By Erickka Sy Savané

Call Dionne Phillips many things: Eyelash expert, celebrity eyelash extension guru, entrepreneur, wife, but stingy with her information? Never. Since launching ‘D’Lashes’ her Beverly Hills-based studio in 2005, prior to that she worked at a top Los Angeles salon, and before that, she was servicing African American and Asian clients in New York City, pre-social media, Dionne has firmly established herself as the queen of eyelashes. Shows like The Doctors, Good Morning America and Extra TV all consult with Dionne, and clients as diverse as Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham, Mindy Kaling, and even Steven Tyler, clamor to get an appointment, which you wanna make at least 2-3 weeks in advance. Dionne is in business!

The great thing about this former actress and Toledo native is she wants you to be in business too. Sharing what she knows, better yet, the things no one shared with her, is a part of her higher purpose. So if you’re planning on starting your own business, or you’re already a company owner in need of a few tips, pull out your notebooks for 7 Things No One Tells You About Starting Your Own Business from Dionne Phillips!


  • Ask Yourself, ‘Why Not Me?’ Why not? Why not you? Saying these words will open you up and give you the courage and strength to just do it! And that courage and strength that you build from starting your business will carry over into every other aspect of your life. Asking this also helps when you get discouraged.

  • Know Your Numbers. Know how much everything is going to cost. Know how much your rent, your lamps and tables are going to cost. Don’t just go out buying stuff because you have some money in the bank or you think you have a lot of money. It’s the reason a lot of small businesses don’t get ahead. Big corporations know their numbers; they bring in a CFO (Chief Financial Officer). If you don’t know your numbers you don’t know your business.

  • Watch Marcus Lemonis on CNBC. His show, The Profit, is business 101. It breaks down the key to a successful business into 3 Easy Steps: People, Process and Product. The most important, I believe, is Process. Meaning, if you were to train someone to work for you, what are the 5 steps of running your business? Knowing this is key.

  • Know All The Details of Having a Business. For example, the certificates, licenses, inspections, taxes. A lot of people have gone to jail and prison for taxes, but they have a nice car. Ask someone with the same business as you what you need to know. It’ll keep you from having to pay more money in the long run.

  • Say Thank you. Send a nice thank you card or get some cards made with your business name on them. We’ve lost the fine art of saying thank you by sending text messages and a quick email. That’s okay, but etiquette is still there. I get an abundance of flow simply by saying thank you.

  • Don’t Allow Anyone To Run Your Business. Everyone thinks they need an assistant because they’re so busy. But what happens is if that assistant ends up not being around for a while, say it’s just a summer check for them, they end up running your business into the hole. If you do hire someone, you want them to be smarter than you, but you have to be in the loop with it. Otherwise, you might as well just be an investor.

  • Know Why You’re Doing This. People think that by having their own business they’re going to be able to take off and go on vacation all the time, but you end up working more for yourself than you would for another corporation. Know the why because it’s your higher purpose that keeps you going year three, five, and 10. Telling people the things no one told me is a part of my higher purpose. Working with cancer survivors and seeing how confident they feel when they get up from my chair is a part of my bigger purpose. It’s a reminder that I’m not just working for the money.
To find out more about Dionne and D’Lashes click here!

Are you considering starting a business? If you're a business owner, what tips can you share!
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in,,, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or

Itika Oldwine of Oldvine Florals 

By Sharee Silerio

In 2011, after working on “The Oprah Show” for eight seasons as an intern then employee, Itika Oldwine took a big leap of faith and traded in Chicago for Los Angeles to start a career in marketing. Soon after arriving, she started a marketing position at L.A. Live, an entertainment and sports complex adjacent to the Staples Center Downtown. There, she was immersed in one of the largest event spaces in the nation, which hosts the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, the Grammys, MTV Awards and BET Experience.

After learning as much as she could about marketing, she started securing her own clients, and one of them ended up being Eric Buterbaugh Design, a florist out of the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. Eventually, Oldwine left LA Live to become Buterbaugh’s general manager and a new passion began to bloom.

"I've always loved beautiful things, and I appreciate a certain aesthetic, but I wasn't sure that flowers was something I was passionate about until I started working with Eric Buterbaugh," says Oldwine. "Flowers live and breathe, and they have this texture when you touch them. They change the mood of a room. They change the mood of a human being.”

Although it was refreshing to be able to work with beautiful flowers every day, Oldwine soon wanted more.
“When it came to the way we designed flowers, I grew. I wanted to be bolder, use different colors, work with different clients. I developed a point of view that I couldn't really express because it wasn’t my business,’ she explains.

So Oldwine gave herself the blessing to do something different. After two years of hands-on training, she took another leap of faith. This past June she left Eric Buterbaugh's company to start her own floral business.

Itika Oldwine

“I left the job before I had a location, before I had a name for it, or anything. I just had a feeling that I could do this for myself,” she says.

When choosing a name for her business, Oldwine wanted to find something that would resonate with her and clients. After brainstorming, she chose Oldvine Florals, a mix of her last name and vines, which are reminiscent of flowers. She purchased a domain with the same name as the business, then registered a “Doing Business As” with the city of Los Angeles. After that, she chose a location for the boutique, which is a convenient two blocks from the flower market.

Though everything seemed to fall in place easily, she says that securing angel investors and coming up with the marketing and business plan, as well as figuring out how much money she needed to actually launch, was the biggest challenge.

Still, in just a short time, Oldwine has made a name for herself in the industry, working with clients such as Martini & Rossi, E! Entertainment, “The Voice” television show, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and more. So what's the secret to her success?

“Every single thing that I did in my professional career, and even things throughout my young life, led me to this point," she says. "Sometimes, when we’re working, figuring things out or looking at our past decisions, we don’t see how it will all come together. I pull from all of my experiences in order to excel where I am.”

As a woman who bravely chose and created her own path, she has a nugget of advice for all who want to pursue their passion.

“Absolutely follow it because it's not going to go away. It might be a huge, burning fire or it might go down to a flickering flame, but it's going to be there. You're doing yourself a disservice by trying to snuff out that flame. Light it up!”

To keep up with Itika, follow her on Instagram, and Oldvine Florals on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Do you have a business you'd like to start?

Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts for, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.comthen connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Ramona Griggie Founder of Express Smile Atlanta
By Erickka Sy Savané

It was 2015 and Ramona Griggie’s oldest son was graduating from Duke University. It was an extra special time because after years of wearing braces, he was finally getting them taken off. So as a gift, Ramona promised to get his teeth whitened. Unfortunately, prices were out of control, ranging from $700-$900. But knowing that she couldn't let it end there, Ramona put on her super mom cape and began researching alternatives online. Eventually, she found a great product and a $250 machine to use for practice at home.


Ramona Griggie & Son
“I started using my son, my husband and anyone else who came to the house as guinea pigs to practice the one-hour treatments,” says Ramona. “And it worked.”
Not only did her son get to have a beautiful set of pearly whites for his graduation day, but word spread, and people were standing in line for her teeth whitening services. Knowing that it was time to shift from her house to a legit working space, Ramona found a $300 per month rental and got going.
“It was a cute little setup where people would come and pay $100-$200 for a one-hour procedure,” explains Ramona. All was going well until she fell one day and suffered a concussion. With time off to think, she realized that she didn't like being away from her family for such long hours.

“I’m really a housewife with a side hustle, work-from-home, work-from-my-phone kind of person,” says Ramona.
Plus she noticed that people liked buying the $35 do-it-yourself kits.

So during the time it took for her to heal, Ramona closed the shop and began researching how to take her business online. She learned to build a simple website from scratch, at a cost of $20, got a free business telephone line and prepared for a January 2015 launch.

Knowing that marketing would play a key role in the success of her business, Ramona chose Instagram as her promotional platform of choice. From there, she called in a favor from local celeb ‘JuJu,’ aka rapper Cam’ron’s girlfriend, and convinced her to post a picture with a kit, along with a simple ad that Ramona put together.

She paid instagram $150.00 to run the promotion for 4 hours. What happened next was life-changing. Within a few hours, $8,000 came in and her Instagram following shot from about 500 to 10,000 followers.

“My local post office didn’t know what to do with all these orders, and neither did we,” recalls Ramona, of how she and her husband/business partner had to handle the unexpected load. “Our main goal was to make sure that people didn't have to wait for their orders.” It was around this time that Ramona realized that a significant number of African Americans don’t have dental insurance, but they could afford a $35 do-it-yourself teeth whitening kit.

Sensing that she had struck marketing gold, and knowing that the goal was always to reinvest, Ramona continued to study Instagram and made a list of other celebrities that she wanted to work with. Soon after, she paid $1,000 for her second sponsored post and made close to $50,000 in one day!

Amber Rose
And thanks to even more star power- Amber Rose, The Kardashians, Kevin Hart and plenty more- she’d made one million dollars in her first 60 days! With so much celebrity backing, one has to wonder if Express Smile Atlanta Teeth Whitening really works or if it’s just the latest insta-gimmick? To answer, Ramona says,
“First and foremost, the product works. We have very few returns, people buy multiple kits at one time, and we get tons and tons of reorders. And sure, the celebrity backing helps because people look at their teeth and they want to use the same product that celebs use to keep them white.”
Thanks to the overwhelming success of her online business, Ramona has since opened a flagship boutique in College Park, Atlanta where celebs like Blac Chyna, college students and even bridal parties can come and get one-hour treatments from certified technicians.
Courtesy of Express Smile Atlanta
So how does this multi-millionaire housewife stay grounded? 
“I’m a mom before anything else, so I make sure to live carefully. I have a CPA, a lawyer and people in place to make sure that we have money for retirement. I don’t buy expensive purses, and when my husband,who is an economics major, says ‘no’ to a purchase, it’s a no. It’s about balance and building generational wealth,” says Ramona, who grew up in Section 8 housing in St. Croix.

If there’s any piece of advice that Ramona would offer to other budding entrepreneurs it would be,
"Hustle, drive, keep it simple, research, do your do-diligence and know that it’s attainable. Also think about a product that people need and make it affordable. I was clear from the beginning that I wanted everyone to be able to afford to get their teeth whitened.”
 Looks like everyone now can! 

This article appeared on Click here to learn more about Express Smile Atlanta Teeth Whitening and follow the brand on Instagram.  

Would you use a DIY teeth whitener?  
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in,,, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or
Luciana Gilmore: Founder of 'Gilmore Girls Greeting' 
By Kanisha Parks
Some mother-daughter relationships form relatively easily and only grow more resilient over time into an unbreakable bond of understanding, love, and respect for one another. But the more common truth is that mother-daughter relationships can be difficult—and that’s an understatement. From infancy to adulthood, entire complicated histories are formed between a mother and her daughter and the truth is: navigating those waters can prove difficult. 

At the heart of almost every mother-daughter issue can be found a lack of healthy communication, often birthed from the false idea that telling a child too much will cause them to become curious and therefore make mistakes. Some mothers simply never learned the delicate art of communicating with their children. Other times, mothers have shame regarding the decisions they’ve made in the past, which prevents them from having the courage to really talk to their daughters. This results in a shared fear of communication that only debilitates the bond between mother and daughter.

These are truths that Luciana Gilmore, founder of Gilmore Girls Greetings, knows all too well. But she has responded with a unique approach by creating greeting cards that seek to bridge the gap of communication that many mothers encounter with their daughters. “Unlike other greeting cards,” Luciana says, “These are more personal and the message isn’t generic. My cards are written from real circumstances I’ve experienced with my daughter or one of my students. They come from a place where a daughter will want to hold on to it.”

Gilmore Girls Greetings was inspired both by Luciana’s role as an educator for over 15 years and her own experiences as a daughter and mother. Growing up, Luciana admits that she definitely struggled to communicate with her own mother.
“My mother was not very open or transparent about anything she went through as a young girl. Usually when my mother and I ‘talked,’ it was yelling. I didn’t feel like I could come to her. For example, when it comes to friends, my mother’s philosophy was, ‘Nobody’s a friend.’ She didn’t talk me through the qualities I should look for in a friend. It would’ve been helpful to know that I could talk to my mom so that I didn’t have to learn a lot of things on my own.”
After becoming a mother herself, Luciana was determined to change that. She has three children: Asiya (17), Jada (9), and Demetrius (4). After having Asiya, Luciana realized that despite being determined not to repeat the mistakes her mother had made, she hadn’t been as open and honest as she could’ve been with her own daughter.

“I noticed this when Asiya was getting ready to enter the teenage years. She was my only child until she was eight years old, so it was easy to cater to her. Once I had my younger daughter, I was trying to balance having two girls and giving them equal time, attention, and affection. I started noticing changes in Asiya, but something about her being my daughter prevented me from being open and transparent. I was scared because in hindsight, I knew I could’ve and should’ve talked more openly with her. When she turned 17, I asked myself, ‘Did I say this? Did I do this? Did I teach her this?’ Reality hit me that I needed to make sure I had given her the right information. I then became very intentional about things I shared with her.”
Gilmore Girls Greetings was truly born as Luciana and her daughter started writing cards to each other. They began communicating things they never got to say, and how it made them feel when there was a lack of communication. Soon they were able to have insight into each other's thinking, and today, both mother and daughter can talk about anything.

Asiya is now a college student and Luciana even sends her ‘Love Drops,’ which are packages you can order that are custom-made for your daughter’s interests, including all of her favorite sweets and supplies, complete with a message written just for her.

“Even if I don’t talk to Asiya every day, when she receives the package, it assures her that I love her and am thinking about her,” says Luciana.

With these greeting cards, 'Love Drops,' and her new book, “Daughter, Have I Told You Lately,” Luciana is giving mothers a way to ensure that encouragement, support, and love are communicated to their daughters. And just like Luciana did with her daughter, know that it’s never too late to try to correct your mistakes or to begin healing.

Learn more about Gilmore Girls Greetings!

How do you maintain a healthy bond with your daughter?

Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected]