Positively Optimistic and Powerful Carla
Updated: Mar 12, 2018
I had the opportunity to have a heart to heart conversation with Carla Miles of POPPED Handmade about her travels abroad, what got her started in the business world in the first place, and how sometimes the hard experiences we go through can directly position us for greatness
Q: I typically wait until the end of the interview to talk about business but I feel like your entry into entrepreneurship is an important framework for this conversation. What inspired you to take the first step?
A: Honestly, I fell into it by accident. Most kids grow up knowing what they want to do or want to be, but I didn’t have a clear idea. The only thing I really loved was reading and writing so I became an English major in college, but didn’t have a clear career path in mind after graduation. When I graduated, we were still recovering from a recession so the job market wasn’t great. After working several different types of jobs without being really passionate about any of them, along with starting a family, entrepreneurship became really appealing. I love the flexibility of it and having my income potential tied directly to how much work I put into my business.
Q: Let's talk about your business. How did Popped Handmade come about?
Popped Handmade came about in 2015 after I spent several months making my own lotions and body butters. Earlier that year, I took a lotion-making class at a small French skincare boutique on the Northside of Chicago called Magalie Naturals. I learned about different natural ingredients and was hooked!
At the time that I started selling my skincare products at local vendor fairs in Chicago, I was pregnant with my second child and had just found out that he had a fatal birth defect, meaning that he most likely wouldn't survive long after birth. Selling my products became therapeutic for me and putting my all into my business became part of creating a legacy for him. I had to live in a way to bring him honor since he wasn't able to live outside of my womb.
"Selling my products became therapeutic for me and putting my all into my business became part of creating a legacy for him. I had to live in a way to bring him honor since he wasn't able to live outside of my womb."
Unfortunately, my son, Israel, is not here physically but I take his spirit with me every day that I work on my business and work on being the person God intended for me to be.
Q: What is it about your life right now that would make your younger self proud?
A: I think the younger version of me would be proud because I am not afraid to try new things. Many times we can be so negative to ourselves that we tell ourselves no before other people do. I grew up very critical and hesitant. Being a business owner taught me to not let the fear of failure get in my way anymore and I think my younger self would be happy to know that.
Q: Just looking at your profile and accomplishments it seems like you wear so many hats. Tell me more...Who is Carla and what is a day in your life like?
A: I am a mother, a daughter, a wife and small business owner. However the most important part of who I am is my identity as a child of God. This might sound cliché, but my faith really drives my daily life as well as my business. I believe that God cares about entrepreneurship. God is the original Creator and it's only natural as humans to be creative and start businesses that benefit others.
On a daily basis, I work on my business, homeschool my 4 year old, and now take care of my 6 week old newborn. I am also part of an entrepreneurial training program called Future Founders that gives me monthly assignments to complete. My girls keep me busy, but once I get them settled for the morning, I transition into working on my business. To keep from losing my mind with all the tasks on my plate, I try to split my day into separate categories and try to hit each category every day or every other day so that I don’t get overwhelmed.
To set a framework for the day, I started bullet journaling- which is an easy way to keep track of tasks and goals. Each morning I wake up, I write down all the things I need to accomplish. Inside my journal I have tabs that designate which tasks need to be completed for the day, the week, and the month. This method of organizing is new to me but I’m loving it already. I highly suggest anyone that wants to be more organized to check it out!
Q: Moving into the discussion of travel, can you tell me what destinations you have traveled to?
A: Growing up most of my travel was based on where the family reunion was that year. As a young girl growing up on the Southside of Chicago (and later the Westside of Chicago), I always had the desire to see the world and explore, but the only way I was able to do so was through escaping in a book. When I went away to college, I had more opportunities to explore.
Over Spring break of my Junior year, I had the opportunity to visit my college roommate, Keila, in Lima, Peru who was staying with a family there. Lima is a beautiful city. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone since I didn’t know the language. I knew only basic Spanish and wasn’t conversational in it at all! Luckily, Keila was fluent and made the best tour guide ever!
Prior to going to Lima, I did a summer study abroad program in London, England for 6 weeks. It was my first trip abroad and I was about 19 years old. I wasn't attending the program with anyone that I knew and it was the longest time and farthest away I’d ever been from my family. This experience definitely stretched me so much that I was ready to take on Lima and anywhere else on my own! It taught me that I could truly rely and take care of myself. It also opened my eyes and showed me how big the world really is.
I took classes in London history and English, but the trip was definitely more about getting a feel for the culture there and exploring. One area of London that I was super-excited about visiting was Brixton. I loving checking out how other people of the African diaspora live when I travel. It’s always cool to see how much we have in common despite being across the world from each other.
Q: Can you share one of your biggest travel fails?
A: Sure! This happened when I was studying abroad in London. I was a huge fan of the R&B artist, Neyo, back then and I saw that he was performing in Birmingham, which was only about an hour and a half away via train. None of my roommates were into Neyo and I didn't want to force them to go, so I went alone. The concert was amazing! Absolutely loved it. However, I was so into the concert that I didn’t realize how late it was getting and ended up missing the last train back to London for the night! I internally flipped out for a minute! I was so scared. I went from hotel to hotel near the train station and they were all booked. I’ll also mention that the more I walked, the more I realized I wasn’t in the best part of town. I passed by several boarded up storefronts and it reminded me a bit of being in the hood in Chicago.
I just walked and cried. Eventually I found a hotel that had room for me. It wasn't the nicest hotel, but they had a bed and computer where I was able to contact my roommates to let them know that I was safe and would be back in the morning.
Q: Wow, quite the horror story, but I am happy it turned out okay for you in the end. What lessons have you learned from your travels?
A: I learned that I can take care of myself. When I went to London, I was only 19 years old and I had never been out of the country before. I would have to say that my trips abroad actually prepared me for entrepreneurship because it showed me that I was smart and strong enough to figure things out for myself.
"No one was there to hold my hand or coddle me; I had to trust my instincts and move forward. These are the same principles I have to apply as a business owner; I’m constantly in unknown territory and I have to just keep moving forward."
Q: Seems like your most memorable trips abroad were while you were in college. Can you tell us more about the program and how you found these opportunities, were they offered through your school?
A: My study abroad program was not offered through my college. I think I may have stumbled upon the American Institute for Foreign Study via a google search of study abroad programs. We had typical reading and writing assignments, but it was not extremely stressful. The professors knew that we were there to experience the sights and sounds of the city and they encouraged us to do so.
Q: What advice can you give to a student that is interested in doing a study abroad program, or traveling in school period, but might be scared to take that first step?
A: First I would say vet the program! I was lucky enough that I selected a legit program that worked out for me, but there are programs out here that you may want to be suspicious of. Honestly, the safest option is to go through your school if they have those programs available. Secondly, I would say JUST DO IT!! College is the ABSOLUTE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL AND SEE THE WORLD! You don’t know what your life will look like after you graduate—whether you will have a demanding job or start a family. Travel while you can when you don’t have any major responsibilities! Research scholarships and don't be afraid to ask for help, you might be surprised with the response!
"Lastly, I would tell them that travel is part of your education. College is about more than preparing for a career but also about coming of age—becoming an adult, getting out of your comfort zone, and learning how to think critically. Travel helps with all of the things you can’t always learn in the classroom.”
Travelling abroad is an experience like no other that will grow you, and make you more responsible and mature. It challenges your mindset and forces you to see the world from a different perspective. DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY WHILE IN SCHOOL!
Q: Where would your dream vacation be?
A: PARIS! I think the energy and overall vibe of the city is unlike any other place. Unfortunately, while I was studying abroad in London I actually missed an opportunity to visit the city. My program offered a weekend trip to Paris, but after spending so much to get to London in the first place, I did not want to spend additional money for another trip. Looking back I truly regret this, however, I plan to go back in the near future with my whole family in tow.
Q: How can we find your products and support your business?
A: My products can be found at www.poppedhandmade.com . Followers of FlyyGirlAdventures can enjoy a 15% discount using offer code: FLYYGIRL15 from now through the end of the month!
Thanks for sharing your story with us Carla! I appreciate your openness and honesty. Your story is unique and important. I know your story inspired someone, because it inspired me! If any of my followers want to reach her with more questions, advice or just want to get more information about her products, she can be reached at: email@example.com. You can also find her @poppedhandmade on Instagram and Facebook!
Stay tuned for info on the giveaway!