We love to share inspirational stories about women who step out on faith and start their own businesses. And that’s exactly what Efe Cierkowski did when she left behind a lucrative corporate job and opened A Sip of Art, a charitable BYOB painting class studio in West Orange, New Jersey that's perfect for holiday parties. Born in Ghana, Cierkowski was inspired to become an entrepreneur after her second daughter was born prematurely and she needed more control over her schedule.
|Efe Cierkowski, owner of A Sip of Art.|
The 37-year-old continued: “In 2015 it finally clicked, I needed to redefine what success meant. I decided that success for me was NOT replacing my income, but rather having control of my time and the kind of flexibility where I could put the things I truly valued, i.e. my family, first. From then on, I started the journey to creating and living a life I truly enjoyed and not one that just looked good from the outside - and I continue to make the choices necessary to accomplish that.”
Everything She Wants caught up with the busy mother of four via email.
Everything She Wants: Why did you decide your business would be a painting class studio?
Efe Cierkowski: Although I am not an artist, I have always appreciated art and this business coupled with my love for art and event planning perfectly. Additionally, we host children’s classes and it has been wonderful for my children to have a place where they can go express their creativity as well.
ESW: What motivated her to donate a percentage of the profits from each class?
Efe: To whom much is given, much is required. This quote has always resonated with me and I have always been of the belief that when you get, you give. So when I finally made the sacrifice to leave my comfort zone and start a business I decided it would be one that had a give back component. That was why I opened A Sip of Art with the mission to give back to St. Barnabas NICU as well as other local non-profits and charities focused on Africa. I am most proud of the fact that in just a year after opening we had raised $8,261 for charities. Some of the organizations that benefitted from the donations are: St. Barnabas NICU, West Orange Relay for Life, Nikhil Badlani Foundation, Redwood Elementary School (West Orange), South Mountain School (South Orange), Autism Speaks, Wendy Williams’s Hunter Foundation, Pink for Africa, Josh Allen Greenhouse and Adopt One Village.
ESW: What has the West Orange community’s response been to A Sip of Art? Is it the only business like it in the area?
Efe: The response has been overwhelmingly positive, not just from West Orange but from the surrounding communities, as well. This is the first of this kind of business in the area, and aside from bars, the only other venue where adults can go to relax, connect and have fun. I initially considered opening in downtown South Orange, but serendipitously happened upon our current (centrally located) location and decided on it. The ample parking as well as easy accessibility to other retailers like Wine Legend, Whole Foods, Staples, Kmart and Frank’s Pizza has been very welcome by our guests, particularly our private party hosts who can quickly run out and pick up a forgotten item if needed.
ESW: What words of encouragement do you have for other entrepreneurial women of color?
Efe: One of the most important lessons I have learned is to figure out your core values and priorities and use that to guide your decisions and actions. As an entrepreneur, you will be pulled in many directions and there will be a million things that compete for your attention, but as long as you tune into your inner compass and keep your priorities in focus you will always make the right decisions. Additionally, as a mom of four, I am especially passionate about inspiring other women to go for their dreams and sharing with them tips, tools and strategies for getting it all done while still maintaining balance in their lives.
I have learned and experienced so much over the last few years in this journey and have so much that I want to share with other entrepreneurs, particularly mompreneurs. I am launching a new coaching business at the end of the year focused on helping women open their own paint and sip businesses or other service-orientated businesses, as well as coaching them to build a life and business that is aligned with their core values.