Connect with us

Women Entrepreneurs

In this Interview, LA based Critically Acclaimed Artist Jessica Soltis gets Candid on the Importance of Representation in the Field of Art



Based in Los Angeles, Jessica Soltis is a masterful artist critically acclaimed for her modern and abstract artworks.

According to Jessica, representation of black women in the field of art isn’t adequate and it wasn’t until college when she met her art professor, Denyse Thomasos who was a beautiful and talented black female artist. She firmly believes that young women can feel the same sense of belonging and empowerment that she did when she finally saw somebody that looked like her in the field of art. She also believes that there need to be more black women that find power in femininity. 

Every trade in this world is associated with a stereotype. Do you believe that the art world is also driven by stereotypes?

Yes, of course. I think that our minds tend to gravitate towards quirky, eccentric, derelict outcasts. I don’t fit in that stereotype, and I aspire to change that perception. I’m a sequin and glitter badass!

As much as we talk about gender equality, the fact remains that even today, women face difficulties in their professional and personal lives. What challenges do you see women facing when it comes to the art world, especially when it comes to black women?

Representation is definitely still a problem. The impact that Naomi Campbell had on the impressionable minds of young black women’s vision of a supermodel is the exact wave of impact I aim to hit the art community with. The art community is a male-dominated industry, and I want to pave the way for young artists like myself to gain exposure.

You had a transformative experience when you met your art teacher Denyse Thomasos. Tell us more about that experience.

Denyse Thomasos, a beautiful black woman, was my first exposure into the art world. We all have heard the “starving artist” stigma. I never thought it was possible to sustain oneself solely on your art career. Denyse not only taught, but she created beautiful works of art and did gallery shows. She was the first person I looked up to in this industry and inspired me to courageously follow my passions. I want to instill that same sense of hope in the next generation of young black women.

Your artworks have been featured in Tivoli, Italy and in the Marcas Gallery, Southern California drawing in thousands of spectators. Tell us more about this experience.

It is an amazing and humbling feeling when you encounter others that love and appreciate your work. I receive every kind word and every art sale and can only emanate gratitude. Every compliment is received as if I am hearing it for the first time. It truly is a magical experience.

Your recent artwork ‘The Lady In The Shift Dress: Rebirth Of Femininity’ is critically acclaimed. What does this art represent?

The beauty of art is that it is open to interpretation. Your mood, your environment, or your state of mind all can affect your interpretation of someone’s art. What do you think it represents?

What more can be done to empower women, especially black women in the States?

There needs to be positive imagery of beautiful black women in the arts. We are made to be more than just the muse.

What suggestions you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

I am far from perfect but all entrepreneurs need to have bulletproof faith in themselves. Others will project their fears and failures on you to try to throw you off or discourage you. Look within yourself to find your “why”; why are you doing what you are doing? Lastly, the most important thing is patience.


An Interview with Mariana Toncu, Founder of Bestyn, a Social Media App for Neighbors



Bestyn is a multifunctional app that makes it easy for neighbors to connect, share information, and collaborate. Apart from helping neighbors connect, Bestyn also acts as a marketplace for neighbors located in the same communities and enclaves. Bestyn also ensures that users never miss local events like garage sales, birthday parties, charity events, and more serious community events, like death or accident.

In short Bestyn is meant to change the way communities interact. We recently interviewed its founder Mariana Toncu to know more about the app.

Mariana, Thank you for talking with us. Bestyn has just entered the market. What is your number one goal with this app?

Thanks for having me. Our number one goal is to enable easy connections between neighbors. A lot of apps that are available right now don’t have the ability to use maps tactfully to understand who is around. You may have neighbors with special skills that you are looking for. For instance, they can advise you for free just because they are in your area and they can help you with your needs as a good neighbor. But how do you get to them? This is where our app comes into the picture. Apart from this, we also want to reduce costs for the people in the neighborhood for different tasks. Using our app, people will have to pay less for marketing and advertising which can be really helpful for small businesses.

What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor?

Right now there’s a lot of information everywhere and it’s kind of hard to select the right information and also it’s kind of hard to find the team and explain to build the right app that people can join and stay connected with their community. It’s not that there is a dearth of good people but it’s very hard to put to them to work together for one idea. Moreover, when you are launching a new app, it’s another challenge to find what exactly people are experiencing using your app and what exactly is their feedback about the app.

How and when did you come up with the idea of Bestyn app?

I am an immigrant from Eastern Europe and I came here a couple of years ago. I was stuck when it came to communicating with neighbors and connecting with the community where I’m living. In the market, there are a couple of apps but because they do not have a friendly interface, people don’t want to use them. People want something like easy access and at the same time stay updated with news and post news.

One of the biggest issues in modern day society is the fact that a neighbor does not know his or her own neighbor. How does Bestyn solve this problem and help people connect with their neighbors?

Bestyn has come up with some features that no app has. For example, a user can post events. This, I think is one of the amazing things that the user can share with his community. Another amazing feature is that you can access the map and you can instantly see who is around you and also you can message him and ask for a piece of advice or ask for help.

A lot of features are still under development but we are more than happy to receive the feedback and get more information about what has to be done and what people want from their community and neighborhood.

Bestyn is more than connecting people with their neighbors. Tell us more about those features.

The closest person to your house is basically your neighbor. In case of emergency, your neighbor can be of great help. Your neighbor is around you. By accessing the map you’ll be able to see all your neighbors around you and for safety. For obvious safety reasons, you will not be able to see the exact address of your neighbors. However, your neighbors will be able to know about it. You don’t have to go to their doors and knock them. That’s why you can ask through Bestyn app for advice and help instantly.

App security is a major concern nowadays. What preventive measures have been taken by Bestyn?

It’s true that app security has become a cause for concern. When it comes to Bestyn, you are going to share your address with the app which will help us serve you better, but when somebody will take a look at your profile, they are not going to see the exact address where you are. So the app is going to indicate just the street in the city where you are. Thus your exact location is not going to get divulged.

Also, you will be able to see people in a radius of 10 miles. Thus the concept of neighborhood remains intact.

Which locations do you serve?

We designed this app to cover all areas and countries so pretty much everyone who has a phone and wants to join this community. By joining this app now, you may help other people that will join this app later. We encourage everyone to join this platform and also the people who use this app to invite their neighbors and stay connected during this tough time.

What plans do you have regarding the expansion of Bestyn. Especially during the ongoing pandemic.

Bestyn App is going to come up with more features for the users. It’s going to be hard initially so we are going to first translate our app in the most spoken 15 languages, and bring more features that will reduce the cost of everything from services to ride-sharing, sending money, and just selling products and scaling businesses.

Continue Reading


Want to know How a 27 Year Old Bought a Beach Lot? Find out in this Interview with Trishie Dela Cruz, Founder of Bride and Rose



The ongoing pandemic has made things hard for most of the entrepreneurs worldwide. Businesses, big or small, have suffered a lot during this pandemic. However, the situation has opened doors of opportunity for some individuals too. So why wouldn’t we Interview someone who managed to buy a beach lot when many are being forced to liquidate their assets.

Trishie Dela Cruz is one such Entrepreneur who managed to buy a beach lot when many are struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic. An entrepreneur at heart since her childhood, Trishie is the founder of Bride and Rose. We recently interviewed her to know more about her success and her overall entrepreneurial journey.

Trishie, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far.

I started being an Entrepreneur way back 2012 and I had 2 careers in 2 different industries before I finally ended up here on the final path that I am already in.

First, I was a full time blogger, I attended events and promoted products, then I had a privilege to do solo traveling, and I loved it so much that I opened up a backpacking Travel agency and became a Travel Expert. I lead team buildings and developed a backpacking prototype.

I lost my time in blogging and focused in traveling the world and running my agency. Unfortunately, competition became very high and travel deals became lower and lower that it was hard for me to compete anymore. The stress that the business gave me was not worth it. When my husband and I moved to a house from a condominium, we bought tools such as circular saw and built our own furniture using 2nd hand palettes.

I shared it on my social media and blogs. One of my readers wanted something similar for her wedding. She asked us to do a bohemian table made of palettes. And then that’s how when it opened doors to wedding industry. We built those bohemian tables, I outsourced suppliers and I created wedding packages, which was by that time, not a trend.

I found what I really love. Ever since I was a kid, I loved beautiful things, flowers, laces and fabrics, jewelries. I backed up my career by enrolling to courses such as Professional Events Management in Enderun, attended the Teddy Manuel Master Class, and took Interior Styling at SOFA(School of Fashion and The Arts). I am now a wedding designer and own a concept store of all things beautiful. My happy place, my childhood dream ❤️

Of all those years, despite the different industries I’ve been in to, there are two things that I never stopped doing. Building/creating and selling. When I was a blogger, I built my own walk in closet, I built an office for my travel agency, and now, I have built 2 boutiques for my wedding designing career. But there’s no smooth sailing in business especially when you’re starting. There are many ups and downs. I even built a nail spa and salon and closed it down in less than a year. That’s why the 2nd thing is selling. On  the side of my careers, I always make sure to have many streams of income. I am resourceful, I always have something to sell anything under the sun, but discretely; That I am not broadcasting or showing to public.

Before my entrepreneurial days started, I was a rebel. I parted here and there. I went to every night clubs in the metro. I’ve seen how drugs and alcohol change people and ruin lives. I was young that time and I already saw the importance of time and the value of what we do in life. One day, it put me an end and realized that all those selfless nights wont give me a direction in life. I graduated early on that kind of phase in life. I learned the hardships in life early. After that phase in life, I lost my privilege of studying in a way. However, I wanted to study. I wanted to achieve things and get what I want. That’s why I started to dream and focus on my goals. That’s when I started blogging, it was my first source of income, and I was 19yrs old. It was also the age that I was able to buy my own car. I started to decide what are my dreams and goals in life, early; and I think that was my edge.

You are just 27 and have achieved success which many envy. When the world is reeling down under corona pressure, you managed to buy a beach front lot. Mind sharing some of the secrets with our readers?

It was really one of my dreams to have a beach front house. It’s been quite awhile already that I was looking for a beach lot, even before the pandemic. But most properties for sale are sold by hectares. I stayed up to date with the trend, I saw a developer selling beach front lots but the beach is a black sand, so it’s a no for me. But I know that many developers will develop same idea- into a different beach. And I was right,  there were new developers across the country who started selling smaller cuts of beach front lots. And it is fast selling! So, with the savings I had, I took advantage of it. And it’s a bonus that lots are cheaper during these days of pandemic.

Wedding industry has been hit hard by this pandemic.  How did you manage to survive this pandemic?

Yes this is 100% applicable to me. My business was really affected. First, weddings were not allowed. 2nd, malls were shut down, and one of my boutique is located in a mall.

I am never a quitter. I took advantages of the opportunities. I took advantage of my digital skills and I have and focused on online marketing. I took advantage of being seen more by audience since almost every person is in the house, browsing the internet. I took advantage that we were one of the firsts in the industry that started intimate weddings even before the pandemic started. I took advantage of my extra time to research and redevelop our business plans and strategies, and as well as to improve things that need to be improved such as websites, our social media feed, portfolios, etc.

How and when did you come up with the idea of Bride and Rose?

The idea of Bride and Rose concept store started when I was in New York. It was inspired by Kleinfeild- Kleinfeild is the largest bridal shop in the city that carries different designer bridal gowns. If it worked in the western countries and is being patronized already for decades (since 1968), then it will definitely work here in Philippines too.

Few days before I traveled to New York, I attended a short curriculum at Harvard University in Boston that teaches us how to prototype and innovate.

I wanted to innovate Klienfield Bridal by adding a working space for different wedding suppliers, because I’ve seen that there are many suppliers such as coordinators, hosts, invitation suppliers etc. who do good in the industry but don’t have something they called their own office or space.

The moment I went back to the Philippines, I started the prototype and that was my first wedding concept store boutique- Shabby Chic Style Studio.  The prototype was a success, and after 2 years working almost 24hrs to run this business, I am already confident enough that Bride and Rose will work. Using my savings, and getting investors to add more to the capital, we then built Bride and Rose.

How do you think you can share your success to others and Please share some mantras with our readers so that they can also achieve their pie of success.

“Never Stop Dreaming Your Dreams” this is my 2nd tattoo(out of 8), in my wrist. It was a quotation from my mom and I lived to that. Never stop dreaming because your dreams are what will drive you to do and achieve your goals in life. Dream big and inspire people. And help people in any ways that you can help even in  the tiniest things because blessings will come back double. Value people who share the same dreams with you.

Also, I love studying and I invested a lot in my education because I believe that it is important to invest in yourself. Not only I pay for experiences, I buy books and PDFs of information, formulas, and resources. It cost me a lot and recently, I made an E- library of these resources and I’m selling it just for fraction of the price. I believe that this E-Library will be helpful to anyone who is struggling in business or who just started their business or those who want to start their business.

You can buy the E-library resource here:

Trishie dela Cruz blogs here and is also available on Instagram

View this post on Instagram

Stay Classy✨

A post shared by Love, Trish ( on

Continue Reading


An Interview with Lana Leeb Founder & President of HR Consulting firm Atled



lana leeb interview timesofstartups

Lana Leeb is an HR veteran. Her HR Consulting firm Atled is inspired by industry insight from working within international Fortune 500 companies as well as government and private mid-tier organizations. She has always challenged traditional HR and employment models because she firmly believes that they are not in concord with modern needs.

Lana, Thank you for talking with us. You have a vast experience working in the domain of HR Consulting including working with some Fortune 500 companies. What shift have you observed in the way Human Resource works in the past few years?

Thank you so much for having me. I think the advancements of artificial intelligence, automation, machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT), has brokered a new world of work for the global workforce. The 4th industrial revolution (4IR) will catapult the Canadian and global labour market into an unknown frontier, ushering in economic prosperity while challenging current employee models, jobs, and competencies. Physical, digital, and biological worlds will begin to intersect between industries, converging advancements between technology, genetic engineering, 3D printing, and quantum computing, and the human experience.

With these advancements, the CHRO is starting to blend and liaise more with the CTO or CIO, pioneering a plethora of options to elevate the employee experience while reducing low touch-point tasks for Fortune 500 and forward-thinking companies.

In your experience, what are the differences in the way Human Resource works in small businesses viz. a viz big corporations.

In my experience with global, large organizations they have a robust HR division, with deep vertical expertise in each phase of the employee life-cycle. In comparison, small businesses do not have that luxury. They are often straddling between investing in employee programs or sales, technology, or research. In a time when many companies are seeking growth to cover HR expenses, small business often seek out affordable, fixed-rate outsourcing plans to steward them until they can justify a full-time in-house HR department.

Looking into the future, what are the top 3 trends HR and business owners should have on their radar?

With continued remote work or a hybrid model, employers may start to implement software like ActivTrak, Teramind, or Time Doctor to track employees – and those that do – will be operating under an illusion of power by making it easy to lead through surveillance and fear – rather than character and trust. And, if their executives and middle managers don’t receive training, we will see those organizations experience a loss of intellectual property and a brain drain of their best people. So, it will be extremely prudent for not just HR or leaders – but employees to cultivate a culture of trust, humanism, and transparency to offset a potential abuse of privacy.

A second trend is that both employer and employee may not longer be under the illusion that they are handcuffed to their location.  In 5 years, we are going to see a massive rise in the boundaryless employee. Companies will have greater access to talent because there is no geographical constraint on high performers and no excuses to developing a workforce strategy, inclusive of different demographics. In short, companies, will not be bound to recruit only those that live in proximity – they will be recruiting top tier talent nationally and globally. But here’s the fly in the ointment, top tier talent, A players, and high performers, will be poached easier and start to understand their bargaining power with global companies tapping into a diverse workforce.

The last trend is the illusion that workforces will continue to flock to magnet cities. If remote work is here to stay and we see this rise of boundaryless employees, the by-product will be geo-arbitrage, whereby downtown cores will be hollowing out – with middle to upper class workforces relocating to younger municipalities. Companies will be reimaging their offices, from a row of workstations, to an innovation hub, where employees only come in for project kickoffs, ideation workshops, or scrum meetings.

Why do you believe that traditional HR models need to be done away with?

Businesses are nimble and no longer have a 5-year strategy, but more so, a 1 or 3-year outlook based on constant market disruption. And yet, employment models and HR have not really caught up. For example, HR typically recruits for full-time employees with a skill set relevant for only the next 3 years. With alternative models of freelancers, agencies, the gig economy as well as emerging solutions to reduce costs through AI, machine learning, and automation, HR models need to be revisited.

From employment point of view, what are some of the top skills that are in demand in the market right now?

I’ll cut to the chase with the top skill for employees: learn how to change with the times and then demonstrate how you can help navigate companies through it. With younger generations switching jobs every 3 years and the advent of a technology boom, unseen in the history of our workforce, change is not only the constant – but the next most in demand competency.

In HR, years ago, we would help steward employees into the “2nd act” (known as early retirement). Now, with current changes we are seeing the 3rd or 4th act. Over the next decade, as career arcs change from a peak to multiple peaks, employees who have a 5th, 6th, or 7th act, will not only become in demand, but also be best prepared to ride the wave.

Covid 19 has impacted businesses of all kinds. What are some of the changes small business owners should make in order to remain afloat. Also, how do you see the ongoing Pandemic impacting the way HR teams work?

I often refer to Covid-19 as the big reset and here’s why. During the last ten years of growth, many of us as employers have created red tape, complexity, and lots of overhead. Every time we hire a new manager, launch a new product, or grow into a new geography we layer on more “stuff.” But, most of us, never take anything away.

Because of Covid, we now have an opportunity to fix this. We are forced to do more with less and have had to say good-bye to every process, committee, meeting, project, conference call, or position we don’t need. This is a time to be ruthless and redefine what people and programs are nice to have – while reconsidering which costs are truly fixed versus variable. This is how to be a resilient leader and bridge your team through the crisis.

Most us know that markets and societies will revert back. But this crisis is a bit different than a recession, and it’s vitally important we learn from it. For business owners, ask yourself, which ways of working, that we discovered during this crisis, should be preserved and built upon? Another tactic is to conduct a lessons learned workshop with your leadership team, unpack what worked, assign tasks, and have a pre-packed contingency plan for the next disruption. 

Ongoing in a post pandemic work, all workforce and scenario planning should focus on a fundamental consideration of our client’s dilemma’s and needs in a post-covid world. By dissecting 1st how customer behaviour will shift, only then will business owners know which employees to retain and how to retool them to solve those new dilemmas. Moreover, once they know the raw needs of their customers, they can generate a renewed sense of purpose and align their people on a clear, path forward.

Continue Reading


Subscribe to our Free Newsletter

Get Business and Marketing Insights from Experts, only onTimes of Startups!

Your Information will never be shared with any third party