I am happy to introduce this week’s Creative Entrepreneur Spotlight:

Owner of Charmed By Justice and Images by Toni

TONI HUGHES

1.  What do you do? 

I am a Full time photographer and Hand Crafted Custom Jeweler.   Additionally, I teach jewelry classes and provide consulting services for those who inspire to start their own jewelry lines.

2.  What were you doing before this?

I spent most of my career in Upper Management for Corporate America as a Financial Analyst and Brand Manager for fortune 100 Companies.  In general, I was responsible for the overall health and performance of brands such as Colgate Soft Soap, Colgate Total Toothpaste and Unilever’s Salon Selective Franchises.  Additionally, I managed and developed P&L’s (Profit and Loss).  As well, I implemented marketing initiatives and activities for my respective brands.

3.  Why do you do what you do?

I used to work for the money.  I was driven as most people early in their careers to make as much money as possible.  I made so much money all the while sacrificing “living”.  I was no more than a machine and that’s how Corporate America treated me.  I simply existed.

Now, I do what I do because of the peace it brings me and the joy I see displayed in the faces of my clients/customers.  There is no greater feeling than the pride I feel when I see someone wearing my jewelry, starting their own jewelry line or my customers feeling beautiful after returning their images to them.

More importantly, I do what I do because it’s my passion and my purpose.  Work just does not feel like work any more.  This I feel no matter what my workweek entails or the stress of being a business owner I sometime feel. That sentiment is a freeing and a phenomenal feeling.

4.  What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?

Calling my own shots!  In Corporate America, I felt enslaved/imprisoned.  I often wondered why they paid me so much money IF they didn’t want me to add value or think outside of the corporate box  .  No matter what direction I wanted to take my brands in, it was always met with red tape and often overlooked or changed because of those who appeared more seasoned and experienced.  The people who made the decisions were “often” the people who were MOST removed from the brand.  Yet, shareholders often voted these individuals as the leaders of these brands.  However ironic, so very often true of most corporate environments.

Now, I bring MY visions to life.  And although I consult other experts (as I embrace others strengths) and include their feedback in my decision-making, I thoroughly enjoy having the last word and being responsible for my own outcome.  No one can implement my vision better than I can and it’s nice to have control over my own destiny now.

5.  What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I have always been a “technical” person.  It’s precisely what made me so successful in corporate America and it’s equally why I always felt so unfulfilled.  Numbers come easy to me but being artistic does not.  Each day I am challenged artistically not only to create art (both in photography and jewelry making) but to inspire creativity in my students and photography clients.  And when I see the “light bulb” come on for both me and/or them, I feel immense success!  It’s truly a defining moment for both me and subjects/customers.

6.  If you could offer a first-time Creative entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?

I strongly suggest first entrepreneurs to:

  • Break Rules. Be bold!  Be fierce and more importantly, be confident in your ability to make good decisions and drive your product and or services to the heights of success.
  • Take Risks.  No one should ever invest in you or your dreams more than you do.  Risk it all just as the Oprah’s, Tyler Perry’s and Bill Gates of the world did.  You might find yourself in their inner circles before it’s over.  They all started just where we all have to; at the bottom.
  • Find your own voice!  Don’t imitate others!  Be a leader/innovator in your industry and not a follower.  We are all unique and it’s that uniqueness that differentiates us creatively and successfully.
  • Be the Best.  Study your craft and NEVER stop learning and pushing your own limits.  Break your own boundaries and never compete unless it’s with yourself.
  • Work as hard for yourself as you did for those who employed you in the past.  Only shear tenacity and hard work will propel you to the great heights of success.
  • Don’t give it away.  You can’t have a successful profitable business if you give all your craft and services away.
  • Always give back. Pay it forward!  Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with those who need it.  Note, I said knowledge and not trade secrets.  There’s a difference.
  • And lastly, treat your business as a business!  Be professional at all times and make any and everyone respect your business just as much as you do.

7.  Where can we find you?

I have both an Internet presence and a physical locale for my businesses.  My jewelry can be found at www.CharmedByJustice.com and my  images can be found at www.ImagesByToni.com.  As well, I have a physical studio in the downtown area of Atlanta.

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