Your brand can leave an indelible impression on others—positioning you and making you stand out. That’s why as both a woman and a minority in the U.S., branding and website expert Ari Krzyzek wanted “certified woman business owner” to be part of her business’ unique brand.
Ari was born and raised in the Indonesian province of Bali. As a young woman, entrepreneurship wasn’t yet on her radar. She was working for a company earning just $250 a month when her fiancé (and now-husband) Peter asked about her income and if she had mistakenly left a zero off the end.
Peter suggested she try freelancing instead. “I quit my job and told my parents, “I am going to be my own boss,” Ari remembers. “Freelancing helped to open up a lot more opportunities.” Still, there weren’t resources in Bali for her to grow much more.
In 2011, Ari and Peter got married and she came to live with him in the U.S. He also had another proposal: that they build a business together. They launched Chykalophia, a Chicago-based company specializing in branding, web development, data visual design and user experience with a focus on female-founded brands, mainly in the technology space.
Initially, Ari took a corporate marketing position to help fund the new venture. She worked at an agency for four years until she became a new mom and timing felt right to leave. “I chose to leave the company to work with my husband full time and I have never looked back,” she says. “Ever since, we just keep hustling and growing.”
Today, Chykalophia has grown to 17 team members who work remotely from around the globe in countries like Indonesia, India and the Philippines. Ari serves as CEO and head of strategy, overseeing all things creative, while Peter is the technical expert.
“I feel like there’s a lot more to do, but it’s still exciting to be reminded of what it was like before, what it is now and what we hope to be in the next five years,” says Ari about the company’s growth.
Chykalophia recently received a $10K grant through the Tory Burch Foundation in partnership with Fearless Fund and The Cru. They used the funding to hire a business advisor to help identify gaps, including what more they need in marketing. They also restructured and Ari took on the title of CEO. “People have told me, ‘If you’re going to go for certification, you have to own it.’”
Ari first heard about becoming a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and Minority Women’s Business Enterprise (MWBE) and the advantages these can have for a business five years ago. But at the time, she didn’t know if it was the right fit or where to start.
“Then I forgot about it to be honest, until I got into the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Businesses program earlier this year,” Ari shares. “That was the start. I love that there’s just so many pieces that I need to update my business, including getting certified so that we can connect with prime vendors for innovative cooperation.”
Ari first went through another reputable certifying organization to get WBE certified. As she was ready to also be MWBE certified, she learned she didn’t qualify because she is not a U.S. citizen. Then, she learned about NAWBO Institute Certification, the program launched this year by certified women business owners who want to make certification available to all women business owners who are interested and who qualify.
Ari had learned about NAWBO during the pandemic as she was looking online for events to attend. She saw that so many of her fellow entrepreneurs were involved in the organization as members and/or speakers. “I was like, what the heck is NAWBO and why is everyone in it?” she laughs.
Because Ari was previously certified, she had already organized and saved all of the required documents, which made the NAWBO Institute Certification process extremely smooth and easy. She just needed to find a notary. “It was just a matter of me plugging in everything I have,” she says. “I also already knew the process and what to expect.”
Now that Chykalophia is WBE and MWBE certified, Ari is looking to the NAWBO Institute program as well as her local Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) for strategies on connecting with supplier diversity program representatives as a service-based business. For instance, who do they look for to gain entry? How do they approach them?
“I would love to have more help around things like that because it’s obviously my first time and even if I already have experience working with prime vendors, I want to know how to get in contact with our suppliers so that they can reach out and connect me with their current agency of record or prime suppliers,” she explains.
While Ari hasn’t used her certifications for much yet, she’s excited to make them part of her brand as they roll out new marketing in the new year.
“It feels very important for me to convey that yes, we are certified as woman- and minority-owned!”
Interested in Learning More About NAWBO Institute Certification?
NAWBO Institute Certification* carries distinct credibility because of who we are. We live and breathe women business owners and have developed this unique program with the help of certified women business owners to give all women business owners access. Learn more here.
* Please note that our NAWBO partners featured in this communication may not necessarily support or accept NAWBO Institute Certification.