From Lemonade Stands to Hollywood: The Unconventional Path of a Maverick Female Entrepreneur


Table Of Contents


My Entrepreneurial Journey: A Tale of Ingenuity, Resilience, and Success

My journey as an entrepreneur began with small, yet ambitious steps, much like any adventurous kid with a lemonade stand. From a young age, I was always hustling, finding ways to turn my creative ideas into profitable ventures, whether it was through selling homemade crafts or becoming the top cookie seller. Each of these experiences taught me valuable lessons about business, resilience, and the importance of seizing opportunities.

Eventually, these ventures led me to create Hollywood Branded, a culmination of my lifelong passion and entrepreneurial drive. In this blog, I'll share the ups and downs of my journey, offering insights and lessons that I've learned along the way, hoping to inspire and guide other aspiring entrepreneurs while sharing some of my f*ups along the way.

Blog The Unconventional Path Of A Maverick  Female Entrepreneur

My Entrepreneurial Journey

From almost the moment I could walk, I was peddling something. At age 6, I was the CEO of my lemonade stand, squeezing profits from every lemon by strategically setting up shop across the street from construction sites that dotted every corner - thanks to the real estate boom driven by Texas oil. It was successful enough that my parents started making me buy the ingredients myself.  

My homemade candle phase burnt out pretty quickly - but it did result in my destroying several of my mom's kitchen pots in the process and learning how to blend colors to not just make brown. Before I hit double digits, I had Santa Fe's Doodlet's gift shop stocking my exclusive line of handmade, wooden, painted animal earrings that I would bike to purchase at a local craft store, steal my father's gauche paints (he was a commercial artist) to decorate, and glue on earring backings. Who knew there was such a market for miniaturized farm fashion? I somehow did, and my timing was right. The pink and black pigs, ducks, and spotted cows are still my favorites, and they sold at a 7,000% markup from my hard costs and own free labor of time invested. 

Then came my chocolate and cookie empire phase. I outsold everyone in World's Finest Chocolate and Girl Scout Cookies, not just by sheer charm but by strategic timing and geo-targeting. My secret weapon? The 'before dinner' hunger pangs of SMU's frat row. Sororities were a waste of time. With my mom as the getaway driver, I'd swoop in between 3:30 and 6 pm, catching those starving 18 to 22-year-olds at their weakest. The result? A cookie-craving frenzy, leaving me rolling in dough - both cookie and cash. It now sounds like a plot from a kiddie version of 'The Wolf of Wall Street. 

I baby and dog sat, was a hostess/waitress/bartender at a restaurant starting the week I turned 16, and at other bars and restaurants through college. I started a paper-writing business for the football players in my dorm at U of A to enable me to eat something different than ham and cheese sandwiches, sold a massive amount of artwork in a summer internship at world-renowned Nedra Matteucci Fenn Gallery where nepotism initially got me the job. My work effort and sales skills ultimately outsold even that of the gallery director. I learned the ease of making bitter enemies early on in a workforce where someone who gave it their all wasn't always so appreciated by co-workers who didn't. Then, eventually, down the line, all those years later... at the age of 33, I quit my job running a product placement agency and started Hollywood Branded - my very own agency.

(One Of) My Most Important Life Lessons

I finally learned sometime in my mid-thirties as a business owner, all of about 14 years or so ago, one of life's most important lessons. When you either truly f*up or do something massively embarrassing - you step into it. Embrace it. Own it. Make it yours. 

Especially if someone is trying to blackmail you, use it to their advantage, or seek even a whiff of superiority.  If you take away the feelings of embarrassment, fear, awkwardness, or uncomfortableness within yourself, then truly, you put yourself back in power. Just own it. 

Avoiding A Blackmail Attempt 

The first time I put this to the test was right after firing - very reasonably, an employee who did not have the passion or drive to succeed at my agency.  This individual had upset a client in a significant way through multiple absolute failures and then even more failures.  We lost over $200k of business overnight.  I've had employees screw up and lose business before and since. Still, this individual refused to recognize or hold themselves accountable and was so nonchalant about what was a huge business loss - that I was finally done. Fired. Something I rarely do.  

Moments after our discussion, the individual told me that I had left an accidental message on their phone, having somehow butt-dialed them while drunkenly giggling with a girlfriend about our actively peeing in someone's yard she knew (ok, for full honesty, it was her ex-boss, and it was a delightful yard with lots of hiding places amongst the shrubbery and limited lighting), desperate and about to pop after a long post-Halloween party bus ride that dropped us off in a neighborhood with no public bathrooms. 

In hindsight, yes, that's different from what proper female grown-ups do who own businesses. Still, it was my single days, and I am far from perfect. I got up to a lot of shenanigans and adventures back then and happily now have so many stories as a result!

I grew up camping, fishing, horseback trail riding, and peeing in bushes while avoiding my legs was something I had developed great skill with. All my female readers know how hard it is to balance perfectly in a really awkward squat position and not hit your shoes while avoiding your own backsplash. I strongly suggest finding an incline to stand above. So call it... second nature.  After all, don't forget it had been a night when much liquid courage had been consumed to get me to even go to the Halloween dance party where I would encounter not one, not two, but three guys I had dated. Who somehow all ultimately knew each other. Rough night. Lots of cocktails. Mind you, if a guy had done this, there would have been that double standard, and no one would have blinked. 

So, back to that firing moment. I was standing there being blackmailed and told to unfire them - or the individual threatened to tell all of my employees and clients. Trust me, I was embarrassed. Not at the actual act, but I had somehow called someone,  in fact an individual I was now firing, and recorded that very unprofessional conversation.  It wasn't my finest moment.  

Funny image of businessman chased with carrot

What I learned was that I had given someone power over me. Or at least, that's what they thought.  

Without a word, I left the room, walked into our creative loft, an open office space where at least 16 people were gathered at desks and phone calls, and told everyone I had a big announcement. I then told my story, resulting in everyone going silent, before rolling on the ground laughing.  I, buttoned up, no f*up Stacy surprised everyone, including myself.  The reality was that I was indeed embarrassed, but I barreled through my confession, and guess what? 

NO ONE CARED.  Not one iota, except the individual I had just fired, who stood there with an open mouth, looking like a dying fish gasping for air.   

I turned and asked the gasper if they wanted me to start calling clients too, or if they were ready to exit the company.  I then shared exactly why I had chosen that moment for story time with everyone.  Everyone got it.  A legend was born at that moment.

Reclaiming the narrative is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. 

The Power Of Storytelling

You may be thinking, eh, that's not so embarrassing. Everyone pees. And maybe even you have in public before or somewhere... not exactly legal. 

And you are right. But it was my embarrassment that I stepped into with dry feet, and embraced and wholly owned just like I am encouraging others to do now.  Because your own embarrassment or f*up  is always going to feel way worse to you, than it does to most other people. And if someone else wants to hang on to all of the wrong things you've done? Time to get them out of your life and move on so you can clear your energy and continue to grow versus being hung up on the past. We like to beat ourselves up and typically are our own worst enemy. Remove the shame, and it's harder to beat yourself up. 

By telling your whatever-you-did story, you will soften the blow and make it all somehow - better.  Trust me. It works.  

Then, share that story in relevant moments. Each time you do so, that horrifying thing you did has a gut punch to the stomach until one day, it becomes a story you willingly share to break the ice or help others learn. Then it becomes part of your brand and part of YOUR story. Something you can even learn to lean into and have a hint of pride from - if only it served as a learning lesson for yourself, making you even stronger.  

Rip The Band-Aid Off

It gets easier and is quicker to do the more you practice. I've had a lot of embarrassing moments and f*ups, with lots of storytelling practice over the years.  But I still treasure that day when I refused to back down from someone who was trying to bully and blackmail me, and my ability to face it directly,  publicly, and fully by repositioning it into something funny was a turning point for me. I learned to laugh at myself and take myself just a little less seriously. It softened my very hard edges born of years of being tough and no-nonsense and in charge around my team and made me more relatable. 

Now I like telling stories that surprise people and show I'm not exactly who they thought I was. 


I changed from that experience and gained a tremendous amount of self-confidence that day. I've never looked back and continue to breathe light and air into those sometimes less glorious moments of my life. I'd rather laugh at myself publicly than cry alone.  I'm human. I've screwed up more than once or twice. So have you, I bet. We all f*up.  But most people are still scared of admitting that and it holds them back from being able to take risks and try new things.  

But Wait, There's More...

Sounds like I'm about to share some big secret right? 

Well... if you read my newsletters often enough, you will know well that beyond the how-to-do-it tips, I share the ins and outs and ups and downs I've experienced across my career in building pop culture branded partnerships or the rollercoaster ride of being a female agency owner in the glitzy yet shark-infested waters of Hollywood. 

The Steel Pier at Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Want to know how I lost all of our money from a scam our bookkeeper fell for? Then read this article.

How about a learning lesson in the importance of transparency?
Then read this article.

Or I could share how I've rebuilt the agency no less than four times almost from scratch, after

  • Starting a business and then having the 2007 Writer's Strike shut you down for 3 months after hiring your first 2 employees.
  • Having 75% of our income coming in from BlackBerry as they were just a giant of a client - and we were laid off overnight with 10,000 employees.  
  • That mention I made above - where literally every dime of profit from multiple millions of dollars worked on projects was sent to Hong Kong by our bookkeeper and then Nigeria in one of the biggest scams of all times - that the FBI could not even assist with despite our doing a sting operation, because our banking system is so fucked up.  Yep. The full monty of that F-bomb. It's bad when you dig into the realities of our banking system - you'd be shocked at how banks are there only to protect themselves, and not you, and that they do not cooperate with law enforcement when you need help. Until legislation in Washington changes, which won't happen until more people rally and get upset, everyone is at risk of losing their savings in a heartbeat through cyber scams.
  • Or after going viral around the world from some press that was the gift that kept giving, with massive growth explosions - overnight hitting the rocks when Covid shut down Hollywood, and I had to once again rebuild the agency's income from scratch.
  • Or the fintech client that decided to walk on their over $1 million of outstanding debt - that we had to sue to be paid for (and we won... a year and a half later).  We were on payment plans and promised some of the biggest entities in Hollywood we would still pay them back in full even if we lost. We had to - it was our reputation.
  • Or an employee who sued us for being bitter about our requiring Covid shots. In Los Angeles, a California city that was very pro-vaccine, and where our team refused to come in unless everyone was vaccinated. 

There's more.  In fact, I have so many stories where it really sucked at the time, but now... it's a glorious story I'm happy to share to make sure no one else goes through the pain I did.

I'm happy I've had so many adventures. I'm stronger and tougher for it.  I also know how to avoid that pain again.  

Throughout my career, I've had many bumps that I was directly responsible for or at least played a part in, which I could have avoided with a little more knowledge.  As a business owner, anything that goes wrong or right at my agency is ultimately a credit to my failure - or success, at making sure we have the right people, processes, and clients in place and a company culture of trust that enables us to discuss and learn from our mistakes and wins. 

Call me a Sage in that after all these years, I have the experience to know better than to ever fall into whatever trap again, and I enjoy helping others learn from my mistakes so they can be more capable on their own journey.  

This is why I write every week and share those insights, wins, and f*ups.  The time my team - and readers - seem to pay attention to whatever I am saying or writing most closely is when I reveal the stupid things I've done. And what I then learned.  

New call-to-action

Share The F*Ups - Learn.Do.Teach

So for all of my readers... share those f*ups with pride. They've made you who you are, and smarter if you've learned from them.  You will be a better teacher to help others succeed faster and more safely than you did. Which is after all, what we do with children. We teach. We share. We inspire. We help them grow.  

This isn't a core practice at most companies. But it should be. 

Hollywood Branded Core Values 

I created a motto built around one of my personal core values that is the backbone of our agency: how we position ourselves in the marketplace, how we create content marketing, and how we help others learn and grow while finding success - faster. 

That motto is Learn.Do.Teach.

It's what makes our agency so different from most others, and absolutely different from our competitors. It's part of learning how to share your F*Ups in a constructive way, to help the agency and all team members all become stronger, more capable, and of higher value.  

Our other core values are also essential, and in no specific order, just in case you were wondering include:

  • Passion
  • Drive
  • Accountability
  • Going Above and Beyond
  • Asking 'What Else?'
  • Ditching Ego and Drama
  • Fostering Relationships
  • Being Invaluable

Missing Passion or Drive? Then it's an absolute deal breaker to work on our team from the get-go. Those are the two things that I have learned I can't give someone or teach them. They either have it or they don't. The rest is trainable. Yes, it is my responsibility to establish our WHY to make sure our team is engaged in the overall vision, and that they have bought in to what we are trying to do as a bigger picture. But if someone chooses to not light their own fire - that is not something I can change.  We're just not the right fit for one another. 

I often tell people agency life is not for everyone - but really, what I mean is that if you don't have passion and drive and the ability to work in absolute chaos, then yes, agency life is not likely for you because it's not ever easy.  Lots goes wrong, often, and there is always some client who may be cranky or whose business experiences a loss that changes planning despite your giving it your all and having done a great job. In an agency, there are a lot of people who rely on you to get your job done, but who have veto power to stop progress and send you back to step one. It's not always easy to  deliver on the big-picture plan. 

No Surprises Here - These Are My Core Values Too

Those core values aren't just company values; they're a mirror of my own personal values. It's no surprise after pouring every drop of my soul into this agency. As a sixteen-year-old agency, it's pretty grown up now, able to be successful without my constant cheering or helicopter parenting. I'm still learning to let it grow and thrive without my being in step with every stride. That's a whole other process, and there are lots of stories there, too. 

Every six months, our leadership team of (currently) 9 walks through a "core value check-in," rating how each team member aligns with these ideals, using a simple +, +/-, or - system. It's our way of ensuring we keep the right members on the team and open the door for others to go find a new adventure that is more of a fit if they aren't. 

It forces us to discuss as leadership what - and who - is working and what might happen if there are no solid + signs across those values. It also forces us to discuss with individuals very quickly and matter-of-factly what we are judging their success on and where improvement can be made. It's a challenging process, part of EOS, a business system many entrepreneurs utilize to stay on track and achieve their goals. It works. 

Going back to Learn.Do.Teach the motto is pretty simply.  Go learn it, go actually do it, and then teach it to someone else.  It could be a client you are teaching, a blog reader, or a team member.  By ensuring you can educate someone else, it fills in gaps and dot's i's and crosses t's, making the individual actually learn whatever it is, even better - and enabling them to "do" in the future at a higher level. Plus, we usually get a written process out of it that goes into our library of processes to be used repeatedly. 

As a business leader, manager, or worker bee... everyone has something to help teach others. From the oldest or wisest to the most entry-level, everyone has ears to hear and absorb that which is being said around them, and mouths to share feedback and respond if what they are hearing doesn't sound so right.  Everyone gains insight and helps co-workers be more efficient and successful. 

My challenge to you today is... what story do you have that would make a good fable or allegory?  Aesop was always my favorite writer when I was growing up.  I bet you have many stories to share.  Go find one and share it - and see how you feel.

I promise, in the long run, it really can be fun. 

Eager To Learn More?

Be sure to check out the articles our team wrote this week.

  • Take a read of Ian Drummond's article exploring the enduring appeal of '80s music, its cultural and emotional resonance, and how it offers brands a powerful tool for engaging and influencing Generation X and younger demographics through nostalgic and iconic tunes. Ian's my hubby, too - and a massive, massive 80's  (and beyond) music fan. [Link]
  • Luna examines the gaming preferences across U.S. states in 2023, highlighting popular titles like "Minecraft" and "The Last of Us," and delves into the underlying factors shaping these choices, offering insights into the diverse digital landscape of gaming in America. [Link]
  • If you missed last week's newsletter, I wrote about Hollywood's recovery following the SAG-AFTRA strike, highlighting the industry's upcoming changes in digital content distribution, AI, and the future of Hollywood in the post-strike era. [Link]

Be sure to reach out with any questions! 

Want to stay in the know with all things pop culture? Look no further than our Hot in Hollywood newsletter! Each week, we compile a list of the most talked-about moments in the entertainment industry, all for you to enjoy!

New call-to-action