Four empowered and resilient female entrepreneurs have found innovative and creative ways to provide services, coaching, and sage advice to new clients – proving their mettle – at a time when nearly 200,000 U.S. businesses have permanently closed due to the global health pandemic.
Although many of us are concerned about our personal finances and the overall economy due to COVID-19 restrictions, these are women business owners who carved out a new niche, changed their business plans, and successfully pivoted during the current health pandemic.
These women have garnered a myriad of life lessons that they are eager to pass on to the rest of us. Highlighted here are Mindset & and Alignment Coach/Consultant Karem Zafra-Vera, Public Relations Experts Hope Horwitz and her mother Sharla Feldscher, Professional Food Service Design Consultant and author Felicia “Lisa” Middleton, and Certified Life and Weight Loss Coach Karen Schaible.
From Philadelphia and Marlton, New Jersey, to West Palm Beach, Florida, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, these resourceful business owners have clear game plans for a successful future, during a time when most of us need it the most. Let’s see how their plans can inform ours going forward.
Karem Zafra-Vera: Mindset & Alignment Coach/Consultant
Next Level Consulting, virtual and West Palm Beach, Fl.
Two years in business; 12 years in personal development
For Mindset & Alignment Coach Karem Zafra-Vera life is all about learning, studying, and expanding her knowledge on a deep level, beyond just what we can analyze. She strongly believes that each of us understands new knowledge when it is internalized and it becomes part of our being. “Every day I internalize one percent more and my favorite part is witnessing my clients experience this process and hearing about their successes, words of truth, and discovering their perfection within themselves.”
Zafa-Vera, whose clients call her “a truly gifted and insightful coach and mentor,” says she has long enjoyed helping and empowering people. “I have often been told that I have a gift of seeing more than others can see in themselves. My intuition helps me empower people to believe in themselves as I believe and see their potential.”
This helps her clients understand and have control of themselves. “I want my clients to understand the basic idea that we can create and manifest anything if we have a clear understanding of the power within ourselves – this means that our thoughts, feelings, and actions create the results we have. So, take a look at your results and it will be aligned with your thoughts; it doesn’t lie.”
While there are certainly other mindset coaches and consultants around the U.S., what makes her business stand out are her gifts, talents, and personal experiences. “It is all about my unique experiences and life lessons,” explains Zafra-Vera. It is also about my dedication to and belief in my clients and my passion for helping them figure out their goals and aspirations and find a path to reaching them.”
When COVID-19 transformed the way most of us operate our businesses, Zafa-Vera knew, within her heart, that it was the time to both “step up and show up.” She sees her life lessons as to how we feed our garden (mind) is what dictates the flowers we bloom (the results that we create).”
As such, this season has taught her a lot. “It has empowered me to not only practice even more what I preach but to understand and connect on a deeper level with my clients and the clients I continuously attract. I am able to relate through my own experience with COVID-19 and empower others that we all have a choice in everything in life. We have a choice on how to perceive, we have a choice about what we focus on, we have a choice of every thought allowed into our conscious and subconscious mind. I understand that there is something good even through the worst experiences of life. The question is –what are you choosing to SEE?”
In addition to being able to pivot during the health pandemic, Zafra-Vera sees many ‘Silver Linings’ during COVID-19. “I see the opportunity for so much expansion. The individual that didn’t have the time before, now has time to create that dream-seeking expression. I see the quality time of rest, unity, and appreciation of each other and our surroundings. I see an increased appreciation of kindness and giving more than ever before. I see the quality time of self-growth. I see opportunities for new adventures. I see the opportunity of creativity all around us.”
She adds: “It’s amazing the creation of ideas and surroundings we create when placed in uncomfortable circumstances. This is the universe getting all of us out of our comfort zone, to wake us up and begin to live life on a different level.”
How does she help her clients not just survive, but thrive, especially during the pandemic? “I am that coach that is reachable. I tell my clients all the time. Do not linger or simmer in a negative state of mind. I’m always available when needed. They know, I will touch back with them as soon as I can. Shifting and becoming aware of our energy is very important.”
When times are tough this coach says her faith keeps her going. “I understand that every obstacle is teaching me something, no matter how horrible it is. Yes, we go through the emotions. It’s important to acknowledge them. The critical question is how long do you let it consume you, take over your thoughts and emotions? We refocus on what the client wants to feel, be, and of course through a number of exercises to help them shift.”
So how does it feel when she hears from a client who made a major leap based on her advice? “OMG, that is the biggest reward I can experience. Understand, it’s not because of what I said. It’s because they have shifted and now have internalized, they are worthy of their success,” she said.
“Every quantum leap we can look back and recognize is only because you internalized your worthiness and clearly lived that version of the role model you want to be. I don’t think we ever get there, because we are always upgrading our self-worth.”
[Well-Regarded Publicists Sharla Feldscher and her daughter Hope Feldscher Horwitz]
Sharla Feldscher and Hope Feldscher Horwitz
Sharla Feldscher, President/Partner
Feldsher Horwitz Public Relations
Philadelphia area (Marlton, N.J.)
Publicist Sharla Feldscher was a kindergarten teacher who retired at the tender age of 25 to have a family. After both girls were born, she volunteered at Please Touch Museum, and, soon after, her volunteer work turned into a dynamic public relations business and passion that is not only going strong but has ebbed and flowed during this ever-changing landscape.
While volunteering at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum, she learned an entirely new field and loved it. In less than a year, she was hired as the museum’s first PR director. After four years, she was recruited to become the PR consultant for Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA., the nation’s only theme park based on Sesame Street, a position she held for 26 years.
“When I said ‘yes’ to Sesame Place it meant that I had to start a consulting business in 1984, an entirely new venture. While having a business was new to me, I was confident in my ability to publicize programs for children,” explains Feldscher.
Fast forward to 2020, Feldscher has the pleasure of working side-by-side with her daughter Hope Horwitz. This formidable team raises the profile of their clients, so they have more significance in the communities that matter to them, as well as increase their profitability by increased positive visibility.
Feldscher and Horwitz readily admit that their business has changed a great deal in the past five years, with a much larger focus on social media. For Feldscher, it has been fascinating to watch the changes in the field of public relations. “No more is a TV hit a one-time opportunity, and the same goes for print visibility,” she explained. “Everything is repurposed. Everything is placed on multiple outlets so that the life of a publicity hit is much longer and has so much more value.” There is a different strategy for social media, and we support clients by working with experts who have experience in engagement through social media.”
Watching her mother in action while Horwitz was growing up was always a high energy day, a great deal of fun, and is what led Horwitz to want to follow in her footsteps. Hope and her sister, Amy, worked at many of the events of which Horwitz has fond memories. “When school was out and my mom’s office was in Philadelphia, I would bring a friend with me and when we were old enough, we’d get a hot dog, pretzel, and a soda from the street vendors. We had a lot of fun back then. It’s a different world now.”
Horwitz worked for 15 years as an event planner and fundraiser and saw the importance of being able to give back to organizations in need. “As life progressed, I took a leap back into PR, and I felt like I was home. I enjoy the creativity, and I get to plan small events while working with clients. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day.”
What does this dynamic mother-daughter duo love about their business? “I love that I get to do a little bit of everything. I’m a partner with my clients and then use my creativity to find the newsworthy story to pitch,” Horwitz explained. “Following up with the press and working with them to coordinate stories allows me the opportunity to constantly meet new people and be a part of a team.”
Her mom added: “There are many things I love about doing public relations. Firstly, it’s very creative – we are always thinking about new ways to get press coverage. Secondly, I love working with clients – being part of their strategic team, being trusted by them to guide them in a way that always keeps their positive image in the forefront, and then, thirdly, I love making things happen! It is so rewarding when an idea we have works – and brings in revenue and builds constituencies for clients through publicity.”
While business owners near and far have been looking for innovative ways to pivot during COVID-19, these public relations experts quickly realized that their business could not only continue, but it could thrive. “Our work can be done remotely, with no problem, since we don’t need to see our clients in person to get the job done,” Feldscher says.
“I am sorry to say that we don’t have events, shows, or programs to attend right now. But, since our job is to communicate about clients’ stories, we can do that from anywhere. We can arrange zoom interviews and our clients are still available to be resources to the press. Most of our clients have publicity opportunities, just different than we originally expected,” she adds.
“In some cases, we’ve been put on “hold” especially if our clients are festivals that can’t take place, but we have filled in with others whose events and publicity-stories are virtual or timely related to COVID-19. We help to strategize their businesses and how they can move forward in alternative ways.”
Horwitz and Feldscher have discovered ‘Silver Linings’ both in their personal and professional lives during this global health pandemic. “I have really learned about what’s important in life and what’s not. And I will never take advantage of being able to hug someone again!” explains Horwitz.
Feldscher added: “I think I’ll always use Zoom. I have saved a lot of time and expense by doing remote, virtual interviews and some clients say that will continue. Most of our clients are either in Philadelphia or New Hope, PA, which is 30 to 60 minutes away, and now we meet with them more easily. Personally, like Hope, I value, even more, the close relationships I have, and I will never take them for granted.”
After several decades in the business, Feldscher says that what sets her company apart from others in PR is crystal clear to her and her clients. “Many have been colleagues for years and years. Many knew Hope when she was younger. These relationships are a real standout. In addition, Hope and I both have an excellent eye for detail, and we share a natural enthusiasm about life. We incorporated a sparkle in our logo and that “spark” seems to be clear to many people. I am very proud – and everyone knows it – to be working side by side with my daughter. I think people admire that and like being part of our PR team for that reason, too.”
The optimistic pair stays “creatively productive” and timing is key. “I was always planning to have another book published in late summer. I wrote it before the pandemic. With the pandemic now, I have had much more time to work on the publicity and marketing of KIDFUN: 401 Easy Ideas for Play. I’ve been writing creative ideas to do with young children since I taught kindergarten, but now, more than ever, it’s so important. I love that I have this creative outlet now,” Feldscher says.
While Horwitz says she initially found the pandemic “trying and horrifying” since she is an outgoing and energetic person. She juggled work with homeschooling her seven and nine-year-old daughters, being someone who not only survived, but clearly thrived. “We have more family dinners now and so as a couple, my husband and I can demonstrate love and interest in others on a regular basis,” she explains. “It’s helpful to know that we are showing our kids that we can survive everything as long as we stick together.”
Feldsher loves having her daughter as her work partner and sees it as a clear advantage going forward. “Hope brings a whole new vitality to the business and thinks strategically about marketing us. She has the perspective of a younger generation and that is very important as we plan for our clients. I know our clients love getting both of our perspectives. The business is her future and its growth is as important to her as it to me. I am blessed!”
Says her appreciative daughter: “We are a family business and we often connect to our clients on a similar level. We enjoy getting to know the people who make up a company as much as we do the company. When we truly join their team, we’re able to succeed in a much higher and stronger capacity. We also have fun at work, and I think that shows through to our clients. We smile and laugh as we work, whether it be together, with our clients, or with the media, we build relationships with.”
Karen Schaible Karen Schaible Coaching Retired Registered Nurse, Certified Life and Weight Loss Coach, and Certified Psychology of Eating Coach Edmonton, AB. Canada Started business in August 2019 using 27 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in many areas such as ICU/CCU, Psychiatry, Homecare, and lastly at the Bariatric Clinic
Karen Schaible can teach each of us how to take our gifts, experience, and passion and turn it into a rewarding service-oriented business. This is exactly what she did as a virtual certified life and weight loss coach.
With the best intentions in mind, the retired registered nurse started her now burgeoning business because it was disheartening working as a nurse at a Bariatric Clinic. At the one-year mark following many patient’s surgeries, their weight loss had stalled or they had gained back some of the weight.
The problem, she explains, is that there were not enough resources to help with the underlying reason why these patients overate before their surgeries. “My passion is to teach women how to lose weight for the last time. Women who want to end the beating themselves up, the frustration, the sadness, the feeling controlled by food by learning a unique approach to weight loss,” says Schaible.
Why is this so important to this caring medical professional? “This is my passion because I know what it feels like as I struggled for more than 20 years with the food and weight battle, and 10 years ago, I lost 100 pounds and I have successfully kept it off,” she says. “It is so rewarding to watch my clients use my system to lose weight but, more importantly, gain self-confidence, feel sexy, have more energy, have better relationships, and live the life they have dreamed of.”
Clients come to Schaible because they realize something more is going on than just knowing what to eat and how much to eat, and they need help finding these answers. “After following my system, my clients learn and shift what has been holding them back from losing weight, and as a result, they not only change their relationship with food, they are eager to refer their family members, friends, and colleagues.”
When the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders resulted in working from home, and isolation, she said more women she encountered were eating to deal with all the stress and overwhelm that was going on in their lives. So, they were doing more emotional eating.
Therefore, a ‘Silver Lining’ with COVID is that the women that worked with me no longer need to turn to food to deal with any challenging situation that comes up for them.”
One of the reasons she believes that she is successful in helping her clients is her passion. “Personally, I believe in being the best version of myself that I can; being a role model for my children and my granddaughter. I am always eager to be present and compassionate to everyone that needs a listening ear.”
During the past nine months since we have been working and isolating at home, and this has led to baking and cooking as a hobby, which for many has led to an unwanted weight gain. So, how did Schaible dramatically changed her coaching process during COVID-19.
“I changed by talking and teaching more about emotional eating, which was happening for a lot of people,” she explains. “People were stressed, bored, lonely, frustrated, and looking for comfort, and food was definitely the go-to.”
She well understands that stress plays a major factor in being isolated, missing our former lives, added demands, and juggling so many new responsibilities.
“Stress has such a significant effect on our bodies and how and what we eat. Many people, because of everything changing in their life do not know how to deal with stress and because of this they are living in a reactive state that affects their food choices,” Schaible said.
“Stress has them emotionally eating to provide them with comfort because feeling stressed is uncomfortable. Also, stress makes it much harder to lose weight. When our body is stressed, it will hold onto the weight, so no matter how healthy they are eating, they will not lose weight or have minimal weight loss.”
Added to all of this, many gyms were closed and even those people who are diligent about healthy eating and working out gained weight, so what is Schaible’s advice for exercise and weight loss during the pandemic?
“If the gyms are closed, get out and go for a short walk, which is easy to do. Exercise is for self-care and looking after yourself. It is about finding something you enjoy and then committing to doing just that,” she advises.
“Regarding healthy eating, while being at home it helps to start with just one meal in the week that is healthy and make it. From there, add another meal and another. It is not about stopping it all right away if that is what you have been eating; it is about planning your week and being realistic about what you will choose to eat. You have to allow yourself comfort food because if you don’t, you will feel deprived and restricted and end up quitting eating healthy.”
As COVID-19 continues she has sage advice do you have for those of us who gained weight during the lockdown and want to have a healthy lifestyle and lose that extra weight and more.
“Start by not beating yourself up for gaining weight! Next, decide do you want to get back to a healthy lifestyle and lose weight, and if it’s a YES, then start small. Do not go looking for a diet to follow; start by writing out daily realistic food plans on foods that you are eating right now and then each day challenging yourself to level up in one small way,” says Schaible. “Get back to doing something that is moving your body in a way that you enjoy. Drink your water, get your sleep, and work on shifting how stress has been affecting you.”
When it comes to her professional passion, she is committed to “helping women end this struggle by seeing that there is nothing wrong with them. The problem is that they have not been shown another way, and that is where I come into play; to show them that they are worthy!”
So, how is she different from other virtual weight loss coaches? “What sets me apart: I do weight loss with a wholly unique approach. I go beyond the food and work on shifting their beliefs and no longer needing to stuff their emotions down. They also learn how to eat, not by following a diet, but by learning how to start where they are and build from there.”
When she hears the successful results, her heart soars. “They are so excited when they make a major leap that they let me know right away because they feel so proud of themselves!”
Felicia “Lisa” Middleton Author, Architectural Design Professional Food Service Design Consultant Urban Aesthetics Brands: The Foodie Builder / Aesthetically Speaking – specializing in home maintenance and improvement Location: Philadelphia Years in business: 12 Author of: A Complete Guide To Creating Tasty Spaces
Felicia “Lisa” Middleton is a high-energy woman who wears many hats, including a hard hat on the construction sites that she frequently visits.
Middleton also has several great loves – architecture, writing, and people – which is why she is so successful as an author and restaurant designer, home building expert, and entrepreneur.
“Educating my clients and helping them are my primary goals. The majority of my clients are business owners. Even when I design residential projects, most of the time I work for investors or contractors.”
Middleton says her business has improved because of the way she utilizes social media, especially videos. She has also used her go-getter personality and drive to start a podcast, and hired videographers and a video editor as part of her time.
Urban Aesthetics specializes in mid-sized commercial projects including Commercial Kitchens, Day Care Centers, Salons, Retail Establishments and Offices, Sign Permits, and Adaptable Design.
Urban Aesthetics, LLC is a full service, committed green business, EPA Certified Renovators, and a certified W/MBE design and project management firm located in Philadelphia. We provide design and permit services.
Her company is the top on many lists because her clients, who have been with her some five to 10 years, value her and her experience and are eager to refer her for subsequent jobs. “They trust me and they know that I am good and I know what I am doing.”
When construction was stalled due to COVID-19, Middleton began networking online and expanding her connections outside of the Philadelphia geographic area. Since the pandemic started, she has done work in Maryland, Illinois, and Delaware and has agreements for future projects in Texas and Washington, D.C.
The prolific author also turned to her passion for writing. “Writing is always my second job and I had ongoing design projects. In addition, I reached out to designers, colleagues and my business partner and we encouraged one another on zoom.”
She has also been networking in Denmark and Vancouver and she is thrilled that her new book Homeowner’s Guide to Renovations and Maintenance is being marketed in two countries! She calls her book, which is designed for all current and potential homeowners, “a helpful tool for all homeowners; whether they are planning a renovation or just want to keep up on maintenance and understand about indoor toxins.” The book includes maintenance tips, renovation tips and help for selecting a contractor.
One of the reasons that clients consider Middleton trustworthy is because of her ethics and standards. “We always seek to work with and subcontract with trustworthy individuals who have shown integrity and a dedication to quality work. We thank all who we have worked with in the past and all who we will continue to work with going forward.”
Her experience with COVID-19, both personally and professionally, has involved both celebrations (the ‘Silver Lining’) and sadness. “Unfortunately, I lost 10 or more loved ones, friends, and family members during the last six months, one of them to COVID-19. The celebrations have been amazing. Personally, my design business has been doing well. I published a book; a few additional articles, and I have been featured on several Podcasts.
This Pandemic has allowed her to slow down and be creative, something that this business author and businesswoman had missed quite often over the years. In addition, she has achieved three certifications in the foodservice industry and she is enrolled in additional certification classes to solidify her expertise in Restaurant Design and Planning. All of this, as well as productive networking, has led to book sales and new clients.
What sets her apart from others who operate similar businesses? “From the beginning, I decided to do two things: focus on what I love and where I have the most knowledge and experience,” she explains.
“I have utilized the specific niches that I have worked in throughout the years and incorporated the type of work. For example, I have many years of experience in Residential New Construction, working for large firms like Toll Architecture. I also have experience working in Food Service Design and Planning.”
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