in your industry.

The Small Business Association can also provide a plethora of tips on preparing a financial statement. It is important to understand your company’s profits and losses. An Income Statement can assist you with measuring your company’s profitability over a period of time. Each month, you should evaluate your company’s financial records. You don’t need to be an accountant to prepare these types of statements. It is critical to understand every aspect of your business before you seek funding.

Research grant programs

There are available grant programs that you can apply for. Grants for small businesses have a challenging application process, plus businesses need to meet certain requirements in order to qualify. There are grants available for specific demographics, research purposes, geographic locations, and business types.

The federal government does provide grants to small business engaged in scientific research and development (R&D) under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. Depending on the nature of your business, you might be able to qualify for a variety of different grants.

Develop a personal saving plan

It is very common for small businesses to be self-funded. You would be surprised about how much you can save if you create an effective budget. Reducing eating out at least twice a week can save you hundreds of dollars each month. Having a social calendar is fun, but you have to remember that you are building your small business right now.

If you are selling a product, a great way of saving money is by buying in bulk. You can sometimes get great discounts by buying items from overseas. Another great way to save money is by making your own products or printing your own marketing materials. Try being creative and you never know what can happen. It will feel very gratifying to see the results of your hard work. Handmade items also give a very personalized and custom feel to the items. Pinterest is a great site to get inspiration for your projects.

Host a fundraising event

Giving back is very important and there are several non-profits that are doing great things in the community. If you are looking to obtain funding for a good cause, try hosting a fundraising event. Several restaurants are willing to allow you to host a free event at their location and donate a portion of everyone’s meal to charity. You could also add a feature on your website to allow customers to donate a $1 to your charity at the checkout.

People love to read positive stories about companies that give back to the local community. You can also offer individual internships at your company, so they can get school credit or community service hours. Once you have raised funds for your charity or non-profit organization, you can issue a press release or invite a local news station to report what you are doing for the community.  “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

How business loans can be effective

There will come a time when you need to grow your small business. It is difficult to grow your business if you don’t have the available cash flow. A lot of startups fail because they are unable to take their businesses to the next level. I suggest that you review your business and write out your expenses. Estimate how much money it would take for you to operate, then use that figure to help determine how much you need. You will most likely need to provide financial records to show the amount of money your small business earns as well.

Several well-known banking institutions and online sites offer small business loans. Credit unions and community banks are very small business friendly. Obtaining a line of a credit is also a possible option. Check your credit score because that will play a huge part in getting your loan approved at a good interest rate. There are predatory lenders out there that will offer extremely high interest rates. You don’t want to get a business loan and then end up losing your business trying to repay the loan. Having a business loan can reduce the stress of covering your current overhead, get you to pay your staffs, and will allow you to focus on growing your business.

PayPal is a great tool for tracking your business expenses and generating reports. You can also use the PayPal card swipe machine to accept payments for a fee. A little known resource is the PayPal Working Capital funding service. I would advise that you read the reviews and important disclosures regarding this funding option. PayPal Working Capital offers flexible payment options, fixed fees, no credit check, and funding is available in minutes if approved.

Crowdfunding might be a great option

There are several popular rewards-based crowdfunding options. This is where companies offer ‘rewards’ or ‘perks’ to individuals who pledge to his or her project. It is important to research all of the pros and cons associated with this option. These programs also allow you to interact with the world and obtain feedback on your company or idea. A potential investor might be out there waiting to jump in and help you fund your small business.

There are also several personal online fundraising sites that you can share with your friends and family. It is recommended to have a strong presentation of what the funding will be used for. This will help you obtain more funding and encourage more people to share it with others. This option typically doesn’t generate as much revenue as crowdfunding, but it can be very effective.

If you are looking to create a small business, I would like to wish you the best of luck. Owning a small business is one of the most rewarding and scariest things that you will ever do. America was built by small businesses and it is important to know some of the available tools to grow your company.

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7 Known Brands that Bootstrapped to Success

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Today’s entrepreneurs have a misconception that in order to succeed, you need outside money, and you need others to validate and invest in your idea. Below are 5 major companies to prove that theory wrong. You’ll probably recognize these 5 successes below and you’ll be more impressed with the fact that they didn’t receive any funding to become successful.

1 – SPANX

Sarah Blakely started her $400M company with about $5000 in her bank. At the mere age of 27, the wild idea of her new to be found startup came while she was getting dressed for a party. At the time, she even researched and wrote the patent herself in order to save money on hiring an attorney. Fast forward to 2016, her company reportedly worth $400 million and she owns 100% of her company.

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Getting Millennials Involved In Politics

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politics

Since our most recent Presidential election, it has been more important than ever for millennials to use their voice in politics. Millennials make up a large portion of the population, and by getting involved, it can create an impact on society. Since The Great Recession, this generation has experienced unique struggles and are rightfully angry. Unemployment was at an all time high and wages fell once it was all over. Millennials are the most educated generation in American history, both in degrees and college graduates. However, what was once a job promised after graduation is no more. Millennials feel the need for a moral rebirth and are getting involved in issues now more than ever.

We got in touch with Bryan Leib, an activist trying to get more millennials involved in politics. Bryan works with nonprofits in Philly and Camden as a mentor for the youth. We asked him about the importance of politics for millennials and ways to get involved.

 

Why is it important for millennials to be involved in politics?

It’s mission critical for millennials to be actively involved and engaged in politics in order to influence public policy and to improve our communities. Local politics that is. I’m a big believer that the best position to influence change is at the local level. I know Presidential politics excites a lot of millennials but honestly, that isn’t where we can make an impact.   

What is the reason most millennials are not involved in politics?

I think it’s because of voter apathy and an overall frustration for the political process. I find that most millennials are frustrated with the status quo, career politicians and they don’t think their vote can make a difference. Over the last two years in Philadelphia, we have witnessed a United States Congressman, PA Attorney General, PA State Treasurer, State/City Judges and PA State Representatives convicted of corruption/bribery/racketeering charges. The Philadelphia District Attorney was indicted on +20 federal counts of bribery and fraud. A lot of us are numb to the entire political process because of those reasons and because of the current power structure and lack of accountability. How does a millennial get excited about politics with career politicians like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D) and Senator John McCain (R) at the top of the power structure in their respective parties.  Both in their 70’s and have held office for over 30 years. Average age of Member of the U.S. House of Representatives is 57 years and the U.S. Senate is 61 years. https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/c527ba93-dd4a-4ad6-b79d-b1c9865ca076.pdf    

What are ways to get millennials involved in politics?

Well, I’ve always suggested that if one wants to get involved with politics that they should volunteer for a campaign or intern in the office of an elected official. Volunteering for a campaign is a sure fire way to get your feet wet and make a substantial amount of political and community connections. Being involved with a campaign from the ground floor through election day is a pretty good primer for anyone who wants to aspire to run for public office office. Another way to get involved is to start attending local civic and neighborhood association monthly meetings. They are typically open to the public, free and donuts are involved.    

How did you get involved in politics?

I’ve always been involved with civic organizations and nonprofits in Philadelphia and Camden. Public service is in my DNA. I personally believe that politics should be 100% public service. Elected officials should show up to work every day with only one agenda item – how do they improve the community and serve the public at large.  My foray into politics was volunteering in the 2015 Mayoral Race in Philadelphia. I started as a part-time finance intern and within a couple months of proving myself to the candidate and campaign staffers, I was attached to the hip with my Mayoral Candidate as his traveling aide. We went all over the city to build new relationships and talk to community members about the issues that were important to them and their families. Shout out to State Senator Tony Williams – he showed me the ropes, put me on the map and is an amazing public servant. For that, I am eternally grateful.

What would the impact be if more millennials became involved?

Game-changer of epic proportions! We have the opportunity to re-write the entire political landscape as we know it today by 1) Voting and organizing in local elections 2) Supporting our fellow millennials in running for public office. Philadelphia millennials are the largest registered voting bloc in the city with +300,000 registered voters. However, in the 2015 Primary for offices like Mayor and City Council – only 12% of registered millennials went to the polls. I attribute his to voter apathy. To put this in perspective, there are 230,356 registered voters between the ages 35-65 who voted in the 2015 Primary. If millennials increased to a 50% voter turnout in Philadelphia then would make up +40% of the total voting electorate. With percentages like that, we can start changing the political landscape as we know it today. The power to change our future lies in our hands.  

Is it difficult to stay up to date with politics?

I don’t think so. In today’s age of social media, it’s not very difficult to stay up to date on what’s happening in politics. New media organizations like Billy Penn have launched throughout the country focused on keeping our generation informed and engaged. In addition, elected officials are more accessible than ever and if you really want to have a conversation with your elected official, they are probably only a tweet or email away.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in politics?

Start locally by 1) Getting involved in a local campaign or with your local civic association 2) Don’t be afraid to run for public office and fight for your community. We can change the political landscape by 2020 by being involved in local politics – I guarantee it! We can make an immediate impact by voting and running for public office at all levels – Congress, Mayor, State House, City Council and City Commissioners. Sky is the limit.     

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