SmilesShield™ is a modern customized face shield company that allows your smile to shine with made-to-order customization with the categories of name customization, bedazzle, luxury, pageant beauties, pre-made, children, and sports collections. In the short 5 months being in business we’ve had over $50k in sales, over 20, 000 views on our website and strategic partnerships with Miss Teen DC USA, Sydney Jackson; Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member, Shamea Morton; Instagram Influencer, Toi Hardy and various celebrities wearing their custom SmilesShield: Porsha Williams, Kandi Burruss, Reverend Al Sharpton, Sunny from The View, Misa Hylton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Tiffney Cambridge, Roland Martin, Tory Johnson from The View’s Deals & Steals, Kamie Crawford from MTV’s Catfish & Singer Shanice. We’ve been featured by Black Enterprise, BlackLove & featured on a segment of the Roland Martin #unfiltered show.
Barbara Furlow-Smiles is the Global Engagement/Internal Resource Group Program Manager. She has an extensive and strategic background in Diversity and Employee Resource Group management with over 10+ years of experience.
In her previous role as Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at MTV Networks in New York, she led the diversity strategy for internal Engagement and Employee Affinity Groups domestically and globally including offices in: London, Miami, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York and Washington D.C. She was named Employee of the Month (out of 15,000 + employees) in 2013 for being the Most Inclusive employee. In her past role as Program Manager for University Relations/Diversity at Cox Communications in Atlanta, she managed full life-cycle recruitment for two programs: Summer Interns and Technology Co-ops year round impacting over 200+ students annually. She was instrumental in establishing diversity partnerships to increase diversity recruiting efforts with top HBCU’s: Spelman College, Morehouse College and Howard University.
What inspired your to start your business?
The pandemic has brought pain and unexpected change to many. It has also brought out ideas, creativity, and new entrepreneurs. The SmilesShield’s goal is to create something special that put smiles back on people’s faces by allowing them to express their personality and authenticity, while still being safe.
How did 2020 change your business? Was it for the better?
We relied on our forecast analysis that determined that the pandemic would be around for at least a couple of years, making this a viable business investment along with focusing on utilizing social media and an e-commerce approach to spread the word and test out the product. We knew from our early customers and diverse demographics that our competitive advantage was the millions of people from all ages, demographics, backgrounds that were in the market for face coverings. 2020 has made virtual, e-commerce and social media the main drivers for any business to thrive.
What lessons did you learn in your business in 2020?
Embracing e-commerce and social media approaches to stay relevant and go directly to customers. The risk is you can fail fast and in public, but the opportunity is you can hack non-traditional ways of going to the market bypassing a lot of time and money spent on research.
What kind of impact do you want your business to leave on your client or customer?
The main goal of SmilesShield™ is to create something special that put smiles back on people’s faces by allowing people to express their personality and authenticity, while still being safe during these challenging times. Our customers share feedback on how seeing their own customized SmilesShield makes them feel special and how happy they are when they go out and get compliments. We call it the “Smiles Effect”.
Do you feel your product or service meets the needs of the market?
Yes, currently with this pandemic everyone is encouraged to wear face coverings and our product serves as a stylish alternative to staying safe.
What hurdles did you personally face in getting ready to open your business and how did you overcome them?
Few people believed my husband and I had a viable product and we received a lot of skepticism from family and friends that wanted us to focus on our 9-to-5 jobs amid a pandemic and job uncertainty for many. Our competitive nature served as a driving force to prove doubters wrong, so we surround ourselves with talented individuals who immediately believed in our vision and saw the future in creating a best-in-class face shield product. As a result, many of the doubters and naysayers became believers and supporters after seeing the creative and innovative approach to our product lines and receiving immediate feedback and interest every time they wore a custom SmilesShield.
When did you realize entrepreneurship was right for you?
I grew up surrounded by successful entrepreneurs in my family from my Grandpa owning multiple businesses (mortgage company, jewelry store & liquor store); my uncle owning crabs shacks; my aunt owning a mortgage company & my parents owning their own employment agency.
Why did you choose entrepreneurship?
I grew up being groomed for success that involved hustle! Ownership was instilled in me since birth & it was mandatory readings from my parents that I expose myself & get comfortable with greatness. I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur and started my first company when I was 16 years old and then my own international magazine at Spelman College, called Afro-lution after studying abroad in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. Since working in Corporate America, I’ve created an “entrepreneur” fund for over 10+ years with a percentage from all of my bonuses so that I have available resources to create and start businesses. I recognized early that having cash and resources would serve as a competitive advantage in order to move fast.
What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you do?
My driving motivation is always about legacy building. I want to set an example for my daughter and future generations to see what ownership looks like. Actions are more powerful than words and I work tirelessly to create opportunities centered around expansion and growth. What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)I’m a visionary so I’m always passionate about building and creating. I have a non-profit with my husband called, Global Smiles Health and we are partnering with amazing organizations and providing financial support. We are launching a “Spreading Smiles” initiative in 2021. I’ve also launched, B.T. Consulting where I facilitate and host personal development workshops with the launch of my signature program, “Own Your Greatness” with the 4B’s approach.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business?
For SmilesShield™ I want to continue to stay innovative, expand the reach and join the million dollar club with this business.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.
I’m blessed to have many mentors and sponsors from various industries and regions. I have mentors from my alma mater, Spelman College; South Africa from my study abroad experience, Family since everyone owns a business and my husband who is a strategic genius and visionary.
What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?
SmilesShield™ is launching 2 new lines. One with Shamea Morton, Housewives of Atlanta cast member with the first Faceshield and mask combo.