After a long hard day what could be better than a relaxing night in, a warm bath with unique soothing organic bath products and a glass of wine by your side? Now imagine that the wine and the bath products are all produced by your own company that you started and a percentage of proceeds go directly to charities that are meaningful to you. Meet Sonja Narcisse – local Mom, UCONN Professor, Human Resources executive for the Covenant House International, entrepreneur and founder of Ardaso LLC.
Sonja is a Fairfield, CT resident and mom of two boys. She decided to pursue her dream of building her own business after 30 years as a global HR executive. It was her love of philanthropy that motivated her to make this bold move. Ardaso was founded on the main principle that 15%+ of all proceeds would go to charities where 90% of the money is directly used for charity work and not administrative costs. She currently has 4 charities that she supports, 3 are local to CT and one is in South Africa. She not only provides a revenue stream for those charities through her business but also is personally, actively involved in working with the charities
I met Sonja when I was looking for an opportunity to work from home in an effort to have a better life/work balance. I was fortunate that my path crossed with Sonja’s when a recruiter arranged a meeting. My first interview was on a Saturday at Starbucks and sealed a soon to be interesting work relationship as well as a meaningful friendship.
During that first 2 hour meeting I got a good sense of what Sonja is all about. She is multi-faceted and has an open-hearted approach to life. She was born in Germany, grew up in Seattle and comes from a large family with a military background. She has lived and worked in many different regions of the world. Moving around opened her eyes to the poverty certain areas are prone to and ignited a strong desire to help. She would volunteer in orphanages while on business trips and spend time with children and families in need.
She still travels to South Africa where she donates her time and money to a charity called the Amy Foundation. This organization helps educate children in impoverished areas. Sonja has had the privilege of getting to know these children first hand. She is also an adjunct professor at UCONN teaching MBA students in Human Resources and is a member of the Yale New Haven Bridgeport Hospital foundation Board. Here’s a little more from Sonja:
DO: What is your professional background?
SN: I started out in finance as an accounting assistant in hopes of working my way up to Chief Financial Officer. I then realized that my path was not in finance but in the “people” side of a business. Having the background in finance helped me build my business acumen side and has been instrumental in my career and in starting up Ardaso. I then switched to marketing specifically the neuro side of how the brain is affected by advertising.
DO: Why did you decide to take a break from the corporate world for a bit?
SN: I had already devoted 30 years of my life to working around the world in HR and it was really my desire to help those in disadvantaged communities that sparked my interest in creating my own business. I wanted to generate a revenue stream for charities that meant a lot to me. So Ardaso was founded with this premise in mind.
DO: How did the idea for Ardaso come about and what are the products you offer?
SN: I love wine and jewelry and knew creating a specific wine for my customers would be exciting as well as designing exquisite pieces of jewelry from South African gem stones. My children helped bring the organic bath products into the business. They were running that side of the business on their own. This helped them build their own acumen in business, marketing and an avenue of giving back.
DO: Is there a special significance to the name?
SN: The name Ardaso is a combination of the first two initials of my name and my sons. “Ar” for my youngest son A’ramus, “da” – for my oldest son D’Artagnan, and “so” for my name. I love that my company name incorporates all of our names together. The boys came up with it.
DO: How involved is your family in your business?
SN: One of my sons is in the US Marine Corps and the other one will be completing his last year in middle school. They were definitely the inspiration for the bath products but have since moved on to other interests. My family is very supportive of the company and our mission to donate to charities.
DO: What are the challenges of being a mom, professor, HR executive and running your own business?
SN: The challenge is really having a constant balance of being a passionate entrepreneur, professor, board member and most importantly mom. My kids are the bookends and everything has to fit in between them but they are the pillars. I felt empowered once I stopped asking permission to spend more time with my family and stopped putting this pressure on myself to be the perfect mom. I do all things with love but sometimes my cupcakes for school were store bought and not homemade and that’s okay.
DO: What charities does Ardaso support and how do you decide on them?
SN: I made it my mission to create Ardaso so that 15%+ of the revenues go to charities where 90% of the money goes to the programming of the charities and not administrative costs. I look for charities that impact underserved children and families. Every year I re-evaluate and look for 1-3 charities that meet this criteria. The charities I am currently supporting are Norma Pfriem Breast Center, Reach Mental Health Program at Bridgeport Hospital, Operation Hope and The Amy Foundation.
DO: What is your favorite part about living in Fairfield?
SN: I love it here. It has a very small town feel with an open community and great schools. I’m happy my boys grew up here.
DO: What is your hope for Ardaso in the future?
SN: I hope to continue to grow the business and market our products in different ways. The growth of Ardaso means more charities we can support. We are expanding our reach to unique gifts which are a great way to celebrate weddings, showers and other life events. The Ardaso wine bottles dipped in chocolate are perfect gifts for any occasion. Our organic bath products make a unique gift especially our bath bombs. These beautiful bath bombs come in a variety of fun shapes like slices of cake, cookies and cupcakes – all calorie free! The one of a kind statement necklaces are exquisite, timeless pieces to enjoy for generations.
DO: What inspiring thoughts do you have for Moms looking to do a career change or build on their entrepreneurial ideas?
SN: First and most importantly is to believe in yourself. You need to focus on your dream and idea. And by focus I mean:
Know your value and don’t let anyone cast you aside or tell you different – “all things are possible with him.”
To learn more about Ardaso please check out www.Ardaso.com. If you are interested in ordering Ardaso wine, organic bath products or jewelry please contact us on our Ardaso Facebook page to receive a 10% discount code.
Written by Diana Orbanowski – Greenwich mom of two, Marketing and New Development Manager for Ardaso, Lead Singer of That’s What She Said.