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  • Hilary Young

Lady Bosses I Love: Terina Nicole Hill

When I was about 6-months pregnant with my second child, I was contacted by Terina and her co-founder of DIY MakersCon, Nneka, to become a participant in a panel they were putting together about branding and PR. Over the course of our exchanges, we realized that we had a lot in common, namely that in addition to running a business, she had just had her second child and I was not far behind her.

When we finally met at DIY MakersCon in September 2018, I was so happy to talk to her about how hard it was to balance keeping a business afloat with a newborn. It was also nice to know that I wasn't the only one who brought a breast pump to the conference. I'm so impressed by what she's been able to build and what she continues to build. She's a true entrepreneur---a constant stream of great ideas that she's able to execute.

Terina Nicole: Jypsea Leathergoods

Lady Boss and Mama Terina Nicole Hill

What is the name of your company (or companies) and what do you do?

I own Jypsea Leathergoods, a line of handcrafted eco-friendly handbags, home decor and jewelry. I am also the owner of the Fashion Design Center of South Jersey, a brand new makerspace for fashion enthusiasts.

How long have you been in business?

Jypsea initially launched in 2002 when I. was still in college. It received some press and wholesale orders but then was shelved because my life couldn't sustain it after graduation. I had gotten married and was expecting my first child, so the business stayed on the back burner for a while.

How did you decide to launch your own business?

I'm a serial entrepreneur. I'll launch a new biz in a minute! When I launched Jypsea Leathergoods, I was already running my own little vintage boutique and attending the Fashion Institute of Technology where I was studying Accessory Design. While the store was slow I would practice what I was learning in school, designing leather handbags. And customers were as interested my designs as they were in the vintage I was selling, so I decided to begin selling my bags in my store. Not long after, I got a wholesale order from a boutique and my new business officially began! But running a store, going to college full-time and then sewing all night to fulfill wholesale orders was too much for me. I shut it down after 6 months vowing to re-open after I graduated college.

What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?

I didn't re-open directly following graduation because I gave birth to my 1st born 2 weeks after I graduated. It was 2004 and I was a mother and a wife and a new home owner, and because I am a serial entrepreneur, I launched another business that was easier to manage than trying to sew with a baby on my hip! I created a line of all-natural body spa treatments. It was easier for me to mix herbs, butters and oils with the baby. I got it into a dozen stores and sold it from my website. I was also on Etsy, when it was brand new. I ran this business for 3 years before selling it. I missed designing handbags and really had no deep passion for the spa industry.

Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?

Back then I felt very alone. Being a solopreneur or momprenuer weren't concepts that people were familiar with yet. My friends thought I was a weirdo. My husband at the time wanted me to "get a real job." And having no other examples of successful one-woman businesses didn't help, so I eventually gave in, despite the business being successful, and went back to designing handbags and footwear in NYC's corporate fashion industry which is the work I did while pursuing my degree.

Do you have a mentor?

No. I've never had a mentor but as time went by more and more women were choosing to be self-employed and I now have peers that I bounce ideas off of, collaborate with or just get inspiration from.

Books you recommend?

The E-Myth by Micheal E. Gerber, Crushing it by Gary V., The 50th Law by Robert Green.

What do you love most about running your own business?

Now I have my 2nd child. He's 18-months-old and my daughter is now 15. Being able to be active in her busy life, at her school, as her Girls Scouts Troop Leader, and to be able to homeschool my baby boy while balancing my businesses feels great! My children are my priority and working full-time for others has never worked for me because corporate jobs have never respected my priorities as a mother.

What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?

The hardest part is getting in front of new audiences. I was vending a bit and that sucks. Lots of wear and tear on my car, the labor of setting up a booth and breaking down, and you never know when a rainstorm will shut you down flushing the money you spent to be there down the drain BUT when it works, it’s a great way to meet new people and for them to discover something they love. The feedback is invaluable and the sales can be really good too. You have to take the good with the bad in business.

What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?

Do it part-time for a while. Don't just jump into it because you hate your job. Figure out if you really like doing ALL jobs, not just the fun stuff, to run your business, because you will wear all hats for a little while until you can afford to outsource. From social media, to shipping, to pitching to the press and retailers, to sourcing new zippers and leather, to updating the website--you name it, I do it!

What I will say though, is Fiverr will be your best friend. Small research jobs or cute marketing videos can be designed by an expert for just a few dollars so don't get too bogged down with things you aren't good at. Just have a good awareness of how all parts of your business work. Also, know when it's time to end it and move on. Stay open to new opportunities as well. I always wanted to open a fashion design school to give back to the community and when a community development program started renovating old, abandoned commercial spaces in Camden I got the opportunity to lease a beautiful new space because I was ready and open to it. Stay ready so you don't have to get ready!

For more insights from Terina, follow her on Instagram @theterinanicole or visit her website


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