P.MAI Pioneer Spotlight: Amber Riedl, Makerist Co-founder
Meet startup veteran Amber Riedl. The Canadian native moved to Berlin in 2004 after finishing her MA in Political Science to join her now-husband. Yes, a real love story! There, she had her first taste of the startup world in the early days of StudiVZ ('the German Facebook') where her husband was working, and she became inspired to start something herself.
Between 2008 and 2013, Amber launched her first start up—1001hochzeiten—now Foreverly, a marketplace that connects bridal couples and wedding vendors. In 2013, she wanted to do something in the DIY space and found her partner—Axel Heinz for Makerist.
Makerist is the leading DIY and handicraft platform in Europe and offers its customers 100+ video classes, thousands of supplies and boundless inspiration to start their project.
What was the inspiration behind Makerist? Which came first—the desire to start something or seeing an opportunity that you felt must be created?
Both really came together at the same time. I saw from my online wedding site that DIY was totally taking off in Germany, and as a DIY enthusiast myself, saw a real chance to do something I could get behind. I don't think I would have done it alone though; Makerist is really the product of great teamwork from many people, but especially with Axel.
How did you know you had a good idea on your hands?
We tested our idea by creating community interest groups on Facebook called NähCafe and StrickCafe and got an amazing response. In the meantime, these are the biggest online communities for sewing and knitting in Europe.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
For me it was really challenging to find a balance of career and family (spending enough time with my two little ones, 7 and 5. I’ve learned it's all just a process and to not take things too seriously. Also - set boundaries and constantly prioritize!
What advice would you share with other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Start with an idea, but back it up with a business model and some fast testing.
What are some things that are always in your bag?
Phone + earphones for music and calls, lipstick, sunglasses, Fisherman's Friend mints, and a water bottle.
How do you carry on, beautifully?
I like to remind myself that life is made up of many sides, and try to tend to all sides as best as possible: work, family, friends, nature... If something is not going well in one area there are always other things to boost you up. It’s all about balance.
- What was the inspiration behind Makerist? Which came first—the desire to start something or seeing an opportunity that you felt must be created?
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Pioneer Spotlight: Monica Ahanonu
As you may know, at P.MAI we continue to feature “role models” rather than “fashion models.” Monica Ahanonu is no exception. It’s hard not to develop a girl-crush on Monica, the LA-based animator for Dreamworks. Her unique style is enviable, and her playful outlook on life is a reminder us all to make time for what’s important. We were thrilled to work with her on a shoot and sat down with her to learn more about where her talents came from and what’s next.
1. Tell us a little about yourself—where you grew up (family, environment) and how that helped shape who you are.
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Very grateful that I grew up in a smaller city which forced me to be creative to entertain myself. I have three siblings: two brothers and one sister. My sister is the oldest, then my older brother, then me and then my younger brother. My mom is very creative and I don’t think I realized how creative she is until I got older and began to question where my creative mindset came from. I definitely feel that my mom was a big influence in my creativity and staying a creative throughout my life. She was creative in the way that she would improvise and create new dishes for us kids such as making her own popsicles for us. When I was having trouble with my outfit, had to dress up for school, or struggled with a science project, she was always incredibly creative and helped me pull something together for whatever project or birthday party I was attending.
My dad built computers and had his own computer business throughout my childhood. I became very knowledgeable about computers, problem solving technical issues and learning many computer programs at a young age. Another part of my childhood that shaped who I am was my competitive gymnastics career. I did competitive gymnastics throughout my childhood up until my junior year of high school. I had to stop because my parents felt I had too many injuries (which I did) although at the time I didn’t think so. I was a very active child because of my intense gymnastics schedule / natural crazy energy as well as a creative child. At the time I didn’t realize that, but looking back I was always making calendars or brochures or cards for friends on the computer. I loved taking photos, making up dances, writing my own TV scripts and then filming my own TV shows with our video camera, or drawing my own magazines.
2. What kind of career goals did you have growing up? How did they evolve? Did you always wanted to study art?
I wanted to be a photographer for many years. I also wanted to star in my own TV show and would often take my parents’ video camera to record myself. I would write the scripts and plan the locations around our house or neighborhood. I will admit, I did fake being sick a few times when I was in elementary school and middle school so that I could stay home and record my TV shows. It was quite a thing— I still can’t believe I did that.
My interests evolved towards animation when I got into graphic design and taught myself how to use Photoshop so I could build fan sites for various Disney actresses I was obsessed with. During the summer between 8th and 9th grade, I had surgery on both of my feet. I had to sit around for 2 months while I was in a wheelchair. So during this time, I taught myself how to animate gymnastics routines since I wasn’t able to do them physically during that time. These were my first attempts at animation and I grew more proficient in Photoshop and Premiere.
3. What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
My biggest career challenges so far have been making the leap from being on the production side of the animation industry to the artistic side. Another career challenge I have been trying to keep on top of is seeing myself as a real person that is no longer in school. I did so many internships in school and am so used to being told what is right and wrong and that I often forget that I have control over a lot of the artistic decisions I am making while I am at work or doing freelance. I’ve gotten a lot better, but it is something I had to get used to when I was first hired as a full-time artist at DreamWorks Animation. Other than that, I am still working on a lot of career challenges of figuring out where my personal artistic style fits best and what I am going to do with it as I move forward.
4. Your animated work is phenomenal and we’ve been girl-crushing on your style. Where do you go for inspiration to keep ideas fresh?
I look at fashion a lot for inspiration whether from Pinterest, in the books I have at my apartment or on Instagram. If I see a pair of shoes that I think are super odd or interesting in the way they are designed, I may try to do an outfit based on some element from those shoes that stood out to me.
I often let my mind wander and daydream. I will look at an object around me and imagine it in a direction that would seem unnatural or odd such as, “What if this was the silhouette of a shoe, what would the shoe look like? How would someone be able to walk in a shoe that had such a silhouette?” Or “What if this silhouette was a face, or someone’s body, etc.” then see where it takes me.
I might ask myself what if a common object was a different color or texture. Sometimes I create a challenge where I try to design something seemingly unrecognizable by altering some of its details but leave enough clues so people can still able to figure it out. I definitely get a lot of ideas and inspiration from day dreaming and the dreams I have at night.
“A lot of my style is from intuition and working on things and playing with shapes and colors until they feel balanced or satisfy something inside of me that I really can’t fully pinpoint.”
5. Are there lessons or principles from art/design that you apply to your everyday life?
Being creative in the way that I dress, the way that I live my life and by not living a monotonous life, living it in color with variety, designing my days, designing a workout routine, staying curious about the world around me and the people I come in contact with. I don’t really like to wear the same thing twice because it gives me a challenge in the morning, forcing me to be creative and play with color, composition and silhouette which I love.
6. What are some of your favorite places to eat in Los Angeles? To shop? To learn?
SHOP: Wasteland, Crossroads, Rosebowl Flea Market, Fairfax Flea Market, Owl Talk
EAT: Umami burger, Nobu in malibu, Ysabel, Sugarfish, I recently got into ramen - there are some good places in the Sawtelle area of LA - then of course Din Tai Fung and Milk Jar Cookies are great as well.
LEARN: The Broad or any of the museums around town, Wacko’s in Silverlake has a lot of fun stuff, Gallery Nucleus has great art shows/exhibits. I also learn from those I meet at various activities around town; I am part of a small group for young professionals and entrepreneurs and learn a lot during the dinners we have each month.
7. What are you most excited about this year?
New opportunities, change, exploring and collaborating, continuing to expand my personal artwork and discover new areas that I am able to mix it with. Travel - I plan to go to Tokyo this year with my brother and possibly Cape Town as well. I am excited for new visuals and inspiration I can gather to create new art and perhaps take my style in a new direction!
8. Finally: How do you carry on beautifully? (This is our motto and can be interpreted in different ways.)
I carry on beautifully by continuing to make sure that I am happy and excited about life. If I am in a rut, then I work towards fixing it by exercising, which helps me clear my mind and allows me to be creative again. It’s also important to allow myself to play! I feel we forget to do so once we get older.
P.MAI Pioneer Spotlight: Shama Hyder
Our latest P.MAI pioneer is Shama Hyder, the digital marketing maven, web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in India, and moved to the US when I was 9. Being an immigrant, and having somewhat of an outsider’s perspective on my new home, shaped me tremendously as an individual and in time as an entrepreneur. Growing up, I was an avid reader and had an insatiable curiosity for the world around me. In time, this translated to exploring new realms…such as social media. I ended up doing my thesis on Twitter when it had a few thousand users, and believed in the power of social media long before it became more mainstream. This same curiosity and passion led me to starting my own company, The Marketing Zen Group, a leading social media and digital PR agency I started it right out of college, and today we serve clients around the world - from Lithuania to Hong Kong.
You’ve been a recipient of so many awards from Business Week, Forbes, LinkedIn and more. Can you tell us how you began your career and the steps you took to become such a marketing guru?
I’ve always been curious, passionate, and consider myself a lifelong student. I think in the world of marketing that type of attitude is crucial. Marketing in the digital age changes extremely fast, and I thrive on that challenge. My goal is to make sure that we are always being relevant to our clients. They count on us to keep up with the trends and to guide their campaigns, their departments, and their businesses.
What was the inspiration behind The Marketing Zen Group?
A combination of market demand and professional passion. We were one of the first social media agencies in the world. There was such a hunger around understanding social media, and that is an ongoing demand we look to meet everyday. When I wrote my first book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, I never expected that it would go on to a 4th edition or be used as a textbook to teach college courses on social media. It was one of the only books on the topic. In business, as is in life, so much is timing.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
I believe our own mindset is often our biggest challenge. For me, it is in allowing myself to think bigger! I work on this every day. Life is short, why not have more audacious goals?
What’s next for your company?
I am very excited about 2017 and beyond. We are growing, and at the same time, we are very focused on continuing to be a leading social media agency.
What do you love most about your P.MAI bag?
It is my grown-up “Dora The Explorer” bag. It works in the boardroom without losing an ounce of style.
Finally, how do you carry on, beautifully?
By realizing that we all do the best we can, and none of us are getting out of here alive. Translation: life is too short not to be kind.