In Conversation with Diana Coffield Baisa of MyShieldMasks

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Describe your business in a few words?

Phoenix Design Concepts Inc. is a custom-design apparel manufacturing company specializing in unique products serving niche sectors.

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

I saw gaping holes everywhere in the apparel marketplace that required special attention and I had the courage, skills, talents and resources through my business to fill them.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Other than a few jobs in my teens, I have always worked for myself in the sewing craft since age 13. Many of my sewing design skills were sharpened with over a decade of alteration and custom clothing making for an impressive list of Who’s Who in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

At a very young age, my vision didn’t see the entrepreneur I am today. However, I knew that I would likely need to hold the reigns of my destiny because the world I wanted to create was going to need me in charge!

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?

Let’s talk about my most recent successful venture, MyShieldMasks. I already had built solid relationships with a core customer base as well as my branding and marketing team. When the Coronavirus began consuming headlines, I knew I needed to pivot quickly, so I gathered my teams together to create the MyShieldMask brand. The goal was quality, comfort, function and Made in the USA. Quick turn-around time and reusable quality were the most important aspects as everyone was scrambling to get masked up and didn’t have lots of money to spend. My sales team got the message out and it was a huge success!

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?

I certainly learn more from mistakes than if I was afraid to err and feared the consequences. Everything is perspective. Even on my best days, some challenge is looming, dressed up as a problem, waiting for me to give it something new to wear!

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

MyShieldMasks!  People from all over the U.S. thank me for creating such a comfortable, smart-looking mask that they and their whole family will gladly wear for school, work and play. I have a 55-78% daily customer return rate. Some even come to me offering to promote the product on their own time because they want everyone to know they can be happy wearing a mask if it’s a MyShieldMask. Awwwww!

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

There are two facets of my business: Office staff and apparel manufacturing crew (very specialized). At this time, I hire and fire for both departments. At the beginning of 2020, we were only 13, and everyone came from personal referrals. By June, we were triple the staff. My experience is that many applicants talk a good talk, but when everyday life happens, I discover what people are made of. I require a probationary training/testing period beginning in 2-week, 2-month, and 6-month evaluations as independent contractors. If a new worker passes each test after 6 months, I offer a position with the company as an employee beginning with some structured benefits. Many on my original staff have been with me more than 15 years.

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

My base business and clients went off the charts. Like, they fell off a cliff. If it was not for my quick planning, fabulous resources, and my amazing manufacturing and marketing teams each working no less than 80-hour weeks to prepare and launch MyShieldMasks, we would have been a big door closing event. Instead, we turned it into the biggest year ever on record in my 32 years of business!

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

With this new, expanded customer base in the retail marketplace, I am introducing other innovative wellness products, apparel and body shapewear that are quality and style focused. Also, I am currently rebranding my men’s funwear line and expanding my super niche show choir apparel business. Also, preparing to offer cut and bundle services for large contract sewing opportunities with a new CAD cutting equipment arriving soon!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

I was able to implement a hard-fast rule established after the 2008-09 financial debacle: Diversify, make mistakes, learn and grow, and most important, don’t bet all my money on one horse!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I should have responded faster to my inner voice that guides me, and my 2020 numbers would have been doubled.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I have amazing, hard-working, fun-loving workers and did I also mention, forgiving? I can be the worst sometimes! They get serious shit done and keep the wheel turning. Otherwise, I might need medication and a padded room.

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

Ask anyone who knows me; It’s all about work. Work is where life is. Home, on the other hand, is where the love is!

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

Everyone is always taken aback to learn I have 9 children, no twins, birthed at home. Most of them were self-educated until 10 years old. All of them are now also successful adults with their own business ventures. Needless to say, I got pretty good at spinning many plates at once.

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

  • Bulletproof your coffee. 
  • Eat food coming from as close to the ground as possible and take lots and lots of highly nutritious herbal supplements. 
  • Wear a smile! It gives you energy and encourages others.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

I adore the expression “Entreprenista”, it’s sooo me! It means rockin’ at business with love and style, making money the fun way, my way!

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