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Kelsi Ziemann | Iowa | Add Value & Be Kind!!

I've worked in the cosmetics industry as an artist for almost 15 years. I didn't follow a traditional path in regards to education. In fact, when I initially enrolled in a junior college at 18 years old I flunked out. I hadn't found my passion yet and I simply didn't show up for class. I decided to go back to school at 25 years old and I was challenged to expand my business in an entrepreneurship class at Drake University. I combined all the knowledge I had with some new research into the industry and realized a real opportunity in the lip makeup segment of the cosmetics market. I invented a lipstick tube and a line of lip products based on this research. I entered the idea into a pitch competition at Drake University called the Lorentzen Hatchery where I was awarded $5k to start working on my idea. From that initial investment my business was born. I have since been awarded just over $20k to continue building my brand from organizations such as Des Moines Area Community College and local philanthropist, John Pappajohn.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdles I've overcome in my business are communicating the needs of a very heavily female dominated business to male investors and becoming resilient to failure. I remember very vividly the second pitch competition I entered. I walked into a room with three older males who were judging the competition. I panicked because I didn't anticipate having zero females on the panel. I pitched to them and they told me I wouldn't be able to do it. I left feeling determined to make it. I came back the next year and pitched to the same panel of judges and ended up winning. I learned a very important lesson in this experience; Find a way to relate your business or products to anyone. You can succeed if you can communicate the value of your business to anyone and you are willing to put in the work.

What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?

I listen to a podcast called The Pitch anytime I am driving. I am always inspired hearing about other entrepreneurs and how the started/what they are doing. It's a great way to re-energize and keep on top of new trends and products.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

I have been very fortunate to have a supportive group of family and friends. Sure, I've been described as overambitious or risky in my decisions but within the chaos of the unknown is where I feel most alive. I love learning. I love doing new things. I love discovering how to make things work. That's me. I used to worry more about what people thought in regards to what I'm doing, but it's my journey. At the end of the day my responsibility lies in keeping myself happy, regardless of what others may think.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?

My undergraduate education. When I attended Drake University & Des Moines Area Community College I was introduced to teachers and mentors who not only believed in me, but who pushed me to follow my dreams. I will forever be grateful to the faculty and staff at both who influenced my life more then they will probably ever know. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with my Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurial Management & Marketing in 2015 and I have been working full-time on my business since.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

There are very high highs and very low lows when you are working to build a successful business from the ground up. People will have opinions on everything you do and everything you stand for. Find out what matters to you and stick to it. You don't have to take everyone's advice. It's your own journey. Find a solid team of support who can help you through the highs and lows and stay involved locally in business groups and events. It will keep you inspired.

What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?

You will always need more money than you forecast for, especially if you plan on scaling your business. Always look to add value to the lives of others instead of looking for what they can offer you. Be kind and give back. Schedule time off for yourself so you can recharge.

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