North Carolina is home to some pretty big inventions — everything from Pepsi to flying (yep, the Wright brothers did their thing here.), and women in Charlotte continue that proud tradition of being first in flight, coming up with brand new product lines and businesses of their own. Each of these Charlotte entrepreneurs had their lightbulb moments and a few stumbles along the way. They found inspiration in unique places, and all will tell you how much fun they’re having! Meet six local women who are inspiring us with their entrepreneurial endeavors!
Kimberly Hall — Founder of Sole Inspired
Kimberly Hall was one of the top employees and the Director of Sales for a door company until July of this year. She’d been there 16 years when she decided to quit and give what had been her side hustle her full attention. The widow and mother says her late husband, who died in a plane crash in 2001, inspired her to take the leap. “He received his bachelor’s in chemical engineering, but his heart’s desire was to be a pilot, and he joined the Navy. He would ask me what was I passionate about and what would I do if I weren’t afraid.”
Kimberly says she always loved scrapbooking and recently realized she also loved running. She combined the two loves documenting her racing accomplishments and realized she’d hit on something else she loved. “I founded Sole Inspired because I felt a need to inspire, encourage and motivate others in life and in their health and fitness journey.” She developed a line of products, cards and inspirational gifts that deliver hope, love and courage … one card a time. “Sole Inspired speaks to the unique journey that we’ve all gone through in our lives, as no one can walk in your shoes,” Kimberly adds. “Sole Inspired speaks to that indomitable spirit to beat the odds and to never give up. My love and desire to create human connections, and to inspire and motivate others is my driving force behind the products.”
“Two years ago, I asked myself, ‘If I left this earth tomorrow, would I have any regrets?’ The answer was yes. At 47 years young, I finally discovered my purpose, which was to create and inspire, but I wasn’t doing anything about it. I decided to invest in a leadership and business coach to get me to the start line. It was the best decision ever, to invest in myself and to live a courageous life.
“To think that I was able to birth an idea and launch it still blows my mind. Sole Inspired is definitely my baby. Do I have it all figured out? No. Have I made some mistakes? Yes. Am I willing to learn and grow each day? Yes. Some days I still can’t believe I’ve walked away from Corporate America to start my own business. I kinda feel like a badass.”
Torrie Savage, Paula Bartlett, Robin Tonelli — Founders of Driveway Art Co.
All you need is dirty concrete, a Driveway Art stencil and a pressure washer to create an artistic driveway — or patio, garage floor or porch. Driveway Art Co. was officially established in June of this year and is already getting a ton of love. Founders Torrie Savage, Paula Bartlett and Robin Tonelli call themselves partners in “grime” because their product literally makes dirt come to life. The women created stencils that homeowners can put down on their driveways, sidewalks or anywhere else with dirt, and pressure wash around the stencil. Gorgeous patterns are left behind.
Torrie and Paula started working together in 2012 when they created #thesavageway, a company focused on creating unique marketing opportunities using clean graffiti and moss art in the corporate environment. Robin, an environmental designer, came on board and helped them turn the product into something that could be used in the residential space. Originally offered as a service through #thesavageway, they switched gears when they realized the demand. Paula explains, “People LOVED it — they just didn’t want to pay the rates. They constantly asked, ‘Can I just do it myself?’ So we shifted.”
The women of Driveway Art Co. created seven stencils that work perfectly in this DIY-obsessed world. Then they created how-to videos to show people how easy it is to create the patterns. Finally, they established a brand identity. Paula says, “Our Instagram has been a huge marketing tool for us, to be able to show the ease of use, results of using the product and the family fun it creates. Overall, we want everyone to look at their dirt as a canvas. To see the beauty where others only see dirt and muck.”
Find the stencils and videos at drivewayart.co.
Michelle Buelow — Founder and CEO of Bella Tunno
Michelle Buelow grew up in a small town where her family unit — mom, dad and brother — was as close-knit as could be. So when she lost her beloved older brother to drug addiction when he was 30, she was sent reeling … and then started thinking. “He was my person, and when I got the call that he was gone, it was all consuming, but I wanted to find a way to honor him — to let people know he was so much more than just his addiction.” She wanted to start the Matt Tunno Make A Difference Fund, but she needed a way to fund the fund. Her mom realized the funk she was in and knew she needed a hobby, so she bought her a sewing machine. Pregnant with her first child at the time, Michelle taught herself to sew and decided to make the kind of high fashion design accessories she wanted for her new baby but couldn’t afford. “I could only sew square edges, so everything I made was a bib or a burp cloth. But the prints were a bold mix of Lilly and Pucci, and friends started asking if I would sell them.” Michelle, now 42, says she never expected anything to come from it, but when she went to 11 Charlotte boutiques with the things she’d sewn, 10 placed orders.
“We shot to success so quickly. We were working with Target and Gap within two years of our launch. Then the recession hit, and we were flattened. We made it through and have been on a massive growth spurt since 2016,” Michelle shares. She believes that’s because customers believe in their mission to give back. Bella Tunno donates a portion of their proceeds from every single product they sell, and in 2014, Bella Tunno committed to giving one meal to one child for every product sold. To date, they have given away nearly 1.7 million meals.
Over the years, the brand has also evolved. “It’s now more of a delightfully unexpected, conversation-starter brand,” Michelle shares. “It’s meant to keep a sense of humor in parenting while providing solutions to daily challenges.”
Products carried include bibs, bowls, paci clips, lovies, diaper bags, teething necklaces and more. Check them out at bellatunno.com and in over 3,500 boutiques and retail stores like Buy Buy Baby and Nordstrom. They’ll also be launching a sub-brand in Target later this year.
Lori Hulshof – Creator and Owner of Skin Pro
Lori Hulshof has worked as an esthetician for the last 20 years, most recently running her own practice. “I decided that I wanted to offer my clients more options and other skin care lines, so I went out on my own. The first year I was selling other skin care lines, and I saw a gap with some products that I couldn’t find that would be good for my clients.” A mentor suggested she start her own line, and she started by creating an all-in-one plant-based product that is good for any skin type or age – the hyaluronic hydro booster. “My clients loved it so much that I decided to take it to a show, and it was received so well that I realized I was on to something.”
Next, she decided she wanted to create her own sheet mask. “All my trade magazines talked about how great sheet masks were. The only problem was I couldn’t find ones that were of great quality and made in the USA,” Lori shares. After a year of experimenting with the right fabric and serum, she was ready to go with that, too, and she came up with a cool concept that ladies love. “While I was developing my own line of sheet masks, I thought of how great it would be for other service providers to offer them as an upgrade to their facial, massage or hair service. I am now pioneering the concept of using sheet masks in other service fields. I not only have developed the products, but I have also created methods to allow all professions in massage, skincare and hair care to upgrade during their service.” But the best part? She says her clients have been her guinea pigs.
“If my current clients who come regularly for a facial can see a difference with my products, then I know that they are great products. You can have anyone test the products, but when you have someone who already takes care of their skin, you know that if they can still see even more results that it is a great product. “
Find her entire skincare line at shopskinprolori.com.
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