These are some of the words which may likely come to mind when you first meet Antonia "Nia" Hartsfield, Founder and CEO of Charleston's Hard Candy Women's Self Defense.
Located on Johns Island, Hard Candy Women's Self Defense offers reality-based defense products and training classes designed for women and girls of all backgrounds regardless of age, experience level, or physical and fitness capabilities. Hard Candy's training classes, seminars, and media appearances consist of personal safety tips, situational awareness, self defense, escape tactics, boundary setting & other critical tactics and strategies.
Antonia shares, "Sadly, recent statistics conclude that 1 in every 3 women will become the victim of a violent crime in her lifetime, the trafficking of women & children being the world's fastest growing crime. Hard Candy Women's Self Defense seeks to partner with businesses and organizations on the same mission to prevent violence against women and young girls."
As a US Navy Veteran, Antonia continues, "I began my work in self-defense in 2016 to change the statistics on violent crime against women and girls by educating, inspiring, and transforming mindsets. I was inspired to start my business because of the steady increase in violent crimes against woman and young girls. But if I can be completely honest, it was the military sexual assault and trauma that I personally suffered which provided the motivation to start my business and my drive to continue to educate others."
Since 2016, Antonia has spoken to hundreds of women and young girls in the local community on important self-defense topics including "The Importance of Women's Safety", "Teen Dating Violence", "Sex Trafficking", and "How to Take More Proactive Measures to Ensure the Safety of Your Children".
|"Self defense is a mindset. I'm on a mission to light a fire in every woman on earth to live bold and fearlessly, to become more aware, more alert, and proactive in their personal safety through training, advocacy, education, and outreach."|
Antonia originally launched Hard Candy as a product based self-defense company for women offering Concealed Carry Band Holsters, Kubaton Stab Sticks, and "Sting Rings" a new generation of stun guns designed to be small, lightweight, and which wrap around your finger preventing an intruder from knocking the device out of your hand.
As Antonia's product sales steadily accelerated and Hard Candy's brand became increasingly established, she contacted SCORE to request a mentor to help with managing business growth, developing a comprehensive marketing plan, enhanced branding, supplier relations management, financial projections, and other important considerations in her business.
Emmett Zahn, SCORE Mentor and prior Charleston, SC Chapter Chair, whose business expertise includes starting and growing businesses specifically in areas of planning, operations, and technology solutions, was aligned with Antonia in January, 2019 and continues to work with her actively today.
|"Emmett has been GREAT to work with! He has provided valuable input on how I can market my business differently. Emmett's guidance has proved to be invaluable and motivating as I continue to implement the marketing plan we developed."|
After Antonia and Emmett first met, Emmett suggested Antonia apply for SCORE/SunTrust Bank's "Invest In Vets Grant" given her eligibility due to her active military service career. The timing of the grant was impeccable as Antonia was in process of creating the next version of her business plan. In January, 2020 Antonia was a recipient of the grant and has since used the award to create further awareness.
Antonia shared that she has learned a lot in the past couple of years and wants to share some of her learning with other aspiring entrepreneurs.
"You can't make emotional based decisions in business. You must move strategically. It's hard as a business owner to not allow your emotions get the best of you. I have allowed social media to steer a lot of my decisions making premature calls." On the other hand, Antonia continues, "The best advice I have ever received is 'Do It Scared'. Go for it even if it's not 'perfect'." Antonia encourages business owners to research potential partnerships, sponsorship, and other public support resources. Antonia also shared, "as a business owner, be prepared for quarterly taxes."
Antonia continues to do everything she can to create increased community awareness to people of all ages including speaking to elementary aged girls. "OMG...they are so feisty and fiery. Love their energy and feedback on our talks of strangers. Serious matters, but they bring the laughs!" In January, 2019, Antonia also appeared on Carolina Now, the weekend public affairs show on iHeartradio to further create additional public awareness about violent crimes against women and girls.
Antonia's future plans include continued efforts to create increased public awareness of this issue through speaking engagements to reinforce the importance of women being more proactive in their safety and overall well being.
-Client of SCORE Charleston