Established in 2012, the Miss California Icon is an official production of the Miss Icon Organization LLC.
Director Dani Walker, and assistant director, Solange Astudillo, built the business from the ground up with the support of investors and event sponsors. The pair met at a pageant in 2011, Dani twenty-one-years old and Solange a mere fifteen-years-old. The two combined their knowledge of event planning and expertise in the pageant industry to create an innovative scholarship program for women across California. The organization’s mission statement, “to broaden the perception of beauty by facilitating individual potential, volunteerism and integrity through transparency and innovation.” guides business policies.
MO: What inspired you to launch Miss California Icon?
Dani: I started competing in pageants on my fourteenth birthday. After nearly a decade of competing, I reflected upon the all the wonderful experiences that shaped my life and the lives of countless other young women around the world. I would talk with friends, half jokingly, about how I would love to run my own pageant system and the changes I would make, until one day a friend asked me, “Well, why don’t you?” I was completely speechless but thought, “Yeah why don’t I? There’s nothing stopping me” and so the Miss Icon Organization was born.
MO: How are you working to “broaden the perception of beauty?”
Dani: I believe that today’s society promotes unrealistic images of women with airbrushed skin and perfect proportions. It is my hope to encourage each contestant to feel confident in her own skin. This is why we do not have a swimsuit competition, also, all of our social media features images of women from various ethnic backgrounds, with different body shapes, height and hair colors. We work to expose people to a broad spectrum of beauty rather than promote the small percentage of women who fit into, the very thin, modeling agency standard measurements.
MO: Can you talk about the importance of having a social media strategy to create an awareness for the Miss Icon events?
Dani: Since pageants are events, and not physical businesses, social media is key to spreading the word about Miss Icon events. Potential contestant probably won’t hear about Miss Icon when they’re shopping at the mall, or out running errands, so we have to work extra hard to identify our target market and bring important information directly to them. In my opinion social media strategy ties right into company branding. Not only must a business reach their target market through social media interactions, but also they must consistently reinforce company branding with a social media strategy. If companies do not deliver useful or entertaining information to a consumer, they are wasting their own time.
MO: Can you talk a bit about the process and challenges of creating and launching the event from the ground up?
Dani: The challenges of creating an entire event are endless. I look back at the beginning of the process and laugh at how naïve I was to think that producing such a large event would be a, relatively simple, and quick process. I quickly realized that I underestimated the amount of materials, marketing, capital, and advertisement it would take to produce a pageant. I think the best advice I can give to someone in my position is that in the beginning, you will most likely need to be your own advertiser, salesperson, secretary, social media specialist, or web designer; just work day-by-day, conquer your objectives one at a time, and only look back on your journey to celebrate what you have already accomplished.
MO: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Dani: It is interesting that I never grew up thinking or wanting to be an entrepreneur, although I always displayed strong leadership skills, organizational skills, and diligent perseverance to accomplish the goals I set for myself. Yet, it was not until this past year, during my last semester of college, when I managed to squeeze a few basic business classes into my schedule, that I realized I seemed destined to be an entrepreneur. I read about all sorts of innovative entrepreneurs through out my courses; I really related to their stories, passions, and character traits. But I suppose the short answer to the question is, yes, I always had it in me.
MO: Can you elaborate on your plans to license the rights for Miss California Icon for local pageants and how that fits in with your vision for expansion?
Dani: My initial plans for Miss Icon were to expand the pageant to a national level, but life never turns out the way we imagined. Many young women contacted me with interest in the event but could not afford the registration fees. Since lowering state fees was not a realistic option, I decided to expand to city pageants, so we can bring lower registration rates to contestants. City pageants have lower overhead costs, which translate to lower contestant registration fees. Large pageant systems either franchise their state/local pageants or license their brand name for a percentage of event profits. Since Miss Icon is comparatively small, I believe the best option, at this point, is to license the Miss Icon name to other individuals who believe in the mission and goals of the Miss Icon Organization, while providing a quality scholarship program that can reach larger numbers of young women.
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