Month: May 2019

Recognizing the Skills You Have and Making Them Work for You – with Liz Navarro

We all have skills.  We all have passions.  Marrying them can be tricky.  Combine that with the season of motherhood and it might seem impossible.  Liz Navarro is here to share how she has successfully made her skills work for her in this season of life.

Show Notes:

What if you took a few of the skills that you were really good at and made them work for you no matter the stage of life?  That is exactly what Liz Navarro has done.  Liz is a mom, writer, blogger, Tedx speaker, professor, content creator, and more.  She has taken the skills she has mastered over the years and combined them with her love of writing and launched a new venture in the season of mothering young children.

A few of my favorite take aways from our conversation include:

 – It is totally possible to make the skills you have work for you no matter your season of life

– It is “hard to read the label from inside the bottle.” Gaining perspective is crucial

  • There is room for everyone’s voice, just make sure you speak with authenticity

Liz inspires us to think inside the box we already have.  You might have to punch up an area here or there, but there is a good chance you already have everything you need inside you.  You might just need to take a different look at the puzzle.

Links:

https://www.liznavarroco.com

Ted Talk

Shonda Rhimes speech

Instagram

Facebook

Linked In

Twitter

Transcript:

Welcome: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Intro: Hey Pod Sisters, I’m so excited to share my guest with you today. My friend, Liz Navarro was on the show a little bit ago to share her experience from the Dallas Women’s March. Today, I’m excited to have her back to share a little about her work as a writer and content creator. We talk a lot about what it’s like being a professional writer, figuring out how to do what you love for a living, and why there’s room for everyone at the table to share their voice; hint, because no one else can share it exactly the way you do. So without further ado, here’s Liz.

Susan: Well, hey, Liz, thank you so much for agreeing to join me today, you are my first repeat guest, because you were so kind to share your experience with the Women’s March back in March. Was it was in March? No, it was January, it was January. Yeah, it was January. But anyway, you came on to chat with us today about what you actually do for a living. And for my audience out there, Liz and I collaborate together on a regular basis. But I wanted you to come on today and kind of share your experience of writing and writing as a professional. Yeah, so I’m just going to let you take it away.

Liz Navarro: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for having me back. It’s fun to be back here and talking about another subject that I really like. So as you mentioned before, I have a communications business for women and entrepreneurs or professional women and entrepreneurs, and I help them create a lot of content. So basically, what I would say that I do is I help people put their dreams and their goals and their ideas into words. And then I help them to put that in front of the right audience. And that is something that we’ve collaborated on in the past. But I do that through a couple of different avenues. One is that I write copy and I take on clients who are often entrepreneurs who have to create a lot of content, maybe someone who has a podcast or somebody who has a website where they publish articles very often, or somebody who writes email marketing campaigns to send to their audience frequently. And I help take on a little bit of that content and write it for them in their voice for their brand and really help to develop that out. Because it is such a time consuming task to be a content creator and have to be constantly coming up with these ideas and articulating them.

So that’s something that I do. And then I also am an educator. I teach public speaking. And I also teach content creation and message creation to professionals and to undergraduates at SMU here in Dallas. And so under the entire umbrella of my business, basically, what I’m doing is creating these messages based on other people’s goals and their ideas and in their voices, and I’m helping them create that and send it to the people that really need to hear them.

Susan: And I really admire how you’re able to use other people’s voices. When I see something you’ve written for me, I’m like,”Wow, that actually sounds like I wrote that.” I didn’t put this in our list of questions, but how are you able to accomplish that?

Liz Navarro: You know, honestly it’s like playing dress up a little bit. It’s like dressing in different people’s outfits or putting on a different outfit and writing in the voice that that person sounds like. And it’s something that I feel like I’m able to do, but only when that person or that client, someone like you, really has honed in on what their voice is already like. So because you have a specific way that you write and that you speak and that you come across in your podcast, I can capture that and I can imitate it. I can identify different phrases that you use frequently or I can identify how you greet people, how you open up how you close, and I can use those patterns in writing. And I can do that same thing for other clients, as long as they’ve kind of started to hone in on what their voice sounds like, too. And if they haven’t yet, it’s something that we work on together. How do you create a voice that sounds personal? How do you write in the same way that you speak so that when you’re talking to your ideal audience or to your client, they feel like they’re talking to a person and not to an abstract organization or something that feels kind of cold and more distant?

And so it’s fun for me because I do get to take on different personality sometimes and write in different ways. And when I write my own content, I feel like I like to take on my own voice too. And so it keeps me from getting bored in my own writing because it’s like I get to have multiple personalities to play with.

Susan: And multiple personalities in a good way.

Liz Navarro: Yes.

Susan: That’s really funny.

Liz Navarro: In a good way, yeah. It’s kind of like juggling a lot of different concepts in my head at one time. But I think people who are writers, or anyone who writes creatively, kind of knows how it feels like if you’re writing for different characters, if you’re writing fiction, you have to make them sound a certain way. And to me, it all comes back to really just capturing some of the simple things, imagining what would someone say if they were here? How would they say hello? How would they want to greet their audience? What is the catchphrase that they use frequently? And just trying to incorporate that into your writing?

Susan: Well, what you do for a living sounds really fun. And I’m wondering—and I’m not kidding, not everybody can do it. I certainly cannot. And I wonder if you could share with our audience, how you came full circle with making this happen for a career? What was your life like before? What was your past life like? When did you start writing? Could you share a little bit about that with us?

Liz Navarro: Yes. How long do you have? No. I will give you the summarized version. And you’ve probably heard some of this before, Susan. But as far as writing goes, it’s something that I’ve always liked to do, even I mean, when I was really young and elementary school, it’s something that I felt like I was good at. And that serves me really well all the way through school because half the time when you’re a student, that’s how you’re evaluated. It’s how well are you able to communicate your ideas? And so I felt like I could thrive in that.

But I really didn’t pursue writing as a profession at the beginning of my career, so I studied communications instead. And I studied things like advertising and marketing, which I use a lot now. And I went to school at Pepperdine in Malibu, California. So that was really fun. And since it’s near Los Angeles, a lot of the communications jobs are in media type of communication, which is just fun when you’re young and you’re from Idaho, which is where I’m from, which is not the heart of media, or TV or celebrities. And so I studied communications, and I worked for Bone Appetit magazine, but I wasn’t a writer there. I loved the idea of being a writer, but I was working in their ad sales office. And it was fun and it was a great entry-level job. But it wasn’t ultimately really fulfilling what I wanted to do. So I went back to school, and I studied education, which seems like a departure a little bit from what I was doing. But I wanted to teach English and wanted to teach other people how to write and how to read. And it was something that I always, that would just be a really fun, I guess skill to have.

And so I taught English for a couple of years in Los Angeles, in urban schools. And that part of my career taught me so much, it really taught me to be a teacher, it taught me ultimately something that I do every day, which is anytime you’re going to show up in front of a classroom or in front of an audience or in front of people through writing, you need to have a clear objective of what they need to walk away with that day, and then you need to step by step, get them there. And now that I’m working with clients, and I’m helping them write speeches, and I’m helping them write podcast episodes, or just website material, that concept really drives me. I always ask my clients, what do you want your audience to get from this? What do you want them to know? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to be able to do? And I learned all of that through teaching English.

And so ultimately, after I taught for a couple of years, I started teaching at the college level. And I was teaching public speaking and communications, which is something that I continue to do now. And my husband and I have since moved to Dallas. And since moving here, I have kept little bits and pieces of all of those parts of my career. And I’ve cobbled them together into the business that I have now. So I do write for people, for clients, I write articles for publications, I teach as an educator, and I just use all those skills that I picked up along the way. It’s something that I say a lot, because I did pivot so often in my early career, even though everything was really tied to this ability to want to communicate really clearly and to help people say their ideas in the best way possible. But at the time, it didn’t feel like all of those pivots were on purpose. And just now am I getting to a point where in my own business, I can make it seem like I was doing all of those things on purpose.

So it’s been really nice to get to this other side of exploration and take everything that I learned and to really intentionally use it in my own business. So that’s where I am now.

Susan:That is really cool. And it’s really interesting how everything really just came full circle for you. That’s really inspiring to me. I think that’ll resonate a lot with our audience just because, you know, I remember growing up, it was one of those things, you go to college, you get come out, you get a job. And then, at least from my parents generation, and maybe even the generation before, you stayed with that one company your entire life, you know, you retired there, there was a chance of a pension there. And the world really does not work like that anymore. And I kind of feel like where we’re at in life, we might have been this first, maybe the second group wave of people in life who really have to do those pivots in order to figure out where your career is going to go. So I really appreciate you sharing that, and that they weren’t all on purpose, even though looking back, it looks like they were.

Liz Navarro:  Yeah, like I work with a lot…Because I teach undergrads who are just about to graduate, and they are making these major decisions in their life that they feel so much pressure to know what their 10 year, 20 year, 50 year plan is for their career. And I felt an immense amount of pressure upon graduating as well. And something that’s been nice for me to know that I only know in hindsight and with time is that no matter where you change your mind, you’re always moving forward, you know, once you get to a certain place, every one of those steps you can bring together. And so for me, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted my career to look like. But I knew the types of things that I like to do. And something that I always like to do was writing and communicating and educating. And so those are themes that have served me in my career, even though they’ve looked really different at different seasons in my life.

And you’ll relate to this to Susan, because I know you are a mom as well. And this business has kind of been the one that grew out of my season of having young children because I have two daughters; they’re two and a half and almost six months old. And so my business that I have now started as part time projects that I was doing, in addition to staying home with my oldest daughter, and I do it full time now. But it’s kind of something that wasn’t—it feels intentional, but it was also just born out of the season of life that I’m in and using the skills that I have, and networking and making strong connections. And I think one of the coolest things about the time that we live in is that we have so much access to opportunities. I can have a business. And I can run it mostly from my house and going to meetings and meeting people in coffee shops, or I can meet clients virtually. And because of that, I think we do have a lot of flexibility in what we choose to do in our careers. And as someone who does change her mind often, I do appreciate living in a time where I feel like I can be flexible and I feel like I can change and grow what I’m doing as long as I really hone in on a couple of consistent skills that I’m using throughout my career.

Susan: Well, you kind of answered my next question for me.

Liz Navarro: Sorry.

Susan: No, no, I think that’s great. I appreciate your realness of it. I was going to ask you, you know, what is your day-to-day like because I think the Instagram that we see of writers that we all know and love. And I’ve got a few in my head that I’m thinking about are posting these wonderful pictures of themselves sitting on a patio with a warm cup of coffee, and the ocean is in front of them or a lake is in front of them. And they’re just sitting there contemplating life and writing their stories. And that’s just not reality, huh?

Liz Navarro: That sounds so nice. Well, we do live in Texas. So the ocean is much farther away than it used to be when I lived in Los Angeles. But no, my day to day looks really different. I am being the…I’m such a stereotype right now, I’m in yoga pants, and I have a topknot and I’m at my house while we do this interview. So that’s the glamour of what my day looks like. But I think we were talking about this earlier, Susan, but there is this idea of this concept of being a writer that I think all of us have ingrained in ourselves that it’s someone who goes somewhere very serene, and they think and they come up with this masterpiece, and then they submit their novel or their long editorial piece to a publication and they publish it. And I thought about, I think because I had that concept of being a writer throughout my life, that’s the only reason I didn’t pursue being a professional writer from the get go. Because that, I’m a little bit risk averse, and that seems really intimidating. And it seems really hard to make it that way, you know, to be a best selling writer or a New York Times columnist, it seems so competitive and like so much pressure. And I didn’t pursue that career.

And so what my life as I could say, now that I’m a professional writer, because people hire me to write for them, it’s a major— it’s probably 80% of what my business is. Now that we live in a place where or in an era where people are constantly needing to create content, to market themselves and to grow an audience and to really, truly connect with people because people are connecting to not advertisements anymore, but content that serves them in some way in their life. And in order to create that someone has to be writing it. And because we live in that era, I have realized that you don’t have to be the writer that goes and sit. I mean, it would be lovely to go and sit in my ocean house and write all by myself. That sounds like a fantastic vacation I should take right now.

Susan: Yes, I’m going with you.

Liz Navarro: Yeah, let’s go. I think we need that break. But you know, you can be a writer, if you network with people, and you meet entrepreneurs, or you meet content creators, or you meet someone who has a blog, or has a website or sends a newsletter. Behind all of those people is someone writing content, and it’s probably someone who looks and feels very tired. And so if you are someone who feels like you’re good at writing, if you write quickly, if you can adopt other people’s voices and personas, if you are an English teacher at heart, and you understand the ins and outs of grammar and how to connect people, you can make money as a writer from your house just meeting these different contacts, working with them online or via email or on phone calls, and helping them generate and create content. And a lot of my days, that’s what it looks like. It’s either a day where I am at home working and writing either for myself or other people, or putting together a script for a podcast episode or helping somebody developed exactly what kind of copy should go on their homepage. Or sometimes at the meeting in person where we go and we meet and we talk about strategy, and it’s in a coffee shop somewhere. Or sometimes my day is in a classroom where I’m teaching people these concepts that I’m doing every day in my professional life.

And so it looks a little bit different each day. I loved having that kind of variety and flexibility. I talked about changing my mind a lot. So I think it keeps me grounded to have my days look a little bit different every single day and every single week. But that’s kind of what it looks like from here. It’s a lot of me doing it from home. It’s a mix of working by myself and working with other people, which also balances me really well. I’m kind of an introvert/extrovert so I need both. And so yeah, that’s a little bit of what my day and my week looks like.

Susan: For those of my listeners who are regular content creators, well, and maybe even for those who aren’t who have no idea what a day in the life of a content creator looks like, would you give us a peek into your idea or your brainstorm process of where you kind of start with a project and then how you get from point A to point B?

Liz Navarro: Yeah, so that word content creators thrown around a lot. Content creators are bloggers, podcasters YouTubers, people who have a website, people who write articles, even people who just show up frequently on social media platforms, anybody whose business grows, because they are consistently producing some piece of content, whether it’s just a little caption or a full article that is reaching out to their audience. And so that’s what a content creator is. And if I am working with somebody like that, my brainstorm process, typically starts, in the best case scenario, with really, I go behind the scenes. And so for you, Susan, for example, I would go listen to a lot of your podcast episodes, I would read through everything on your website, I would figure out as much as I can about you to understand what is your brand? Who are you? What are the different quirks about your personality that make you different than other podcasters who are reaching women? And then I would ask you a lot of questions, I would ask you something like, who is your ideal audience that you’re trying to reach? And what do you offer her? And what are the things during her day that are hard for her? What are her pain points? What are the things that she wishes she had a great solution or a great answer for? How does she feel?  Who wants to talk to her?

And so it’s a lot of question and answer. And I would do that with really in content creator, from somebody who’s writing financial content, to somebody who’s a realtor selling real estate, to a podcaster, to an executive coach really getting behind the psychology of who they’re talking to first, and then how they want to talk to them. And then we would start to really answer the specific questions about, okay, now that we know that ideal audience, where do they show up? Are they on Instagram? Are they in email? Are they on LinkedIn? How can you show up there and start offering them something that serves them, something that is solving their problems, or giving them information that they really want, or making their life a little bit easier, or happier or brighter. And so we create an entire strategy around that. And then with most of my clients, we start to divide and conquer; I take on some of it, and they take on some of it and we start to kind of write and create this content that’s going to really reach their audience and hopefully help grow their audience in the process.

Susan: And I really appreciate the collaboration piece, that has been something that’s very, very helpful for me. One of the things that we talk about a lot is why it is so hard for us to write for ourselves versus other people? And I think I’ve even told you before, I could sit here and write something like a blurb about you, no problem, lickety split. But sometimes sitting down and writing about ourselves is difficult. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on that?

Liz Navarro: Yeah, absolutely. I think that every single person that I work with has that sentiment, maybe there’s an exception, but even I have that sentiment, and I write for a lot of people. But it takes me way longer to write a blog post for my own website than it takes me to write a podcast episode for someone else’s podcast. And I think…I mean, this is just a hypothesis. I’m not sure of the psychology behind it, but we are so in it with our own thoughts. We can’t navigate through them easily because there’s so many details and minutiae, and every little moment of our life is in the background informing the thing that we’re thinking and creating. And if somebody from an outside perspective comes in, they don’t have all that clutter. So if I’m going to write a podcast episode for someone else, I can just say, what’s this thing about? And what is your voice? And what are the four main points that you want it to communicate? And I can write that out really simply because I’m not lost trying to navigate through all of that, I don’t know, those background ideas and concepts. And I think that’s why so often, people do want to outsource copywriting. That’s why I’m in business, because it’s hard to write for yourself, even if you’re a good writer. And it’s hard to write for yourself often because I don’t know if you feel this way, Susan…Actually, I know you do feel this way because we work together. But if you write a lot of content for yourself, like you generate podcast episodes every other week, and you send emails and you write social media captions, it feels like you’ve said everything that there is to say, it just feels like you’ve already written those ideas. And so for someone else to come in, they can put a fresh spin on the same thing, because ultimately, our messages do repeat the same themes very frequently. That’s why our audiences come back to us because they want that consistent branded theme that you offer all the time. But if you’re on the other end, it feels like you’ve said everything and that you’re tired of it, and you kind of run out of creative ways to say it.

And so that’s honestly, like I said, why I’m in business, because it helps to get an outside perspective. I listen to a lot of podcasts on business and writing and even, you know, our thoughts and things like that. And somebody said, “It’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.” And I think about that a lot as my role as a copywriter. I’m on the outside, I can read your label for you and I can quickly turn that around. And that’s really helpful to a lot of the people that I work with.

Susan: I really liked that, quote, “it’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.”

Liz Navarro: I wish I knew who said it, maybe we can look it up.

Susan: I will look that up. That is good stuff.

Liz Navarro: We just get so stuck in our own head sometime.

Susan: Well, one thing I want to ask you—and I really want to ask you, because before I started this podcast, I really wish I had had somebody ask it for me before this platform ever existed. And that’s if you were thinking about hiring a content creator, and maybe even when you’re thinking about taking on a client, what are some of the questions you would want to ask them and why?

Liz Navarro: Yeah, so if you are thinking of hiring a content creator, and that could be a writer for you or it could be, I would consider a graphic designer, someone who’s going to produce a video for you, it doesn’t really matter what medium, but they’re going to make you something that will be a part of your brand. I think that before you do that as a brand, and this is something you’re good at Susan, you, yourself need to have a clear idea or a little bit of an idea of what kind of brand you offer first. To me, as someone who writes for other people. I’ve run into this a couple of times where somebody wants me to be able to articulate really what they do and who they’re talking to. But it’s really difficult, I found, for me to be able to come up with the magical words and phrases that communicate that if they don’t know what they do, or who they’re speaking to.

And I do think with every brand those concepts will, they’ll evolve as your brand grows. So maybe what you do now is it what you’re going to do next year, and maybe your audience will change a little bit or the style of your content will change a little bit. But at the very least, I like to work with clients like you who have a pretty clear idea of what they want to create first, because I can’t create them content that’s on their brand if they haven’t established that. Does that make sense?

And so earlier, when I talked about asking people a lot of questions when I first start working with them, the types of questions that I come in and ask are really about who do you want to be speaking to? And what are the problems that you’re going to solve for them? And how are you going to solve those problems a little bit differently than somebody else is going to solve those problems. And so when I write those are some concepts that I think of. If someone were communicating a video or creating a logo for you, or designing a website for you, I still think they would want to know, like, who’s going to visit this website? What does that person like to do? What do they like to think about? Why are they visiting the website in the first place? And it’s going to help them create something that feels more authentic for you, I think. So that’s been my experience.

Susan: I think that’s a fair statement. I think one of the things that really made me realize that we would work well together as we actually had the opportunity to meet randomly outside business at all in a social setting, and I could tell just by the rapport that we had with each other, you know, we were just able to have a conversation that I was like, “Okay, this is worth giving this a shot, because I can just talk to this person.” And I think so oftentimes, you know, you’re starting a business, and you get these references, and you just think, “oh, I’ll call this person and they can do it,” you know, or,  “this person recommended somebody, and I’ll just use you they used.” And it just doesn’t—personalities just don’t always mesh well together. And I think I had that problem. When I first launched, I had hired somebody to help me, you know, write some copy for the website, just because it was so much to take on. And I really just couldn’t do it all myself. And we just didn’t click and I could tell from the beginning. And we just kept trying. And we kept trying. And we kept trying. And finally I was like, “You know, look, I really appreciate your help. I really appreciate what you’re trying to do but I just don’t think we’re a good fit.” And I think finding fit is so important.

Liz Navarro: I think you’re so right. And I think that’s also something I’ve learned because just like I would ask my, you know, clients to know their audiences really well. I personally, as my business has grown, I have learned who I work with the best. And you’re not going to be surprised. I like to work with women, I like to work with women who have a message that I think is somehow empowering or resonating or helpful to other women. And so there are certain things that I as a content creator need to know about myself too, you know, so not all of the responsibility is on the other party on whether or not it works. That chemistry between you and whomever is going to be on your team is really important. And I think in my longest lasting client relationships, the main thing that’s been there is just something that is kind of intangible, but would you want to go hang out with this person outside of work? Would you want to go and get a cup of coffee with them? Because honestly, like Susan, if I were, and we have, to go out and get a cup of coffee with you, and I spend an hour talking to you, that’s going to make me a better copywriter for you because I get to hear your ideas, and I get to hear you speak, and I get to understand a little bit more about what makes you tick. And so I’m going to create better content for you because I know you and it. I mean, it doesn’t always work so well in every sort of client relationship. But I think ultimately, in a perfect world, you do want to find people that have that energy and that chemistry with you.

Susan: Well said, well said. One thing… Well, I’ll ask you this question first. What is the one thing you think everyone should know about being a writer or content creator for a living?

Liz Navarro: There are so many, I guess, I’m having a hard time boiling it down to one thing. I think a message that has I that’s been really important with me to communicate lately, because a lot of people, maybe people that I went to college with, and we had similar majors or people who are in the same season of life as I am: new Parenthood, or people who want to change career direction, but they don’t really know how I something that a lot of people ask me, well, how can I make money as a writer or a content creator? I’m a good writer; I don’t know how to make money as one. So for me, I think one thing that I would want everyone to know is that like, if you want to do that in your career, you absolutely can. I think a lot of people’s concern in creating content, let’s say somebody wants to create a podcast or start a blog or a website, a lot of people say, well, somebody’s already done it, like somebody already has the exact podcasts that I would want to have so there’s no more room, there’s no need for people to listen to me. I don’t have anything new to say, I don’t have anything interesting to say.” And I really like to challenge that with all of my clients. I think everybody’s story and background and perspective and goal and vision is different. And if you can get really clear on what yours is, and you can communicate it really well, then there is a space for you to exist and to create content. And people will want to consume the content that you create, because it’ll just be different.

And so I think that’s what I would want people to know that there is room for everybody. And as long as they find ways to make their content really true to themselves and not totally replicate what other people are doing but to really find how to tell their own story and their own unique way, then there’s a space for them, and they can do it and they can monetize it. I really do believe that. It’s not always easy. It’s not always easy to figure it out and grow it and to experiment with it. And it takes a lot of time and a lot of creativity. But I really think it’s possible.

Susan: That was so well said. Oh my gosh! I’m over here going, “Yay. Are you kidding me?” I’m so glad. I’m really, really so glad you said that. That just made me. I mean, you should see the smile on my face right now. Because you are absolutely right. Yes, it’s exactly what this podcast is all about. You find your thing and you go do it and you don’t worry about it. There are other people in the space doing it because if it’s that heavy in your gut or in your heart or in your soul or in your brain or however you want to put it, then it’s something you’re supposed to be doing. So you better figure out a way to do it.

Liz Navarro: Yeah, absolutely.

Susan: Oh, I love that. I love that you said it that way. You see, you’re so good with words. It’s a good thing you write for a living.

Liz Navarro:  Oh, thank you.

Susan: Before I ask you where we can find you on social media, I thought of another question that I didn’t write down but who are some of your favorite writers?

Liz Navarro: Oh, okay. Immediately, Shonda Rhimes jumped into my head.

Susan: Nice.

Liz Navarro: I love Shonda Rhimes so much. And if anybody isn’t familiar with her, she is the writer, producer, creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder and a lot of other really fantastic TV shows. And she also has a speech online and I show it in every public speaking class that I ever teach. And it from a True Hollywood Access, she got an award and called the Sherry Lansing something award and she gives an acceptance speech about breaking through the glass ceiling, and it is my favorite speech. And so she’s someone who has a command of words, but who also doesn’t apologize for it. And she creates these really strong women characters who just make me want to stand up and cheer at my TV. So she’s probably someone that I really love as a writer. And I like that she writes in a lot of different mediums, she gives speeches, she creates TV shows, that’s the beauty of, like I said, being alive today, you don’t have to just write an article that’s going to be published in the newspaper or a magazine. There are so many ways to tell stories. So she’s one. And I can probably give you so many more, as you know, I taught high school English for two years, because I love the classics. My second daughter, Phoebe’s middle name is Scout because I love To Kill a Mockingbird. So I love so  much classic literature. But I also just love anyone who can write a lead female character who is strong, and unapologetic, and smart in going after what she wants. That’s typically what I want to read every day.

Susan: Well, you know, this audience, and even if it’s just an audience of one is here for all of that.

Liz Navarro: I know.

Susan: Every day.

Liz Navarro: We have that chemistry we talked about.

Susan: You just keep preaching. Okay, so I want to be respectful of your time. I have had so much fun having you on today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for coming to hang out with me

Liz Navarro: Thank you, yes.

Susan: Before we let you go, though, where can we find you online, on social? Where are you at? Where do you hang out?

Liz Navarro: Well, I have a website. And you can find that at Liznavarroco.com. Navarro is spelled N-A-V-A-R-R-O. And so that’s my primary website for my business. I write a blog there, too. And I talk about parenting, being an entrepreneur. I talk about writing for a living, public speaking, I have a lot of cool resources that are there, I have a quiz on my website. So if you’re trying to find your voice, and you want to know what voice style you have, you can take my website quiz. It’s kind of just a fun little tool. So that’s the first place. And then I would say my favorite social network is Instagram. And you can find me @lizrosenavarro for my Instagram. I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn as Liz Navarro. So I’ve got a presence pretty much everywhere.

Susan: Sweet. And we I will make sure to go and link that on all of our stuff on our website. So if don’t like try to pull over, like crash your car, if you’re listening to this in the car. I will make sure just head on over to the website and I will link it all there.

Well, Liz, thank you so much for coming on today. It was so fun to chat with you. I guess we jump off this call and you know, chat about more content if you want. But I will chat with you soon, friend, I really appreciate you being here.

Liz Navarro:Yeah, of course. Thank you so much. This was really fun.

Outro: Hey, Podsisters. Thanks so much for joining me today. I really hope you enjoyed my conversation with Liz. And if there is anything rolling around in your head that you feel like you need to write, or you need to say, take the leap and try it. Just try it. And you know what? Shoot it to me. I would love to listen to it. I would love to read it. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes, or your favorite podcast app, and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook and Instagram post you leave. And I’m always, always, always excited to hear your feedback. We also have a private Facebook group, The How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun how she got here content. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon. 

Starting From the Ground Up with Hype Freedom School Founder, Brandi Brown

Have you ever found yourself totally out of your element?  How did you handle it?  Were you able to grow from it?  Brandi Brown, founder of Hype Freedom School found herself out of her element at Southern Methodist University.  When she expressed an interest to “come home” she was connected with an organization that would change the trajectory of her life.

Show Notes:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you ever really found and followed your calling?  Brandi Brown did just that.  After graduating from Southern Methodist University she set out to establish a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in her hometown of Houston, TX. 

In this episode, Brandi shares her experience of attending SMU and how a connection with a fellow Mustang (the SMU mascot) lead to an opportunity with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Dallas, TX that changed the trajectory of her life.

A few of my favorite take aways include:

– Nobody gets where they are in life without the help of others

– Starting something from the ground up is not easy

  • You cannot care for other if you haven’t cared for yourself first

Links:

Hype Freedom School – website

Hype Freedom School – Facebook

Hype Freedom School – Instagram

Hype Freedom School – Twitter

Children’s Defense Fund – website

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School – website

Transcript:

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same. 

Susan: Hey, Pod Sisters, there is nothing that unlocks possibility in this country more than education. It is the key to everything. As a first gen college student, I can attest to this firsthand. Today, my guest is Brandi Brown. Brandi is originally from Houston is a graduate of SMU and is the founder of Hype Freedom School. Please note that at about the 36 or 37-minute mark, it gets pretty loud in the background. What I want you to know is that that is the sound of about 100 amazing young women attending the Marvelous Girls Summit on the campus of SMU.

You might remember our friend, and previous pod guest, Shanterra McBride, founder of Marvelous University. Well, she put on a summit for young girls and Brandi and I were both there to help and support her. And while we were there, I had the opportunity to catch up with Brandi and learn a little bit more of her story, and I took it. I cannot wait to share our conversation. So without further ado, here is Brandi.

Susan: Well, first, tell me a little bit about how you got started with Hype, how all of this, how this dream got started. Tell us a little bit of your background story.

Brandi: Sure, sure. So of course, I can’t talk about Hype without talking about my life because it has become my life. So I met Shanterra, and actually it’s amazing that we’re here because I was a student at SMU. I actually was born and raised in Houston and really did not have—I guess I knew I was going to go to college but it wasn’t a like this dream of this is the college I’m going to, right? And so was introduced to the concept of going to college, but then it was like, “Yeah, why not? Sure, I’ll go to college?” So, went to a predominantly African American School, grew up in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Really now as an adult, I know was an underserved community. It was just my community growing up, so I didn’t really know what that meant or what that looked like.

And so it was kind of grew up in this high school. There was some exposures that we had to colleges and college fairs and college days, and we went to this one college fair at the school and SMU was there and they were like, “Okay, we’re looking for students to sign up for Mustang Monday. You have a trip, you come on Sunday night and you spend Monday on the campus and then you see the campus and decide if we want to go.” So a group of us in our class thought, “Will we miss school on that day? Perfect. Sign us up.” So I have a twin sister. So I must start with that. I tell people…It’s great. It’s on a podcast. But oftentimes, “Are you…? Do I know you?” But anyway, so my sister and I and a group of our friends came to SMU and we did Mustang Monday, totally hated the campus.  I did not like, I was like..The people…I mean, now I know who was hosting us. Were like the Association of Black Students, a lot of the sororities and fraternities, like they were our host. And we even stayed in the dorm room with some of them. But I just didn’t like the campus. I was like, “It’s okay,” like it definitely was not as beautiful as it is now. I knew it was a beautiful campus, but just in my little closed mind, I just did not, you know, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

So then things got a little bit closer to our graduating time and SMU had sent kind of this package, and it looked like it was good. And my mother, of course, was aware of SMU but we just didn’t know anything about it, like her colleagues at work shared with her what SMU is about, but I grew up with a single mother. I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother had nine children and out of her nine children only one of them graduated from college. And so my aunt was really instrumental about college is the way, like this is the option that we want for them. And my mother didn’t–she went to college for two years, and she got pregnant with me and my sister and so then she didn’t go to school anymore. So she relied a lot on others to be able to kind of guide our educational career.

And so, I don’t know, we decided that we would do SMU. We have a cousin so she got accepted SMU and it was kind of this thing like, “Okay, we’re gonna send our children to SMU.” And SMU had a Summer Bridge Program. The funny part again, being young you don’t really know all the ins and outs but this summer bridge program was, I know now, for minority students who had low SAT and ACT scores but had very high GPA’s in school. So I graduated number two in my class but I’m sure my SAT scores were crazy, like it was like, “Somebody’s going to accept me, right? Surely there’s a college out there that would accept me.”

But we signed up for the for the Summer Bridge Program, which was a really good program, like I don’t know where, you know, what colleges are doing now, but what it did, it got us acclimated to the campus. I kind of felt like “Oh, this is cool.” But we were with about 22 other students and they all kind of look like I did. They had similar backgrounds of me. The first day of class, I came out of class, I stood on the steps of Dallas Hall, and I was like, “Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many white people in one place personally.” Like I like a lot, “Oh my goodness!” So I saw my sister and I was like, “Were there any black people in your class?” Because all Summer now we have taken classes with our Summer Bridge students the whole time. Where did everybody go? So that was a like aha moment like, “Oh, so this is…” And I remember that being the case when we came down for the college visit and I remember thinking I don’t like it but didn’t really know what I didn’t like.

And so I did it. I made it through the first semester, I made it through the second semester, got pretty acclimated. But my second year, I didn’t want to come back. I just…I was like, “I can’t relate to the people there. They live a lifestyle I know nothing about.” So I felt like even the African American students, you know, those that we knew grew up in very diverse communities. And so they had this experience that I didn’t have. And so I just felt like even I didn’t relate to them either. And can remember thinking, “I don’t want to do this.” So in Houston, Prairie View and Texas Southern University, which was to HBCUs have this big—when we were in school was a lot bigger—but had this big Labor Day classic every year. So my mother let us come home to go to the game. I was like, okay, so I go to the game and I came home and I said, “I do not want to go back to that place. Like I don’t want to go back there.” And so my mother was like…She downplayed it and so… I know tears always work so I just sat on a couch and just started crying like, I don’t want to go back there. Like, I don’t feel like I’m at home, I feel out of place. I can’t relate.

Susan: You didn’t find your fit.

Brandi: I did not find my fit. And so my mother as great as she is, asked me if I would stay until the end of the semester, and it is just September, so I’m like semester is a long time from the end of semester. So I agreed, came back and finished that semester. And what she did is she got on the phone and called somebody that she met early on while we were in Summer Bridge and was like, “Can you please talk to her?” This lady introduced me to a gentleman from Oakland who experienced the same thing, but I had already graduated. And so I met with him, and he just, you know, was really just encouraging, just like “You know, you could do it, like just give it a try and try to do your best, be you but understand you will grow a lot and learn a lot.” So I was like, “All right?” And so I kind of finished that semester, and then he was working with a new program. And now, you know, he said, “I want to give you this try to work with this program, you know, to see if you like it,” and I was like, “but I’m trying to go home and the program is in Dallas.” So he’s like,”Just try it.” And I did. It was a summer program. It was the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. It was only in its second year here in Dallas, and it was in Oak Cliff. And so it was the first time that I left off the college campus and was able to go in a community that looked like my community, that felt like my community. I saw little children that looked like me when I was a little kid. So it really was an outstanding opportunity for me. But I was young, I was a college student and did not take it very seriously.

So my first couple weeks of the program–five weeks of summer programming, surely you can get to get it together, it just was terrible. So I remember being late to my interview and they let me..I mean, really, really late. They let me do it anyway, they let me interview and it was all because of this man who had given my name, I’m sure. Now being on the other side and I interview people, I’m able to see like they’re, you know, everybody’s trying to put their best foot forward, but you’ve got to give them a shot, right? So I try to be very, very mindful of that now. So I got an opportunity. I was probably late the first two weeks every day. And finally he called me in his office like, “Listen, so you’re either in or you’re out. My name is on this.” And I just remember thinking, “I’ve got to overcompensate now.” And so, I went above and beyond because he called me out. I cannot not let him see me not try my best. And so that was kind of the turning point of me really realizing the great opportunity that I had in working with the youth in the community and look like me. Of course, I was in college so I didn’t get any of that until probably 10 years later.

Susan: Sure.

Brandi: Yes, I’m talking like I really felt all it in now. It was a summer job. I’ve got a job that I thought all right, this is cool. I got a chance to meet some new people with the job. It was training. It was an annual training with college students that are doing Freedom Schools all over the country. It was the first time I was able to see in really interact with other college students that look like me and so I thought that was a really cool because it was like 300 college students that look like me in the same space opposed to being at SMU campus. So I mean at first it was all right. Like the first summer was good. I really went above and beyond, and the director noticed it and she started having the national staff from Children’s Defense Fund come in and sit in my class and observe. I still didn’t think anything of it and finished that summer and came back to SMU. I got acclimated a little bit more. Things were going well. Then I decided…The director called me like that January, February and asked if I would come back and work for the summer. I was like, “Okay.” And she said, I would like you to be the site coordinator, just the site supervisor. I was like, “Okay.” I’m thinking, “Really.” And that was really the turning point where the summer job actually became my lifetime of service. So really, that was the eye opener for me that by that time this was—I started doing Freedom Schools in my rising junior year. And so then they invited me to come back my rising senior year. And I just remember saying, “We need something like this in Houston, right?” Because I’m clear, I’m graduating and I’m going back home.

Susan: You are not staying in Dallas.

Brandi:  Yeah, I’m out of here. I graduated Saturday, in the car back on Sunday. We’re done. So did SMU… I mean, didn’t finish that summer. But I remember going to national training that year, and just asking people like a national training, like how do I do this? How do I start? What do I do? And now I’m always careful how I interact with young adults because you know, you have this huge training. Yeah, 300, 400 college students from all over the country, you’re all in the same space, with the same energy, with the same goals, with the same vision. So everyone is excited about the movement and how they can go back, right? But then we know what happens what people assume with college students, you get excited, then you spend all this time and energy with you and then the idea goes nowhere.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: But you spent all this time talking to them. So I can just remember talking to some of the older people that were there who were either in leadership positions with Children’s Defense Fund, or maybe they were running their own Freedom Schools and was just they’re kind of supervising their staff or whatever. And I remember saying, like, how do I start this? How do I start this? And I can remember just several people like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea. That’s good, baby.” But no one really taking the time just to say like, I mean, these are the steps that you take. And I wind up talking to just this lady who was doing Freedom Schools in Kansas City. And I just asked her like, “How do I how do I go back and start a Freedom School?” And she literally walked step by step with me. Like, “Do you go to church?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “Go to your pastor, talk to your pastor about your idea. Here’s a video that you could show him .” It was on VHS. And I was like, “Okay,” because of course, this is in 1997. So, well, I guess the 96, I started… No, yeah, so 97. So this was in 1998. So I literally sat there, and she told me everything and I wrote everything down. And she said, I mean, who should I talke to? I mean, I talked to my aunts. And I talked to my family and my pastors and just everything she told me, I wrote it down and came back and did it.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: And so I remember Children’s Defense Fund, which is…Are you familiar with Children’s Defense Fund?

Susan: Yes.

Brandi: Okay. So, National Advocacy Organization for children at the time, they had annual conferences, and they would travel to different cities for the conferences. And so this particular year it was in Houston and my mother was standing at the copy machine. She was retired from the Court of Appeals. So she’s at the copy machine talking to one of the attorneys and was just saying,”My daughter is interested in doing some kind of program or something and bringing it to Houston.” So this attorney tells her “Oh, my husband likes working with organizations that’s doing services that’s nonprofit or whatever, we should get them connected.” Okay, so I come home and meet with this gentleman, and he’s like, “Yeah, I can help you get that off the ground.” And I invite him to go to Children’s Defense Funds conference because they had a Freedom School workshop.

Susan: Oh, cool.

Brandi: So as I would go to workshop, I’m still in school so I couldn’t come home for the workshop. I was just like, I have class this week, but they have this conference you should go see what it’s all about. So I invited him. My sister was already finished. She finished a semester early because she was trying to get out. So she finished the semester early and she went to the workshop and then this gentleman who really helped us kind of get it off the ground and just talked to us and the steps that we need to do and provided some funding for us.

Susan: That’s awesome.

Brandi: For us to be able to do Freedom School. So he went and got a chance to hear all about it and then immediately after I graduated—I graduated in 99, I started Freedom School. So we did not call it Freedom School because we didn’t have a dime like…

Susan: Sure. Grassroots before grass roots was a thing.

Brandi: Yes, I got a vision. And part of what Sheree is her name share with me. Sheree was just like you know, you talk to your family. You talk to your the people around you and see. And so I asked my family, they all would give. I made little slips of papers. I was like, “Would you make a donation to buy books for children?” And my family would save their little money and give me $25 here, $50 here. And my pastor was able to actually give some kind of startup money. So the first year we did…It just opened up the doors to do this Summer Food Program, which was free. And we did some components of the Freedom Schools program. And then the second year we actually kind of bought the curriculum and the books. They had this model that they don’t have anymore. So we bought the books and the curriculum and had a set of volunteers to work with us. And then we started there. And so really, it started off just me wanting to have a summer program, a safe place for children ago. And then also a place, as I told my mother, that I graduated from SMU, she kept saying, “You should get a job.” I was planning Hype. I was planning how to roll out a Freedom School program. That’s what I say now. Then what I told her was like, “Why do I need a job? Like I get to work for the rest of my life. I live at home. I don’t need a job right now.” So she introduced my sister as a working child, she would introduce me as the child I don’t know what we’re going to do with. Like she got a whole degree from SMU and don’t want to use it. But now I understand that what I really was saying was this is a time that I can use to create the framework of what I felt like God had given me the vision to do. So I often say that that when God calls you to do something, he equips you with people, the resources and the things that you need to make it happen. And so as a very young, young adult, I literally was like, I’m gonna do it. And in my mind what I thought it could be set up just like in Dallas, it was sponsored by a Greater Dallas community churches. I’ll find the equivalent in Houston. I’ll tell them about this amazing program, they will love it so much that they would hire me to run the program, and they will have a Freedom School in Houston.

Susan: It’s just that easy.

Brandi: It is. I went to so many places and I got the door completely shut like, “Oh, that is such a great idea. Are you available Saturday to volunteer with our fashion show?” Or “Oh, that is a great idea. Let me put you in contact with this person to do this. It’s a good idea. Okay. Tell me about that a little bit later.” So a whole lot of that. And finally, my cousin who graduated a couple of years before we did was like, “I think you need a nonprofit.” And I was like, “I don’t want a nonprofit. I just want my own Freedom School.” So she finally convinced me that we would do a nonprofit. And that was kind of the beginning of what it became. I mean, like, I’m amazed now that one, 20 years later, it is still around. And part of that people like, “That is so amazing.” I was just like, but the parents, no one gave me a chance to say you’re going to quit. You know, we are the program. So we look at the Freedom Schools model. You know, I think I credit a lot of my professional development to Freedom Schools because it was that moment when I learned that you’re not only representing yourself, I knew that growing up, like when my mother would drop us off to go away, she would always say, “Listen, you’re not just represent yourself. When you walk out of this house, yes, you’re representing God first, always understand it. So whatever you’re doing, and whatever things that are happening, God sees you. So you are a representation of him, okay?” Then she said, “And then you representing yourself, and so you think what representation you want to have for yourself and at the end, you are representing me. So when you go out, people don’t just always call you Brandi but they also say, Oh, that’s Margie daughter. And so understanding that you’re representing a whole…”

And so when Corey, which was the gentleman, called me into his office and said, “Hey, you know, I put my name on the line for you.” It was that reality check when I realized, “Oh, so I’m standing on his shoulders, on his name and this is something I have to do,” right. So when I think about working with young people now, I spend a lot of time talking about them that the decision that you make not only affect you, it is affecting people all around you and you never know how. And so for me, I just didn’t know how it affected him. But it was a good like, “Listen, get yourself together.” So for me, the professional development and the leadership development of that was awesome, you know it saved who I am and made me who I am today, because had not had that chance, then I don’t know when I would have learned that, right?

And so looking at Freedom Schools now at that moment, it was leadership development, really understanding. I mean college students, college aged adults, we hire college students to work with our students. So we have K through 8th graders. We hire college age adults to work with them. So they get a chance to not only facilitate a curriculum, but also get some youth leadership development too. I mentioned that training in Tennessee. It’s a week long and so not only do you learn the curriculum, but there’s also quite a bit of leadership development around advocacy. Around at that time, was the first time that I learned about creating your own kind of sense of—they called it “an island of peace” where you’re able to take care of yourself before you take care of others. So looking– I mean its popular now I’m talking about self-care.

Susan: Self-care, uh huh.

Brandi: But at that age, I literally was able to learn about self-care, I learned about journaling, I learned about prayer, I learned about nature walking, I learned about meditation. So as a college student, when it was not that popular at the time, even humor and how humor actually affect your body and make you…So literally, going through the Freedom Schools Program, show me at that moment, being in service and it has carried me all this time, you cannot take care of others if you haven’t taken care of yourself. And so I really tried to put that piece in front of me. But now somebody asked me about the why, like, why do I do the work? And I just, for me, I’ve just been contemplating about the why, it has changed so much. You know, I think when you go into something and you’re doing it for a season in your life, either you finish that season or  the seasons are changing within that full year. And so I’ve literally seen Freedom Schools change, why I do what I do, and how important it is. So I talk about Freedom Schools and you know, people like, “Oh, you run a summer camp.” “Not really.” And when I think about camps as impactful as they are, I look at Hype Freedom School as an opportunity for us to impact families by using the six weeks of summer programming to really build that relationship and a rapport with us so we can then impact them.

So my why right now? You know, Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey. When I first started with Freedom Schools that I talked about, God gives you the people and the resources that you need. I was 22, 23, maybe 24. I eventually got a job because my mother said, “Well, just think if you could have somebody support you, like if you had coworkers, you can ask them to make a contribution towards your nonprofit.” “What? I’ve got to get a job.” So I started working full time, but really then I started working at a school where I graduated from as the teen pregnancy and parent coordinator.

Susan: Oh, wow.

Brandi: Again, young, maybe 45, did not have a child or children or a husband, probably, yeah, or probably had had sex by then.

Susan: Right. Yeah.

Brandi: I was like, “Oh, this is the position I have.” But my job was to ensure that those girls graduated. That nothing stopped them from graduating from high school. So I was provided the support system for them to be able to graduate. So of course, it was perfect for me. And when I say the seasons changed within the year, my season at that time was to empower young girls to be able to graduate from high school. But it also allowed me to work and do Freedom School on the side. And so because I was in the school system, then I had time to meet with people after school. Get off at three, met with them, then I had the flexibility with my job where I can meet off campus with people. I had my summers where I was able to go and work Freedom Schools. While I still provided services for our families, for the girls. And at the time, I did not know… Yeah, I cannot imagine how I was selected to do the job, you know, because I say years later when I finally had my first biological child, I was very down and hard on myself after I had my first child because I just remember thinking I pushed my students so hard after they had their babies to finish school. And with a husband, a mother, a sister, a stable home. I couldn’t move after I had my child. I was, “I can’t go anywhere. I can’t get it together.” I was so like, “I can’t go to work right now. I can’t leave my baby.” And I just started thinking. At six weeks, I was going to get girls from their home, taking them to daycares, put their children in the childcare center so they didn’t come back to school. Then they had to walk around those campuses like nothing was wrong, that they weren’t worried about their baby, and that they didn’t need to go home and feed their child, you know? So just all of those things was like…

Susan: I can’t imagine doing something like that. What those girls do.

Brandi: I used to tell them all the time, “You have the hardest job. You have to be a mother. You have to be a daughter. You have to be a sibling. You have to be somebody’s girlfriend. You have to be or pretend to be their wife, a student, you have to be somebody’s friend. It’s just so many layers that is very challenging to do as a young person. But I think you know, it all, and I just think about how my life has been ordered and the things that have happened. And so while I was at the school working with them, I met a family therapist because the program offered a family therapist to come with the team parents to work with them. And I share with this therapist that I had a summer program and we facilitate a parent meetings once a week at my program, and so she said, “I would like to do that.” And so she volunteered her time for about 10 or 11 years providing services to our families. So she started off facilitating our parent meetings. And then she decided to offer free therapy sessions for our families all year long. So after we finished during the summers, we became an extension of our families. So when things went on or crisis happened or celebrations happen, that our families would always include us. And so we became kind of the hub to provide the resources that they needed to make things happen, right? And so to this day, we have become that resource. The therapists work with us for those years, she finally resigned, just like she gave me an official resignation letter like she really was on staff.

Susan: I’m out.

Brandi: I was like,”Ah!” But did not realize what critical piece she played until she was gone. I mean, because we think about mental health services and the families that we serve. We don’t do mental health services. Like that’s a sign to say you crazy. And we don’t tell people we’re crazy. You might be crazy, but I’m not…You’re not going to have a therapist to say that I’m crazy. So that is the mentality that many of our –not many, some of our families once had.

Susan: Oh, sure.

Brandi: Really looking at how do we introduce therapy and how do we introduce mental health services. She was the perfect, perfect fit for us. We were able to build a relationship with our families, we built their trust. And literally, when she resigned, we had more families than we ever had actually getting therapy from her. So of course, when she resigned she’d already finished our sessions and that kind of stuff, but it just really showed us how much it had grown over the years. So when Hurricane Harvey hit, I was like, “I need a therapist right now.” Even though the majority of our families did not get directly impacted it affected everyone because in the middle of it all whatever trauma you had before, seeing water rising all around you, add to that trauma, whatever hard financial circumstances you had before is heightened because now the landscape of work has changed, you having to take off a work unexpectedly has also happened. So when we had to do…So I called her and asked if she would come back. And so since…I guess she came back probably in December of last year as a volunteer and we’ve been able to get funding to fund her to actually provide services for us throughout the year. And I will say my why now doing the program is really looking at how do we help our families be able to cope and break this cycle of whatever that trauma it is. So really introducing them and connecting them with resources like family therapy has been just my, I mean, it gives me chills bumps right now just to think about families who had never thought about getting their mental health needs that are now like, “Where’s Miss Stoops? I need her.”

So for me, that has given me I mean, just a whole different outlook on the important work that we do.We often say that the six weeks of program lasts an entire lifetime.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: So for our families who typically not only come six weeks, but come year after year after year, we know that the work that we’re doing stays with them forever. So, yes, that’s it. That’s my why.

Susan: That’s awesome. I want to know, have any of these families…Because you’ve been at this 20 years now. So where are the first round two families that came through? Do they stay in touch? Do you still get Christmas cards? Do you see their children now?

Brandi: yeah, we do. So we’re getting ready to celebrate our 20th so we’re rounding some of them up, but we still have a large group that we still stay very engaged with. So that first group are now professionals. We have a few attorneys that’s in that first group. Our most recent connection has been a franchise owner of Sugar Rush, which is a cupcake bakery.

Susan: Okay, uh huh.

Brandi: I don’t know the exact name for it. It’s not a bakery. But it’s called Sugar Rush 2. So he is the owner of this particular franchise. I’m smiling because he has been amazing. We did an event for our teachers. So a lot of our first rounders are teachers as well.

Susan: Oh, that’s cool.

Brandi: So while everyone was doing back to school drives, we did a back to school drive for our teachers who have been a part of Hype throughout our history, and so we provided supplies and books for them to outfit their classroom. And so we held it at Sugar Rush 2 with one of our first I mean, he was part of that first class of babies that was with us. He’s now graduated from University of Texas San Antonio, and so part of his gift his parents gave him for graduation was the franchise. Isn’t that amazing?

Susan: That is the craziest thing.

Brandi: Yes. So I ran into his mother in the grocery store preparing for some storm. It was not Harvey. It was like maybe an ice storm that was coming suddenly in Houston. So I was crazy. Like, get up and get ready to take on whatever coming our way. So I was like, let me go to the grocery store because we have nothing. So if we can’t get out of this house for a few days. We’re in trouble. So I’m in the grocery store and it is a mad house. I look over and it was one of our parents who was with us and so she’s like, “Yeah, Nick is doing really well. He’s now the owner of Sugar Rush 2,” and so we talked. So he was able to come out. We also have some of our graduates who are doing a little bit of everything, I mean, everything but now their children are part of the program, and so we have several of them that have grown up through the program

So my first day as a teen pregnancy and parenting coordinator was a delivery of one of the teen parents. And so they called and say… I caught her and I was like, “Hi!” I introduced myself. She’d just deliver her baby. So this was my first day of work. She’d just deliver her baby. Her daughter have been a part of our program since she was five, Hype, since she’s five. She just graduated and now attending Texas Southern University. So really kind of looking at the large impact. So, Susan, I’m getting a call from my Marvelous Girls Summit.

Susan: That’s where we are, at the Marvelous Girls Summit. And it sounds like we are getting ready to go back and do another session. But thank you so much. I appreciate time.

Brandi: I talked way to much.

Susan: No, you didn’t.

Brandi: You didn’t have questions?

Susan: No. You told the story and that’s what I wanted to hear.

Brandi: Okay.

Susan: Trust me on this. Tell us real quick before you go where we can find you.

Brandi: You can find me on our website at hypefs.org. You can also find us on social media. So we’re on Facebook, we’re on Instagram and a little Twitter, not much. But Hype F S, our Hype Freedom School, you can find us there or you can call us. I like phone calls, 832-510-0431.

Susan: Excellent. And I will make sure all that’s linked in our show notes. So you’ll be taken care of.

Brandi: All right.

Susan: Thank you for sharing with us and spreading the word.

Brandi: You’re welcome.

Susan:I appreciate it.

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