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Interview with Claire Shorall, Co-Founder of Topknot



Interview with Claire Shorall, Co-Founder of Topknot

Claire Shorall is the Cofounder and CEO of Topknot, an online life coaching alternative for women+ where structured peer conversations lead to real personal growth. Prior to founding Topknot, Claire was a national award winning teacher and led computer science education for Oakland’s public schools. She also was an investor at Neo, a venture capital fund backing exceptional engineers. Outside of work Claire loves running fast, mentoring young people, thoughtful discussions over delicious meals, and following Olympic sports even in non-Olympic years. Claire is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and currently resides in San Francisco with her partner and two pets. She graduated from Rice University in Houston, TX, where she competed for the Owls in Cross Country and Track.

Where did the idea for Topknot come from?

My cofounder and I met when we were both working in computer science education. At the time, she was the most remarkable leader of adult learning I’d ever met and I was a teacher turned district administrator bringing computer science to schools where it had never before been taught. Both of us have gifts of creating beautiful learning environments and inspiring people to do hard things. Once we teamed up, we used those gifts to help people learn about themselves and move forward intentionally. Personal development felt important to make accessible and affordable to all because we’d both benefited immensely from coaching, and could recall times when we would have loved a coach but couldn’t afford one. With Topknot, people get the benefits of life coaching without the cost, hassle, or upfront commitment.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up early (before my partner and pets). I make coffee and listen to a podcast. If I am going to run, it also happens in the morning. I always eat a big, somewhat elaborate breakfast — it’s my favorite meal. Then I get to work. I try to keep some days meeting free and then load up other days with calls and meetups; I find the context switching to be jarring. I am responsible for end-of-day pickup for my dog at daycare, so that’s a welcomed opportunity to close my day with a walk. After that point, I spend time with my partner, cook dinner, and read or watch sports. I find that working at night doesn’t come easily, so I never force it. Stepping away from work at night unleashes me to be more productive during the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I love drawing out my ideas on paper. I am rarely without a notebook and markers. I use color, arrows, and designs with what may appear to be reckless abandon, but it has meaning to me. For much of my career, my work was siloed, and I was the only one who had to internalize my plans. Now, I have to bring my ideas to a broader group. I am getting better about honoring my own messy process, and then transferring it into a form that makes sense for others.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m pro the increasingly candid conversations my friends and colleagues are having about their mental health, self care, and boundaries. At least in my circles, the taboo seems gone.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I live an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle. As our team is split between California (me) and North Carolina (everyone else), this schedule opens more opportunities for collaboration with my East Coast colleagues.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’m not a huge fan of advice and think that people over-index on what others tell them. With that in mind, I’d give my younger self permission to ignore advice that didn’t serve me sooner.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Teenagers are the best type of humans, hands down. I taught high school for over a decade and I thought the world of my students. Teenagers straddle child-like curiosity and adult awareness; they push the boundaries, but are reasonable; they have an adorable amount of angst. They’re just my favorite.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Get in the habit of asking yourself hard questions and moving forward with intention. For me, this happens primarily in two spaces: executive coaching with my cofounder and my company’s core activity, Topknot Time. In both, I often uncover ways that I am showing up that support and hinder our chances of success. I am forced to get clear on my priorities. I find opportunities to live and lead with greater alignment to my values. A nice side effect is also that my relationship with my cofounder is rock solid. Everyone deserves support on their journey, and entrepreneurs a little extra.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Our product is new, and therefore needs explanation. We’ve found that partnering with blogs who are able to explain Topknot and provide additional context skyrockets our sign-ups. It’s often a personal narrative about the impact that Topknot has had that pushes someone over the line to try us out.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Failure is an underrated tool for learning. I am actually trying to fail more and faster these days. A recent failure was trying to put together a partnership program with several different organizations at the same time. They all had varying needs, and we couldn’t address them all at once so some of them fizzled out or said no. This failure was instructive. We now have a better sense of the types of partners we’re looking for.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

My neighbor keeps tempting me to start a food truck that caters exclusively to dogs and shows up at various dog parks across the city. Knowing how much I spend on my pets, I am sure it would crush. Now the idea is unleashed (pun intended).

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Definitely on dinner with a former student. It was great to catch up and eat well. In general, I’d prefer to spend my money on good times rather than things.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I love a tool called Journey that allows you to create a suite of materials to showcase your company, product, etc. When I’m in fundraising mode, I share a blurb, deck, and an intro video with prospective investors. It’s rich information upfront that allows us to showcase a lot about who we are as a company and as builders, which allows people to opt-in if they’re interested and skip a call if they’re not.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

If you’re a manager — or in any position of support, mentorship, or leadership — I highly recommend Co-Active Coaching: The Proven Framework for Transformative Conversations at Work and in Life by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth. When you pick it up, it gives off textbook vibes. Push past it! It’s such a good read and it fundamentally changed my communication style and my understanding of formal and informal coaching relationships.

What is your favorite quote?

I didn’t have one for my high school yearbook and I still don’t have one now.

Originally published on IdeaMensch.


Interview with Jack Carlson, Founder of Rowing Blazers: History, Tradition, and Innovation



Interview with Jack Carlson, Founder of Rowing Blazers

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Jack Carlson is the founder and creative director of Rowing Blazers, a fashion brand that combines classic American style with a contemporary edge. Jack Carlson, a former national team rower, and scholar of history draw inspiration from vintage sportswear and traditional Ivy League fashion. His passion for design and fashion, combined with his unique background. Jack Carlson has resulted in the creation of a brand that stands out in the industry.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in fashion?

I’ve always had a passion for fashion and design, even while pursuing my other interests. I grew up in Connecticut and started rowing at a young age, eventually competing at the national level. While studying history at Harvard, I became interested in the traditional clothing worn by rowers and began to collect vintage rowing blazers. This sparked my interest in fashion and led me to start designing my own clothing. After completing a Ph.D. in archaeology, I decided to pursue fashion full-time and founded Rowing Blazers in 2017.

What inspired you to start Rowing Blazers?

I wanted to create a brand that celebrated the rich history and tradition of American fashion, particularly the preppy style of the Ivy League. At the same time, I wanted to bring a contemporary edge to classic designs and challenge the boundaries of traditional fashion. I was inspired by the vintage rowing blazers that I collected and wanted to create my own versions that were both authentic and modern.

Can you walk us through the design process of creating a new collection?

The design process always starts with research and inspiration. I spend a lot of time looking at vintage clothing, archival photographs, and historical documents to get a sense of the styles and aesthetics of a particular time period or culture. From there, I sketch out ideas and work with my team to refine the designs and select fabrics. We always strive to balance classic elements with modern twists and unexpected details. It’s a collaborative process that involves a lot of trial and error, but we always end up with something that we’re proud of.

How do you stay true to your brand’s identity while also keeping up with current fashion trends?

For us, it’s not about following trends, but rather creating timeless pieces that will never go out of style. Although we draw inspiration from the past, we don’t limit ourselves to it. We’re always looking for ways to innovate and push boundaries while staying true to our brand’s core identity. We’re not interested in fast fashion or disposable clothing – our pieces are meant to last and be treasured for years to come.

Can you tell us about a particular challenge you faced while growing Rowing Blazers and how you overcame it?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is scaling the business while maintaining the quality and craftsmanship that we’re known for. We’ve had to find the right partners and suppliers who share our values and are able to produce our garments to our high standards. We’ve also had to be very strategic about our growth, taking things one step at a time and not rushing into anything too quickly. It’s been a learning process, but we’ve been able to grow the business in a sustainable way that we’re proud of.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own fashion brand?

My advice would be to stay true to your vision and never compromise on quality. It’s also important to be strategic about your growth and not try to do everything at once. Start small and focus on doing one thing really well before expanding. And always be willing to learn and adapt – the fashion industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to be flexible and open to new ideas.

What’s next for Rowing Blazers?

We’re always working on new designs and collaborations, but we’re also focused on expanding our brand beyond just clothing. We want to create a lifestyle brand that encompasses all aspects of American style, from furniture to home decor to travel accessories. We’re excited to continue growing and evolving while staying true to our brand’s identity and values.

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Jack Carlson’s passion for fashion and history has resulted in the creation of a unique and innovative brand that stands out in the industry. His dedication to quality and craftsmanship, as well as his commitment to sustainability, sets Rowing Blazers apart from other fashion brands. To stay up to date with Jack Carlson and Rowing Blazers, you can follow him on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Gracie Cedres

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Interview with Gracie Cedres: Insights on Entrepreneurship and Work-Life Balance



Interview with Gracie Cedres, Founder of G.R.A.C.E.

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Gracie Cedres is the founder and CEO of G.R.A.C.E., a company that provides virtual assistance and project management services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. With a degree in communications, Gracie has always been interested in helping others succeed in their businesses. Her passion for helping entrepreneurs led her to create G.R.A.C.E., which has been helping entrepreneurs and small business owners increase their productivity and profitability. In this interview, Gracie will share more about her journey as an entrepreneur and the success of G.R.A.C.E.

Can you tell us about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur?

Sure, my name is Gracie Cedres, and I am the founder and CEO of G.R.A.C.E. I have always been interested in helping others, especially entrepreneurs and small business owners, succeed in their businesses. After completing my degree in communications, I worked as a virtual assistant for various entrepreneurs and realized that there was a need for high-quality virtual assistance and project management services. That’s how the idea for G.R.A.C.E. was born, and since then, I have been working hard to help entrepreneurs and small business owners achieve their goals.

How did you come up with the idea for G.R.A.C.E.?

After working as a virtual assistant for several entrepreneurs, the idea for G.R.A.C.E. came to me. I realized that many entrepreneurs were struggling to manage their time effectively and needed high-quality virtual assistance and project management services to help them become more productive and profitable. I saw an opportunity to help entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing them with top-notch virtual assistance and project management services, and that’s how G.R.A.C.E. was born.

What are some of the challenges you faced in starting and growing your business?

One of the biggest challenges I faced in starting and growing my business was finding the right team members. It’s important to have a team that shares your vision and is passionate about what they do. I also faced challenges in marketing my services and reaching out to potential clients. However, I overcame these challenges by networking, building relationships, and creating high-quality content that showcased the value of my services.

What is your vision for G.R.A.C.E. in the next five years?

My vision for G.R.A.C.E. in the next five years is to become the go-to virtual assistance and project management service provider for entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide. I want to expand my team and services to be able to help more entrepreneurs and small business owners increase their productivity and profitability. I also want to continue building strong relationships with my clients and providing them with top-notch services.

Can you share with us some of your favorite success stories from working with your clients?

One of my favorite success stories is working with a small business owner who was struggling to manage their time effectively. By providing them with virtual assistance and project management services, we were able to help them increase their productivity, improve their marketing strategies, and ultimately grow their business. It’s always fulfilling to see my clients succeed and achieve their goals.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to educate themselves and never stop learning. It’s important to constantly learn new skills, stay up to date with industry trends, and seek out new opportunities. It’s also essential to have a strong work ethic, be persistent, and not be afraid to take risks. Don’t let failure discourage you, instead use it as a learning opportunity and keep pushing forward.

How do you maintain a work-life balance as a busy entrepreneur?

Maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging as a busy entrepreneur, but it’s essential for your well-being and the success of your business. One of the things I do is prioritize my tasks and delegate when necessary. I also set aside time for self-care activities like exercise, reading, and spending time with family and friends. It’s also important to know when to disconnect from work and focus on other aspects of your life.

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Gracie Cedres is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide. Her dedication to helping others and passion for entrepreneurship has led to the success of G.R.A.C.E. With a vision for continued growth and success, Gracie is sure to make an impact in the virtual assistance and project management industry. To learn more about Gracie Cedres and G.R.A.C.E., visit her website and follow her on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Evan Cagner

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Interview with Evan Cagner: Insights into the World of Tech and Entrepreneurship



Interview with Evan Cagner, CEO of TechBlue

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Evan Cagner is the founder and CEO of TechBlue, a company that provides managed IT services to businesses of all sizes. Evan has over 15 years of experience in the tech industry and has helped numerous businesses grow by leveraging technology. He is a thought leader and innovator in the IT industry, with a keen eye for emerging trends and technologies. In this interview, Evan Cagner shares his insights into the world of tech and entrepreneurship.

What inspired you to start TechBlue?

I’ve always been passionate about technology and how it can be used to solve business problems. I started my career working for a large IT consulting firm, and I quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market for managed IT services. Small and medium-sized businesses often struggle to keep up with the latest technology trends, and they don’t have the resources to hire full-time IT staff. That’s why I decided to start TechBlue – to help these businesses leverage technology to grow and succeed.

What sets TechBlue apart from other managed IT services companies?

There are a few things that set TechBlue apart from other managed IT services companies. First and foremost, we are incredibly focused on customer service. We believe that building strong relationships with our clients is the key to our success. Second, we have a team of highly skilled technicians who are constantly learning and staying up to date with the latest technologies. Finally, we are very flexible and can customize our services to meet the unique needs of each of our clients.

How do you stay on top of emerging trends in the tech industry?

I’m always reading and staying up to date with the latest news and trends in the tech industry. I attend conferences and meet with other thought leaders in the industry to discuss new technologies and how they can be used to solve business problems. I also encourage my team to stay up to date and share their knowledge with each other.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the IT industry?

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the IT industry. With so many people working remotely, there has been a huge demand for cloud-based services and virtual private networks (VPNs). There has also been an increased focus on cybersecurity, as remote workers are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Overall, the pandemic has accelerated the shift toward digital transformation and has highlighted the importance of having a reliable and secure IT infrastructure.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses?

My advice would be to focus on building a strong team and never stop learning. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and who have different skill sets. Be willing to take risks and make mistakes, but also be willing to learn from those mistakes. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from other entrepreneurs who have been through it before.

What is your vision for the future of TechBlue?

My vision for TechBlue is to continue to grow and expand our services to meet the changing needs of our clients. I want to stay at the forefront of emerging technologies and continue to be a thought leader in the industry. Ultimately, I want to help as many businesses as possible leverage technology to achieve their goals.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and staying active. I’m an avid runner and I also enjoy playing basketball and golf. I’m also a big fan of music and enjoy going to concerts and discovering new artists.

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Evan Cagner is a true leader and innovator in the IT industry. His passion for technology and customer service has helped TechBlue become one of the most respected managed IT services companies in the business. With his keen eye for emerging trends and technologies, Evan is sure to continue to make an impact in the industry for years to come. To learn more about Evan Cagner and TechBlue, you can visit their website or follow them on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Makayla Gordon

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