In Conversation with Caroline Zelder of AF1Z

Caroline Zelder_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

AF1Z (Air Force One Z) is a Stylish Travel, Workout and Everyday lightweight, antimicrobial jumpsuit.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

Covid-19, because my mom is a heart transplant recipient and I wanted to come up with a product that could better protect her during these times.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I am a writer/director and I was in the midsts of directing my second movie when Covid hit and my job came to a halt, so this was the perfect time to put my energy to good use and come up with an idea that could help better protect people when they went to the store, doctor’s office, or if they had to travel by plane or take the bus or subway to work.  My mom’s situation inspired me to create something special – fashionable, functional and eco-friendly – our jumpsuits are made 100% from recycled plastic bottles.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes, since I was a kid.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I came up with the idea for the Air Force One Z (AF1Z) this past summer 2020 while on a run and within 5 months we had the product designed, eco-friendly material made and the jumpsuit manufactured, our website built (www.af1z.com) and now we just launched on Amazon yesterday.  It’s all going so quickly and so much fun.  I had no real marketing strategy, I’m going by the seat of my pants, learning as we go, this is a first for me, I’m a filmmaker by trade, so I’m telling a story and getting it out there with wonderful people like you.  Everyone who has received our AF1Z jumper so far has loved it, I am so happy about that, you never know if anyone will like what you create, but it’s coming from an inspired place and created with love, and my mom, fiancé, niece and her partner are all a part of the team.  We are having a great time creating something new.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Give me a few months to answer that one; so far everything has been going quite smoothly, except getting up on Amazon, who knew that would be our biggest challenge to date 🙂

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

The jumper itself, we worked so hard to make sure that it would be made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, even our mailers and labels are eco-friendly (they are both compostable) and the design and color – as a family we went through so many color choices and different elements to the design and we are all so happy with the way it turned out. It’s super cute, stylish, so comfortable and functional, we have never done anything like this before, my fiancé, mom and I are all in the film business and my niece and her partner run an animal rescue – so this was not in our wheelhouse.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Hire your family 🙂 The team is our family, AF1Z is completely run and financed by us, with Covid-19 we not only can not hire people, but our budget is so tiny that we all work for free as a family.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well Covid-19 was the reason we came up with the idea for the Air Force One Z in the first place.  Our jobs came to a halt and I wanted to come up with a way to help better protect my mom when she had to go out to a doctor’s visit or grocery shopping. Hence the AF1Z was born.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Good question, well after Covid is over, we still plan on keeping the antimicrobial element to our jumpers for travel, but we would love to branch out and create different styles of jumpers for leisure wear. There’s nothing more comfortable than a cozy onesie, so we are talking about different styles and materials for expanding our AF1Z brand.  They are also great jumpers to wear jogging, my mom wears hers everyday walking and I wear mine when I go running, it works up a good sweat, helping me take off my Covid 10 🙂

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

To always keep my head up and hold a positive attitude.  It’s been an extremely difficult year for us as a family and so tragic for so many people, so the only thing we can do when tough times hit and tragedy happens is look forward and figure out how we can make things better.  I’d love to change the past, but that is a futile wish, so we just look to the now and how we can make things better today.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

My family and doing this endeavor together.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Absolutely. My best tip, one that I remind myself constantly, is to find the joy in the moment, whatever I am doing there is always something good to be found. Life and work for me have always gone hand in hand, I can’t do something that for the most part doesn’t bring me joy, it doesn’t mean that there are not extremely difficult parts to my work, but we spend so much of our life involved in our jobs that it is a huge part of our life and as such we must find the joy in it everyday or eventually find another job.

If you are not happy in your work life, it’s often hard to be happy in your home life or everyday life, I know it is easier said than done, because we have responsibilities to provide for ourselves and families, but keep an eye open for a job or opportunity that will bring you more happiness, we have the ability to change at anytime in our life. It’s scary, but it’s always worth it in the long run…. or short run too as we are hoping with our new venture 🙂

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

Hmmmm that I love to nap. The power nap changes everything in my day, when I’m feeling unproductive, unmotivated, a bit down… a good nap really changes everything for me, it shifts my perspective, somehow I wake up and see things differently.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

For me it’s absolutely these 3 things: Eat healthy (I’m vegan), but eating more fruit and vegetables actually does change your mental and physical capacity for productivity. Exercise is a must, walk, run, stretch, do something physical. And number 3 relax, meditate, quiet time just for you, no phones, no kids, no noise.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means being creative, figuring out new ways to present an idea, it means collaboration, it means having a good time.

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





8 Inspiring Latinx Entreprenistas that have launched groundbreaking companies

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve put together a list of 8 incredible Latinx women founders that have launched groundbreaking companies. Check it out: Jessica Alba: The Honest Company Founded in 2011, The Honest Company makes sustainable, well-designed products that work – built on transparency, trust, and a deep sense of purpose. In…

Susan Sarit of Operations-Made Easy on achieving your goals by getting organized

Describe your business in a few words: I am a mom, daughter, sister, business owner, and more! I started my business for both financial freedom and to be a work-at-home mom. I created Operations-Made Easy to help diverse women with the Operations of their business. Deliberative, disciplined, and detail-oriented are just a few words we…

Lisa Nutt of Make Every Minute Count on personal and professional growth

Describe your business in a few words? The Make Every Minute Count ecosystem encourages us to go (do that thing), grow (personally and professionally) and give (through a membership based family to family giving circle). What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is the third time…

Connection Coach Kristjana Hillberg on trusting your intuition and having an open mind

Describe your business in a few words: I’m a Connection Coach who helps women unearth their deepest desires, move from auto pilot to intentional action and prioritize their wellbeing. What was your background prior to starting your own business? I’m a multipotentialite – meaning, I have tried multiple things and tested multiple careers ranging from…

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: Finally Back to Delicious Meals For Everyone

Cuisine varies by culture, but no matter how societies segment and define themselves, certain foods show up in households across the globe — only differing in their forms. Some of a culture’s time-honored meals are created by its culinary icons.  Among America’s culinary icons, Martha Stewart is, without question, its most trusted. In 2014, Martha…

7 Entreprenista League Members share the biggest business challenge they overcame and what it taught them

Brand Photographer Brittney Guy-Atakpo of Brittney Jean Photography The biggest business challenge I have faced is sticking to a schedule that made me feel productive and good about my work ethic. What I have learned is that there is no right or wrong schedule or routine that produces success. I have been more grateful for…

Courtney Spritzer of WorkRobe on her “secret sauce” for a successful product launch

Describe WorkRobe in a few words? WorkRobes are designed to have you looking your best during any video meeting, so you can go from bedroom to boardroom in seconds and in comfort. My mission is to reimagine what you wear to work (from home).  Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to create…

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…