Author Archives: Liz Hodges

Raquel Cool

Written by Liz Hodges

Copywriter and content strategist Raquel Cool is represented by New York literary agency Writers House and has written for the likes of Desmond Tutu… but she also worked in social services for about twelve years. One of her first jobs was answering crisis calls for a suicide hotline when she was nineteen. Working with people from all walks of life, from incarcerated men, to adults with disabilities, to feminist advocacy groups, gave her a perspective often lost in the marketing arena.

A lot of marketing copy preys on—or manufactures—an inner sense that something is missing, that people need x-service or y-product to feel a certain way. I think we’re all fatigued by that type of writing. I like writing from a place of fullness and gratitude.”

Her superpower is helping clients who know they have something inside of themselves that they want to say, but aren’t sure exactly what it is yet. She’s developed a process to cut through the confusion and tap into the core of what that message is. WOW, no wonder she’s Woman of the Week!

Raquel was born in a military hospital in the rainforest of Panama. With a father who was a Naval Intelligence Officer and a mother who’s Chinese, she grew up in a trilingual household that moved every couple of years, then settled in Miami for about ten. She says, “I still miss waking up to Cuban coffee, empanadas, and nonstop humidity!”

Traveling across the states in her twenties included such adventures as living in an Oklahoma mortuary and WWOOFing in New Mexico. Then Raquel found her way to Santa Cruz in 2008 and is still here nine years later, and counting… She still loves adventures—she just got back from a family hiking trip to Utah—but with a nine-year-old stepson and a chapstick-eating toddler, most days consist of work, errands, grocery shopping, and family time (and sometimes living vicariously by browsing Michelin tasting menus on Instagram while eating cold pizza).

The Santa Cruz community has been an unbelievable supportive place for Raquel. She and her husband share a commercial studio space in the Sentinel Printers office in downtown Santa Cruz. She’s fully behind celebrating other women in business, and she’s passionate about collaborating with changemakers who have big ideas.

“I love this work, and I feel honored to help others bring life to an idea or message that they feel called to share with the world.”

Raquel also helps people who are very clear on their message, but don’t have the time to create or organize their own content. Right now, she’s in the process of rebranding a naturopathic doctor’s website—hopefully she’ll share it with us when she’s done! Check out her creative direction projects at, and see for yourself why this fabulous Woman of the Week is booked solid through August!


Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Liz Hodges of Verdant California.

Artist on Art Interview 12/12

Good Egg write up in the Good Times 11/12

Decontextualizing Motherhood Artist talk by Raquel Cool in UCSC News 2/14


Allison Smith

Written by Liz Hodges

Not everyone is lucky enough to know what they’re meant to do early on in their career, but Allison Smith did. Originally from Boulder Creek, she moved to San Diego for college and then worked for a company providing wedding print services. Back then, wedding planning was a luxury service that most people didn’t utilize. She noticed when making day of event deliveries that there was a lack of management and a need for a point person to check in with—someone who knew what was going on. So when she moved back to Santa Cruz, she started her own wedding consulting business in 1994.

“I don’t know what happened. Something just clicked in me and I knew I was supposed to be doing this.”

Wedding planning wasn’t a common career at the time. In fact, Martha Stewart was just coming up and Pinterest certainly wasn’t a thing yet. “People thought I was crazy,” says Allison. Well I guess she gets the last laugh, because she’s still going strong over 20 years later.

Allison grew up working in the Santa Cruz service industry. When she started her business, she was bartending at Palookaville, a nightclub and special event venue that boasted the likes of B.B. King. So she got support and encouragement from people in the area who saw what she was doing. One of those people was our own Monica Karst, whose wedding was planned by Allison. A huge wedding, I might add, at 500 guests—quite the learning experience I’m sure!

Since then, she’s watched Monica found the Socialites and is fully supportive of celebrating the work of other women in her community. She also donates a portion of her profits to charities, including Women for Women International. “I’m a strong supporter of women who are struggling to feed their families.”

When she’s not busy running between weddings, Allison likes to spend time with her kids (four between her and her husband), run and do yoga, “…things that allow me to clear my head from the noise of life.” And she manages to squeeze some traveling in, even if that means leaving at 5 a.m. for Maui after finishing a wedding at 10 p.m. the previous night.

She also teaches wedding planning, a need which she noticed due to the lack of education and support when she was starting out. She joined the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, of which she was Vice Chair and then Chair for a time, and is a Certified Wedding Consultant. Allison believes strongly in face-to-face education and hands on experience in this industry, so although there are so many online classes these days, she continues to do hers in person.

It might come as a surprise to learn that Allison is planning to write a book. She’s been through her ups and downs and wants to share her life experiences. And she still learns something new at every wedding. She just finished her first two this season and is already booking for next year. So check her out at, and while you’re at it, say congratulations to our Woman of the Week!

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Liz Hodges of Verdant California 

Grace Kee

Written by Liz Hodges

Grace Kee has some great advice that I’m sure all of us can take to heart. And it goes something like this: to be successful, you can’t pay attention to the nay-sayers. You know who we’re talking about. We all have them in our lives, whether they be family members, friends, or new acquaintances at a cocktail party. And they have a million little reasons your new business idea, venture or ongoing project just can’t quite hack it. And sure, most of them do mean well. But you can’t let them get you down. Grace says that what you have to do is actually use their negativity to fuel your desire for success. You have to prove them wrong, and if you stick with it you will.

Born in South Korea and raised in Memphis and Southern California, Grace landed in Santa Cruz in 2014. Her husband had lived here in his 20s and the draw of the beach and ocean brought them down from the Bay Area. Post-separation with two daughters, Grace had to come up with not just a plan B, but a C (and D). Between teaching English to International students at San Jose State and becoming a consultant for Rodan and Fields, Grace managed to get two friends to go in on a start-up with her.

Her idea came to her back in 2015, in the middle of our drought. She was thinking ways to save water, and reflected back to her time in South Korea (she had moved back for eight years in her thirties). With her oldest just born, her hands were always full and she enjoyed being able to turn water on with a step of her foot rather than having to turn a tap with her hand, as we do here. Then it dawned on her that this was not only a convenience and a sanitary advantage, but could also be a great way to save water.

Thus ecopedal was born, a hands-free appliance that turns water on and off with one step of the foot. Now several years in the works, it’s ready to launch. You can find out more on their facebook page @ecopedalcalifornia, or go to There may even be future opportunities to try the pedal in-home for free!

Grace found out about the Socialites a couple years ago at an event while representing Rodan and Fields, and was at our Little Black Dress event just last fall, so some of you may remember her. When she’s not wearing one of her many hats (which isn’t often), Grace likes to do yoga, and she recently picked up a new emerging skill—hula hooping! She says, “It came into my life out of left field.” She’s only been at it for about a month, but we hope to see her hooping it up at a future event (wink).

All kidding aside, Grace is woman of the week for the spirit, strength and determination she embodies. She knows what it’s like to be crushed and get discouraged at times (as we all do), and if she hadn’t held on to her vision it would have been easy for her to quit. But she says to surround yourself with positive people and energy and to pay attention to your gut. If you listen to your instincts, you can’t go wrong. “What you know to be true in your heart, that’s what you’ve got to go with.”

Thanks for the encouragement and words of wisdom, Grace!

Extra special thank you to our blogger: Liz Hodges of  Verdant California

Alayna Nathe

Written by Liz Hodges

Whether it’s surfing, playing roller derby, running a bookkeeping business, raising children, or dancing hula, Alayna Nathe is a woman who hasn’t half-assed things in her life. Now a Nerium representative, she isn’t afraid to think outside the box and encourage others to do the same. Like most of us committed to escaping the rat-race and the typical 9-5, she’s accustomed to the entrepreneurial juggling act (in addition to being a single mom).

Alayna literally escaped to Santa Cruz from Palo Alto the day she graduated high school. She began surfing professionally and opened Paradise Surf Shop in ‘97. Then she continued her entrepreneurial lifestyle after she got married and had kids with her own bookkeeping business.

Being a self-proclaimed sun worshipper and professional surfer, Alayna was hooked when a friend handed her some Nerium skin care samples and she began to notice her skin getting healthier. So although she never thought home-based sales would be her thing, a little over three years ago she started selling Nerium herself. “It’s changed my life,” she says. Because she really believes in the products, she’s good at it. And because of her business background she knows that it takes time and steady effort to make money.

She advises that the reason home-based sales don’t work for many people is that they try something for a little bit, don’t make enough money right away, and quit. But she says it’s just like any other business, if you build it consistently with belief, in time it will grow—and the sky’s the limit.

Alayna is big on community, and she enjoys surrounding herself with all the Santa Cruz women who are creating the lives of their dreams. She’s happy to attend events to network and table. It was at one such event that she met Monica and fell in love with her mission of joining women together in support of each other through the Santa Cruz Socialites. “I’m a massive advocate of women in business… I want them to know that they can create anything they want for themselves.”

Dedicated to being active and fit, Alayna still surfs contests—in fact, she has one this weekend! She loves teaching other women to surf and is active in doing so. She also played roller derby and was a Santa Cruz Derby Girl up until a few years ago. And as if that’s not impressive enough, now she’s studying to be a performing Hula dancer with Te Hau Nui! Her mom is from Hawaii, and Alayna has always had a passion for the Hawaiian culture.

For her dedication to personal development, community, family, women and health, we thank Alayna. Her passion is contagious, and she would like to encourage anyone who is interested in taking a deeper look starting a home-based business to reach out to her. You don’t even need any experience to start. “Anyone can do this,” she says. Nerium has really opened the world up to her, and they are expanding into health and wellness with a release that focuses on mitochondrial health coming up on May first. So check it out, and while you’re at it say congratulations to our Woman of the Week, Alayna Nathe!

Visit her website: Alayna Nathe you can also contact Alayna by phone or email: 831.325.9650

We invite you to check out Alayna’s Women in Business Directory listing

Special thank you to our fabulous blogger: Liz Hodges of Verdant California