Archive for Dominic-Madori Davis

How a 23-year-old UN rep, manager at billion-dollar beauty brand Deciem, and nonprofit founder spends her day

Harjas Kaur Grewal
Harjas Kaur Grewal

Harjas Kaur Grewal is always busy.

As an activist, writer, and UN youth ambassador, her days are filled with researching social issues and implementing strategies to help solve the political tensions ever-plaguing the world. She ran her first petition at 13, became a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations Youth Assembly at 19, and is currently a Young Innovator for UN Global Compact. Last year, Grewal won the Diana Award for her humanitarianism, which inspired her to start her own volunteer organization, United Women.

During the day, however, Grewal works for the billion-dollar beauty company Deciem where she helps create and run its corporate activism initiatives. Deciem is known for its cult-favorite brand The Ordinary and Grewal started working there in February.

To Insider, Grewal maps out her typical day, including smoothie lunch breaks, meetings with Deciem CEO, and late-night United Women Slack meetings. "I've learned that routine is important," she said. "But it's okay to have every day look different and become comfortable with imperfection."

Her first alarm goes off at 7 a.m.

Grewal's first alarm goes off at 7 a.m., but if she's too tired, she'll press the snooze button and stay in bed for another two minutes. "I open my blinds and window to get some fresh air first thing in the morning," she said. "It always makes me feel refreshed, light, and ready for the day."

Moving back home during the pandemic was "hard" she said, but there have been perks. "Waking up to the warmth of the sun, sounds of birds chirping, and smelling spiced chai (tea) is refreshing," she continued. "Finding gratitude in the small things is always important."

Around 7:30 a.m., she starts her skincare routine

She always starts her day with a skincare routine. She became a "skincare lover" when she was just 13 after discovering Korean skincare routines. "Over the years, I would always tell my friends and family to take care of their skin because it's a form of self-care," Grewal said.

Harjas Kaur Grewal
"The art in the background with my name on it was created by my good friend, Zsofia, and the flowers represent my resiliency because they grow in winter," Grewal told Insider.

She starts off with a gentle cleanser before putting mist on damp skin. She follows up with a rosewater toner, before, of course, using The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% as a serum. After that, she puts an eye contour serum to cover hereditary dark circles.

"And as every good skincare routine ends, I use a moisturizer to lock in my skin and soothe," she said. "I also spritz some perfume on because it's a habit that's comforting and helps normalize working from home for me."

At 8:00 a.m., she starts to journal

Shortly before the workday begins, she journals her thoughts, "whether it be poetry, emotions, memories, or things to be grateful for," Grewal said.

She's been a writer and poet since she was a child and has been spending more time [during the pandemic] writing new work. She recently launched an Instagram page to showcase some of her writing. "Many people don't know that I used to be a child actor, loved the theatre, started writing by the age of seven, and by the time I graduated high school I was a published playwright and won the provincial Young Authors Award," she told Insider.

"Writing and poetry is a hobby I try to make time for because it is a true passion of mine and I believe everyone needs to make time for what makes the heart and mind content."

The work day begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.

The Deciem office was previously featured in Vogue, highlighting its 70,000 square foot office in Toronto, Canada. Sadly, since the pandemic, Grewal has been working from home and has only been able to go into the office a few times.

"A colleague has the cutest black lab mix, Matthew, who greets us at the door and provides the best company someone could ask for," she said.

Harjas Kaur Grewal

On this day, she reviewed the social impact and activism strategies and campaigns to prepare for an internal listening session she was co-moderating. The company is prepping to kick off its "We Are Eight" unconference, which is a participate-driven meeting without a set agenda.

She starts her day with a new hire call with executives including the CEO and COO. "We got to personally introduce ourselves and learn more about the senior leadership team," she said. Each week, she connects with the company's director of sustainability and social impact Jacquelyn Kankam, to whom she reports.

"She has a unique, inclusive, and liberating leadership style that I am thankful for because I am constantly learning as well as executing," Grewal said.

Harjas Kaur Grewal
Meeting with Jackie Kankam

Grewal contacted Jackie last summer on LinkedIn for a virtual coffee after noticing her extensive sustainability experience as a fellow woman of color. "I found her inspiring because she paved her own path and career," Grewal added. "When we spoke during our initial meeting, she mentioned opening a Social Impact, Activism role one day but wasn't sure when this role would open or the details."

After that meeting, Grewal said she made it her goal to become Deciem's top pick and created a 13-page visual proposal outlining ideas she had for the role if it ever opened up. Four months later, Grewal found herself interviewing for the role and she was hired.

"When Harjas contacted me, I could tell her passion and dedication to activism and social impact was unmatched," Jacquelyn Kankam told Insider. "One of our goals at Deciem is to build growth to power good, we needed someone who is agile, smart, and creative and Harjas fit the bill to a tee."

"This role meant I had achieved a goal to make my passion for social impact and activism into a career," Grewal added. "Moments like that prove that resiliency opens doors. "

Lunch is usually from 12 to 1 p.m.

She aims to eat a quick meal and has her daily fruit smooth for a boost of energy. Every day she picks up a book to read, and typically alternates between two at once.

"Currently, I am reading 'Faith, Gender, and Activism in The Punjab Conflict' by Mallika Kaur to learn more about the events leading up to the violence against Sikhs in Punjab in the 1980-90s," she said. "I have written about Partition of India, conflicts in Punjab, and violence against Sikhs extensively throughout my undergraduate degree, and as a Sikh, I am constantly pursuing knowledge about my community and history."

Harjas Kaur Grewal

She is also reading "Greenlights" by Matthew McConaughey, the first book she picked up to read for "pleasure" after University ended. "My favorite quote from Greenlights, which is now my lock screen on my phone is: 'Less impressed, More involved,'" she said.

At the end of the workday, she takes a walk with her family

After her workday, she makes sure to spend time with her family before starting her work with United Women, the organization she founded. "My younger brother, Jujhar, is rocking a t-shirt in support of the farmers protesting at the Delhi border in India right now in this photo," she said, referencing the picture below. "My entire family is passionate about social justice and we often talk at length about world issues, philosophy, and activism."

Harjas Kaur Grewal

Around 6 p.m., she logs in to work at her nonprofit

After a break, she logs into Slack and starts working on United Women, her platform seeking to amplify young BIPOC voices, provide mentorship to youth in women's shelters and community housing, and platform human rights issues. She is managing a team of about 17 volunteers, alongside her co-founder Aimée Lister, who is based in the United Kingdom.

Harjas Kaur Grewal

"We just wrapped up a human rights campaign and are working on expanding our partnerships, finalizing the mentorship program, and responding to the youth who are interested in joining the organization to make an impact," Grewal said.

She also attended the United Nations Generation Equality Forum last week on behalf of United Women to create an alignment with the 17 SDGs, which include eradicating poverty, combatting climate change, and fighting for quality education.

Around 11 p.m., it's bedtime

After she's done working on United Women, she takes the time to wind down and turns on some old Bollywood music. Right before bed, she might even FaceTime her friends. "My friends are the best support system I could ask for."

Then, she goes to sleep and does it all over again the next day.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Telfar is bucking the luxury model of exclusivity to make sure anyone can get its wildly popular ‘Bushwick Birkin’ and it’s raking in millions from next-gen shoppers and celebs


Tianni Graham, 27, remembers the "before times" - that is, the harrowing months before Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program.

It was early last summer and she, along with thousands of others, was stuck testing their luck each day trying to buy the wildly popular Telfar handbag whose celeb fans include Oprah, Selena Gomez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Solange. But they often sold out before anyone could click 'check out.'

It turns out, robots and resellers were buying products in bulk, making it harder for real customers to purchase them. So, last summer, Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program, in hopes of giving customers better access to its bags by allowing patrons 24 hours to pre-order any bag on the site, with no limits on how many can be purchased. The bag is then made to order, and shipped directly to the customer.

Its first drop, which happened last August, brought in about $20 million - about 10x what Telfar made in all of 2019.

Suddenly, Graham, who is also a fashion archivist and consultant, had her green Telfar bag. It arrived right before Christmas and was a "present to myself,' she told Insider, adding that other brands could benefit from implementing a similar program. "It would make things so much easier and make the customer feel like you care."

The program's success shows how a luxury brand can create accessibility without losing the allure of exclusivity. The old-school model for luxury brands states the product should be scarce and elite, but the next generation of high-end consumers and entrepreneurs are taking a different route.

Teflar is rewriting the rules of luxury, and this time, it's not too hard for other brands to follow suit.

Telfar 'white glove treatment' is what next-gen luxury shoppers crave

Young consumers look less at price tags and more at brand values when determining where to spend their money; these next-gen consumers want sustainability, inclusivity, and a sense of community. The new "white glove treatment" when it comes to luxury shopping is a speedy online checkout from a brand that cares.

For Telfar's latest drop this week, customers had the option to use the payment installment plan Klarna, making it even easier for those looking to obtain a bag. While customers will have to wait a few months before receiving the bag, people often spend years on a Birkin bag "waiting list" and most will probably never get one.

Shortly before Telfar's program ended this week, a spokesperson for the brand told Insider it was, already, "going very well."

Telfar started with an aim of inclusive luxury

Telfar was founded in 2005 by its eponymous founder Telfar Clemens and has dedicated the past two decades to building an inclusive business model.

In 2014, it released its now-iconic vegan leather handbag, which takes inspiration from a Bloomingdale's shopping bag. The bags became widely available around 2018 after Telfar won $400,000 from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, allowing the company to expand production.

Clemens described his brand to The Cut as being "genderless, democratic, and transformative," purposely seeking to challenge the notion that high fashion is only for a certain group of people, with the brand motto being "Not For You - For Everyone."


Now, Telfar bags come in three sizes, with prices ranging from $150 to $257. (For comparison, Birkin bags go for at least $12,000 while Black-owned luxury brands such as Brother Veilles go for at least $1,295.)

As reported by FT, handbag sales in the US declined 18% between 2016 and 2019. Yet, Telfar stood out - in 2016, the brand earned $102,000, growing to earn $2 million in 2019. Last year, New York Magazine deemed its bag the "Bushwick Birkin" and the brand was on pace to earn eight figures, even as the fashion industry was expected to take a 90% loss in profits due to the pandemic.

Boston Consulting Group's Head of Luxury Sarah Willersdorf told Insider that Telfar has checked all the boxes on what it takes to connect with next-gen luxury shoppers. She said the brand has a narrative that "evokes emotion" and properly intertwines timelessness, creative partnerships, and culturally relevant authorities. GQ pointed out Telfar's customer base was built, not through influencers, but through "customer aspiration alone."

Telfar Clemens.
Raising the bar for next-gen luxury

Brands like Telfar are important in proving accessible business models can be just as lucrative. Willersdorf expects other brands to follow similar strategies in a post-pandemic world, as shopping continues to pivot online.

In the old days - a pre-millennial world, perhaps - having too much of a product is thought to dilute its value. The Bag Security program defies that. But even the most tech-savvy luxury brand is often behind the curve, as Insider has previously reported.

"Luxury brands are always nervous," Joseph Yakuel, CEO and founder of consulting firm Within, told Insider last year. "There's so much risk to them tarnishing their brand reputation because luxury brand price points are only supported by their perception, and if their brand perception goes down market, their price point gets eroded very quickly."

Clemens and his artistic director, Babak Radboy, said they aren't worried about oversaturation. It's about community, now. The new "white glove treatment" is making sure everybody gets a pair that fits perfectly.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet Diddy’s top marketing executive – a millennial who started out with a nightlife website

Deon Graham
Deon Graham
  • Deon Graham, 35, is the chief brand officer at Combs Enterprises.
  • He oversees the marketing strategy for everything associated with its namesake founder, Diddy.
  • He told Insider about his rise, spurred from a nightlife website he founded in the early 2000s.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In the beginning, it was just Deon Graham and his nightlife website, City Never Sleeps.

Now, it's Deon Graham and Combs Enterprises, where he's chief brand officer, leading marketing for everything associated with the mogul Sean Combs - otherwise known as the rapper Diddy.

"Year after year, I've seen him grow into a savvy, gritty and forward-thinking executive," Diddy told Insider, "for big and bold digital and brand strategy ideas that are crucial to what we do and our success."

Indeed, years before the 35-year-old Graham started working for Combs Enterprises full-time in 2015, he had caught the attention of the rapper, who, with a net worth topping $700 million, has become one of music's most prolific businessmen.

If anything, Graham can say he has helped play a part in that.

In an interview with Insider, Graham talks about his rise to becoming the mogul's chief brand officer, what nightlife taught him about digital marketing, and the importance of creating content for and by Black people.

A nightclubbing platform for 'people that looked like me, who went out every night'

Graham told Insider he was a heavy nightclubber while he was a marketing student at Florida International University in Miami.

But one night in the mid-2000s, he said he began to pay attention to the world around him - the bottles, the girls, the photographers. Graham said he realized photogs were taking pictures of everyone except for him and his friends. When he would go to the club websites, only the white partygoers were depicted.

When he asked a bottle girl why this was happening, Graham told Insider, "she flat-out said, 'because you're Black.' I realized there was an opportunity for me to create a platform that serviced people that looked like me, who went out every night."

So, in 2008, he launched City Never Sleeps, a website that helped Black people navigate the clubbing scene. He went on to make deals with club managers around the country, hiring photographers to take photos of the Black clubgoers, which he would then put on his website. It helped clubs look "less racist," he said, but it also helped Black people find which clubs would let them in.

Graham said he dropped out of FIU after a semester to focus more on City Never Sleeps.

At its height, Graham said club managers were paying as much as $20,000 and he was taking paid advertisements on his website, making as much as the low six figures.

During this time, he had also been advertising a popular vodka brand on the site. Those advertisements caught Diddy's attention, and the mogul's advertising agency, Blue Flame, reached out to Graham, asking if it would advertise Diddy's Ciroc instead.

Soon enough, Graham signed a contract with Ciroc in 2009. From there, he began working more closely with Diddy and Combs Enterprises. "I had the urban market that nobody else had across the country," Graham said. "We worked well together."

Deon Graham
Deon Graham (R) and Diddy (L)

The clubbing scene moves fast - just like Twitter

Graham came on as a freelance digital consultant for Combs Enterprises in 2009. He recalls the phone conversation that helped set it all off. He was speaking to one of the marketing leads at Blue Flame who was talking about redesigning the Ciroc website.

They were throwing around big numbers "like $120,000 to redo the site," Graham said. So he took himself off mute and chimed in, "I was like yo, I could do that site for like 20-grand," he recalled.

"I had no idea what I was getting myself into building a site at that capacity for a company that large," he continued. "But that just opened another door. Every opportunity that would come, I would try to jump on something."

By 2010, City Never Sleeps had begun expanding globally, to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, London, and Toronto. Graham said he had, at times, nearly 30 photographers around the country, but he was struggling to pay them. Club managers were late on payments, and Graham said he himself often wasn't making a dime.

By 2015, he got a call from Dia Simms, then-President of Combs Enterprises, who had a role for a full-time digital director open, and Graham in mind. Three years later, he was appointed Combs' vice president of digital, and two years after that, he became chief brand officer.

He's worked on everything from Ciroc advertisements to films with Apple Music, and music with Bad Boy Entertainment. He focuses on building and fostering long-term relationships with consumers, even if that means having Diddy make TikToks, post a few Instagrams, or hop into Clubhouse for a talk.

Graham said he likes to take it slow. "I'm not chasing, like, the headline. I'm not chasing that one-day growth."

It turns out, the clubbing scene moves quickly, just like Twitter. It doesn't take long to figure out if a social media campaign worked, just like it doesn't take long to figure out if it's going to be a good night for the club.

"He's relentless in his pursuit of goals, scrappy and innovative," Combs Enterprises President Tarik Brooks told Insider. "He's a key leader on our team."

Deon Graham
Deon Graham (R)

Graham seeks authenticity

Perception is a big thing to Graham. "How you're perceived is what people think of you and how they approach you," he said.

Combs Enterprises likes to bring on people who can help push out authentic narratives that let customers know "It's coming to the culture, by the culture," Graham said. "If you want to reach people, you gotta reach them with people that look like them."

For example, Ciroc has been sponsoring and doing placements during the Verzuz battles that take place on Instagram Live. The event sees artists such as Ashanti, Jeezy, and Brandy musically compete against each other to see who has the greatest hits. To help promote the events, Graham said the Combs team typically shoots trailers and makes a few fliers, but also depends on the natural interest of users on social media to help drive the conversation.

Creating moments of authenticity is one of Graham's main strategies, he said.

People liked when, in the "Can't Stop Won't Stop" documentary, Diddy jumped around his office with excitement, after presumably just closing a deal, screaming, "I'm a Savage. Whatever I want I have to get." That clip goes viral, even to this day, he said.

As a marketer, he said he's always focused on how projects will land with audiences. As a Black marketer is always paying attention to "culture vultures" - the often non-Black people who exploit Black culture for profit and gain.

He said that some companies and executives were guilty of this during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, when they suddenly released statements and pledges about increasing racial equity. But he said he's happy that some consumers are beginning to take a stance against those who steal ideas, appropriate cultures, and who become socially conscious for monetary reasons.

"Nobody is forcing you to support companies that don't support you, that don't hire executives that look like you," he continued. "You're making that choice."

That's one thing he learned from his years in nightlife and now, working with Diddy - people like feeling seen, and they support the places and the people who make them feel good about themselves.

"I'm lucky to be in an enterprise that's owned by a Black man," he said. "It's a good feeling to walk into a building and see people who look like you, who are making decisions that are culturally relevant. I want everyone to have a chance to feel that now."

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Former gymnast who accused coach John Geddert of abuse says his suicide brings her no closure

GettyImages 1001511570

Former gymnast Sarah Klein, who accused ex-Olympic coach John Geddert of abuse, told NBC News his suicide brings her no closure. 

Geddert, 63, died by suicide Thursday, shortly after he was charged with 24 criminal counts, many of which were human-trafficking related. He faced life in prison if convicted.

In an interview published Friday, Klein called the news "devastating" and "traumatizing," but added, "there is no greater admission of guilt than John Geddert taking his own life." 

"It was his final act of narcissistic control with which he lived his life and coached his gymnasts for decades," she told NBC News, adding she believes his suicide was "intended to be an insult to his victims." 

Klein, who trained under Geddert for over a decade, told the outlet he "physically, verbally, emotionally, and psychologically" abused her from when she was 8 years old. She said she would rather choose "the 17 years of almost daily sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar than spend one more day with John Geddert." 

Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in 2018 on sexual-assault charges.

"In my view, and I believe in the view of many of Geddert's gymnasts, what he did to us was far worse and far more traumatizing than having a grown man digitally penetrate you almost daily," she said. "He psychologically broke us. He physically hurt us. He shamed us. He terrified us and terrorized us in a way that will affect us for the entirety of our lives."

Rather than be arrested and transported, Geddert was scheduled to appear in court on his own after being charged Thursday. A spokesperson for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the Associated Press "we had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his cooperation." 

Instead, his body was found along Interstate 96. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday at a press conference

It was unclear how Geddert would plead and his attorney Chris Bergstrom did not respond to a request from the Associated Press for comment.

As reported by NBC News, Geddert had worked at Nassar's gym in the Lansing, Michigan area. Klein told the outlet she believes the two were enablers of each other. "There would not be a Larry Nassar without John Geddert," she said. "And there would not have been a John Geddert without Larry Nassar."

After Geddert's death, USA Gymnastics released a statement saying it "hoped that news of the criminal charges being brought against John Geddert would lead to justice through the legal process." 

"With the news of his death by suicide, we share the feelings of shock, and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as they grapple with the complex emotions of this week's events." 

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, meanwhile, also released a statement saying: "it's the voice of the survivors that matter most at this time."

"They continue to show bravery and strength in the most difficult circumstances - including today's events."

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A 7-year-old from Alabama is selling lemonade to help pay for her brain surgeries

A Lemonade Stand

Seven-year-old Alabama resident Liza Scott is selling lemonade to help pay for her brain surgeries, local outlet WHNT reports

The child is selling outside of Savage Bakery in Homewood, Alabama, which is owned by her mother, Elizabeth Scott. Interested customers can also place orders from the bakery online, with proceeds from the lemonade sales going to help fund Liza Scott's upcoming brain surgery. 

In late January, Scott had suffered a Grand Mal seizure, and in the weeks following, neurologists and neurosurgeons discovered the child had numerous cerebral malformations that require immediate attention. 

"In most every instance of these rare malformations doctors only see one malformation - in Liza's case she has 3,"  her mother, Elizabeth, wrote on Liza's fundraising Mightycause page. One malformation includes a cleft in the frontal lobe of her brain, while the other is an aneurysm, and another is what's known as a Dural Arteriovenous Fistula - a rare condition where branches of veins and arteries connect. 

On the fundraising website, the family initially set a $75,000 goal but at the time of this article's publication, it has since raised over $130,000. 

Scott's first surgery is set to take place the week of March 8 at Boston Children's Hospital, and the family is expected to spend several weeks "away from her 3-year-old brother, family, and friends," to care for Scott during her surgeries. 

Liza's mother wrote that the "overwhelming additional expenses, time away from work, and additional resources needed to keep up with things at home" has already started to pile up for the family. Elizabeth has purchased additional insurance, according to WHNT, but the family is already facing about $10,000 in-out-pocket-expenses.

"As a single mom and the financial supporter of both of my children, this is not something you can budget for," Scott told the outlet. For now, Scott wrote online that she is praying, and that God "allows the hard times in life to help others see His amazing love, protection, and faithfulness." 

"I find comfort in knowing that God always provides," she wrote. "I'm learning that it is okay to not be okay at times, that it's okay to ask for help, and that it's okay to share this journey with those who love Liza, love our family, love our bakery, and love God."

Elizabeth Scott did not immediately return Insider's request for comment. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

SIGN UP HERE FOR OUR LIVE EVENT ON FEB. 25: Next-Gen founders on racial equity and inclusion in tech

insider events racial equity in tech 2x1
(L-R) Urenna Okonkwo, Jordan Walker, Vernon Coleman

The Black Lives Matter protests last summer helped fuel a new drive for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how far have we come since then? And how much farther do we have to go? 

Every industry in Corporate America has its own issues to grapple with. Insider is taking a deep dive into tech to talk to Next-Gen founders about racial equity and inclusion in this industry. 

On Thursday, February 25th at 12 PM ET, Insider's entrepreneur reporter Dominic-Madori Davis will moderate a panel featuring Vernon Coleman, CEO and cofounder of the video networking app Realtime, Jordan Walker cofounder of the audio messaging app Yac, and Urenna Okonkwo, founder of the finance app Cashmere.

They'll talk about their journeys in Silicon Valley and tech, the importance of mentorship, access to capital, and opportunities for Black founders looking to launch businesses.

They will also take questions from the audience. 

You can sign up here to watch. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet the millennial designer and CEO who wants to make comfort clothing the new power dressing

Misha Nonoo
Misha Nonoo.

Way back in 2011, Misha Nonoo was having brunch with some friends in Manhattan. She was around 25 at the time, sporting a jacket that she herself had designed.  

By chance, a buyer for the brand Intermix was sitting one table over. "She said, 'I love the jacket you're wearing, where is it from?' And I said, 'Oh, I made it," Nonoo recalled to Insider. 

Next thing she knew, Nonoo found herself in the buyer's office, showing off eight original designs. "I walked out with a purchase order for six of the eight pieces," Nonoo said. It was worth $150,000. 

A few months later, Nonoo officially launched her eponymous clothing line, and within two years, she became a finalist for the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. In 2015, she was named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30. That same year, she became the first designer to host a fashion show on Instagram. The next year, Snapchat. 

Read more: Inside the world of 'Bling Empire's' Jaime Xie, the tech heiress forging her own path as a fashion influencer

Nonoo, now 35, told Insider she can't exactly remember her first celebrity client but said her first clients were her friends and family whose support helped build the business - it's just that Markle and Princess Beatrice happen to be in her friendship circle. Another friend, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, was a key player in her groundbreaking Instagram fashion show. (Nonoo is married to oil heir Michael Hess.)

Today, the brand counts celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Cate Blanchett, Meghan Markle, and Amal Clooney as fans. In 2019 she teamed up with Markle, then a working royal, on a clothing line for the women's charity Smart Works. The sleek designs and sustainable ethos of Nonoo's brands are some of the reasons it's won such highly placed fans. 

"I have always been a huge fan of Misha - personally and professionally," stylist Sarah Slutsky told Insider. "I love the way she prioritizes uniform dressing. I think a formula for what to add to your closet is empowering and helpful for many women. I believe when you can build a wardrobe with pieces that are interchangeable, the options for feeling put together are endless and the result is confidence." 

Nonoo's latest collection, entitled "The Perfect 10," includes white collared shirts, cozy turtlenecks, and sweatpants, intended for the new on-the-go - just from the bedroom to the kitchen table for yet another Zoom meeting. 

In an interview with Insider, Nonoo talks about her latest fashion collection, getting her start in fashion, and the future of sustainability in the industry. 

Her brand doesn't keep inventory and doesn't have seasonal collections 

Growing up, Nonoo always knew she wanted to start her own thing. Born in Bahrain, Nonoo relocated with her family to London at the age of 11. 

She attended college between London and Paris, going to both the European Business School and the École Supérieure du Commerce Extérieur, studying international business and French. 

At 23, she came to New York to work at a menswear tailoring company, which agreed to sponsor her visa. "I wanted to live in New York," she said. "This was my way in." 

She has come a long way since that chance encounter in Manhattan. Today, A hallmark of her business model is that she produces everything on-demand, and does not create seasonal collections. The former was inspired by a situation that arose early on in her fashion career.

In the very beginning, she had worked with one retailer that placed an enormous purchase order. She was excited, she recalled. 

"Then I quickly realized you only have a 10-week full-price selling period and your gross margin agreement means that every week you're on sale, [wholesalers are] chipping away at that gross margin," she said. 

Misha Nonoo
Slutsky told Insider that Nonoo "carefully considers what it is to invest in a clothing item in a way that you would have an item designed to last."

"The agreement is designed so that you'll never win as a designer," she continued. "It was always designed in the favor of the major department store."

The store also decided to return any inventory that was not sold, leaving Nonoo with excess product. "That was a huge learning curve," she said, adding that all the money that was being wasted could have easily put her out of business. 

"Now I look back on that," she continued.  "That was the beginning of me starting to manufacture on-demand and to understand that I wanted to own my relationship with my customer and that I never wanted to be beholden to a major department store."

That worked out well, as wholesalers were hit hard during the pandemic. Some filed for bankruptcy, while all were severely impacted by the loss in foot traffic as shopping pivoted online. 

Meanwhile, because Nonoo now produces everything on-demand, as manufacturing in China shut down, she could turn to Peru and Los Angeles for production without losing much money from wasted inventory. 

The brand also began honing in on its social media strategy and was able to launch a loyalty program for customers, with the highest tier including a tailoring allowance and a personal stylist. For that, customers have to spend at least $2,800.

Misha Nonoo
Jules Miller, founder of The Nue Co., wearing the latest Misha Nonoo collection.

Consumers are educating themselves more on sustainability, Nonoo says

Although the pandemic has accelerated this, Nonoo said she thinks customers have been educating themselves on how to consume less. 

For those with the means, it's about forging fast-fashion and buying pieces of clothes one knows they will reuse over and over again. That's who Nonoo's line seeks to service, the customers that want quality staple items that will be reused over and over again

Even young people - many of whom still buy cheap fast fashion - have become conscious about how the industry is polluting and damaging the environment, Nonoo said. 

"A lot of them use platforms like Threat Up and the Real Real, Poshmark to buy things secondhand," she continued. "As opposed to buying virgin fashion that comes from a source like one of the major fashion brands." 

Aside from making seasonless products and not keeping an inventory, Nonoo's brand has also eliminated single-use plastic from its supply chain and has plans to forgo using single-use polyesters.

Another trend that will follow long after the pandemic is seasonless fashion shows, Nonoo said. That's ironic for Nonoo, as she made headlines years ago for being the first designer to host an Instagram runway show. 

Misha Nonoo
Commercial lawyer Thandi Maqubela wearing the latest Misha Nonoo designs.

That opportunity came about one night while Nonoo was having dinner at the home of a friend of hers, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg. 

Nonoo told Sandberg that earlier that day, she had toured Instagram's headquarters and spoke to someone who works in the marketing and events department about how the fashion industry was quickly changing. 

She relayed the conversation to Sandberg, who agreed that the industry was undergoing a shakeup. The idea of a virtual fashion show emerged. 

"She said, 'Well, Instagram can't officially partner with anyone,'" Nonoo said. "But she was really incredibly helpful and walked me through what the parameters were and the lines we could cross."

There were strict guidelines for the show, which, Nonoo said, helped her and her team be even more creative. But that didn't make the task any easier. It was hard because an Instagram fashion show "hadn't been done before." 

But now, Nonoo is leading the way to another runway disruption - hardly doing them at all.

"It's about consuming things when you need them, that fit into your life, and that are going to work for you for a long time," she said.

Nonoo said she thinks the pandemic has disrupted the industry so much, that even when shows fully come back, "I don't think fashion weeks are going to be the same."

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YIMBY with a conscience: Meet the 26-year-old real-estate heir who wants to make affordable housing a reality in the Biden era

Donahue Peebles III
Donahue Peebles III.
  • Donahue Peebles III has worked for his father's real-estate firm, Peebles Corporation, since high school.
  • He's passionate about gentrification, telling Insider that lack of affordable housing is "a failure of American society."
  • Peebles talked to Insider about affordable housing, gentrification, and what he expects under a Biden presidency.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In real estate, there are NIMBYs and YIMBYs, and Donahue Peebles III knows where he stands.

For decades, "NIMBY," which stands for "not in my backyard," referred to homeowners who oppose nearby development. The "YIMBY," naturally, says yes to the same proposition. To hear Donahue Peebles III tell it, more development won't just be good for his family's company - he's a real-estate development heir - but also a key to civil-rights progress in the Biden era.

"As developers, we have such an outsized effect on the world in which everyday folks live, far more than an options trader would or your Wall Street executive," Peebles told Insider. "Everybody, every day, interfaces with real estate, multiple times a day."

Peebles works at Peebles Corporation, which was founded by his father, Donald Peebles II, in 1983 and has grown into of the nation's largest real-estate investing and developing firms, with a portfolio topping $8 billion. The company made his father one of the richest Black real estate developers in the US, with a net worth estimated at over $700 million.

The Peebles Corporation utilizes public-private partnerships to develop properties with civic interests in mind, focused primarily on the New York, Washington DC, Miami, and Los Angeles markets. It specializes in residential, hospitality, retail, and mixed-use commercial properties. 

Peebles is his father's chief of staff, a position he has held since early last year. He said he has no interest in separating himself from his father's legacy, saying there is "so much value" in being allowed to help build on that. 

In an interview with Insider, Peebles spoke about the affordable housing crisis, how his company is trying to help curb the effects of gentrification, and what he's expecting under a Biden presidency. 

Donahue Peebles III
Donahue Peebles III (L) alongside his father (R).

Peebles calls the affordable housing crisis 'a failure of American society'

Peebles has been working for his father's firm since his senior summer in high school. Born in Washington, DC, Peebles spent his childhood in South Florida and attended high school in New York before matriculating to Columbia University to study economics.  

"My real-estate education happened simultaneously with my regular education," he said. "As a little kid, you always want to go to McDonald's and get a McFlurry or go to your friends' house early on a Saturday before basketball practice. My father would say, 'Sure, but I need you to learn the value of this building first.'" 

To Peebles, housing affordability is one of the most pressing issues facing the US right now. "There's no reason that somebody gainfully employed should have to be housing insecure, or struggle with finding an apartment they can comfortably afford on their full-time salary," he said. "That's a failure of American society."

Read more: How full Democratic control of Washington DC could transform real estate

Part of the problem, he said, is that developers are being restricted in terms of when and where they can build new housing. He cited historic preservation in the West Village, for example, which prevents developers from knocking down existing brownstones to create more housing. 

These restrictions exist "even though they were constructed to satisfy the housing needs of a New York that's about one stitch the size of New York City is today," he said. "Instead of treating the symptoms, we need to begin to treat the underlying cause of the disease, which in my mind is a consequence of artificial supply constraints." 

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told Insider that, for the most part, the organization was all for more affordable units in landmarked areas."That can be achieved through adaptive use and new construction," Berman told Insider.

But there is often a catch: "What is often proposed however is large new entirely or predominantly luxury developments which do little or nothing to address affordability issues and actually often make the situation worse, not better," he continued. 

Meanwhile, Simeon Bankoff, executive director of NYC's Historic Districts Council, an organization that advocates for the city's historic and cultural neighborhoods, noted that as a developer, Peebles has a vested interest in more laxity on development. "If people who are in the business of doing real estate development didn't have to deal with regulations, they wouldn't." 

Bankoff said the number of landmark properties in New York City overall is very small, the city has one of the most complex building ecosystems and construction ecosystems in America, and finally, it has a "limited amount of land. If someone wants to come in and build a high-density, residential development in a low-density zone, it's difficult." Doing that has nothing to do with landmark designation, Bankoff added.

Peebles Corporation is raising money for a fund to help minority entrepreneurs

Peebles, along with the corporation, has also been working to assist minority and women entrepreneurs as it seeks to help close the racial wealth gap and curb gentrification. 

He called the racial wealth gap a social failure of capitalism. Talent, he said, is thought to be distributed equally, but without opportunities, underrepresented and underutilized business owners, entrepreneurs, and firms will still struggle to grow. 

Read more: Meet one of the youngest Black entrepreneurs in tech, who just raised a seed round topping $4 million that included Alexis Ohanian

"It seems as though people who have a fair amount of economic privilege already are those who have been encouraged to become entrepreneurs and become owners," Peebles said, adding that consumers and society will benefit more if more people with talent are provided with opportunities.

A development project isn't like an options trade, he said, and there are so many different economic tributaries that flow from it - from the developer making money to the bank getting the land and the equity partner getting deployed capital.

The goal is to find a way to democratize access to capital and involve local businesses and long-term residents of particular neighborhoods in that neighborhood's economic growth, he said, rather than a third party coming in from outside, attracting all the capital and renovation work. Right now, he said, the Peebles Corporation is raising an emerging developers fund that will help provide capital to women and other developers of color who seek to develop in the communities in which they live. 

And this, Peebles said, will hopefully guard, in some ways, against more gentrification. 

 "I like to say the struggle of the 19th century was emancipation," Peebles said. "The struggle of the 20th century was enfranchisement. And the struggle with the 21st is without a doubt, economics. If we can help bridge the racial wealth gap by whatever means, I think we're doing our society a service."

Corporations need to give employees better safety nets, Peebles says

Peebles expressed optimism about the future of affordable housing with Joe Biden in the White House and congress under unified Democratic control.

He praised the section of the $900 billion in COVID-19 relief and $1.4 trillion stimulus package passed in December that assisted renters and made 4% the permanent minimum rate for low-income housing tax credit bonds. Peebles predicts this will help create a boom in affordable housing.

democrats win house
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Read more: How Democratic control of Washington could threaten real-estate investing

He's also expecting a revision of a few tax policies that could have large-scale economic consequences, such as the 1031 exchange. He also hopes to see a revision in the structure of opportunity zones - designated geographic areas that have been identified as low-income subdivisions. 

Opportunity zones, he said, are like "government-funded gentrification" and they need to be structured so they can help create jobs and economic opportunities within the communities they target, rather than creating economic hubs that are pushing out existing communities. "You want a rising tide that lifts all boats," he said. "Not a new dock." 

The situation might be different for individual citizens, however, and Peebles said the pandemic has the potential to spark conversations around entrepreneurship as a whole. Many people realized that the job security and safety nets they had are not as secure as they once thought. 

If corporations, he said, could find ways to provide a more robust social safety net for people, it could boost innovation as it would give more people freedom to fail, which "would encourage more entrepreneurial risk-taking, which in turn would hopefully help bridge the racial wealth gap."

He called real estate "such a challenging, creative industry," but said he wouldn't rather be doing anything else. "The problems we solve are at times both very immediate and practical, but also indelibly complex. It's one of the best intellectual and social challenges." 

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Inside the glamorous world of ‘Bling Empire’ star Jaime Xie, the tech heiress looking to forge her own path as a fashion influencer

Jaime Xie
  • Jaime Xie, daughter of a tech billionaire, is known for being a fashion influencer and for appearing on the hit Netflix show "Bling Empire." 
  • She says she makes nearly $100,000 as an influencer, and is frequently seen in New York, London, Milan, and Paris for fashion weeks. 
  • In an interview with Insider, she talks about her love for fashion, what it was like being on "Bling Empire," and her next career plans. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A few years ago, Jaime Xie's mother made her a bet. "My mom was like, Jaime, if you get into Parsons, I will get you a Birkin," Xie told Insider, referring to the exclusive Hermès handbag. 

Xie is the 22-year-old daughter of billionaire Ken Xie, the Asian American billionaire who built the first firewall and VPN. Currently the founder and CEO of cybersecurity company Fortinet, he previously founded Systems Integration Solutions and NetScreen, the latter of which he sold for $4 billion to Juniper Networks in 2004. 

Jaime told Insider that although she was born and raised in Silicon Valley, "surrounded by tech and Teslas," tech wasn't really her thing. She said she's been in love with fashion since middle school, when she realized Chanel and Louis Vuitton were much cooler than the Hollister and Abercrombie she had hanging in her closet.

So naturally, Xie wanted to study fashion business at Parsons, one of the top fashion schools in the US - she also really wanted that Birkin her mother was offering -it would be her first, after all.

She got into Parsons (and got the Birkin), but she opted against attending, enrolling instead in the close-to-home Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. About a year later, she dropped out to focus on influencing full-time. Now she has just over 300,000 Instagram followers.

Now, Xie told Insider, she's making almost $100,000 a year from brand collaborations and partnerships. She buys her own clothes with her own money and she was regularly attending couture weeks in Paris and fashion shows in Milan before the pandemic. Snapshots of her life can be seen on the new hit Netflix series "Bling Empire," which chronicles the lives of wealthy Asians and Asian Americans living in Los Angeles. 

Read more: Meet 'Bling Empire's' haute couture collector who's bringing wealthy Asian American Angelenos to Netflix

Xie remembers the months before the pandemic hit very clearly. She had attended couture week in Paris, then went to Davos to see her father speak at the World Economic Forum. They went skiing in Saint Moritz in Switzerland, then Xie attended more fashion weeks and came back to California in March, exhausted. 

"I was going home to chill, but I had no idea the chilling time was going to be this long," she said. Jobs froze for a moment during the early part of last year but began to pick back up in the summertime, and she was able to attend a charity gala with Luisaviaroma and UNICEF on the Amalfi Coast in August.

Her career as an influencer has only been slightly affected by the pandemic, she said, and she has been splitting her time between the Bay Area and LA, where she has most of her photoshoots. 

Jaime Xie

Xie attended her first fashion week around the age of 17

A competitive equestrian, Xie spent her high school years entirely online as she traveled the country riding horses. Even then, she said, she couldn't go a day without thinking about fashion. 

Much of her fashion knowledge is self-taught, from reading magazines and stalking out fashion websites. Her first designer buy was around seventh grade - a Louis Vuitton Neverfull Tote and an Hermès belt - the one with the big H on it. By 17, she had attended her first fashion show. It was Dior. 

The brand invited Xie and her mother to the launch of its new high jewelry collection in Paris after Xie convinced her mother to buy a plethora of joaillerie from the brand. Unbeknownst to Xie, she and her mother were arriving just in time for couture week.

Read more: Westside Gunn. A Rapper. A Record Label Executive. A Collector of Contemporary Art.

At the time, they were staying at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée on the Champs-Elysées. One day, they ran into Christine Chiu, future "Bling Empire" castmate, who broke the news to her. "When I bumped into her, she's like, 'Oh yeah, I'm here to attend a bunch of shows,'" Xie recalled. "I was like, okay, then in September I want to go to all the ready-to-wear shows, starting in New York." 

Back in California, Xie was also becoming known in her friends' circle as someone with taste. 

Jaime Xie
Jaime Xie
"Jaime's sense of style is multifaceted," her close friend Mathew Sakhai, 22, told Insider. "She can go from girly and sweet to edgy and dark without making you think she has no fashion identity because you can see her mark in every look she chooses."  Xie loved - and still loves - wearing emerging and new brands, mixing them with heritage houses like Prada and Mugler. She loves vintage, especially from Gucci, Chanel, and Dior. "When I have free time, I'll just be browsing on Vestiaire Collective, eBay, to find some cool vintage," she said. "The thing I love about vintage is that it's something not everyone will have." 

She also has some more affordable brands in her closet. Her mentality is that she'll buy anything and everything that looks good, "regardless of whether it's Zara or Chanel." In fact, Xie said she was shopping so much during her adolescence and spending so much of her parents' money that they made her get a summer job working at Nordstrom's when she was 18 to "appreciate the value of money." 

Xie keeps it real on Instagram: 'Very casual, somewhat relatable' 

During this time, Xie was posting photos of her outfits on Facebook. She branched out to Instagram and YouTube at the recommendation of her equestrian friends, who felt she had a good sense of style. 

On YouTube, Xie began doing unboxing videos - meaning she would unwrap her designer purchases in real time and show them off to the audience. She stopped doing them despite receiving positive feedback, she said, because she didn't like showcasing her wealth in such an extreme way.

Read more: Inside wealthy kids' weird, pricey pandemic purchases, from $1,000 Patagonia fleeces to a $31.8 million T. rex

So, she pivoted to focusing more on Instagram, where, she said, she likes to "keep it real." Her page is a mixture of selfies, magazine photoshoots, and designer street style. "Very casual," she explained. "Somewhat relatable."

Around the age of 19, she decided to pursue digital content creation full-time, and now gets invited to fashion shows around the world as an influencer. She travels frequently between New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Before the pandemic, there was couture week twice a year, in January and in July. Then there was ready-to-wear in February and September, then other shows in between, like bridal weeks and menswear. 

Xie said she used to switch outfits about five to six times a day "because you wear a different look to each show," she said. "It's a sign of respect to the designer." 

Jaime Xie

Xie had never seen reality TV before 'Bling Empire'

Lately, Xie has been thinking of where to take her career next. She wants to start a sunglasses line, and a shoe line is not out of the question. As a vegan, she said she's also willing to explore opening something concerning healthy living and wants to get into philanthropy, working more with her family's foundation. 

She never thought she would end up on reality television, though. Growing up, she never watched any reality TV, and she was the last person to join the "Bling Empire" cast when it went into development in 2018. When asked for advice on how to act on the show, she said the producers told her to just be herself and "have fun."

That's best summed up, perhaps, in the scene where the "Bling Empire" cast is on the beach talking to a shaman. Xie posed a question to the healer: what color Bottega Veneta bag should she get? It was, of course, for fashion week, and there are endless color options to choose from. Sadly, the scene cut before the shaman could give her an answer. 

"I ended up getting the mist color," she said. "And then I got a gold crinkled one, and then I got a light blue one with the Bottega Veneta intrecciato woven, and then I got a mini little gold one - it looks like a mini golden dumpling. It's like, the cutest thing ever."

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Meena Harris, niece of Vice President-elect Kamala, wants her new children’s book to inspire ambitious women (and girls) everywhere

Meena Harris
Meena Harris.
  • Meena Harris, niece of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, has written her second children's book, entitled "Ambitious Women." Illustrations were done by artist Marissa Valdez
  • In the book, a young girl watches a woman on television be called "too ambitious" and "too assertive." In response, she vows to become a persistent, assertive, confident, and proud individual. 
  • Harris has been working to get this book — in addition to her last one — into schools and has partnered with the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books to donate hundreds of book copies to educators and students. 
  • Ahead of her aunt's inauguration, Harris talks to Insider about her new book, and what is needed to raise the next generation of ambitious women.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The plight of an unapologetically ambitious woman is well documented. Meena Harris is one of those women.

The entrepreneur founded Phenomenal Woman, which creates products addressing sociopolitical injustices, and has another career as a children's author. Her latest endeavor is a children's book entitled "Ambitious Girl." Set to be released on January 19, the book tells the story of a young girl who learns to embrace her ambitions in life.

The book comes a year after the release of Harris' first book, "Kamala and Maya's Big Idea," which was inspired by Meena and her aunt, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (That became a New York Times best-seller, and more recently, a video that Meena posted of her aunt exceeded 10 million views on TikTok.) 

"For young girls to see someone who looks like them elected, to the second-highest office in the land, is really an incredible feeling that we've all been fighting for a very long time," she told Insider. Previously, Meena Harris spoke to Insider about her career paths and growing up in a family of lawyers - ambitious women who inspired her to become who she is today.

When it comes to women, the word ambition often has a negative connotation, Harris said. Last year, Insider reported on a study by American Express and The New York Women's Foundation, which found that many women didn't like using the word ambitious to describe themselves and wanted to use the word "motivated" instead.

Read more: Alicia Keys is partnering with American Express on 'The Ambition Project' to empower women. Here's how it will expand their access to senior positions - and already has.

"Language has power and words have meaning," Harris told Insider. "We do not typically hear ambition being used against men, or used to critique men. I don't think I've ever really heard that before. It's about reclaiming and redefining words that, even though they're just words, we know they have power."

Ahead of her aunt's big day, Meena Harris spoke to Insider about her new children's book, what she learned growing up in a powerhouse family, and what else is needed to raise the next generation of ambitious women. 

'It's not just the work of women to do on behalf of other women,' Harris said

Raising ambitious women starts earlier than one might expect, which is why Harris decided to put the topic in a children's book. "There's a lot of unlearning and relearning around our bias against female ambitious and women in power," she said. "It's never too early."

Her family always tried to lead by example when it came to inspiring each other, she said. Ambition was a good thing to have in her family - and ambitious women were all she knew.

"I grew up in a family of strong, ambitious women," she said. "My grandmother Shyamala, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist, raised my mom and aunt - and later helped raise me - to fight for change and be role models for others," she said. "She would say to us, 'You may be the first, but don't be the last. It's actually a line I put into my new book 'Ambitious Girl.' "

After graduating from Stanford University and Harvard Law, she had a brief legal career and held jobs at both Slack and Uber. As reported by the New York Times' Jessica Testa, she was also a campaign surrogate for her aunt. As she entered the workplace, she told Insider, she realized that many women weren't raised to see ambition as a good thing. 

Read more: Kamala Harris' niece is publishing a picture book on women's ambition. She told us why she never 'sugarcoats' the reality of racism and sexism when talking to her kids.

"It's a very worthwhile activity to sit down with your kids and start early to define these words," she said. "On the topic of leading by example, there are many ways that you can demonstrate what it means. And at the very least, encourage them to understand [ambition] as a positive, not a negative." 

Ambitious Girl cover image

In her latest book, a young girl takes advice from the women around her, including her mother and her grandmother, who teaches her the importance of growing up assertive, confident, and proud. Harris said that listening to the dreams and career paths of other people is a good way to teach people how to embrace their own ambition. It shows that ambition isn't a "dirty" word and having dreams is not a "bad" thing. 

This is a lesson that needs to be taught, not just to young women, but to everyone, she said. Because creating an environment that can foster ambitious women is not something left up to women to create. This act requires a complete societal and cultural shift, Harris said. 

"It's about a patriarchal society," she continued. "It's not just the work of women to do on behalf of other women. Men who, by default have more power in the world and in most of these systems, it's up to them to do that as well."

In the meantime, all women have to do to be ambitious, is to simply not hide their ambition, she said. It's about wearing that sweatshirt embroiled with the word ambitious on it, she said. It's about naming what you want and claiming it for yourself - writing your dreams and building toward what you want. For instance, Harris has plans to release more books. "There's still so much work to do, especially when it comes to increasing diversity in publishing," she said. "I definitely have plans for more books - I can't wait to explore topics for older audiences as well."

It's about changing the language that one associates with their dreams, to reflect the positivity of what it means to aspire. "This is literally about as cheesy as it sounds, but what are your hopes and dreams?" she said. "The beauty of that is, it means different things to so many different people."

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