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VMH Vikki M. Hankins!

Hiring The Right Team For Your Business

3 Pieces of Advice for Your Small Business SEO Strategy A ‘Super Fruit’ That Contains Almost 20 Vital Nutrients

Creativity Meets Fashion: A Global Journey Tithing and ‘Blessings’, What’s the Connection?

Highlights from ‘Accelerate Your Business’ Powered by Entrepreneur

"May you live every day of your life.”


—Jonathan Swift

"I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine.�


—Neil Armstrong



Team Building; Hiring the Best Team for Your Company So what if your vision/business is scaling and you never had anyone to believe in you? What then? How do you determine who’s best for your company and who’s not? It’s also important to maintain the right combination of team members. Removing people who should not be on the team, either because they are in some way hindering the team's work. Determining the membership of a team is frequently the most powerful lever that a leader can use to shape its performance.


By Vikki Hankins!


10. Small Business Strategies: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Advice



The Shifting Sands of Employee Motivation According to 10 years of Gallup Poll data, a full 80% of the workforce is at least somewhat engaged. Leaders and supervisors now must focus on practices that 1) get employees to competence and Autonomy quickly, 2) aid employee efforts to achieve Mastery and 3) continuously instill a sense of Purpose in the work being done. By William M. Dann

Half of small businesses in the US that have a company website do not engage in search engine optimization (SEO), according to a new survey conducted by Clutch, a leading B2B research firm. Minimal SEO engagement significantly lowers a small business' odds of being found online by potential customers and subsequently makes it more difficult for that business to meet growth goals.



Six Steps to Successful Entrepreneurship


Writing a Book; Explore Seven Reason Why It’s a Good Idea Ever consider writing a book? With millions of books lining bookshelves, why write a book? Based on reports and studies, most people feel they ‘have a book in them’. Learn seven reason why you should write you book. by Vikki Hankins

There are almost 28 million small businesses in the US and over 22 million are self employed with no additional payroll or employees. Entrepreneurship is very rewarding, in particular when your business makes a d i ff e re n c e i n t h e e c o n o m y, i m p ro v e s communities and addresses social-related issues. By Vikki Hankins!


A Journey in Creativity and Fashion


Accelerate Your Business Highlights: Growth, Impact & Innovative

The fashion industry is a very competitive market; to excel in the fashion industry one must have a very compelling brand. Raised in a creative environment by her mother and aunt, who were dressmakers, Alexandra Ni shares details of her fashion designs that’s expanded across the globe. Interview Conducted by Vikki Hankins

Hosted by Entrepreneur’s editorial director Ray Hennessey and Vice President of U.S. OEM at Microsoft Jordan Chrysafidis, covered topics such as improving consumer engagement and acquisition, increasing productivity, cloud based sharing and optimizing team performance. Photography by Vikki Hankins



Publisher! VMH Vikki M. Hankins Editor-in-Chief Vikki M. Hankins Journalist/Contributors Vikki Hankins Garry Jones

Alexis Ohanian Co-Founder of Reddit

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Contributors (Visiting) William M. Dann

Photography Vikki Hankins Garry Jones Alisha Davis Sherman Hankins


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Insight on Business Success

Photo Credit; Vikki Hankins

Media Assistant Alisha Davis

Cover Photographer: Garry Jones Cover Fashion: TEXYO (on Vikki Hankins)



DOES YOUR TEAM SUPPORT YOUR VISION? Does your team truly support your vision? One of many things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is the importance of ‘team selection’. As the visionary there are a number requirements one must keep in mind when selecting a team. The most important part of the team selection process is the attribute of ‘patience’.


Such things as anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and unexpected growth can cause one to rush the selection process. Rushing to fill roles in your company is a set up for disappointments, possible failures and the oversight of self-serving individuals. Those individuals that believed in ‘you’ and stuck around to put in the work with no pay, are generally a good selection as your business takes off. So what if your vision/business is scaling and you never had anyone to believe in you? What then? How do you determine who’s best for your company and who’s not? One sure sign is if a potential hire comes in talking dollars; more than likely these are the ones to ‘jump ship’ if the business suddenly slows or runs into a bump.


Pay attention to your ‘gut feeling’. In my opinion everyone is given the ability to discern; that ‘gut-feeling’ could very well help with your team selection. Granted, gut-feelings and discernment develop over time, but there are times when warning bells go off and we choose to ignore them.


Through experience, trial and error and ‘listening’ to that gutfeeling, I’ve come very far in deciphering the people that genuinely support my vision and those that do not. One way or another when it comes superficial interest or sincere support the truth will come out.


A final point I’d like to make for leaders is knowing ‘when’ to hire. Hiring too soon ends two ways: letting staff go; or going out of business.


Be careful of hiring too soon, it can cause your financial infrastructure to cave in, not to mention the awful feeling of having to layoff individuals. It doesn’t feel good for the employer nor the employee. If your vision becomes a successful reality remember to carefully select your team!

!Vikki Hankins !





Expand Your Brand



SEO Strategy We conduct 12 billion searches per month in the United States. – Comscore

3 Pieces of Advice for Small Business "Investing in organic SEO is more important now than ever before..." Forbes Contributor

Half of small businesses in the US that have a company website do not engage in search engine optimization (SEO), according to a new survey conducted by Clutch, a leading B2B research firm. Minimal SEO engagement significantly lowers a small business' odds of being found online by potential customers and subsequently makes it more difficult for that business to meet growth goals.

resources," said Garrett Mehrguth, President and CEO of Directive Consulting.


Industry leaders also highlighted three pieces of advice for small businesses in the initial stages of planning an SEO strategy:



"Having a website but not doing SEO is like getting into the passenger seat of a car that's being driven by a robot," said Duane Forrester, Vice President of Organic Search Operations for Bruce Clay Inc. "Chances are, it's going to end well, but there's also a chance that the trip won't work out the way you planned.”


A lack of knowledge about how to implement an effective SEO strategy and cost are the main drivers of low engagement, according to industry leaders who reviewed the survey findings. But, small businesses that forgo SEO may find themselves at a disadvantage, unable to control their visibility in search engine rankings.The survey found that this low or nonexistent SEO engagement in the small business market may shift dramatically in a few years. 60% of small businesses plan to implement an SEO strategy by 2017 or later.


Of the small businesses that currently do SEO, 57% focus on onsite optimization and local search optimization. About 25% say they create content or guest blog on other websites.


• •


"Content is a means of educating customers so that they feel something for the company. Then later on, if the potential customer needs something, they will go to the company that built their trust in the first place by providing useful

Educate yourself about basic SEO concepts and tactics Work with a reliable, trustworthy SEO agency Budget enough resources to sustain a long-term strategy

Clutch's small business digital marketing survey included 352 owners and managers of small businesses in the US. The majority of survey respondents are businesses with 1-10 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue, which matches the makeup of the 2013 US Census Bureau data on small businesses.


The study also measured the metrics used to track SEO effectiveness, the resources used to implement and maintain SEO efforts, and the quantity of businesses that do paid online advertising.

!About Clutch !

Clutch is a Washington, DC-based B2B research firm that identifies top service providers and solutions firms that deliver results for their clients. The Clutch methodology is an innovative research process melding the best of traditional B2B research and newer consumer review services. To date, Clutch has researched and reviewed 1000+ companies spanning 50+ market segments.

Creating quality content that earns links is an SEO strategy that should be used more, according to industry leaders.


SEO Small Business Fast Facts


• 76% of marketers use Social Media to support and boost SEO. - Regaflix


• 95% of marketers use search engine marketing for inducing loyalty among their existing customers. - Regaflix


• 61% marketers use responsive web design as part of their mobile SEO strategy. - Regaflix 11

Seek Solitude, Not Just Meditation, For Important Decisions By Edward G. Brown

As a devoted practitioner of meditation, I understand how it brilliantly serves the purposes of relaxation and renewal, and it has the advantage of being practicable anytime and anywhere. It relieves stress. It helps prepare us mentally for a dreaded encounter or a high stakes meeting. It tunes out the incessant distractions. Tethered to always-on devices, addicted to social media, and ensconced in ever less private workspaces, we find ourselves battling to keep our minds on our chosen topic. Meditation helps us stay in the moment.
 But there’s another equally powerful practice that should more often go hand in hand with meditation. I’m talking about seeking solitude.
 Solitude could use some better PR. These days most people seem to dread being alone. Maybe they worry they will appear friendless. Maybe they conflate alone with loneliness. Or maybe they are simply habituated to the distraction of others.
 So they flee from solitude when they would do well to seek it out. Sometimes there is simply no substitute for being alone with one’s thoughts. For secluding oneself for the sole purpose of arriving at an important decision undisturbed by the endless stream of arbitrary, uninvited data that assails us in our hyper-connected lives.
 The last thing you want to do in those situations is exactly what many do. Frustrated by the dilemma or embarrassed by their indecision, they just pick a course. Go with their gut. Throw a Hail Mary pass as far down the field as they can and then turn back to the distraction of the moment.
 Lord knows I sympathize. As a business founder, teacher, consultant, author, and father, I’m continually looked to for decisions big and small. The temptation is to deliver one on demand – not to dither but come out confidently with a firm, “THIS is what we’ll do.”
 That is fine for a lot of day to day decisions. But more significant decisions simply can’t be made without withdrawing from the fray. Is it time to quit your job? Should you blow the whistle on some malfeasance? Is it time to fire this person? Is this relationship a healthy one? Surgery or not?

When you face decisions like that, “being in the moment” doesn’t help you delve into these questions. Instead you want to deliberately and systematically set aside the present moment to think through future matters (the potential outcomes of your possible decision) and past matters (your experience in similar situations and how they turned out). Can I bear losing my work friends if I blow the whistle? Have I given this person, who supports a young family, all the chances I can to succeed here? What if the surgery leaves me worse off? Am I the flawed one in this relationship?

!You need to confront yourself. Just the two of you, alone, where you can focal lock – that is, train your mind on the big decision. Once secluded, you can perform what I call “Meditative Relaxercising” practices to keep your mind relaxed. I don’t think of solitude as a vacuum but as a sumptuous place where I can bring together my training in meditation, yoga, and mental hygiene. I’ve written about having survived a desperate period of claustrophobic confinement by drawing on hatha yoga – a holistic form of yoga that encompasses discipline, posture, purification, gestures, breathing, and meditation – and Ujjayi breathing, a type of Pranayama breathing that brings bliss. I embrace my Quiet Time as a poet embraces a muse.
 And isn’t that what these momentous decisions need? A little bliss and a generous muse? You don’t want your solitude to be just a silent, sterile place where you coolly select one option or the other. You want it to enrich your options. When you marry meditation to solitude, you free your mind to consider solutions that you hadn’t entertained before.
 Look, I’m not saying every important decision requires a half day off or a solitary hike or a retreat to Walden Pond. Maybe you are confronted by consequential decisions all day long, and you’d soon run out of PTO before you ever took a vacation. In such cases, you still don’t want to Hail Mary your decision, nor count on a meditative mind to provide the answer. But what you can do is use the Psychological Martial Arts that I wrote about in my book to still the outside world and create the illusion of seclusion, so that you can focus on the questions at hand.
 By all means, cultivate your meditative practices. But don’t short yourself or those around you when you have momentous decisions to make. Embrace solitude with meditation and let them lead you.
 Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group. For more information, and connect with Mr. Brown on Twitter, @EdwardGBrown.

The Shifting Sands of Employee Motivation

manager? If your employees do not improve their performance during a given period, then you have failed to add value to the organization during that period and are a cost without benefit.

By William M. Dann

with regular, frequent and meaningful conversations about performance, problems, ideas for improvement, and how as a supervisor you can support achieving employee goals. Feedback is critical both to development of Mastery and to instilling/maintaining a sense of Purpose in work.

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I recently attended a speech by best-selling author Daniel Pink[1] in which he summarized research on shifts in employee motivators. The old “if-then motivators” of giving bonuses for the achievement of goals no longer work. Work has become too complex and is changing too rapidly for such simple formulas to be relevant and to motivate performance.

!The New Motivators !Pink described the motivators in today’s knowledge

economy as being Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Autonomy is the ability to define one’s own work; the tasks, the required time, the best technique and the best team required. Mastery means being afforded the time to make progress on improving one’s own work. Purpose entails knowing that the work being done has meaning or adds value in today’s world.

!The Challenge !When these new motivators are in play, employees

become “engaged”. Active engagement entails commitment to the organization’s goals and values, motivation to contribute to the organization’s success and a sense that doing so enhances their own wellbeing. In short, there is alignment between the goals of the employee and those of the organization.


incentives and management were focused on gaining compliance. New incentives and management must shift to increasing engagement if an organization is to remain competitive and retain talent in today’s world. The important and obvious question is: How?

!The New Management !According to 10 years of Gallup Poll data, a full 80% of the workforce is at least somewhat engaged. Leaders and supervisors now must focus on practices that 1) get employees to competence and Autonomy quickly, 2) aid employee efforts to achieve Mastery and 3) continuously instill a sense of Purpose in the work being done.

!I propose

that supervisors consider themselves “partners” that facilitate their employees achieving high performance, i.e. Mastery. The acid test for any

!The road to adding value to your employees is paved !These frequent interactions need to replace the annual

evaluation that is based on a judgment rather than partnership paradigm. In an age in which feedback is instant in almost all aspects of our life (e.g. ask a question of Google, instant answer; send a Tweet and the world responds), more frequent dialogue between supervisor and employee is essential.

!I recommend that in each of these meetings, supervisors

define steps they can take to help engaged employees achieve their goals. Those steps might include: • Giving clearer direction re. needed outcomes, priorities, purpose of position • More clearly defining what good performance would look like in for a given responsibility • Providing more feedback on performance • Granting more authority or autonomy for decision-making, problem solving, altering methods employed • Making decisions needed by employees more rapidly • Assuring that employees have the resources needed to succeed • Giving more credit/appreciation for the results delivered, i.e. strengthening a sense of Purpose

!Added to these seven steps to increase engagement should be a discussion of employee ideas of how to improve performance in their work area and how management can support those ideas.

!Managers tell me that regularly addressing these topics

can totally shift the organizational culture and the supervisor-employee relationship. It shifts the emphasis from manager to facilitator, from judge to partner. Such a shift is rewarding both for supervisor and employee and has huge potential for performance improvement.

!How to Handle the Disengaged !What do you do about those (<20%) who are not engaged? The “actively disengaged” have what is called a “Won’t Do” problem (i.e., they understand

the assignment and have the skills, knowledge and authority to do it, they just won’t). For such individuals, best practices would involve diagnosing the problem early and then employing aggressive progressive discipline and/or career counseling to try and turn it around or remove the problem.


There are some instances in which “Won’t Do” employees can be turned around. Factors outside of work have de-motivated them about life, and a good supervisor can encourage success at work as a means to build toward success in life. However, many “Won’t Do” problems are difficult to reverse.


More problematic is that “Won’t Do” problems are difficult to spot. “Won’t Do” employees cite numerous factors, none of which can be substantiated, that are causing their sub-par performance, i.e. they seek to define the problem as “Can’t Do” (i.e., the employee is eager but does not have appropriate training, skills or authority to do the work). They often appear busy, even joyful. But, they have a toxic impact on fellow workers. “Won’t Do” employees seek to give the supervisor responsibility for the problem. But, at the end of the day, data on their performance reveals the truth and that truth is that despite looking engaged, they are not producing real products.



A major motivator for writing my book, Creating High Performers, was to aid supervisors that find themselves wrapped around the axle by disengaged workers. Such workers sow seeds of self-doubt in the supervisor and continuous thinking re. “What have I done wrong?” or “what could I have done or what can I do now to right the situation?”

! Summary !

Actively partner with your engaged employees through frequent conversations that search for ways to support employee goals of excelling in the organization. For those that don’t respond, examine carefully their production, not effort, statistics, confront them regarding the failing partnership and hold them responsible to confront the source of “won’t do” problems. In short, decrease the time you are spending spinning the wheels with “won’t do” problems and commit time to maximizing performance of those who are truly engaged.

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[1] Pink, Daniel, To Sell is Human, Riverhead Books, 2012, Drive, Riverhead, 2011, A Whole New Mind, Riverhead, 2006 William Dann spent 13 years as a CEO before launching his consulting business, Professional Growth Systems, LLC, in 1981 – an organization that has served over 200 organizations in the US and abroad, using proprietary solutions to accelerate performance with as little time and resources as possible. Additionally, Dann has taught for several years at the graduate level at Boston University and is also the founder of, a website devoted to advancing the effectiveness of governing boards. Dann currently resides in Anchorage, Alaska with his family. 15





FRUIT Vitamin A, K, E, B & Potassium

the body's electrolytes and limiting hypertension and high blood pressure. The copper in kiwi is especially calories, high in energy and an excellent source of good for children, supporting healthy development in antioxidants. Each one delivers a world of nutrition infants, especially in the areas of bone growth and brain benefits, including: development, and also for the formation of healthy red blood cells and building immunity against disease. • Vitamin C: Each serving of kiwifruit has nearly Kiwi is also one of the few foods rich in vitamin B6, two-and-a-half times the recommended daily which supports the immune system. B6 is particularly allowance of vitamin C, proven to boost the important for healthy fetuses and pregnant or immune system and fight the effects of stress breastfeeding women. The folate in kiwi protects against and aging. birth defects, heart disease, and cancer; healthy amounts of fiber keep the system running smoothly, reducing the • No fat: Kiwifruit is fat-free, an important risk of diverticulitis and carcinogens in consideration in today's the body. Finally, the antioxidant healthy diets and a rarity power in kiwis delivers similar effects Kiwi Fruit is rich in among foods containing so it comes to neutralizing free many other nutritional vitamin A, K, E and B, when radicals that can damage cells and benefits. potassium, copper, cause inflammation and cancer. folate, and fiber. • Fiber: Two kiwifruit contain However, consume kiwi in moderation more fiber than a bowl of bran because it contains fructose, which cereal, the tasty way to may be harmful to your health in maintain heart health, regular excessive amounts. digestion and lower cholesterol.

Kiwifruit is one of nature's perfect foods: low in

! ! !



Potassium: A serving of kiwifruit has more potassium than a banana, ideal for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and for releasing energy during exercise.

!Known in ancient China as Yang Tao, the kiwi fruit

earned its way in that culture not just for its flavor, but also its medicinal properties, which science has today substantiated in numerous areas.

!Kiwi is a surprising little fruit, and is unlike any other.

First, it's small and light brown in color with a fuzzy skin surface. Inside, the fruit is not only lime green and studded with tiny black seeds in an oval pattern when sliced, but it's also delicious, rather like the flavor of a strawberry. Peeled, sliced, and chilled, kiwi is an excellent addition to any fruit salad combination or by itself.

!Health Benefits of Kiwi !The fruit provides 273% of the daily recommended

amount of vitamin C in every one-cup serving – five times that of an orange, and is a natural immune booster that staves off colds and flu? It's kiwi, of course! Its vitamin K amount is impressive, too – best known for its role in helping blood clot, or coagulation, properly and providing an 89% daily value.

!Kiwis contain good amounts of vitamin A (great for

skin, bone, and tooth development, and protected vision, including protection against macular degeneration), and vitamin E (twice the amount found in avocados, with nearly half the calories), along with potassium to balance

!Studies on Kiwi !Kiwi seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty

acids, which, research shows may reduce coronary heart disease, the risk of stroke, and help in the prevention of ADHD, autism, and other developmental problems in children.


has also shown kiwi to have a notable protective effect against asthma and respiratory difficulties, such as wheezing. In fact, one report indicated that young children eating six to seven servings of kiwi and other vitamin C-rich foods per week had a 44% lower incidence of wheezing. Even those eating these foods only once or twice a week had fewer symptoms, in comparative studies.1

!Rich in polyphenols, which are recognized for their

antioxidant properties, both the green and gold varieties of kiwi fruit underwent research to compare their antioxidant strengths. Researchers found that not only were the kiwi antioxidants more potent than those in oranges and grapefruit, but the gold kiwi variety was also found to have more antioxidant strength.

!The conclusion: kiwi consumption may be useful in preventing the development and deterioration of diseases caused by oxidative stress.2


Reference(s): Food Facts






Let me be clear, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Starting, growing and maintaing a business is not easy. The workforce holds a multitude of employees that are miserable on the job and dream of owning their own business. But does this mean you are cut out for the task? Or should you explore entrepreneurship while employed? Below are a few things I’ve found that make for successful entrepreneurship:









Passion: Successful entrepreneurs are born out of passion. Whether there’s a problem to be solved, meeting a need or unexplained freedom associated with a certain work; entrepreneurs are fueled by passion. Tenacity: There are highs and lows with business ownership. One must have the ability to ‘hang in there’ through the lows just as they celebrate the highs. Until you reach ‘that place’ of success, you must have the ability to run your race. Throwing in the towel is not an option; that is if you find your choice of entrepreneurship actually works. Strategic/Critical Thinking: No matter your resources, business owners have to develop the art of strategic/critical thinking and implement plans with precision. Living in the moment is wonderful for family, friends, and fun, but successful entrepreneurship calls for thinking beyond today. It is imperative that you have a strategy to carry out your plan. At times entrepreneurship feels like chess; you have to know where to move and when to make your move. This requires strategic/critical thinking. Competitive Marketing: Understanding your target market is critical to the success of a business. Before you can implement a marketing plan the business owner has to know how to direct their products or services to a specific group of consumers. Figure out the answer to such questions as: Where is my target market? How do I reach my target market? Knowing the answer to these sample questions will save you a few headaches and dollars. Fearless: Entrepreneurs are risk takers. Fear has no place in entrepreneurship. There are times that taking risks come at a loss, but you learn from this, swiftly recover and head in another direction. There are also times when you hit the ‘nail on the head’ (succeed) with a risk; when this happens, apply more pressure in that area. Flexible: Be open to embracing change, new ideas, and unfamiliar techniques. If you cannot change with the times, you will get left behind.

Entrepreneurship is very rewarding, in particular when your business makes a difference in the economy, improves communities and addresses social-related issues. The key is growing a successful business that is capable of influence and makes a difference in the lives of others.



Love what you do.

Tithing My Personal Growth


Commentary by Garry Jones

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. -1 Corinthians 13:11 Author/Speaker Garry Jones

!Growing up I was

required to attend Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. This was a must in my grandmother’s home. I attended church but didn’t know the politics of the church. When my brother and I attended we would gather with our friends and have a good time. My brother was the Assistant Superintendent of the Sunday school and I chilled and did my own thing.

!The only thing I got excited about was making sure our

class won the banner of offering and the banner of attendance; I was always a competitor. My grandmother always provided money for us to put in church. When I tried to spend the money before church, the neighborhood owner of the store wouldn’t allow me to buy anything because he knew the money I had, was supposed to be used to put in the offering plate – R.I.P. Mr. Fuller.

!I used to hear people in the neighborhood talk about how

preachers only wanted money to pay for their Cadillac and their homes. During that era I also noticed, when invited to dinner, the preachers normally ate better than the children of the household. They got the biggest part of the chicken and you couldn’t eat unless they ate first. I also heard they slept with all the women in church and some members in the church would dislike each other for one reason or another. These things didn’t come from my grandmother but instead from the people in the community.

!After I joined the church I was given those same envelopes

that people put their money in. When church commenced the ushers would pass the plate around for tithes and offering. I would put my money in the plate while some people put their money in envelopes. I always wondered why people put their money in envelopes – that was the craziest thing to me. I thought I was a thither when I put my little money in church. I didn’t know any better but soon I would come to understand what tithing and offering was all about.

!As I got older I begin to learn more about the church. I

learned tithes and offering were needed to pay the church bills, to make us comfortable in the winter and summer, do outreach ministry in the community, help others in need and

made provisions to keep the church grounds looking good. The money was also used to pay the preachers their salary.

!The scriptures say, “Never tie up the mouth of an ox when it

is treading out the grain; let him eat as he goes along and in another place. Those who work deserve their pay.” I thought about Pastor Aaron L. Parker because when he preached you could feel the anointing on him and he also teaches at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. I paid close attention to Malachi 3rd chapter, verse 10... “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be food enough in my temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in.”

!Noticed it said God would pour out a blessing not the preacher. My attitude was once I pay my tithes I cared less about what happens to the money because I don’t look for man to bless me I look for God to bless me. Don’t get me wrong when I joined another church I was reluctant to pay tithes. It was shocking to find out my pastor didn’t talk about tithing much and the church only took up one offering. I think this made me comfortable and I was able to enjoy service without wondering whether or not the church was going to take up an offering for the building funds, the pastor anniversary, and etc.

!Keep in mind, tithing doesn’t mean you are going to get a

big paycheck in the mail or someone off the street was going to bless you with a lot of money and some cases that may happen but God will bless you if you are a cheerful thither. If you are reluctant to pay your tithes you may as well keep the money in your pockets because you didn’t tithe willingly; you have to trust God. It took me over 40 years to trust God with my money or his money.

!I do think God gives us common sense with tithing. If we are getting ready to be put out of our house and we have a choice to pay your mortgage or rent or be put out, I think I would pay my rent or mortgage. The fact that you want to tithe and can’t tithe is a blessing within itself. God knows the heart. I know this is contradicting what I just said about trusting God to provide a way but beware of the preachers that only speak on prospering – you don’t see yourself prospering, you only see them prospering.

!The Holiday season is here and money may be short in some households. The children and grandchildren are going to be depending on you to break them off with a little something. The electric bill is normally high during this season. What are you going to do? My suggestion is trust God and pray about your situation because every situation is different.


To learn more about Garry Jones, his work or to book him for your next event visit:

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Alexandra Ni, Fashion Designer! Photographed by: Andy Robinson

â&#x20AC;&#x153;My greatest hope is to become helpful and supportive of people and animals (or plants) in need.â&#x20AC;? Alexandra Ni


Interview Conducted by Vikki Hankins

The fashion industry is a very competitive market; to excel in the fashion industry one must have a brand with personality, interest and of course be attractive. For Designer Alexandra Ni, global trade fails to intimidate her elegant and at times sexy line. Raised in a creative environment by her mother and aunt, who were dressmakers, Alexandra Ni has expanded across the globe; Paris, Zurich, Moscow, Oslo, London, and now Northern Florida.

researching cuts, looks, colours, etc. It was a long dress with a silky blue skirt with large flowers and a peach colour sleeveless top with a floral pattern woven into the fabric. The straps were also a sequence of flowers of different colours made out of beads that I made myself. Looking back, I realise even then I loved clean lines. The power was all in the details.

designer. The thing that stood out to me is her quiet strength, dedication to her brand, and the ease in which she applies art to fabric. Incredible. ‘Listen’ in to our conversation about Alexandra Ni:

interests to other subjects for a future profession. I am quite gifted in languages and science, plus after moving to Russia from my native Kazakhstan, history and arts became my new favourites. So, I advanced in these areas: languages, history, history of art, literature, philosophy, cultural anthropology (my major from St Petersburg University of Culture and Arts was in History of World Culture).

!I had the pleasure of meeting this very skilled !Then life took its course: social environment, family matters, and other things gradually shifted my !VMH: At which point in your life did you discover

your interest in fashion design and when did you determine that you wanted to make a career as a fashion designer?

!Alexandra Ni: Like a lot of girls, I imagine, as a !Ifgraduation I fast forward 4 years after my university in 2006, this is when I realised I wanted to child, I very much enjoyed designing my dolls’ dresses and their houses, in which I took more pleasure than in playing with dolls. As a kid I always wanted to be a “couturier”, fashion designer.

!As a teenager I started designing my own clothes,

which my mother, a great dressmaker, would sew for me. I believe my very first project was the dress I designed for my graduation party from high school (age 17). I remember spending hours in the town library (one of my favourite places to be then)

go back to my roots, so to speak: to designing clothing. It was in summer of 2010 that I decided to quit my burgeoning career in Swiss private banking in Zurich, and moved to Berlin, to study fashion design at ESMOD – International University of Arts for Fashion. However, the path was not direct and clear. I found my way back to fashion through photography. I developed quite an interest in it; took classes, studied history of photography; and then eventually, it brought me to a realization of what I need to do. I remembered that moment sitting on a continued on page 26


Fashion Design and Concept: Alexandra Ni Photography: Seth Langner, Karmathartic Studios Model: Shante Armstrong Makeup/Hair: Stephanie Harris, Sauvon Body Care Ni

a roof in the mountains in Armenia on one of my many trips (traveling is one of my passions) when it all became clear. In a month or so I was in Berlin.

!VMH: The playing ground is very competitive for fashion designers, what is it about your pieces that you feel sets you apart from your ‘colleagues’?

!Alexandra Ni: This is rather a tough question to answer.

I believe the “playground” today is so diverse and versatile. I love this about today’s fashion: there is room for each talent and taste. I do not view myself as unique. With a bit of variation, I am certain there are a few like myself. Nonetheless, if I should answer this question, I believe the originality of my designs along with limited edition of pieces (often made-to-order), local production, and use of only natural materials (more rarely blends), distinguishes my aesthetics and speaks to the growing trend of healthy lifestyle, supporting local business, quality over quantity, etc..

!Further, I believe my international background (growing up in the Soviet Kazakhstan, being a daughter of a Russian Siberian mother and a Korean father) that comes with exposure so many different cultures, along with very particular preference of cuts, adds to my vision of how I would dress an ideal woman, and this gives my fashion an interesting and distinct style.

!VMH: In your opinion how is that a young man or woman make the determination that the fashion industry is where they belong? Any advice for the emerging?

!Alexandra Ni: I hope I got the question right. !I guess, it depends what part of fashion industry they

want to belong to: if it is a more business oriented part (marketing, producer, merchandiser, etc) then certainly a defining factor is attraction to this world, this industry, which is a tough one and at times filled with intrigue and drama…

!If they are more interested in the creative part of it (designing, etc), then I would not start anything if there is any doubt. Passion and love for designing is one thing, but one must have patience, determination or rather devotion, and a certain ambition. As in many fields, there should be a clear vision or understanding of what one wants. At least at a point where it becomes serious, and requires further steps and decisions to be taken.

!Advice for emerging? I consider myself as emerging as

well. So, my advice will be to be patient. There will always be moments of doubt, let them be – they will shape and strengthen your spirit as a designer. Do not compare yourself to anybody (and do not think that you know more/create, make, etc, it all better). Be open. I believe we are entering an era of collaboration in many

fields, and I believe in it. I think we all benefit if we share and collaborate, discuss, etc., at least in this industry. This is my personal opinion and the code I live by.

!VMH: Tell me more about Alexandra Ni; who is she? Who will she become? !Alexandra Ni: That’s one more tough question. :) I presume you ask about me as a person, not as a label. !Alexandra Ni. She is a very strong but sensitive person. Her strengths are often her weaknesses. She is kind and considerate but very particular at the same time. Her patience is vast but it turns into a short road once it is abused or misused. She is progressive and avant-garde in her thinking and taste, as much as she is traditional in her values, principles, and beliefs. She is selfless and self-conscious at the same time.

!Who will she become? – My greatest hope is to become helpful and supportive of people and animals (or plants) in need. I hope to grow to the point where I can be helpful and useful to other beings. Ultimately, what one gives is what he/she receives. I like the phase: the only thing you can do with your life is to give it away.

!Whether it will happen through fashion or otherwise, it doesn’t matter. !VMH: Regarding your collections’; who is your strongest market/clientele? And why do you target this market?

!Alexandra Ni: My designs and concepts are definitely conceived with an idea of a playful, confident, sophisticated, feminine, sensual woman in mind. I love beauty and I praise female beauty. Agewise, it spans between 25-70. They can be professionals, housewives, single or married, it does not matter. The only way they would choose my designs is if they identify with them. My clientele is rather international and very diverse in age and occupation: from Moscow, to Paris, to Jacksonville; bankers, moms, artists, etc.

!You are a native of Berlin; is there a noticeable difference in the business of fashion in the United States versus Berlin? How so?

!I was in fact born in Central Asia, Kazakhstan. I lived in Berlin for 3 years only during my studies. !Berlin is an upcoming European metropolis. It is very dynamic and cool;-) every kid in Europe wants to be Berlin now!

!So is the fashion world: it is still very young. Business wise, I cannot really comment, as I was a student then 26

Fashion Design and Concept: Alexandra Ni Photography: Seth Langner, Karmathartic Studios Models: Shante Armstrong and Anna Deyo Makeup/Hair: Stephanie Harris, Sauvon Body Care

and wasn’t really involved in business. But generally, it not massive, and is less aggressive I would say, than here in the USA.

!VMH: I simply adore your collections and your careful,

strategic yet creative process for showcasing your collections. Where do you formulate the ideas? 

!Alexandra Ni: Thank you, Vikki, for the compliment. !Ideas for showcasing? I am not sure… I want to say they

all simply come organically. There are things which you just know. I am not sure if I answered your question. I am a very rational person, but I easily take risks and embark on adventures in life. As if I internally know how much I can take without even thinking about it. I am definitely one of those who live in the moment. Although often I get lost in my deadlines and projects. Then I need to stop and recover the grip. I am highly sensitive to the environment and about my body. I cannot function if something is odd or off.

!VMH: To piggyback off the previous question; when it comes to fashion designing, there appears to be more to the ‘business’ of fashion that the designs. Tell me a little about the business side, i.e. photo shoots, model selection, themes, etc.


Alexandra Ni: I am so bad at business side when I am the creative power. I can be either/or. Managing both is a true challenge for me (or so I believe.) Perhaps, I should simply change this belief… hmmm. Anyways, the matters you mentioned I take rather as a part of a creative process- I truly enjoy doing them. For shoots, I often go with the feeling of looks. I research ideas for concept, make up, hair, mood. Every shoot as every collection has a moodboard. I like collaborating with other creatives – photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists. I often learn a lot from them. It is a great feeling.

!Models. At first, it was a challenge to find models, here

and back in Berlin. Partially, this is the reason why I was modeling a lot of my own designs at the beginning. Luckily, I am gradually moving to having proper models showcasing my designs.

!I am quite picky and particular when it comes to a human body for modeling. My greatest disappointment comes when I think I found a perfect model and then I undress her… :)

!I held one casting call here in Jacksonville where I met a

good number of models. Now I simply scout them. My models refer some also. Their looks are diverse which is important. (continued on page 30)

Ever consider writing a book? With millions of books lining bookshelves, why write a book? Based on reports and studies, most people feel they ‘have a book in them’. Personally, I believe this to be true. Think about it, everyone has a story to tell or something they want to talk about. I am a writer and a publisher; clearly I have lots to say and enjoy helping others publish their ‘voice’; their books. With that said, I want to share seven good reasons why you should write your book:

! ! ! ! ! !

! !


Enlightening: Believe it or not writing about specific topics can be very eye-opening. Although readers travel through a book, learning different things or enjoying certain stories, writer’s take themselves on a journey of enlightenment as well.


Therapeutic: Depending on the topic a writer chooses to talk about, writing can be quite soothing.


Revenue: A number of authors are famous and make plenty of money from their books. Granted the number of wealthy authors may be few, but selling any amount of books is another stream of income.


Increase Speakers Fee: Speakers are in a position to increase their speakers fee if they are a published author. Granted the book’s content has to be along the same line as the speech, but a good number of speakers increase their fee, simply because they are published authors.


Pay Off Student Loans: Yes, it’s true. I’ve heard a number of politicians say they wrote a book to pay off their student loans.


New Ventures: Books have the potential to open doors to other ventures. I’ve seen a number of individuals (including myself), that started out with a written book that evolved into an entire business or other venture. Had it not been for the book, the new venture never would have crossed their mind.


Get Your Message Out: If there’s something you’d like people to know, feel or understand a book is an excellent way to detail your message and say all that you have to say without time restraints.

Vikki Hankins is an award-winning book publisher, and owner of a multi-media company. She has successfully mentored college graduates in the field of journalism, marketing, publishing & production. To learn more about Vikki Hankins visit: LinkedIn , Facebook or her website.


with a Personalized Approach



Fashion Design and Concept: Alexandra Ni Photography: Seth Langner, Karmathartic Studios Models: Shante Armstrong and Anna Deyo Makeup/Hair: Stephanie Harris, Sauvon Body Care

I believe this was extensively covered. Thank you. ! ! VMH: Thank you for discussing your work, your brand, (continued from page 27)

work and creativity; what can we expect from Alexandra Ni in the near future?

To learn more about Alexandra Ni visit:

!Alexandra Ni: My new line showcased within the recent St Augustine Fashion Week; held at the St. Augustine airport! I am quite excited about this new line. All of them are a bit different. All of my collections are autobiographical, and I have so many different moods and preferences, desires and interests, that diversity and novelty are guaranteed.

!Along with this, I am scheduled for a few features in

local print and digital media. Closer to summer, I plan to hold my solo show in Jacksonville to present my new line.

!We shall see: I have inclinations to bring my fashion shows to other cities. I very much enjoy doing these: from music and makeup, to choreography and lighting. My husband, Bill Cook, is a great help and support in all my endeavours. And he is a DJ which comes in handy for fashion shows! Also, I am currently working on my new website together with Quintero Solutions and Cook Technology Corp. So, this is also very exciting to me.

!VMH: Is there anything youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to say that I did not ask?

Fashion Designer,! Alexandra Ni! Photographed by: ! Andy Robinson




Accelerate Your Business Presented by Entrepreneur - Miami, FL The event, hosted by Entrepreneur’s editorial director Ray Hennessey and Vice President of U.S. OEM at Microsoft Jordan Chrysafidis, covered topics such as improving consumer engagement and acquisition, increasing p r o d u c t i v i t y, c l o u d based sharing and optimizing team performance. ___________________

Publisher, Vikki Hankins

Event Highlight & photography by Vikki Hankins

”It's all about getting something spread to an influencer who brings it to masses.”

Jon Levy, Consumer Behavior Expert


Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit & Editorial Director, (Entrepreneur) Ray Hennessy

Carol Roth, Ellen Sova & Greg Shugar Discuss Building Teams

Ray Hennessy conducts panel discussion with Thought Leader & VP of U.S. OEM at Microsoft Jordan Chrysafidis

Oscar Bond, Global Stylist

What's Your Along the Way?

Design By Grace, LLC


EST. 2015






Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.


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VMH Magazine - March 2016  

Team Building for Your Company - How to Hire | Important SEO Strategies for Business | Creativity Meets Fabric - Alexandra Ni | Entrepreneur...

VMH Magazine - March 2016  

Team Building for Your Company - How to Hire | Important SEO Strategies for Business | Creativity Meets Fabric - Alexandra Ni | Entrepreneur...