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Work Life: Dahli Coles

While a merchandizing student at Cal State Northridge, Dahli Coles was assigned the task of creating a wearable item from a recycled material. Coles, a single mom, collected a stack of recycled newspapers, and her line of handbags, totes and caps was born. It was 2004. She started making her accessories as Christmas and birthday gifts, and then ventured to a booth at the farmers market. She called her business THE NEWS, and her offerings now include not only clothing but also housewares like placemats, pillows, even wine caddies. Coles enjoys choosing the headline that each item will carry. Her work is personal — every piece is designed and cut with her own hands. Read it today, wear it tomorrow. Brilliant.

How has running your own business impacted the rest of your life?

I love working for myself. I love being creative and designing a product. Owning a business has actually helped me because I get to set my own schedule, work from home and do what I love. But it’s not as flexible a lifestyle as you might think. I have to be organized to be successful, so my time as a mom (my son Elijah is nine) and my time for my business are on a schedule.

It’s been really empowering to be able to create my own terms as a business owner. And I find that that sense of power bleeds out into the rest of my life. For example, if a storeowner places an order and asks, “How long will it take for the product to arrive at my store?”, I can say "two weeks" and rush home and stress myself trying to get it done in two weeks, or I can say "four weeks" and give myself the time I need to produce a quality product. I believe in what I’m creating and confident that they’ll be willing to wait. It’s the same approach I take to standing for myself in life. I know what works for me, and those around me can choose to participate or not. But I know what my terms are and who I am.

What’s the biggest challenge in running your own business and being a mother?

I love both those roles. If I could work for myself for the rest of my life, I would. For me, the hardest part isn’t trying to do both; the hardest part is keeping up with changes in the business world. I need to always manage the changing needs of new customers, and of course I’m subject to the fluctuating economy. But if I could keep this business running for the rest of my life and be innovative, I would, because I love being my own boss.

What would you suggest to other moms who want to start their own businesses?

If they are selling a product, I'd say start at their local farmers market. It was a great place for me to get my feet wet and perfect my skills. Of course, it’s great (if not imperative!) that they have family or community that can support them as they work and grow their business. For example, my partner and I would travel to attend shows in Atlanta and New York four times a year, and we were able to leave our son with my aunt for those weeks. I could not have grown the business into an international endeavor without support from my family.

How does owning your own business impact your son?

This is an interesting question because I don’t really know yet. I do know that he sees me work really hard here at home, but he doesn’t have the experience of watching me going out to work like most people do. I’m home to meet his needs, and I’ve arranged my schedule around his. Once I pick up my son from school, work stops. I hope that he is learning to be entrepreneurial from me, but only time will tell.

Who is/was your mentor?

I really need one.

Who inspires you?

Different people inspire me at different moments in my life but my mom is always on that list.

How do you generate new ideas?

I watch what my friends wear, and Pinterest too.

Is your business profitable?

As a single mom I've been fortunate enough to rely on my business to provide financial support for the past 10 years.

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?

Within 10 years, I want my company to be strictly an e-commerce store. This will allow me to venture out and explore other interest while my business supports me.

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