Life stylist Harriette Cole has built her dream career by making people look good and fine-tuning their images. Now she’s on a mission to show others how they can achieve their dreams of being independent and owning their own businesses.

Known for her work at Essence magazine and as a best-selling author, today Cole is a life stylist and branding coach. Well-known celebrities, including Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys and Carl Thomas, are among her clientele, making her the go-to person when it comes to image consulting for 20 years.

“I coach people on how to present themselves effectively,” Cole said. “I work with clients to get their message clear when they are talking to the media and I work with people in the business world on how to present themselves. How they look, eye contact, body language, speech and verbal and nonverbal communication.”

Originally from Baltimore, Md., her father, the late Harry A. Cole, was the first African-American ever elected to the Maryland Senate and the first African-American to serve on the Maryland Court of Appeals. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher.

Cole graduated from Howard University, where she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Later she went on to Essence magazine where she spent 11 years as the Contemporary Living editor and fashion director.

During her time at Essence she established herself as an author, writing several books including her best seller, “Jumping the Broom: The African American Wedding Planner.”

However, after years at Essence, she had an epiphany to go in another direction.

“I literally had a dream midway in my career that I had a business,” she said. “I had every feeling you could when I decided to go into business for myself. I was excited, I was nervous. My father said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I had built a great career at Essence and I was a well known public figure. I had done something that prepared me for what I wanted to do.”

Cole decided to leave the magazine and start Harriette Cole Media. Her big break came when a executive from Uptown Records approached her at a party to work as an image consultant for newly signed artists. One of those artists was singer Mary J. Blige, who had just hit the music scene. The rest is history.

Before starting your dream, Cole advises fthat you outline a plan and be prepared for managing finances and incorporating your business.

She said, “I tell people all the time, ‘Whatever you want to do you have to claim it.’ You don’t just have a dream and launch a business—you need a strategy for it work.”

Today, Cole is sharing her experience and showcasing others who have made their dreams come true through her “Dreamleapers Retreat.” The one-day event brings together professionals from all areas to give people the tools they need to turn their dreams of owning their own businesses into reality. The retreat also focuses on branding.

“I think that first you need to be clear about what is the service or good you are providing,” Cole said. “What does it represent? Who is it for? How does it differentiate from what others in that same field are doing? You may have a good idea but if no one knows who you are, you have to figure out how to reach people.”

Cole is hosting a Dreamleapers Retreat this weekend and plans to host another one in September. She also plans to have a similar retreat for youth and is working on a college tour. Go to harriettecole.com for more information.