The Art of ‘Owning Your Space’

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Patty Soltis, left, and Elaine Sweeney, co-owners of STYLEdge Fashion. Photo by David R. Wheeler.

By David R. Wheeler, Editor

“Everyone has a brand,” says Patty Soltis, sitting next to her business partner and friend, Elaine Sweeney. Co-owners of STYLEdge Fashion, an image and branding consulting company, the women radiate poise and confidence as we chat in their posh South Tampa office. “Image and branding are so important today, now more than ever,” says Sweeney.

Through their dynamic company, Sweeney and Soltis want their clients to look and feel great, make the best possible impression, and meet their personal and professional goals. Their clients and partners include the Tampa Museum of Art, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tampa General Hospital, among many other prominent individuals, businesses, and organizations.

“My mother taught me something at a young age,” says Soltis, a former VP at Neiman Marcus. “When you look your best, you are your best, because you are in something that is a true representation of you.”

Founded in 2015, STYLEdge works not only to help women and men find their style and brand, but also to feel confident in their voice. Additionally, they consult on fashion shows for major designers, including fashion icon Norma Kamali and Yummie Tummie creator Heather Thomson from the Real Housewives of New York.

As style and branding gurus, both Sweeney and Soltis understand the importance of presentation, which goes beyond simply “dressing for success.” They have tips on everything — from how to speak in public to what to wear to the grocery store on the weekend. After all, you never know who you might run into.

Considering the smallest details about how people can best present themselves, Sweeney and Soltis are able to think several steps ahead. For example, they might remind clients planning a video conference to consider the weather and climate of the location where they’re telecommuting to. Are there small details that might make a big impression? Will the casual, tropical style of Florida clothing come off the wrong way to people in Boston?

“You have to dress in a way that can translate in a lot of different environments,” says Sweeney, a former television reporter for Fox, ABC, and NBC stations.

Soltis nods, adding, “We tell clients that your first impression is made in seven seconds, so why not make sure it’s a good one?”

Success stories abound. One time, Soltis attended a luncheon where a client was scheduled to speak to a group. The client tried to give the speech sitting down. Soltis knew immediately that the talk would flop without the confidence that comes with commanding the attention of the room.

So Soltis encouraged her client to stand up, step away from the table, and pay attention to her posture. It made all the difference.

“She squared her shoulders and started to project,” Soltis says. “Afterwards, she leaned over to me and whispered, ‘You made me feel like I own my space.’” Setting the scene for me, Soltis stood up, imitating her client’s posture at the precise moment when she activated lessons learned from STYLEdge.

Those are the moments that mean the most to Sweeney and Soltis — the moments when clients feel and look their best and realize how much they can accomplish.

“People sometimes can’t believe the responses they’re getting on one of their social-media posts that we help them with, or they see the incredible results they’re getting with some of the strategies that we set up for them,” says Sweeney, her stylish silver bracelets glistening in the morning sun. “You can see a transformation the next time you meet with them, just by how they are behaving and how they hold themselves.” She pauses and smiles. “We absolutely love what we do.”

Sweeney and Soltis have a light and easy-going friendship that can only be characterized as fated. Soltis had been working at Neiman Marcus when the two met, and after arranging a birthday lunch for Sweeney in the Neiman offices, the two became close friends. After leaving Neiman, Soltis knew that she wanted to start something different. She had moved back to Tampa to be with family, and Sweeney, who had previously worked in broadcasting and branding, had taken some time to raise her children and start a non-profit. When Soltis reached out to Sweeney with the idea, the two knew that it was meant to be.

Using their unique backgrounds, the women have been able to build a successful business in a relatively short amount of time. Before STYLEdge, Sweeney had been what she calls a “hurricane chaser” — you may recognize her from one of her many broadcasts of severe weather over the years. She also covered legislative sessions as a bureau reporter for several television news stations. Thanks to the variety of stories she was covering, as well as her strong communication skills, Sweeney was able to seamlessly make the switch to this new career.

“I think Elaine’s tenacity is what makes her so great at this,” says Soltis.

From her time at Neiman, as well as Marshall Fields and Lord & Taylor, Soltis learned everything from operations to marketing to the nitty-gritty details of how to run a business. With her penchant for numbers and data, she was perfect for STYLEdge. “I was responsible for the bottom line,” says Soltis. “When all of that comes together, Elaine and I are able to help people successfully create a consistent image.”

“We make a really great team,” says Sweeney, her blonde hair gently shaking as she laughs. Soltis adds, “I think Elaine is the only person I know who could make the guards at Buckingham Palace laugh.”

Working in fashion and branding, Sweeney and Soltis have met their fair share of celebrities, including Jay Leno, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, and Rob Lowe. Despite rubbing shoulders with celebrities, they remain humble. “It’s nice to meet famous people, but I just think that everyone needs to look at people as people,” says Soltis.

From talking to Sweeney and Soltis, you get the impression that their clients get the same personal attention that a celebrity would get.

Whether it’s branding your business or just figuring out a personal and professional style, the ladies of STYLEdge have got you covered. “We all really need to say, ‘I am just going to own my space,’” says Soltis. “That’s what really matters.”

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