Small Business

Small Businesses, Big Dreams

2015 Presenters (l-r) Sherrill Mosee, Rita DiOrio, Vanessa Chan

2015 Presenters (l-r) Sherrill Mosee, Rita DiOrio, Vanessa Chan

By Katherine Herbst, Buyer, Household and Garden, QVC

Over the past three decades, QVC has launched and fostered the growth of many successful brands, which also happen to be founded by women, including bareMinerals, Spanx, IT Cosmetics and Lori Greiner. As a buyer at QVC, I am always looking for that next brand or product that will surprise and delight our customers.

At last year’s Pennsylvania Conference for Women, I had the pleasure of watching nearly 40 women pitch their ideas to a panel of QVC experts and receive real-time feedback. Three of these women then went on to participate in Today’s “Next Big Thing 2,” a week-long competition where promising “momtrepreneurs” had the opportunity to pitch their breakthrough ideas and ultimately sell their product on QVC. I’ve asked these budding entrepreneurs to reflect on their experiences and offer advice for others following in their footsteps.

Realize that the only limit is yourself

Sherrill Mosee is already on her second great idea. Her first came in 1999 when she founded a nonprofit to promote higher education among low-income mothers. After seeing young moms struggle with multiple bags, she came up with her next great idea: MinkeeBlue, a tote that combines a purse, a laptop case, and a lunch bag.

Two of Sherrill’s greatest qualities as an entrepreneur are that she isn’t afraid to stand out from a crowd or ask for help.

“Since I had no experience starting a fashion business, I knew I needed to learn as much as I could,” Sherrill says. “Someone introduced me to the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator. Initially, I was intimidated by the designers with fashion degrees in their 20s and 30s. They are the same age as my children. But I got over that quickly, blended in with the group and learned so much from the young designers.”

The source of her tenacity?

“I expect the rejections, setbacks and obstacles. It’s the life of an entrepreneur. Most of what I’m doing along this journey is experimenting and learning as I go, so I’m bound to make mistakes. I’ve come to believe that there is always more than one solution to get the task done.”

Build a strong network of support

Growing up in a family of eight children, Rita DiOrio worked as a teenager to pay for her braces. Not surprisingly, she didn’t want stains to mar her pearly whites, and she took to using a straw to drink even coffee. Years later, though, when Rita learned that a normal straw is not optimal for consuming hot beverages, she developed the Koffie Straw—a silicone straw for hot beverages with a unique shape and flow.

Her large support system, also known as her family, has been key to the launch and success of her business. Koffie Straw’s seed money came from her immediate family’s savings fund, and her husband, sons, nieces and nephews pitch in daily.

“Our personal investment motivates us as a family,” Rita says. “We each have a stake in the product’s success.”

What’s more, Rita’s support system expanded at the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference.  

“So many of the QVC women took the time to speak with me,” she says. “They were so genuinely interested in helping my success with the product. Getting advice from such a range of talented people was priceless!”

As Koffie Straw has grown nationally, so has Rita’s network.  

“I find such appreciation in the messages from strangers that fill up my inbox. Koffie Straw is resonating with so many across the country.”

Don’t be afraid to take risks

Vanessa Chan’s entrepreneurial journey started with a leap of faith: she left her job as a partner at McKinsey & Company to found her company, Her first product is Loopit: practical, stylish headphones with a tangle-resistant magnetic clasp and chain.

Vanessa’s next risk came by doing something many struggle with—simply putting herself and her product out there. Vanessa used a Kickstarter campaign to crowd source the funding for the first run of Loopit, allowing the market to decide whether her product would sink or swim. The risk paid off—she surpassed her original goal of $15,000 in one week, and ended the campaign with $35,000, more than enough to seed Loopit and order additional inventory.

How did Vanessa get the courage to take all these risks? With a very specific vocabulary.

“I think it’s important to get rid of words like ‘failure’ and ‘rejection’,” Vanessa says. “Ultimately, anything we do in life has results. Some are positive and some are negative. In my mind, I focus not on the outcomes but on the journey. As an entrepreneur, you need to move to a growth mindset. If you can flip your mindset, you will have the energy and the stamina to keep moving, which ultimately give you more positive results, since you learn more and get better.”

Attendees at this year’s Pennsylvania Conference for Women on October 6 will have the chance to pitch their products directly to a panel of experts from QVC and zulily. Go to to learn more and reserve your spot!

▶ Read more from the September 2016 newsletter

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Pitch Perfect: Tips from a CFW Attendee Who Presented Her Travel Bag to QVC Last Year—and Was Selected!

Sherrill Mosee at the 2015 PA Conference for WomenLast fall, Sherrill Mosee was scrolling through her email when an announcement from the Pennsylvania Conference for Women caught her eye: Attendees would be able to pitch their products to a panel from QVC.

Mosee, who had been selling her organizational tote bags in local boutiques and on her website for about a year, was beyond excited. This opportunity could be the solution to her biggest challenge since launching MinkeeBlue—getting her brand on people’s radar. Read More

Posted in blog, Speaker Articles, Marketing Yourself & Your Small Business, Small Business Tagged , |

Junk Gypsy Jolie Sikes’ Advice for Entrepreneurial Free Spirits

Jolie SikesWhat do you do when you realize that the corporate life just isn’t your jam? When you’re Jolie Sikes or her big sister Amie, co-founders with their mom of Junk Gypsy, you hit the road, hightailing it out of Houston and Austin, respectively—and keep driving for 15 years.

Of course, they weren’t aimlessly roaming Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. They were scouring flea markets and roadsides for discarded treasures that they could fix up and resell. “It was Mom’s idea and her $2,000 stash for the slot machines that we used at first,” says Sikes. “She said, ‘Let’s just go to Canton [where there’s a giant four-day flea market every month] with open minds and figure out what we can do.’” Read More

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Marketing Yourself & Your Small Business, Small Business, Innovation Tagged , , |

Business Truisms You Shouldn’t Believe

Coopersmith, MarkA lot of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur is the same today as it was 30 years ago—grit, vision, initiative, willingness to take risks. But how we start and run a business is very different. “We used to do market research, write a business plan, seek money and resources, build the product—and then execute the plan and hope we were right,” says Mark Coopersmith, senior fellow of entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley’s Hass School of Business and coauthor with John Danner of The Other “F” Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work. “Now we start lean and iterate quickly, learning as we go and building on the fly. It’s no longer a linear and segregated process.” Read More

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Trade Secrets of a Tech-Savvy Entrepreneur

Stanard, Tiffanie

A word to the wise: If you ever take a meeting with Tiffanie Stanard, make sure you’re fully caffeinated. The marketing and branding strategist and CEO of Prestige Concepts in Philadelphia talks fast, thinks faster—and does what most people consider a full morning’s slate (i.e., sends emails to current, past and prospective clients, updates her to-do list, prepares for meetings and exercises) before she has even arrived at her office. Read More

Posted in Speaker Articles, Marketing Yourself & Your Small Business, Communication Skills, Small Business, Innovation Tagged , |

Ignite Your Entrepreneurial Spirit


By Albany Irvin, QVC Program Host

What does it take to create a compelling product, run a successful business and keep your passion ignited? Take your cues from Josie Maran, IT Cosmetics’ Jamie Kern Lima and Philosophy’s Suzanne Pengelly—just three of the many successful entrepreneurs I’ve worked with as a program host at QVC, the ideal proving ground for inventors. (As a special treat, this year’s Conference attendees will enjoy a QVC gift from Josie Maran Cosmetics, IT Cosmetics and Philosophy.) Read More

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Business Advice for Optimists

bert-jacobs Before The Life Is Good Company was a going concern, let alone a $100 million business selling positive messaging on apparel and accessories, it was two brothers—Bert and John Jacobs—peddling their artwork on T-shirts at a trade show. They had decided to wear suits to look more mature, but toward the end of that day, a customer asked what was with the suits—they didn’t seem like the kind of guys who wore them. Read More

Posted in Speaker Articles, Career Choices, Small Business, Goals & Priorities, Success & Leadership Tagged , |

Free Teleclass: Strategies to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Carson Tate 200x238Work Simply and Live Fully: Strategies to Work Smarter, Not Harder
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
1:00 pm EDT


Posted in Teleclass Signups, Life Balance, Small Business Tagged |

Green Your Business: Seven Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

PECO article image open for businessFacilities across the country are looking for ways to go green, and for good reason. Sustainable practices can yield significant rewards, both for the environment and your business. By greening your business you can: save money by reducing waste and increasing efficiency; lessen health and safety risks; attract environmentally conscious consumers and employees; and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Read More

Posted in blog, Small Business

2014: Small Business, Big Opportunity

PA Beneficial Pam CyrA small business does not equate to small challenges. It does not equate to small risk, small investment, or small amounts of preparation. Often times, it’s quite the opposite. Nowadays it takes a lot of moxie to create a business, especially in a struggling economy where competition can be fierce. And while gender doesn’t dictate confidence, women face a unique set of challenges that can derail even the most motivated entrepreneur before their company even gets off the ground.

As we look ahead to 2014, there is one word that sums up the forecast for small business. Read More

Posted in blog, Marketing Yourself & Your Small Business, Small Business Tagged |

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