Author

About the Author
Every episode of How She Got Here is a celebration of achievement. My hope is that in sharing the accomplishments of everyday extraordinary women you are left feeling inspired to find and share your voice, to be the very best version of yourself, and know that you are enough!

You are valuable and so is your time, with Kristin O’Neal

Kristin O’Neal is a financial planner who found herself in the unique situation of working with clients who, for the majority, owned their own service based business. She recognized that many of her clients were not only seeking financial advise, but business advise as well. This was an area in which she had expertise so naturally, she helped. She just wasn’t getting paid for it.

Links
Ashton Charles – website
Ashton Charles – Facebook
Ashton Charles – Instagram
Ashton Charles – LinkedIn
Kristin’s e-mail: kristin@ashtoncharles.co
The Tribe Podcast by Ashton Charles



Show Notes

Transcript

Susan: Kristin, thank you so much for joining us today, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to talk to us to share a little bit about what you do, and how you got to where you are.

Kristin O’Neal: Of course, you’re so welcome. I am really excited to be here.

Susan: Let’s just start out in the very beginning. And tell us a little bit about where you got your start. And then we’ll jump into how you got your own idea to start your own consulting agency.

Kristin O’Neal: Okay, so my name is Kristin O’Neal. I’m currently based in San Diego, California. I lived in Dallas for 11 years. So I have clients, friends, family, even still in Dallas, and then clients across the country, and all that stuff. But the way I got started, because I wasn’t always as cool as I am now. I feel like I haven’t arrived but at least I know what I’m doing, which is great. But the way I got started with my consulting business was I actually needed—I needed a way to better serve my clients in my financial planning practice. And so I think when people find out…So my primary business, I actually have two, my primary business is financial planning, and I work with a lot of women who are single income earners, in a lot of cases, they own businesses. And they didn’t have a really clear understanding of what their goals were, or they set goals that were too small, or they’d like, well exceeded what they thought they were going to accomplish in their business. And they were realizing that they were either kind of stuck, or maybe just like, didn’t know where to go. And so my consulting practice came out of needing to monetize the time I was spending with a lot of my financial planning clients on things that had nothing to do with investments, insurance, or money. So that’s how Ashton Charles got started.

Susan: That is really cool.

Kristin O’Neal: Not the entry you were expecting.

Susan: No, it was not, not in the slightest. But I guess it was either that or you were becoming a therapist, it was one or the other.

Kristin O’Neal: Kind of, yeah. And I talk to…I worked really closely with my compliance person at the time. And she was like, “I totally get what you’re doing. It completely makes sense. But you can’t charge them a financial planning fee for this.”

Susan: You’ve got to figure out another avenue?

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah.

Susan: Well, good for you for doing that. That’s really, I think in an interesting way, and not a twist I was expecting, your story gives women permission to say, I’m spending time on this, and my time is valuable. It’s not free. Because I think as women we’re really bad about just, not bad. We’re very willing, how about that? To give so much so easily. And not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if it’s cutting into your work day, then maybe that might be an avenue you choose? So I really appreciate you you sharing that . That’s really, really interesting.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, of course. And like all entrepreneurs, you start your business because there’s some sort of hole in the market, right?

Susan: Yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: I mean, I kept trying to refer these people, my clients to other people, but no one was doing exactly what we wanted. There was just a gap there. And I think the financial planning industry has changed a lot, because we have more female breadwinners, and we have more women who are managing their own finances, instead of having a male partner or parent manage it for them. And so, men are a little more brave. They need less information to make a decision and can kind of run without a plan, whereas women typically need…

Susan: We overthink it.

Kristin O’Neal: …A little bit more like, I need like a track to run on. Like, I’m not just going to go make money, like why do I need the money? What will the money allow me to do? So it’s just was a gap there, and so that’s why I started Ashton Charles was really to do all of the things that I was doing already that wasn’t specific to financial planning, so that I wouldn’t have regulators in my files, like, why are you guys meditating?

Susan: That’s awesome. I appreciate that.

Kristin O’Neal: Tell me more about this.

Susan: Right, exactly. So you saw a need. But for those small business owners out there who financial planner isn’t really following up, maybe they don’t even talk to their financial planner about this type of stuff, because it’s separate from their personal finances, or however you want to introduce that or think about that. Why do small business owners need a consultant?

Kristin O’Neal: So the short answer is they may not. I don’t ever assume that everyone needs what I do. And to your point, maybe they have super clear goals, and they have a board of directors, or they’ve got a team around them of other advisors that are helping them in this role. And so one area or one question I get a lot is like, what’s the difference between what you do what my business coach does? Possibly nothing, but maybe a lot of things. So like, I have a business coach, and she helps me with sales and strategy. And in some cases, she helps me with creating the vision for my business, or what does my next one to five years look like? What’s the 10, 15 year plan. But for the most part, she’s just helping me with the tactical day to day like, what to do to hit my goals. But if no one’s helping you set goals, if you don’t know how to set goals, and it sounds really simple, but a lot of people are like, “I don’t know how much I need to make, or like what a good goal would be for my business,” they’re just kind of showing up, doing work, getting paid and just kind of being okay with it. Because you know, my employees are paid, my bills are paid. And I feel like I should be making more, but I can’t really quantify, like, what that is or why.

So if you’re lacking clarity in the area of goal setting, if you’ve reached a plateau, if you’re looking for a next step, or if you’re starting a business, and you have an idea of what you want to do, but you don’t have a clear, clear path to get where you want to go or know exactly who your ideal client is. Those are times when I would engage with either a—I was going to say financial planner, but that’s not the right answer—with a consultant like myself, or with maybe a business coach, some business coaches do that kind of work too.

Susan: Yeah, I was going to say, I mean, when I was first getting started, I had a business coach, who really helped me get things kicked off the ground and things like that. And she came from a world of non-profit and development before she went into her business coaching. So I could totally understand why having the expertise of somebody who has a financial background be really beneficial because I think it’s one of those things, as women, maybe we don’t think about the monetary—and maybe this is just me—we don’t think about the monetary goals or aspirations as we should. We’re out there, and we’re wanting to do a good job. And maybe it’s even just a side hustle, and you want to see where it goes. But without setting those goals, it’s really not going to go anywhere

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, and I think that you’re right. I would say for most women’s, not all women, but for most, they’re more motivated by helping the clients get what they want, or serving their clients in some way or, you know, passionate about the things that they do, but the money is just kind of a secondary thing. So not realizing, “Hey, if I could better serve clients in this way 10 years from now, and have the lifestyle I want, but it would take this amount of money to do it.” And so that’s a lot of what I help people do.

Susan: And that’s the financial planner part coming out in you, for sure, is the number you need.

Kristin O’Neal: Absolutely.

Susan: Speaking of numbers, since you brought it up, what is a good…? If somebody is looking at thinking about hiring a consultant, thinking about hiring a coach of some kind in your genre, what is a good…? And if you don’t normally give out your figures, that’s totally fine. But what is a good budgetary number to think about that, “Okay, I’m going to have to spend this much to get this kind of service?”

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, that’s an excellent question, and I wish I had an answer for you. And the reason why this is so tough is because everyone does not different. So it’s independent of experience, type of clients they work with—all have different pricing structures. And I would say that I’ll do—depending on the client, I might do like an intensive half day of us fully focused on sussing out like your goals, getting clear on your vision, coming up with a high-level marketing, like target markets, who am I going to go out and market with and who do I need to meet, and how to build relationships with centers of influence and referral partners. Kind of flush all that out and some high level sales tactics. That’s what I do in an intensive for the client. And I would say, somewhere between 2500 and $10,000, depending on the complexity of the situation, might be what I would charge for that. I would give them not a ton of ongoing support because in this area, I really do work for like, on a project basis. And that’s what it would look like, perhaps to work with me. But everyone, again, everyone’s time is, they value their time differently and they have different types of clients they like to work with. I specifically like to work with women who own service based businesses, because owning my own service based business for six years, I get that a lot more, and I get the relationships you’re going to have to have to support it. And I understand that really well. So if you’re selling widgets, I may or may not be a good fit for you. Probably not, just kind of depends.Susan: Sure. That makes sense. I think a lot of people who are just starting out that number, the 2500 number did not surprise me. The $10,000 mark was like, oh my gosh! And I know…

Kristin O’Neal: They’re probably not like, it’s my first day and I want to get started with that.

Susan: Right. Exactly. But I think it’s also good to have people in your like, when you’re first starting out, you’ve got to have somebody in your corner who can kind of help you walk through the process. And I think that’s important. Who were the people that you kind of went to when you were first making the transition from finance to consulting?

Kristin O’Neal: Oh, well, I haven’t actually made a transition.

Susan: You’re still doing both. that’s awesome.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, I still do both.

Susan: I love that.
Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, just because one needs the other.

Susan: Yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: So I’m always doing both, but I’m mostly doing planning. I would say the people I collaborate with the most are probably my business coach, Tina Phillips, who does coaching in the Dallas area, and meditation and mindfulness coach, Melissa Garner, who is in Dallas also. And so I’ll still call them and say, “Hey, I have the like a referral or production,” or, “hey, I have this client and this is going on, and she’s having this mental block. What do you think?” So those are the two people I talked to you probably the most about, about those clients?

Susan: Got it. What about was there a friend or a family member or a business colleague that really kind of helped give you the push that you needed to start this other side of this, of your world?

Kristin O’Neal: I want to be like, there was a really special moment with…

Susan: Right. Yes.

Kristin O’Neal: Well, this person…

Susan: Ahh, right.

Kristin O’Neal: I know, it doesn’t always happen that way. I do. I have a lot of really great girlfriends that I’ve met, either through networking, or who have been through prospecting, who have become clients who also own businesses, who are always really supportive of whatever. Not anything I want to do, but whatever I want to do within reason. And so my friend Jordan Gill owns a service based business also. And she’s an operations also dollar space, called… What is it call now? I think it was called System Save Me for a while. And so she’s always really supportive of me doing this kind of stuff because it’s really… It’s abstract, like there’s no, there’s not necessarily a model for consulting, you just kind of…My background is sales and sales management.

Susan: Okay.

Kristin O’Neal: And so a lot of this stuff, I knew from my experience in sales management, and then a lot of it I knew from my experience in my own business, and then I am like a nerd about organizational leadership, and do a ton of professional development and love sales and love marketing. And looking at someone’s life and creating goals and organizing, that’s making the complicated, simple, is just what I do really well. So it’s just kind of something that people started asking me to do it, and I didn’t have a way to charge them for it. And that’s really why I stated the business. Yeah.

Susan: So what are some of the core business practices that you’ve had your clients put in place when they’re first like meeting with you? Like after the initial consult, are there one or two things that pretty much is a norm like, oh, you’re not doing this, this is something we could jump on and do today to make a difference?

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, so there’s a couple of things. The first thing that I always make sure that we’re clear on is where you want to go and how much it would cost to get there.

Susan: Yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: So whether that’s a lifestyle that you…Like, dare to dream, like we do this exercise where we visualize the best version of your life, like your ideal lifestyle. And so really sitting down and figuring out what that would cost. 9 times out of 10, it costs like a fraction of what you thought it in your mind had worked up to b. And in that moment, it becomes more attainable. So really doing the research on like, the neighborhood that you would want to live in, ideally, what that vacation home would cost in Colorado, or Palm Springs or Mexico or wherever. And so I would say starting with a clear vision and knowing the dollar amount tied to that. And then I always encourage my clients to make goals annually, but to do something called periodization. And so periodization, is the idea that, you know, we work harder towards the end of the period than we do during the rest of the year.

Susan: Yeah, the hustle at the end.

Kristin O’Neal: And you’re like going crazy trying to hit your year end goal, but in May and June, you’re just like, “Well…”

Susan: Chilling.

Kristin O’Neal: “…I have six months.” Yeah. So through implementing some sort of periodization model and breaking the year up before and running really hard for the end of…There’s a book called The 12 Week Year that explains this really well, and the guy that wrote it, Brian Moran, he works mostly with financial planners, and so that’s how I know about them. But it really can be applied to any business like ,running really hard for 12 weeks, then taking a week off or having a week to kind of regroup. A lot of other business owners I know work that way, and they have certain seasons where they’re really busy one time of the year, and really slow another time of the year. And so that might be a good year for planning. So really setting up your entire year having a good idea of what you want to accomplish per quarter. So those are, I say the top two things. The next thing I would do is get, especially if you’re new, get very, very clear on who your ideal client is.

Susan: Yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: It’s hard in the beginning, because you’re just like, “What I do is great, and everyone can benefit from it,” which is kind of true, but not really. And so when you walk into—I used to do a ton of networking, I still do some but not as much. When you walk into like one of those rooms, and someone asked you like, “Hey, who can I introduce you to?” and you’re just like, “Well, what I do is great for everyone, and anyone with skin could really appreciate what I do.”

Susan: Right.

Kristin O’Neal: It’s actually much more difficult for you to come up with a referral for me than if I said, you know, a working mom that has kids in preschool and daycare, like you can more easily identify something more specific. So I’m always encouraging people to get really clear on who their target market is and why they’re valuable for that specific market, because that’ll help you get better referrals. And work with people you like, you know, that you can really give some value?

Susan: Absolutely. I was talking to a friend just the other day, and she was like, “When was the last time like you really sat down and thought about your avatar, if you will,” which is the same thing. It’s like, “Who is your person?” And I was like, “Oh!” So literally, like, one day last week, I can’t remember what day it was, maybe even just Friday. So this was really recently that I sat down myself, because I haven’t done it in probably over a year, and sat down and rethought that out, and I took like an hour and a half to like, okay, who is she? What is she doing? And she’s changed a little bit since my my business has started off. So I thought that was interesting that not only have I been able to narrow it down, but I’ve had it somewhat narrowed down, but I was able to narrow it down even further as to, “Woo, she might not be doing this. She’s definitely doing this.” And so that’s a really good piece of advice, that helps in so many different ways. Not only just with referrals, but like how do you market to this person? When do you post on social media? You know?

Kristin O’Neal: Right.

Susan: Is she at work? Or is she at home? Is she doing this? Or she doing this? Is it naptime or is it not?

Kristin O’Neal: Where might she be that I can run into her? And who do you say no to? Which is really one of the more important things, it’s who do I not take as a client and who should I refer to someone else?

Susan: Absolutely.

Kristin O’Neal: And so once you get good at that, I mean, it just opens your calendar up to doing more of the things you want to do and getting paid what you’re worth, which is a whole other episode, I’m sure.

Susan: Oh, for sure. Yeah, we could go on and on.

Kristin O’Neal: We could go all day about that.

Susan: But yeah, and I think when you’re just starting out, I think for anybody who’s listening, who, they’re still new in this, I’m still new in this. But for anybody who’s really still new in this, like probably younger than six months, you’re not going to know all… You probably won’t know all this in the very beginning. I shouldn’t say nobody will, but you probably won’t. And so just taking the time to really sit down, I think, how often would you do this? How often would you sit down and reevaluate this stuff? What would you recommend?

Kristin O’Neal: So I don’t really reevaluate my target market often. I just heard that things change gradually. So my first year in the business, I would talk to anybody that would talk to me. So depending on the type, because I didn’t know what would be good or not, I knew that all the other financial advisors were trying to work with medical residents. And there was like a, you know, there’s certain types of people they wanted to work with. And what I found is I didn’t work like the guys in my office. And I also got really annoyed going to networking events, and there would be 12 financial advisors there. And so I just started going places where the guys weren’t going on.

And so that’s sort of, I started doing certain types of networking, which led me to working with more business owners. And also, I made friends with people who really, who got what I did, because they were also doing it, they were also up there building their business. And so I think over time, you begin to just kind of get like, I really am not that effective at helping…Let me think. Who do I not help? Well, I am maybe not that effective…. I’m trying to think of who I don’t work with well. I haven’t done any any work with someone that wasn’t a good fit lately so it’s hard to think of it.

But like, I don’t like to work with surgeons. Surgeons make a ton of money. So in theory, that would be a great client for me. But in reality, they tend to be a lot more demanding, their schedules are crazy, and you’re like begging them to do things. And I don’t like to be in situations where I’m begging clients to do stuff when I’m working for them. Especially because they’re paying me to do it. And I also don’t like to go to hospitals. I’m weird, I don’t like to go to hospital. So I kind of developed this rule where I was like, I’ll work with a physician that’s in private practice. I like to work with nurse practitioners, they’re usually in like, you know, like an office complex, they’re not in the hospital, and I hate walking in the parking garage, and trying to find, like, all that stuff. That’s good enough of a reason for me not to work with those sort of people.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If I’m at brunch, and some girl’s like, “I’m a surgeon, I really want your help.” I’ll talk to her. But I’m not going to develop a market where I’m going out and trying to, like actively seek relationships where I’m in hospitals all the time because I don’t like that. It can be that simple.

Susan: yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: yeah, it can be that simple.

Susan: I think we’ve touched on this a little bit, because you have a financial piece that I think not a lot of other consulting firms can offer or consultants can offer. When you think about yourself, and what differentiates yourself from other consultants, that’s clearly a huge piece. What are some of the other things that have helped you differentiate yourself?Kristin O’Neal: So I’m a specialist when it comes to working with females primary income earners. So they’re the women you know, that out earns her husband or a girl that is single and out earns most of men she dates, like, that’s a really specific dynamic. And so there’s a lot of emotional stuff that goes along with that. And so I would say that’s one area. And I’m not shy about it, I think a lot of people might be. So that’s one area where I feel like I’m really differentiated. And I also, like I said, for the most part, will only really work with someone who’s in a service based business. So this is an attorney, someone in marketing. And then I’m only really here to work on a project type basis. So if you’re looking for ongoing support on the business coaching side, I probably wouldn’t be a good fit for that. And so that would be another way that I might be different than working with maybe a larger consulting firm.

Susan: Got it. But you have people that you can refer people to. So I think that that’s really helpful. And I also appreciate that you know your specialty, and you know what you’re good at. And for things that aren’t in your wheelhouse, you’re willing to share those with others. And it seems like you’re really good about connecting with other women and lifting other women who are also doing like their own thing. Like, you mentioned your business coach, how you referred people to her. And I think that that’s really fascinating. And I think that that’s so important to support other women. And as you’re supporting yourself, as you’re supporting your own clients, supporting other women and businesses. I think it’s really interesting and important.

Kristin O’Neal: It’s just really easy to do. I feel like the alternative, which is, well, I guess the alternative is do nothing. And then the other alternative is tear people down and tell people why you’re better than that other woman doing that over there. It’s kind of exhausting. It just feels like a lot of work to do it the other way. So why not just have friends and share with them and let them do what they’re good at. And you know, I do what I’m good at.

Susan: Well, and you’re also somebody who’s very to the point, which I appreciate. I think that that’s not always an easy person to find. You know, I can ramble on to the wall sometimes, you know, and have a conversation. But you’re like, nope, this is what I do, and this is who I can help, and this is what I offer. And I just think that that’s really refreshing.

Kristin O’Neal: Well, thank you. It’s a learned behavior. You know, in the beginning…And you’ll experience this, like you say yes to projects, and then you’re in them and you hate it. And you hate it and they’re paying you a lot of money and you still hate it, then something goes wrong, and you refund them all the money. And then you’re like, “This was a giant waste of time. This client was never a good fit. And I should never taken it.” Like, you learn that lesson once or twice, and then you just get really clear about who you’re not going to work for. And then that just saves you the time. But yeah, I’ve been accused of being direct more than once.

Susan: I love, though. I wish I was more that way. Like they’re things that I wish for.

Kristin O’Neal: I have learned to soften it, too.

Susan: Oh, yes. That’s a whole other podcast episode about how women have to soften themselves in the business world and in any world.

Kristin O’Neal: Yep. Actually moving to Dallas from Southern California, and LA, growing up in LA, I could say pretty much whatever I wanted and everyone thought it was cute. And then I moved to Dallas and really [Laughter]

Susan: yeah, I understand that a little bit.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, I’ve learned how to do a lot of things differently in Dallas.

Susan: So I originally grew up in South Carolina, and had to learn things, and I learned things one way. And then I moved to New York City, and realized that I could talk a little more freely, if you will. So I did, but I said it with a southern accent. So everybody thought it was cute, and it was fine and all hunky dory. And then I moved to Dallas and I was like, “Oh, it’s a little bit of an in between. It’s like both New York and South Carolina at the same time, and I don’t know how to handle this.”

Kristin O’Neal: Bless your heart.

Susan: Bless your heart.

Kristin O’Neal: Bless your heart.

Susan: Okay, so this has been shorter than I thought it would be but I have loved every minute of it. Tell us, what do we need to know…If somebody is out there…Because a lot of my listeners are really just now, they’re moms who may have stayed at home a little bit, but they’ve got some space, they’re starting their own thing, they’re rediscovering themselves, really, that’s where they’re at. They’re at a point in their life where they can rediscover themselves and they’re going out there, and they’re figuring out who am I again? What am I as a mom now? And I still need my own thing. So what does that look like? And a lot of them are, you know, some of them are doing the MLM thing. Some of them are starting their own thing. And because you’ve been there, I think, a little bit, what are some of the things that you…Are there any pieces of advice, or words of wisdom that you would offer?

Kristin O’Neal: So much. Advice or words. think it’s more important when you have children, I don’t have children, I have a puppy so it’s not the same. But I think it’s more important for your children, that what you’re doing, like that what you’re leaving the house for, is really making an impact, or you’re getting what you want out of it. And so if it’s making money, or if it’s building relationships, or like, world peace, whatever you’re leaving the house for has to really be worth it. And so, when I was younger, my mom actually worked for a direct sales organization called and she didn’t work outside of the house, other than that, but she would go out at night and on the weekends and do parties. It’s kind of like a Pampered Chef William Sonoma kind of a thing, if you’re not familiar with it.

Susan: Yes.

Kristin O’Neal: And so as a child seeing her going out and doing that, I didn’t realize what impression that made on me, like, I become a lot of the “salesperson” that she was and is. And so that was like a positive thing that I saw growing up. But imagine if it had been like something that she had, like, and she was really trips and all that stuff She went to Rome, she did all that stuff. But imagine if it was like her coming home every night and just being miserable about it, or not being successful at it, because kids pick up on that stuff.

Susan: yes, they do.

Kristin O’Neal: So I would say make sure that what you’re doing is like really specific and meaningful. And that might mean that you need to do like some market research, you might need to call a few people or you know, go slower and like, really get your process down and really understand what your clients are looking for and get all that done right. It’ll keep you from having to do it later down the line, which can be a little more difficult fighting that. I guess that’s my advice for today. I’m like, “Is this what I’m saying to the world?” “Yes.” Build it like slow and good, instead of…Just a really great foundation, than like fast and loose and have to pick up the pieces later.

Susan: Okay, I know somebody in my audience is going to really appreciate that because I really appreciated that.

Kristin O’Neal: Oh, thank you. I was like, that’s good. We got one person.

Susan: So if that’s all you needed today, that is the one, because it was me, because I totally…

Kristin O’Neal: Good.

Susan: Even though I’m almost two years in, I’m totally there. Like, it’s hard. It’s hard when you feel like you have to be hustling all the time. Or you should.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah.

Susan: I feel like you should be even when you’re not.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, you don’t have to be. I wrote…I do.. I think one of the things…You might have wanted to ask me about, like, tools I use or something. I don’t know why I got the idea of that question.

Susan: I did. I totally missed the question.

Kristin O’Neal: That’s okay. I was like, I wrote something down, I made some notes before we talk. So one of the things I try to do, I’m not perfect at this, but I try to do is like use a goal planner every day, and I’ll talk about the one I use and about something else. But one of the things I wrote down today is a belief, which is I’m at the point in my career where I don’t have to work as hard and I make a lot of money. And I wrote that down, not because I feel like it’s true, but more because when I’m not working, I feel like I should be working. And at this point, I should be like really strategic and effective in the time that I am working, but I should like not be working when I’m not working, if that makes sense.

Susan: Yes.

Kristin O’Neal: And so it’s like thinking about working, right. Like, there was definitely a time period where I was always working. So I think being intentional with the time that you have set aside for work is important, which means you’re not, you know, taking your kids to the doctor and answering the phone and talking to girlfriends. I have a couple friends that I really love, but I’m Pacific Time Zone and they’re in Central and they call me at three o’clock because they’re off work. I’m not. So it’s just about kind of having those boundaries around your time, and… I don’t know if that answers your question.

Susan: No, it absolutely does. I was talking to another friend also in development this week, or last week, and she was talking about how she’s gone in and started just blocking her calendar with, okay, you know? And that way, she also doesn’t have to schedule stuff like outside like, “Nope, that’s for this. So if it fits this box, that’s great. But if it doesn’t, then it’s got to move to another, it’s got to go to a different time slot.” So I think that that is very, very important. And I’m learning to do that a little better.

Kristin O’Neal: The thing with self employed is not being off like…

Susan: Right.Kristin O’Neal: I will definitely go to a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday…Well, probably not on Tuesdays. I’m really busy Tuesday’s, but Friday at two o’clock. But what you don’t see is me working till seven or eight o’clock at night on a Friday. Like no one sees that part of entrepreneurship. They’re just like, “You can be off work whenever you want.” True. I can also take my laptop and go to Mexico for a week and work there. But there’s, you’re giving something up, there’s definitely a push and pour, give and take with that.Susan: You are absolutely correct. You’re absolutely correct. Well, thank you for bringing that background. Oh, and you said there was like one that you used that you really liked.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, so right now I’m using the best self journal. I like it because they also believe in periodization. And so they sell a journal that it’s a planner, but it’s highly customizable in terms of you can like start at any day, you don’t have to wait till January 1 or the end of a quarter to get started. And it’s set up to give you 12 weeks of space to plan your day, plan your month, write your goals out, commit to your goals. So I really like it and a little bit of journaling in gratitude morning and night, which is great.

I actually developed a journal last year. And one of the things I feel like I love journals, I also am the person that goes to school supplies section for no reason. And it’s hard for me because like I love journal, I love pens, I love pencil. Like, I don’t need any of this stuff and so I tried just not to go down the aisle. I love planners, not always have, I’ve always been one of those people who are really like, time-oriented. So the only thing I felt like, was missing from a lot of the journals I use was there was no sale, or revenue component to them. So I actually developed a journal that has a lot of the same characteristics but also takes into account, what do I need to make to be on track to live my best life? Like, hashtag right now. Hashtag living my best life.

Susan: Yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: What have I done specifically towards like, what tactics have I specifically done towards hitting that goal? How much money did I make today? Like, that kind of stuff. And so I have fully designed it. I’m trying to figure out how to print it. It will be called the Goal Planner because I’m really literal. And hopefully out this fall. You can’t see me but fingers are crossed. So if you want to keep track of me, ashtoncharles.co is my website. It’s A-S-H-T-O-N and then Charles, there’s a story behind the name on my website, check it out.

Susan: It’s a great story, I won’t leak it. But it’s a great story.

Kristin O’Neal: Don’t leak the story, they’ll never go to my website. Just kidding. I have an Instagram page, which I don’t have to very often. I think it’s @ashtoncharlesconsulting, maybe. It’s the same handle on Facebook. And I also am most of the way through with a book called The Girls Guide to Networking. I got a lot of feedback from men in of course, my industry on how to network, and relationships, but men and women turns out don’t build relationships the same way. And so I’ve really laid out like, what specifically it took to build my tribe. And now that I’ve moved from Dallas, back to San Diego, and I’m rebuilding again. Although I lived in San Diego before, it was 11 years ago, I was a child, basically, I wasn’t in this industry. And all of my friends have kids now and are married. That’s how I feel. And so their lives are different and they’re like not wanting to do the stuff I want to do and they’re also not trying to build businesses, I’m having to rebuild that community again. So proving that my method work, I’m out here, making really strategic connections, and it’s going a lot more smoothly this time. So I’m looking forward to having that out by the first of the year as well.

Susan: I was going to say when that comes out, send me a link because I want it.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, I will do that. It’s mostly done.

Susan: And I want to share it with my audience, for sure.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, I would love to do that. Thanks for doing that for me. I just felt like there was no book on it. And then everyone goes to these networking events and hands them a million business cards and they’re like, “No one ever calls me,” because you’re doing it wrong.

Susan: That’s not how we do it, yep.

Kristin O’Neal: But I had to put help from my business coach and just my own experience, I really had to get super strategic with how I did my networking. And now, in my business, most of my referrals come from other clients. But I do get incoming phone calls from referral partners who call to refer me business, which is not something that most people can say, at least in my industry. So wanted to share that with everyone. I feel like it’s easy, but it took me a while to get there. Like, it’s real intuitive but it took me a while to put it together, so I’ve put it together for you.

Susan: That’s awesome.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, thank you. Okay, two more things. I am really passionate about helping women build community, especially entrepreneurs. And so I do have a podcast; Season Two is pending, Season One is on iTunes, and all the cool places where podcast lives. It’s called The Tribe podcast by Ashton Charles. And essentially I’m just interviewing all my favorite business resources, mostly, but not all female. So my friend I mentioned that has a systems business, my business coach and my meditation coach, and my really good friend who’s in marketing, the person I like to refer to, like, do all the mortgages for my clients that I really love. Like, he’s a systems guru also, banker. So if you’ve ever wanted to know, like, do I really need to higher this CPA or this attorney? There is an episode more than likely about like, what this person does and when you should call them.

Susan: I love that. That’s awesome. And that is really needed.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, I just felt like I was referring the same people over and over again. And you know, it’s scary to call an attorney out of the phone book, or however we Google.

Susan: Sure.

Kristin O’Neal: And be like, “Please don’t charge me a million dollars, I have this quick question” And so I have just identified some people that I’ve worked with in the past or that I really like that I think might be a good resource. And they’re all the type of people that would pick up the phone and answer your question and tell you, you either need to work with me or you don’t, or here’s what you should do. So that’s me sharing my network with all of you.Susan: I love it. And I will make sure to link your website, your podcast. When the book comes out, I’ll link that in the show notes as well. This has been an excellent conversation. I know it’s going to help somebody in my audience. It has definitely helped me. And I just really appreciate your time today, Kristin, it’s been a great having you on.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, of course. I appreciate it.

Susan: I don’t say that to everybody. I’ll probably edit that out.

Kristin O’Neal: I’m not going to go through all of your episodes and count, at who you said it turned out. I’ll actually be in Dallas on… When will I be in Dallas? I’m speaking at, University of Texas at Dallas is having a women’s conference, I’m doing a talk on vision casting called living your best life from inspiration to inspired action.

Susan: When is this? We need to talk about that.

Kristin O’Neal: It’s October 23rd, I believe. I would just say if you’re interested in attending this workshop, I am not headlining the workshop or the conference. My understanding is the founder of Poopourri is going to be the main speaker, and then they’re doing also a fireside chat with a woman who created Tips Treats. So either way, you’re getting cookies, which is good. But they’ll be a couple breakout session, I’m doing a breakout session called living your best life from inspiration to inspired action. And we’re going to talk about the first steps of vision casting and setting goals.

Susan: I think that’s excellent. And I think people who are located in Dallas, or the surrounding area who listen to this podcast should definitely check that out. And by the way, when you do go to those things, for me, those have been great networking opportunities, because those are like-minded women.

Kristin O’Neal: Right. They’re like-minded women, show up with… I try to show up to events like that, just with the intention to be present, and to help someone if help as needed. And I don’t go to those things like, “I’m going to find five clients today.” You know, that’s what the voice, they were like, “Go get five card, make somebody a client,” and then I just…It doesn’t feel like…

Susan: It doesn’t feel authentic, yeah.

Kristin O’Neal: So now I just show up, you know, wanting to learn something, give of myself and hopefully meet some people that I like.

Susan: Well, if you remember, I’ll try to look it up, but if you remember, shoot me a link to that. And I’ll make sure to link that as well. Thank you again, I really, really appreciate you being here and taking the time out of your busy work day to be with us. This has been really, really inspiring and really helpful.

Kristin O’Neal: Oh, thank you. It was a pleasure to be here. I’m glad to do it.

Susan: All right. Well, I will talk to you soon, friend, and I will try my darndest to get to that thing to your speaking engagement in October and see you again in person.

Kristin O’Neal: Okay, that would be great. Seems so busy and next month.

Susan: Good problems to have.

Kristin O’Neal: Yeah, I have a series of first world problems.

Susan: Don’t we all All right, friend. I will talk to you soon. Thanks so much.

Kristin O’Neal: Okay, of course. Bye-bye.

Susan: Bye-bye.



Daily Habits and Practices. The Enneagram and More with your Host, Susan Byrnes Long

What are your daily habits and practices? How do you get your day off to a good start? I am sharing what works for me today, in hopes of inspiring and encouraging you, to take inventory of what you are doing and ask yourself if it is working.




Links:

Reddit – website

Emily Ley – website

The O Key Ring – website

The Center for Action and Contemplation – website

Life In The Trinity Ministry – website

Moms Demand Action – website

Ruminate This – podcast website

Show Notes:

Transcript:


Connecting to something bigger than yourself with Karla Nivens

Born into a musical and creative family, Karla couldn’t help but be a performer. Karla is not only a worship leader, but she is also a singer song writer, a radio show host, a music education professor, a mom…and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Among other things in this episode we discuss the importance of connecting with something that is bigger than yourself.

Links:

Show Notes:

Transcript:

Vouch CEO and Tech Entrepreneur, Christiana Yebra

“I always tell people that there really isn’t a template, no handbook for this, you just have to think really deeply about the core of what you love to do. You’ll find a way to translate it into different industry.” – Christiana Yebra

Links:

https://www.tryvouchapp.com

Vouch Instagram

Vouch Facebook

Vouch App

Show Notes:

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! This week I’m chatting with Christiana Yebra, CEO of Vouch. Christiana says it all started with her dream of being surgeon in college. She shares how her focus shifted, and how she found herself on a team creating an app platform for health care. She has stayed in tech ever since and never looked back. Most recently, she was named CEO of Vouch. Vouch is basically the dating app that every single person’s loved ones have always dreamed of. Founded by Bachelor Nation star, Sean Lowe with an emphasis on authenticity and safety. They wanted a female voice to lead the charge, and Christiana Yebra was the perfect match. See what I did there?

At her core, Christiana has a love for people; taking care of people, as well as connecting them. At Vouch, she can do both.

Susan: Christiana, thank you so much for joining me today. I am really excited to have you on the show. For those of my audience who are not familiar with you or Vouch, or even some of your past work, could you tell us a little bit about yourself just before we jump in?

Christiana: Yeah, I’m assuming most people don’t know me or what I do so I’m always excited to tap into new audiences. So thanks for having me. My name is Christiana Yebra . In Dallas, a lot of people call me CY because my name is very long. And CY has become kind of a fun brand for me to play with. But I just took over Vouch which is a social matchmaking dating app. I took over the company in February. But prior to that, I’m probably most well known for my work in the millennial networking space. So I run a group called the Dallas Millennial Club. We host a big charity gala called the Dallas Millennial Gala every year. And I’ve built and sold companies in the healthcare space prior to that, but that’s a little bit less public. And so I think what I might be most well known for is some of that work in the millennial and networking space and with my other businesses. So it’s been a lot of fun, and Vouch is a new project, totally different than my work in the past. But it’s been a fun journey so far.

Susan: That does sound fun, you know, this whole space, the way we communicate now, the way we interact with everyone has changed so much in the last decade. How did you get into this? What was your vision into jumping into this? Because like you said, you’ve sold and started businesses that surround this particular industry.

Christiana: Yeah, I mean, my first company, I was part of the founding team of an on demand healthcare company. I actually grew up working in the ER, and in trauma centers here in Dallas. I had my eyes set on medical school all through college. I studied biology and chemistry. I had no anticipation that I would ever work in owning my own business and definitely not in the technology space. I mean, it was really the furthest thing I could have imagined. A couple years ago, thinking forward, I don’t think I would have been able to guess where I’d be. And I got really lucky, I was working in the ER and working closely with an ER physician and a lot of overnight shifts and long nights just talking through projects. And we ultimately would come together to create an on demand mobile platform for urgent care. So back in the day before everyone called Uber for something, it was really truly Uber for urgent care, on demand care, not home health for the elderly, but people like you and me who have busy schedules. I definitely don’t have time to go sit in urgent care if I have a sinus infection or a cold. So we launched that company in March of 2015. And before December of 2015, we had received a majority equity investment to take over the company from a large legacy healthcare system, which if people aren’t familiar with the tech space or the startup world, that’s a really fast timeline.

Susan: Yeah.

Christiana: Most people wait years for that. And so we got really lucky. And it was really my first – I want to say my step into healthcare or into the technology and entrepreneurial space. I got catapulted. So it was a really exciting experience. First to be a young person in general, but in this boom of the startup and tech space in Dallas, I had no concept of the startup community, even after we launched the business, and we were still very tucked away in the ER and still balancing other jobs. And I got really lucky to have met a couple of people in the startup world that would really guide us through that process. And from healthcare to dating, it’s really different. But what’s interesting about it is patients in the healthcare space, especially in the emergency room, most of the time they’re coming to the emergency room without an emergency, they just want a level of reassurance that they’re going to feel better, their family is going to be okay. And that’s the same thing in dating. So I treat my patients and my users of the dating app very similarly, in that I’m looking out for their best interests, safety wise and providing a level of reassurance.

Susan: I like that. That is a comforting thought, for sure.

Christiana:Yeah.

Susan: Picking up with Vouch, you came from the healthcare space. I presume you guys sold that. Is that correct?

Christiana: We did sell the company in 2015. I stayed with the company another year, and then was picked up by another medical technology startup actually based in Southern California. And so that was my next step. And then just two years later, I would land the Vouch position. It was really kind of fast paced, but really fun kind of timeline of things.

Susan: How did you do that? Did Vouch find you, or did you find Vouch? Because you’re a female CEO at a tech startup company. I’m just going to wager; you don’t see that a lot.

Christiana: It’s my favorite love story to tell of how Vouch and I met up. And you’re right, I don’t want to say it’s uncommon to have women lead technology startups, it’s growing, but it’s definitely we’re a minority. And then to be a minority and a female is even less common. So the team, I credit them with one, seeking out a female voice. The company was founded in 2017 by an almost entirely male team. And the promise of Vouch is to make dating fun, social and safe again. We know there’s a lot of challenges in existing dating apps. I’m sure I’ll get into that later. But the team recognize that they needed a female voice to lead this. Women are targeted on these dating apps more often than not.

And the team, when I first met them, it was really just, I want to know what you’re doing. I’ve seen Vouch was co founded by Sean Lowe, who is a pretty prominent name from the Bachelor franchise who lives right here in Dallas. And so I’d seen him promoting this new dating app. And it’s really interesting. I’ve never heard of anything like this. I just kind of kept an eye on it. And a really incredible kind of chain of events that happened about this time last year, I was on LinkedIn, I was just trying to develop my own voice and brand on LinkedIn. So I was really spending a lot more time pushing out content, really connecting with people and just creating this digital presence. And I had done some work with Red Bull on the entrepreneurship side. And a colleague I’d work with Red Bull tagged me in this post from the batch team. And it said “Vouch is looking for a female CEO,” and it caught my eye right away. I said, “First of all, is it even legal to call out specifically you want a female CEO? Like what is this? I mean, I know Vouch is… I know that it’s a dating app. But how strange for them to call this out.” I thought, well, it’s really we were in the peak of the MeToo movement, there’s a lot of things happening in the political space around, you know, trusting women’s voices, listening to their concern. Diversity and inclusion was a hot topic in the past. And I thought, “What are these guys up to?” And so I requested that I, that I that we meet, and not because necessarily, I thought I was fit for the position at the time, it was just more, I want to know what you guys are up to and is a total PR play that you’re pushing. And if so, I’m going to tear it apart, I’m going to tell you straight out. That’s not fair. And anyway, so I meet the team. And they had a one shot, in my opinion to give me a response, a genuine response to why they were calling out a female CEO. And it was the most genuine and pure response. And it made all the difference between me even wanting to explore maybe helping them find another CEO, and definitely me taking the position. They said, “We’re a bunch of guys. We’ve never been physically nervous, or nervous about physical safety when it comes to meeting up with a girl. We might be nervous because she’s pretty and we’re excited. But we’re not nervous, they’re going to kidnap me, we’re not nervous, they’re going to throw me into a back of a van, and we need somebody who has had those concerns.” And I always joke, you can’t see me, but I’m a small kidnappable person. So I’m like five, three, I’ve never been able to be more than like 105 pounds, no matter how hard I try. I’m really small. And so I joke about these things. I shouldn’t joke, but it is a concern of mine, meeting people on and offline is…There’s so much out there. There’s so many different ways to connect, and not a lot of verification of safety in these situations.

So anyway, the team tells me, we don’t know these concerns from a personal level. We think about them for our sisters and our girlfriends and our wives, but we can’t speak on behalf of women in this space. And we need someone who can do that. So long story short, I spent some time really digging into what I wanted to do. And I kept thinking about Vouch and ultimately was offered the job back in early—guess this is early January. And it’s been one of the greatest honors of my lifetime thus far, and I imagine probably beyond. So I’m very excited about it. But it’s been a very unique journey with the team so far.

Susan: You know, I really admire that they did that. And I would have been skeptical too. If I had seen that I would have thought yes, total PR stunt. In fact, I think I did see something about it just briefly in like the Dallas Observer or Dallas Morning News, I can’t remember, when they first brought you on and that was my first thought is, “Oh, this is a total PR stunt.” But your story and the way you share that, I really appreciate what they did and I really wish more people, people in general, not just men, including women’s voices, but I wish people in general I wish we could get to a point. And I hope we can get to a point in this world where we are including voices that aren’t always heard. So I’m really excited that they brought you on to do this. And I think it’s got to have a different feel to it and a different tone than other dating apps. I will say this right now, I am happily married. But it seems like something that if I were in a space where I needed something like Vouch, that would be something I would reach out to because it would have a different feel than just your regular what I would term probably hookup apps, which is not something I’m looking for in my life. Not that there’s anything wrong that.

Christiana: It’s just different. There’s so many platforms out there. And I thought about that. I mean, I thought one, for the team to acknowledge that there is you know, they know that there’s competition right here in Dallas. I can look up the street and I can see match.com which owns a multitude of platforms, some of the biggest, they’re doing a really great job in their unique spaces that they cover. Bumbles over down the street in Austin and it is a noisy space for dating. But what I thought was okay, if the team’s willing one, to come up with this fun, unique idea, then bring on a female knowing that a fraction of capital and the fundraising side for technology companies a very small percentage, just capital goes to women, and it’s even less for minority females or minorities really in general, for them to say we believe in this enough to bring on a team knowing that’s not bringing on a CEO knowing somewhat, the odds are stacked against us, for them to believe in me. And then the potential of the product said a lot to me. And it said that they’re listening they’re paying attention to, to the thoughts of voices need to be heard all different voices. And I don’t have I mean, if you look at my resume, although I’ve done a lot in a short amount of time, I haven’t had a ton of jobs, I haven’t spent a ton of time in anyone position. And for them to acknowledge what I bring to the table is another thing that I think that I want other companies to look at. It’s not the person that always has the most amount of experience, or 25 plus years doing XY and Z. It’s who’s driving impact, who’s moving quickly, who’s innovating, who’s getting creative, how in tune are they with the trends and what’s happening. And I think that’s what I brought to the table. And Vouch is so uniquely different in and of itself, just as unique functionality, that giving some of that young innovation, creativity, boldness that I hope I bring to the table kind of seemed like the perfect fit between the two of us. So you’re right. If you ask people their perceptions of certain dating apps, they know exactly how they feel about it. I’ve heard you know, I’ll poll people, like, “What are your thoughts about this?” Like “Oh, no, that’s the hook up app.” “What are your thoughts about this other platform?” They’ll go, “That’s the one where I get to match with friends that have common connections with me on Facebook, but I don’t get the best matches there. I get better matches here, here and here.” They have their unique ideas about how each dating app works and their level of success on these dating apps. And each provides a different unique experience.

What Vouch does that is different is that if you are married—we all have that single friend who just can’t figure it out. I’m sure you have fantastic single friends that you’ve probably tried to play matchmaker for or either root on and their dating experiences. I think we all do, we always have that one that’s like me, “Man, she’s great, he’s great. Why can they figure it out? Why are they having such a hard time?” Vouch lets you as a married person Vouch for your singles friends. And it’s hard when you’re listening to a podcast to visualize it. But think about the LinkedIn recommendations that I always bring up. And on LinkedIn, you can see someone’s profile, they fill it out themselves, they tell you what school they went to, they tell you their skills, not unlike a dating app where you have a photo and a bio. But at the bottom of LinkedIn are these recommendations that an individual on LinkedIn can recommend you know, or request from a past college, a past manager, a coworker. And it’s a digital reference, it’s a recommendation. And what Vouch does, is allows you to do the same thing. But for your friends, family, your social circle, they get to come on to Vouch and leave you these messages of encouragement, which is fun and makes it social. But what’s really exciting about it is it provides social context to the data looking at your profile, or if you’re a single person, you can see what other people’s Vouchers are saying.

And I think the team initially wanted that feature to be really about something that’s fun and social, and you can hype your friends up. But then the more we looked into it, the more we realize that it provides this level of accountability. And if I’m a single person out there dating, and I’m willing to invite you, Susan, and my friend Amanda at the Dallas Girl Gang and my sister and my friends, if I’m telling “Hey, guys, I’m on this dating app, will you Vouch for me?” It provides two purposes, in my opinion, one, it’s holding me accountable to be probably my most authentic self and my real self on the internet, my friends are going to call me out if I picture is my picture. Or if I have fake information in my bio. And then when I meet up with these people that I match with, I’m going to think twice before going at it with the wrong intentions. And so we hope that it provides this level of accountability for the dater, because their friends are involved.

You know historically dating is a really isolating experience. And whether you’re online or offline, it’s difficult, it’s hard to manage your time and your energy and it can be exhausting. And it could be especially isolating now with this digital age. So that is unique and that anyone can use it single people go on there to date, Vouchers can go on there to Vouch for their friends. And they just creates a more social environment with this level of safety and accountability. And really, the second piece of those Vouchers that it’s providing authenticity. Those Vouchers of saying yes, this is my friends, they’re not married and being secretive, online. There they are who they say they are, they’re great, you should get to know them. It’s always really hard. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at bios on dating outs of how the time is, I’m going to fill this out later. Or I don’t know what to say about myself. And it’s kind of funny. So you can rely on your friends to really hype you up and provide context for who you are, all within one platform. They’re already doing it for you offline now Vouch lets you do it online from anywhere.

Susan: I like that level of authenticity, because I have helped friends fill out those dating platform bios. And you know how you get matched up with people. And then it’s like, oh, he looks like this. And then they go out on a date with him. And he looks nothing like that. So I, you’re right, I think friends are probably pretty good about calling each other out saying that’s not what you look like, or not even looks. But that’s not even who you are, or what you do, that’s not even your real personality. I really appreciate that Vouch is taking this in a different direction. That’s really unique. And I don’t know that anybody else is doing that. Tell us a little bit about where you can find Vouch. How do you sign up for Voucher or their membership fees? What does that look like?

Christiana: Well, Vouch is available on iOS, so Apple products only right now. We’re working really quickly to get the Android product out there. So you can download the app from the app store today. It’s not just local or just DFW, you can download it anywhere. We’re really focusing, as we are relaunching this product, getting it out there, attaching my face and my brand to it, we really are focused on getting DFW to be a really successful market first. We have so many exciting opportunities for growth in Dallas alone that we really think we’re going to invest our time and our energy and our money into Dallas. You can download it from anywhere, which is great, but we’re really, really focusing on building up the user base here. That way, if you download the app today, you can swipe through plenty of potential matches before you run out of options.

The unique part about Vouching for friends is if you know, let’s say, Susan, you live in New York, but you’re my good friend, you wanted to Vouch for me, what you can do is I’ll send you an invite to Vouch for me, you’re in New York. But what you can do is after you leave me a Vouch message that lives on my profile, you can actually go and swipe through matches that I would see here in Dallas, you can swipe right on someone you think might be a great fit for me and swipe left on someone you think ah, I don’t really know if that’s the right guy for Christiana. And so you almost clone my profile. And so we call it a social matchmaking and dating app because you allow your friends kind of support you in that way. I always tell people that if you swipe right or your Voucher swipes right on someone for you, it’s not like an arranged marriage to force you into a conversation and force you guys to talk to each other. It’s simply that if you swipe right on someone great for me, when I open up my app, it’s going to show me pre approved matches from you. And it’ll say approved by Susan. And the idea behind that is sometimes people become kind of jaded by this whole swiping mechanism. And a lot of times my friends hand me their phones and say, “Please, I don’t even want to look at this anymore. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. You know me better than I know myself.” That provides some kind of fun interactive component for the Vouchers. But you’ll never show up in the dating pool. So you’re married. If you’re there to Vouch, you’re simply there to Vouch. You are blinded to the dating community, your profile never appears, you’ll simply just show up as one of my Vouchers. But as I mentioned, on the app store today, you can download it, swipe the potential matches, really from anywhere. But you can also Vouch for your single friends if you’re in a relationship.

Susan: That’s really cool. I’ll make sure to link all of this in our show notes over on our website. When this posts. So anybody in my audience who wants to go and just download easy, head to the website and do a quick download. Or I guess you can just go to the app store and type up Vouch and it’ll pull up that way as well.

Christiana: Right. So if you don’t have an iPhone and you’re waiting for the Android on if you go to tryVouchapp.com, we’re going to have an alert that allows you to put your email in, especially if you don’t have an Android product, put your email in and you’ll be notified when that Android is ready. That way, if you were ready to date, you could you could do it from your Android products. So tryVouchapp.com is our website to get all that info.

Susan: Great. And I will put that up as well. It appears that Vouch has pretty big plans for not just the present but for the future. I know you guys have had some actual meetup events going on in Dallas. Do you guys have anything coming up for the fall? What are your big plans for the fall or for the holidays?

Christiana: Oh, gosh, how much time do we have? So many fun things that we’re working on. The goal is to again to focus on DFW but what we’re going to do is really measure what works well in Dallas and beyond. That way when we’re ready to expand we know that we’ve got a good strong event strategy, we know what we’re doing on the social media side, we know what messaging is resonating both with daters and Vouchers. So we’re using the next couple of months to just continue to create buzz. We posted some really great sold out, I mean, 300 plus people events in Dallas. And the fun part is we don’t make them into these single meetups. It’s really bring your Vouchers out, bring your social support circle that’s already routing you’re on and Vouching for you offline. Bring them out to these events, get familiar with the product, meet each other. So we’ve got some fun things planned.

Susan: Okay, Christiana, tell us what you guys have coming up for the fall. Are there any fun new events? I know you guys have done some events in the past. But do you guys have anything fun coming up that we need to know about in the DFW area?

Christiana: Yeah, we’re gonna be doing a lot the next couple month. You might get tired of me after a little while. But our next really exciting event is coming up on August 31. It is National Matchmaker Day, which is really fun, because we’re one of the only apps that allows you to play matchmaker for your friend. So we’re excited to use that as an opportunity to invite single people out, but then of course, bring their social circle their Vouchers, friends, family, colleagues, investors, whoever is to come and play matchmaker with us. And just to highlight that Vouch allows you to do that. So August 31, we’re partnering with Dibs in Victory Park. So highlight a really fun event, will have photo booths and great drink specials and a couple of free things for all of our Vouch users. So I’ll make sure to give you all that info. So you can share that. But August 31 coming up National Matchmaker Day.

Susan: Okay, and I will make sure to have all of that posted online and on our social platforms so that everybody can go and click a button and sign up. I presume that’s how it’s going to work. Yes?

Christiana: Right. Correct, you’ll be able to RSVP but we’ll be doing plenty of fun, hyper localized events. What I want is I know that every market even in Dallas, the DFW area with sub markets are so unique. We want to take that approach and create a unique experience at a hyper local level where we get to promote Vouch, promote the fun part about it. But also just let people know that there’s just a safer alternative to the other dating apps that provide really limited accountability, really limited safety features, and to make dating fun again.

Susan: That just sounds fun. I look forward to seeing what you guys do in the DFW area. I think it just sounds refreshing from what I’ve heard with other friends going through some of this dating stuff. Dating wasn’t easy before. And I definitely think social media has made it harder.

Christiana: Oh, I was thinking about this the other day. And part of our big plans is we’re in the middle of a fundraising round. As I mentioned, it’s really, really difficult to look at a room full of men, and talk to them about safety and dating concerns. And I spent a lot of time really trying to figure out what’s happening in the dating space right now. I have Google Alerts turned on from my Gmail or on Google. And for dating apps, a dating app space. It’s every day I see a kidnapping, someone was scammed, someone was assaulted or worse in some instances. And what it says to me is dating online is becoming increasingly more popular. And as it becomes more popular and more digital, I don’t think we should sacrifice it being more personal and more authentic. And what I love about Vouch after I’ve done so much research into why people aren’t using dating apps, its safety concerns its authenticity, it’s the negative stigma that comes with dating online, which I can’t believe still happens. I mean, almost half of couples that are together right now, or have gotten together in the last year have met online. I think it’s about 45% or 40%. somewhere around there.

Susan: Wow.

Christiana: It just blows my mind so bad, we still have a negative and negative stigma around it just blows my mind. I mean, think about the Dallas girl guy, I use this example all the time, if I met up with somebody that I connected with on Facebook around the Dallas Girl Day, and I told people, “Hey, I’m meeting up with this great girl, we’re going to grab coffee, we’ve got a lot of mutual things in common. We’re both working on businesses that we just want to have a new friend that I might not have met otherwise.” No one bats an eye at that.

Susan: No!

Christiana: No one says, “Oh, how weird, you’re meeting someone from online?” I don’t know why in dating, it’s so prevalent. So the reason why I’m so big on including Vouchers in the social circle is that we’re connecting in a way that we haven’t been able to maybe 20 years ago now in this super digital world where I get to connect with somebody who I might not have ever met via this digital platform, that is Facebook. And now dating is just, it’s really, really incredible, the opportunity. And I think, I always joke like what else could be more recession proof than dating, right? We’re never not going to seek out someone to match with and to marry or connect with as a couple. I can’t think of anything else which is going to continue on for the rest of time, is seeking out this match.

And so dating, although digital, I think it’s we try to provide real life elements within this digital platform that way, as we continue to be more digital and online, we’re not becoming less social, and less real. So it’s a delicate balance of all of it to create a really safe platform. But we do want to make it fun. And so the feedback we’ve gotten so far has been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t want to say I’m surprised by it, I think people were have been waiting for something different. Bumble did a good job of highlighting some concerns. But none of the dating apps provide this level of verification and authenticity and the level of safety that Vouch does, and I’m really excited about the opportunities we have for Dallas and beyond.

Susan: I am really excited about it to you have sold me on it. I think it just sounds fun, it sounds refreshing, and it’s different. And I like all of that. And I want to switch gears real quick, I want to be respectful of your time. But there’s one thing—and I didn’t prep you for this. But there’s one thing that I want to chat about before I let you go. And that is, you know, our goal here at h”How She Got Here” is not just to tell the story of whoever I’m interviewing what their fabulous thing is or what they’re doing or to talk about where they came from. But to kind of leave the audience with something like if this is something I’m interested in getting into or follow your dreams or something like that. You jumped from thinking about science, in a “I’m going to go to medical school” to the tech field. Share a little bit about what that transition was like in your brain and what that felt like just just moving into that space. And anything that you would give another woman thinking about making a huge change or mind shift.

Christiana: I try to put myself in the space that I was, let’s say junior year of college. I had my eyes on being a surgeon. I love to sew. I like to hand stitched things. And I had always done really well in we got to do is suture labs and different fun things in college. And so I’d love to sew, so I thought I’m going to be a great surgeon, I’m going to apply all my skills, and I’m going to be a really warm, personal, you know, I’ve been in an environment where it’s so clinical and physicians don’t even have time to look you in the eye or sit down and answer your questions. And I always promised myself that I would continue that no matter what specialty I went into. I didn’t realize I would not end up in an OR at all, I would end up on a platform to support connecting people, either through the millennial clubs, and now connecting people in this unique way of Vouch, but I think knew there were a couple of things I wanted to do no matter what position I had. And it was always to do things with warmth and a level of authenticity and being genuine. I know being authentic is such a buzzword these days.

But it really was at the time I said well, no matter what type of physician I am, I want to be there for my patients, I want to be respectful and provide reassurance. And the more I distance myself from the actual clinical side, I still thought about those things as no matter what position I had, how am I going to provide a level of reassurance and support. And I’m the biggest advocate for…It doesn’t matter what degree you get, you can pretty much do anything. I mean, my background is in biology and chemistry. And what I’ve loved about biology and chemistry is there are constants in chemical reactions and in physics, they don’t change no matter what they are, they are numbers, they are equations that will never change. And I have struggled having consistency in my life. I’m a military brat. So I’ve lived everywhere. I’ve had to move 1000 times. I’ve done six schools in six years. I’ve never been in the same place for more than you know, up until Dallas, or Texas more than five years at a time. And so I lean towards scientific theme. But I still love being social and learning business and the creative side.

So the transition was a strange one from clinical world to technology world to a hybrid of the two to an entirely different platform that is Vouch. And the best recommendation I can give people is that there really truly is no cookie cutter way and no template for this. You can’t look it up. There’s not going to be a green light that says, hey, go for it. I think if you know now what you love to do and what aspects of your job you love, you can transition that and translate it to different industries. And I think I’m the best example of that. I took what I loved about science and technology as a kid, and what I loved about it in college and I continue to apply that to my creative process and how I treat people, and how I want to have levels of constants in Vouch. I’m never going to sacrifice quality or safety for my users. And that’s the same way I would never sacrifice quality or safety for my patients. And that’s never going to change.

So I don’t really care if we don’t grow as quickly as the other platforms. I want to make sure that we grow at a pace that keeps my daters safe and happy and provides a level of confidence for them. And it’s not so different than the way I thought about taking care of patients in the ER, or in a trauma surgery setting. It was the same mindset for me. So I always tell people that, again, there really isn’t a template, no handbook for this, you just have to think really deeply about the core of what you love to do. And you’ll find a way to translate it into different industry, if that is what your goal is to leave a current position or to start something of your own. I think you can pretty much… I used to hate when people said you couldn’t really do anything you want to do. And then I did something I really wanted to do that it was never expected. So now I’m a big advocate for you can do anything. But I hope that answers… I think that I’m not the smartest in the room. I’m definitely not the one with the most experience. But I do have the most heart and I know that. And I try to translate that into any industry, whether it’s advocating for women in STEM on stage at a big charity event, or it’s on the news talking about dating and matchmaking in the online world, I still try to stay true to those core values that I had even 10 years ago.

Susan: I really appreciate that. I love how you were able to mash and literally mash together your heart and your brain and make it work for work. I think that’s fantastic. And you said that so much more beautifully than I did. But that really is… I think that’s a hard thing for people to do. Because I think it’s hard for people to think that they can make it work together. And it took some finagling for you to make it work. And I just really appreciate you sharing that story. At the end of the day, your thing is still very much people and you were very people focused. And I really appreciate that. I think your Vouchers will really appreciate having somebody lead an organization that is very much a people first type organization. I really appreciate that. That’s not common. I hope you realize how special you are.

Christiana: I really appreciate that. I always tell people—and I’ve been able to boil down my experience. Again, it hasn’t been a long one, I’m still pretty young and I feel like I have so much work to do. But what I know I’m good at is connecting. And in my past in, you know, let’s just say my first role with the healthcare startup was I was connecting patients to a new product. And then in my next role, I was connecting people to people via networking and people to events with all the events that I’ve planned and put together. And then now I get to connect people to people, but in this way it’s just the next level, I could create a marriage, I could create a family, I have opportunity to connect people in a way. It’s a lot of responsibility and I just don’t take it lightly. I think about the positives that come out of it. And I can also think about the concerns people have on meeting up online or just honestly meeting anybody at the bar, you would still, if you could you’d want to go see who’s Vouching for them, could you look them up? I mean, I know so many people that will immediately Google a name if they can and checking out. It’s not because we’re trying to be creepy and really get to specific or you know, digging into someone’s personal life before we spend time with it simply because we want reassurance we want to know one, is the person who they say they are? Do they have a track record? Is there a criminal record going to show up when I google them? Am I going to be safe in this situation?

And once you have that level of reassurance, I think you can be a better version of yourself because you’re not nervous about these other potential impacts of a meeting up with somebody who doesn’t have people Vouching for them. I mean, I would Vouch—and I’ll make this super quick, I’m not going to limit people’s ability to join the product. I mean, I can’t tell Joe Schmo from down the street, he can’t join it. What I can do, though, is I can throw up barriers within the product that make it harder for people who are there for the wrong reasons, people on there who have bad intentions or people who should just generally not being on dating apps, or maybe dating and at all, I’m going to make it harder for them to be successful. And that sounds strange. But the idea is that you’re inviting people to Vouch for you, unless you can convince 10 of your serial killer friends to Vouch for you, if you’re on there, you have a bad reputation, you’re going to show up with zero Vouchers, maybe one, maybe you could bid somebody. But what it’s going to do is you’re going to start to look at the way we look at reviews on Amazon. I mean, I did this the other day, I wanted to buy a mouse. My mouse for my computer is very loud and annoying. I wanted to buy a quiet mouse. I picked a mouse that had 300 reviews and four stars over the mouse that had one review and it was five stars, because I thought who did they pay to leave that one review?

And so in Vouch it’s not that we’re trying to be the Yelp of people over people in that way. But what it’s going to show you is somebody who’s willing to get their friends involved, and they’re excited, and they’ve got a big core of people who are out there rooting for them, that’s going to speak volumes, what’s also going to say a lot of these we have nobody Vouching for you. Because that is going to cause you to think, oh, why don’t they have someone rooting them on? You know, do they have a reputation? I always joke, I have friends that I absolutely adore and that I love and I think are great, but I also know what their reputation is, like in the dating world, I’m definitely not going to co-sign off on their profile and Vouch for them. Because their either unexpected. I don’t know what they’re going to do. And so you can decline about two and I think it says a lot about who someone is if if you’re unable to get a lot of people there to support you.

And again, I don’t want this to be the Yelp of people, it is more so providing transparency and accountability in the dating space. Because profiles right now, it’s like a too good to be true candidate or resume that their picture looks great. It looks like they did really incredible things in a short time frame and you never call those references, you know,? You’d want to if you thought too good to be true resumes say, “Okay, hold on a second.” People probably think that about me. I’ve done so much in such a short of time. I think I’ve just made this all up. Luckily, I have people Vouching for me I’ve got friends, I could say, “Hey, talk to my core team from these four companies had participated.” And I have no doubt that they’ll Vouch for my role and what I’ve done and my impact. And so it’s not to make light and try to make dating in this business professional, but the LinkedIn of dating, I don’t want it to be that by any means. LinkedIn needs to stay as professional as possible. It’s already bogged down with unprofessional content in some ways. But we just provide this level of reassurance, I keep going back to that word, and it just stuck out to me, but it’s truly what we’re doing. And we hope that that lessens people’s anxiety about meeting up online and just provide better relationships. And hopefully, I joke, I put it out there all the time, if someone gets married off of Vouch I will be the one to ordain…I’ll be the Minister for the for the wedding. I’ll get my certificate online. That would be my dream.

Susan: That’s awesome. Well, Christiana, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to come and share a little bit about yourself and a little bit about what’s going on over at Vouch. I wish you all the luck in the world. And thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it.

Christiana: Oh my gosh, No, thank you. I love any opportunity to be on any stage and platform to promote what we’re doing. And just to let women out there, and the guys too, the guys should know too that there are some really incredible things happening in Dallas and beyond with women led businesses, women founded businesses, and they deserve all the attention. So thank you for highlighting these stories and encouraging women. I think it’s only going to get better from here.

Outro: Hey, Pod Sisters. Thanks so much for joining me today. 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. 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. See you soon.

Infertility and Me with your host, Susan Long and her husband, Stephen

Have you ever found yourself mad at a total stranger because they were obviously pregnant and you still weren’t? Have you ever seen someone treat their child less than kind and want to shake them and tell them they should be thankful they could have that child? Have you ever taken a pregnancy test only to find it read not pregnant…again? Then this episode is for you.

Show Notes:

Links:

Transcript:


Go Big or Go Home, with Marty McDonald – Founder, Boss Women Media

Marty McDonald quit her corporate job to pursue Boss Women Media full time and it has been a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, highs, lows and everything in between.

Show Notes:

Links:

https://bosswomen.org

Boss Women Media – Instagram

Marty Motivates – Instagram

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 am so excited for you to dig in to this conversation. My guest is Marty McDonald, founder of Boss Women Media. Boss Women Media is an offline/online women’s empowerment community and media company. We talk about what that means as well as what it’s like to leave your corporate job and follow your entrepreneurial goals. Y’all Marty is brave and is a huge risk taker. She is not afraid to go after big things. Boss Women Media is everything we talk about here at How She Got Here! It’s women supporting women. It’s a platform for connection. It’s educational. It’s women celebrating women! It’s awesome and I am here for all of it! Make sure to check out bosswomen.org and follow on Instagram @bosswomenmedia and @martymotivates. And don’t forget to get your tickets to Boss Woman of the Year here in Dallas on September 21st. More of that in our upcoming conversation. So without further ado, here is Marty.

Susan: Well, good morning, Miss Marty, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. And getting to know you a little bit better and hearing a little bit about Boss Women Media. For our audience who does not know you or Boss Women Media yet. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to open up by sharing a little bit about yourself and about how Boss Women Media came into being.

Marty: Yeah. Thank you. First of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m actually kind of dealing with a little bit of like a nasal sinus infection. So I apologize if I sound like I’m talking out of my nose cause I kind of am. But thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to be here. And just to share my story. Boss Women Media is an offline, online women’s empowerment community and Media Company. And what I mean by offline/online. Offline, we create experiences for women to connect through the lens of brands. Online, we create content that women need to thrive in their careers and in their lives. Boss Women Media was started in 2016 as a personal need for me. I was a girl sitting in corporate America feeling so isolated and feeling like where are my people at? Where are the girls at, who are going through the same things that I’m going through?

Navigating salary negotiation, navigating, moving from manager to director, navigating the corporate space of feeling like a complete imposter. Because, oh, by the way, I’m the only black girl that’s in the board room. And I feel like my voice has been assimilated to someone else’s identity. And so I created this movement because I tried several things in Dallas and I couldn’t find anything that quite felt like this was my tribe of people. In 2016 I had a brunch at Neiman Marcus cafe. I had 25 women attend, 15 of them who I had no idea who they were at all. I put it on event bright and I thought, man, this could really be something incredibly powerful, specifically for millennial women and millennial women of color who need an outlet and a space. And so that’s really how we formulated. Since then we have really just been taken sitting at the table and trying to take as many names as possible of owning who we are as a brand. And really showcases how our community that you can create and have whatever you want and desire with a little bit of grit and determination.

I quit my corporate job about a year ago to pursue Boss Women Media full time and it has been a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, highs, lows and everything in between. But I wouldn’t change it because every day I wake up and I say I am ready to kick ass. I am ready to take names and I’m ready to be the voice and advocate that my community needs.

Susan: I love that. That is so exciting. And wow, you have really gone out there now and made this your full time gig. That is really cool. And the, I find that really brave.

Marty: I would say brave more than even cool. Because sometimes we think entrepreneurship is this glamorous, sexy thing. And really to be honest, there isn’t even a blueprint written for entrepreneurship because it’s going to look different for everyone. And so while yes, it felt very cool and liberating to say, hey, I’m quitting and I’m gunna go follow my own passion and pursue my dreams and desires of my heart. It was extremely scary knowing that I wouldn’t have a paycheck coming in every two weeks. And I would have to figure out how to monetize this brand and create it where it was not just a community, but it was a profitable company. And to be completely frank and transparent, I’m still trying to navigate what that looks like on a weekly, on a daily basis. But I know that the need is so desired.

Susan: Marty, I think you’re absolutely right. And I would love to talk a little bit about Boss Women Media specifically because I’m seeing. And I’ve noticed that they all have their own niche, which is what I’m kind of getting at here. Boss Women Media it’s part of like your thing. I’m not saying this right, your brand is not part of anything, but I’m noticing a lot of these types of women’s groups popping up like this. And I’m wondering, if you’ve thought about what makes yours stand out from some of the others.

Marty: Yeah, I mean that’s something that I think about on a daily basis. This morning I was just kind of going back over what is the of the brand? Who are we talking to? What are the talking points, what are the platforms? I feel like what makes our brand stand out the most and the things that I work incredibly hard at making sure that I provide is that one, it is not just a social organization. So where I would like to say come and we’re going to all connect and that’s it. That’s not really who we are. That’s not what we want to even be either. So we’re, yes, our events are very Instagram-able. We want to make sure that we are providing our women with real tools and resources that they can apply. And so, we just ended a five city tour through a partnership with Sugarfina called Black Girl Magic.

And we were very intentional about who we selected as speakers. And the information that we wanted our women to take away. So when you checked into the event, you received a card. Your card might have been blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, but whoever else had that same color card you were to go connect with. Because we know that success is defined by the connections you make and the consistency that you have. And so if you are in a world where you are not connected, you are in a place that leaves you desolate. And it leaves you fighting to figure out resources that if you had the connections for, could be easy to navigate. So we know how important connections are. So that’s one of the first ways we make sure that we bridge of changing the way women connect is our mission statements.

And then secondly, we want to make sure that we’re super intentional on what the information is that we’re giving to our community. So when you’re given a program of what’s gonna happen today on the back of the program, it shows these are the takeaways. This is a place for you to be writing notes. These are the things we want you to take away. How to create a brand. Whether you’re in corporate America, as we identify them as our corporate queens, or if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re kind of a startup position. We want you to identify how to create a brand that stands out, right. How to make sure that you’re fighting for the pay that you deserve. Whether it’s through a partnership opportunity or it’s through you sitting in this space incorporating your up for raise and you don’t know how to find your voice and saying, no, I am worth more.

And so we’re very intentional in the information that we’re giving. But we make it so easy where you know, when you leave, what your action steps are. And I think that’s what makes us a little bit different. And also another thing that makes us different is that while we are not a black woman organization only. Our community is full of millennial women of color. And I would say probably 95% of them are millennial women of color. We are super intentional though about every woman needs to be bringing their voice to the table and sounding off for change to happen, not just one race. So we welcome everyone. We don’t want to isolate anyone, but what’s natural to people is that they congregate with people who look like them, sound like them, identify by them. But we know for change to happen, everybody, everyone’s voice needs to be in the space and at the table.

Susan: You made so many good points there. I kind of want to jump back just a second. I realized after when you were talking about brand for a minute, that you we’re not specifically talking about entrepreneurs creating a brand. You were also talking about the importance of personal brand. Am I correct?

Marty: Yes, that’s correct.

Susan: That is such a good point and so important. And something that back in the day when I was in corporate America, I probably didn’t think about enough. So thank you for highlighting that. I really appreciate that. I think that’s so important. And I think, I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I missed the boat on remembering to do that sometimes. So I appreciate that. And then I really love and admire this niche you’ve created. I think it’s just so needed right now. I think oftentimes we’re highlighting a lot of the changes that are going on in the environment around us. And I know there’s a lot of amazing stuff happening. But at the same time, we just need to keep pushing it forward, pushing it forward.

And I want everybody listening to remember that we’ve just got to keep this work going. We can’t let it stall out. I don’t know why that’s in my brain lately, but I worry about that sometimes. It’s like, oh well, Marty McDonald created this and some of these groups are popping up and it’s already done. I’m like, no, no, no. We got to keep going. We got to keep up with the momentum. I love this connection in real life that you’re, it’s not just online, it is in real life.

I think sometimes in today that’s just so easy to forget. Tell me a little bit, and I don’t know if I asked this beforehand or not. But once an event is over, do you have a way for everybody to kind of reconnect online if maybe they don’t live in the same area? Like say it, cause I know you were on your five city tour, if maybe some people flew into a specific area and then they kind of went back out to maybe an hour away to their own community or something, is there a way for them to stay connected afterwards?

Marty: Yeah. So obviously they can connect through our newsletter that we send out weekly that really has four platforms that we highlight through information. The four platforms are small business, big dreams, the glow up money moment and money matters, and then we highlight boss women. So that’s a way that we kind of package everything together and say, here’s what we’re talking about, here’s what we’re doing. We also have a daily text message that goes out, “Hey girl, hey!” Go ahead and kick-ass today, kick butt today. Like we want you to like just be affirmed. And then we also have social media, but we’re working on something behind the scenes. We’re working on an app right now. Hopefully we will launch in August. And that app is called Boss Connect. And basically if you have come to an event or if you’ve never come to an event.

You can see all of the people who have come to the event based on the app because the app is the check in point. But it lends itself as its own rallying community for women to come together. So say I’m looking for a mentor. I’d go on the app and I see profiles of women that I’m interested in either mentoring or really soliciting help from. I might need a graphic designer. I can go onto this app in this space and look up. And it’s for women by women. And so that’s a space where we’re really trying to intentionally connect with women who don’t necessarily live in a certain area or space or community, but we can just rally together no matter where you’re at.

Susan: That is really, really interesting. And I cannot wait to dive into that once that launches. And you said that’s gonna be an August.

Marty: Yes.

Susan: So that is just around the corner. That is really fun. Oh my gosh. I can’t even imagine the work that goes in behind creating an app.

Marty: Oh my God, me neither. I couldn’t imagine it either until we started exploring it. But it’s been fun and we know that we need it because like, okay, we have LinkedIn. But to be honest LinkedIn is such a very mainstream professional space. And you normally, nine times out of 10 you get on LinkedIn when you’re trying to look for a job. But there’s not a lot of community connections happening on LinkedIn. And so, and it also this space that has been set and created for you not to be able to really share your identity of who you truly are only within this very professional space. And we want our women to be able to showcase their 360 view of themselves. We want to propelled them forward in their careers. And so we’re really excited about this. And we’re so excited because we need to continue, as you said, creating these spaces for women to know that it’s okay.

Susan: Absolutely. I want to jump back just a second. I want to talk a little bit about the five city tour you were on. How did that come about? Is that something that you see like as an annual thing? Cause I’m sure that took a lot out of you. Just share a little bit about that experience and if you plan to do it again, maybe about what you have coming up in the future.

Marty: Yeah, no, totally. So it was probably one of the most ironic thing. So I believe in the power of manifestation and visualizing. And last year I had a vision I was just doing like some white boarding and I said, okay, this is what I want to do for Boss in 2019. I wanted to go on a tour, but I had no idea who I was going to do the tour with. I just knew that we needed to be reaching and touching more women. That we could not be identified just as this Dallas box brand. Though we have tremendous drive to continue to make just in the Dallas area. It was just very important for me not to get stuck in a box. And so as I’m writing down what that looks like I had wrote down Target. I’m gonna pitch Target and we’re going to do a five city tour with Target.

We’re going to do like these mini branches and target. And I sent them the pitch. They said that I didn’t have capacity for it. And in true Marty fashion I know does not mean no to me. I just keep hustling until I figure out who’s gonna say yes. And so I didn’t necessarily know who my next like target person or brand was. But I was in L.A. and I went to a conference called Girl Boss Rally. And I went into to this breakout session. And the CEO of Sugarfina was sitting on the panel where she was basically talking about how they’ve created the Sugarfina brand, which I think is the most beautiful brand. And it’s like Tiffany and Company for candy really. And so I’m listening to her talk about how they create these taboo gummy bears. And I was like, oh, that’s interesting.

Fast forward and my brain went to. I had just read this Nielsen data report that said. Or not fast forward rewind, my brain was going. I just read this Nielsen data report. That says black girl magic is real. And it talks about the buying power and behavior of black women. And how by 2021, there’ll be the highest spending consumer out of any demographics based off the disposable income that they have. So me having a background in marketing and working in marketing before. I’m like, are brands paying attention to this? Because I feel like black women are not the target audience for any brand right now. Yet alone the secondary target audience. But we are a spending consumer of brands. And the lady continues to talk about how they created a green juice gummy for April fool’s, end of April fool’s joke.

Some people were like, we want it. So I was like sitting there in my seat thinking I’m going to go up to her afterwards and say, hey, you should create a gummy called black girl magic. So I proceed to go up to her afterwards. And I introduced myself and I asked her, I said, hey, have you ever heard of black magic? She looks at me and she’s like, what can I even say this? Like, what are you talking about? And I proceed to tell her black girl magic is the buying power behavior of women. And it’s a rallying call for women to come together. And you should create this gummy and we should do a collaboration. And I should do a five city tour in Sugarfina locations throughout the U.S.. And with mini pop-up conferences around the power of black girl magic.

So she tells me, send me an email at Sugarfina. So I thought, okay, well she probably isn’t taking me seriously number one, but I have to show her how serious I am. I go home, the conference was in LA. I go back to Dallas. I create this powerful pitch deck. I put all of the data in it of how she’s not capitalizing off of this secondary target audience that she needs for her brand. It took her three weeks to respond. I was on a phone call with her. It took her five weeks to respond after the phone call to say, yes, we want to move forward with this. And we kicked off the tour in February in LA.

Susan: Wow. That’s really, that’s so powerful. That’s such a powerful story. Now I have a question. Within those three weeks and five weeks span, were you really trying to reconnect with her or did you just let it sit?

Marty: I did a connection point I think two times within both spans. And the connection that I sent her back was more data. So when I would reach back out for her. It was more data. How around do you realize that 2,400 women owned businesses were started in 2018? Out of the 2,400 65% of them were African American women. They need to be in your store to hear these stories. And so it was more me really reiterating data to make her make a decision versus the a motion of how she needed to make the decision.

Susan: I like how you said that data versus emotion. And I love how you were able to use the skills you already had and repurpose them, if you will, into what you’re doing now. That’s something we talk about a lot is looking at the skills you already have and going forward. Like if you want to do something different, if you’re looking for something different, how you can repurpose those. And it sounds like you have done just that and I really admire that. Tell me, share with us a little bit how the event went. What did Sugarfina think? And I don’t mean to like hone in on just this one thing, but I think a lot of women would be so hesitant to go after such a big name.

Marty: Yeah. The crazy part is that I don’t ever want to take small risks. So I had a friend who recently had kind of sent me an Instagram DM and of some other girl and was like, well, she’s talking about sponsorships and she’s creating a course for that. You should do that. I’m like, oh, they’re small potatoes. That’s not my desire. I want to go after the biggest things that I can imagine. So to me, if your risks are not scary and don’t make you a little bit hesitant, you might not be taking a big enough risk. And so I think that that’s important for us to just stop playing small on ourselves. Because when we worked for brands, we don’t play small. We’re all working for organizations. We don’t play small. So why are we playing small in our lives?

So I think that that’s really important. But as far as the tour, the tour sold out in every single city, which to me made me realize how much more of a need that this is. We first started in LA. And to be honest, when we started in LA, I think the Sugarfina brand was a little bit taken back. Because I don’t think they thought, oh no, this is really happening. This is a production and we’re creating this space. And so I think that they saw the value after we had this big media that picked it up. Pop Sugar picked it up, Forbes picks it up, and we had a lot of big media that picked up the event. But in the sense of the women. I think that the women were such an awe of the fact that we had created this space for them. And creating experiences through those lens of brand. Because that’s what we said, that’s our strategy.

And so we had some of this speakers that were so overwhelmed by it in such a positive manner. I mean I can’t even lie about this. They had such a great time that some of the speaker’s honorarium at the end of the event on some stops, they told me not to worry about it. Because they were just so happy to be in a space where they could lend their voice and to women that looked like them. And for women that could truly utilize those types of resources. So that just speaks volumes of really what we were going after and what we were set after doing. The topics for each tour were pretty much the same but the voices behind them were so different. And we had people from the VP of Coca Cola on a panel to the largest influencers in the world. And we just were just excited to be able to be in this space with women. Some of our speakers were taken back by the fact that, we dubbed the tour black girl magic. And that there was a ton of black girls filled in space. And I think that that just goes to show we have so much work to still do to make people feel comfortable around people who do not look like them, sound like them, or came from where they came from.

Susan: We do have so much work to do. And I feel like it’s one of those things. Sometimes I feel like we’ve come so far and I feel like we have on some levels, but then we just have so much further to go and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I try not to look at it as well, why aren’t we there yet? Sometimes I do, but then sometimes I think, well, what an honor that it is to be like, this is our life’s work. Like I just can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing than trying to make this world a better place for my kids. So if we can do this and just continue pushing it forward and continue accomplishing these, these goals, then I just kind of, I can’t wait to see what world that creates for our kids. I really can’t.

You’re saying that just kind of took my breath away a little bit in a good way. And now I’ve kind of lost my train of thought. One of the things, one of the things that I loved that you said, is you were bringing women together and they realized even some of the speakers were so excited to lend their voice to it because their voice mattered. And I think I am not a woman of color. I am a woman and I can’t, I know what it’s like just being a regular white woman. So I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes. And I just, I really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s such a, wow, it’s just such an, an honor to speak with you this morning. And I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. And share this story. It just blows me away. Sarah was so good, to connect us. I’m just so excited to talk with you. This has been awesome so far. One of the things that you kind of, when you started talking about it, I kind of started having sweats a little bit, was you said we need to stop playing small. Guilty as charged. Tell us, is that just something, because some people I think are more, are better naturally to push for bigger and better and I can’t, it seems like you might just be one of those people who are good at pushing those boundaries. Do you ever get scared?

Marty: Oh my God. Oh my God. Yes. Okay. So I’ll give you an example. This morning I was sitting on my patio drinking my coffee, reading my devotional, and I know that there’s this, this project that I, I have an opportunity to work on. While I was sitting there and I’m reading my devotional, my prayer was God scares me. But what you’re, what you’re asking me to go do, the vision that you’ve given me to go do is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t have any resources to make this happen. So I need to completely lean into you. And I think that when you take it from that approach or whatever your faith is, whatever keeps you grounded, allows you to lean into that. And who your community is. Women who are pouring into you, your husband, your friends, whoever that is, whatever that may look like, to help you, you know, reinforced that you can do it.

But in the same sense I have always been just fearless, I was a fearless child. And I was a fearless child because I’m like some people who might’ve grown up with a ton of resources I never did. And I grew up in a household where my mom was domestically abused and I stepped in to be her mother. And I’ve always just been super strong and passionate and I always went after what I wanted. Because I’ve never wanted myself to be in a situation where I was abused. Whether that was physically or at a mental capacity, at an abuse state of not thinking that I’m capable of going after whatever I want, whatever I desire. And so for me the reason why I’m so gutsy is because I feel like if I don’t do it, someone else will do it.

And if I’ve been given a vision, I believe that God is the provisionary of that and I need to go after it. Like I would anything in life. I’m full force so I don’t play small. And so that I can really showcase the other women more importantly that they cannot forfeit. They don’t have the luxury of playing small. We don’t have the luxury as women to play small right now. There’s a women’s movement happening that’s so powerful. We don’t have the luxury or the time to play small, there’s work to be done. And I want to make sure that I’m leaving a legacy to my unborn children. That during this time, during this pivotal moment in history that their mother was able to truly make rain happen, make change happen and be a trailblazer and a change maker, for the next generation to come.

Susan: That is such a good point. One of the things before I started the podcast and when I was really like starting to think about this and what this would look like. I was talking to my husband about it one night and I said, you know, I don’t know. I said, my son, you know, he was two at the time. I was like, I’m really ready to go back and do something, but if I do this, this is going to be like a big thing. This is going to take a lot of time. And I’m willing to put that in. But am I taking something away from him? And Stephen looked at me and he said, Susan, he said, what? What are you going to tell Will when he’s older about what you did during this movement?

Marty: Yeah.

Susan: And I was like, and when he said that I was, I knew that I had to do it. It was one of those things. I couldn’t tell him. Sorry, mom thought it was more and not that raising your children isn’t important. It is so important. But this was something for me. I wanted to be able to tell Will, yes. Oh, and I said his name. I’ll bleep that out. I wanted to be able to tell my son, yes, Mommy did take time away, but when she did, this is why. And it was important. So I really appreciate you pointing that out. It’s so important. One of the things that I wanted to ask you. Starting something like this is hard. It’s hard going out on your own. It’s hard starting your own thing. And I’m sure you have days where you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. Where do you go when you need and where do you go for your inspiration? What helps inspire you to keep going?

Marty: Yeah. It’s a couple of things. To me, it’s so important if I’m a leader that I continue to grow. And leaders who do not not grow, cannot develop, and I just believe that. And so for me, I make sure that I do a conference every year. Last year I did Girl Boss Rally this year I just did the focus leader, Michael Hyatt conference. That was just so incredibly powerful. I’m actually right now sitting in front of Indie Beauty Expo in Dallas and I’m about to go walk the expo because it gives me inspiration on set design and production. So I’m constantly pouring in in the most taboo ways. That may not necessarily seem completely aligns with exactly what I’m doing. But I try to find inspiration in various ways. And so I think it’s important that what you’re reading, what you’re looking at on TV all plays a part into how you pour into yourself.

On days when I feel like I’m a complete loser, I’m a failure. What did I do? Why did I quit my job? Because I do have those moments. I do have those days. I go work out or the best therapy for me is watching Ellen. She just makes me feel good. And so I think it’s different for everyone, but you do have to find the thing that lights the fire under you. The thing that makes you feels like, because I have this, I can go do this. I’m constantly looking for those types of things that I can pour into my soul. So that I can execute. What I’m doing is pouring into other people and it can become very draining if no one ever poured into me. So I have to find ways to fill my cup so that I’m full when I’m ready to give to others.

Susan: That is so important and I’m really glad you emphasized that. As women we really have to do that. And I don’t think we’re always good at it. I’m not. I want to be respectful of your time, but I want to ask you before we go. I want to ask you, what is it either from Boss Women Media or just maybe you’re speaking on your own somewhere at a conference or something. Because I could totally see you doing that if you haven’t done it already. What is it that you want women to know about themselves?

Marty: I want women to know that they are capable of more and more and when you don’t think that you have capacity for more, think again. I want women to know that no matter how you grew up or where you came from, that anything is possible. And I want women to know that there are women rallying around them who want them to win. But if you hadn’t found that woman yet who is rallying for you, keep looking for her, she will come. And most importantly, I want women to know that they can cultivate the career and life of their dreams with a little bit of grit, determination, and most importantly, consistency every single day. The days that when they get knocked down, they stay consistent. The days when they have the highest of highs, they stay consistent. And I think that that is the most important key for them. Having whatever the success that they desire is if they stay consistent.

Susan: Yep. That’s all I got for that. Yep! That is so well said. So well said. Okay. Marty, tell us where we can find you online. I am here for everything that you are doing. I love it. I love the ideas. I love the idea of you doing these tours. This is phenomenal and I think it’s great and I think it is so, so needed, but it sounds like you already know that since it sold out the last time you did it. Tell us where we can find you online. Tell us anything about events coming up. And then I’ll make sure to link all of this on our website when it goes live.

Marty: Yeah, so our website is bosswomen.org. You can find us on Instagram at bosswomenmedia. You could find my personal brand on Instagram, Marty Motivates. And we do have our largest event coming up September the 21st its Boss Woman of the Year. It’ll be at the W Hotel in Dallas on the 33rd floor. We’re super excited about it. We’ll have 500 plus women, gathering together for an evening summit on celebrating what we call our Boss Women of the Year in three categories, the boss entrepreneur, the boss corporate queen, and the boss mom. And celebrating our five women that will be in a space to let them know. If these women can do it so can you. So I would love for your community to check that out as well.

Susan: I love those categories. That’s awesome entrepreneur mom. Like that’s so cool. And so needed, so needed. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing with me today. I really, really appreciate it.

Marty: Yes, thank you so much. I so appreciate it and thank you for letting me speak my authentic truth. I appreciate that.

Outro:Hey Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. 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. 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 ya soon.

Bonus Episode: What is happening on our southern border and how can I help? with legal expert, Kate Lincoln- Goldfinch

You ask, we deliver. In this bonus episode I sat down to chat with legal expert Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch. Kate is an Austin based immigration attorney and she is here to answer your questions. I hope our conversation will give you a better understanding of the situation and, most importantly, what you can do to help!

Show Notes:
Will post at a later date

Links:

www.lincolngoldfinch.com

https://www.facebook.com/lincolngoldfinch/

https://twitter.com/lincolngfinch?lang=en

More links to come

Transcript:
Will post at a later date


Brand Development – The Creative Process, with Vicky Gouge

You have a vision and now you want to see it come to life. Where do you start? How do you begin to help it materialize? I don’t know about you, but I am a visual person. My next step was reaching out to graphic artist, Vicky Gouge.

Show Notes:
Vicky Gouge is the owner of Full Moon Design Group, a Texas based graphic design and print marketing company with a focus on small to medium sized businesses.
Spoiler alert: She is the brains behind the How She Got Here website and logo. She truly helped How She Got Here come to life.

A few of my favorite highlights from our conversation include:
– Don’t be afraid to utilize the knowledge of others.
– Know your financial situation. Budgets aren’t always fun to talk about, but they are necessary.
– Failure is inevitable. Learn from it.
– Even in todays digital world there is still value in networking and meeting people in person.

Links:

https://fullmoondesigngroup.com

https://www.facebook.com/fullmoondesign/

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 am so excited about todays guest. That is because I get to introduce you to one of the gurus behind the scenes at How She Got Here. Today’s guest is Vicky Gouge. Vicky is the owner of Full Moon Design Group. She is my graphic artist, website developer and basically all things web related wizard. I am so excited she was willing to come on and share a little bit about herself and her business. So without further ado, here’s Vicky.

Susan: Okay, Vicky, I am so excited to have you with me today. For my guests who have not listened to a podcast, who have not heard me talk about you before, you are my internet guru. You are the person I call whenever I have a website question, whenever I have a “how do I make this happen” question. And there is a lot of work that you do for How She Got Here behind the scenes. So it is fantastic to finally have you on. I’m so excited.

Vicky: I’m happy to be here and join you on this podcast today.


Susan: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you got started, and then how Full Moon kind of came into being. That’s the name of your company.


Vicky: Yes, so my name is Vicky Gouge, I own a company called Full Moon Design Group. And we are a full service graphic design and web development company. We started April 1 of 2004—and that’s no joke, so recently celebrated my company’s 15th birthday. Prior to that, I went to college at Southwest Texas University and received my degree in art and journalism. And then also at the same time, got my secondary education certification with the idea that from college, I wanted to teach high school, which I did, directly out of college.
I landed my first job down in Austin, Texas, and I taught at a local high school down there. I taught art, yearbook, and photojournalism. At the time I was going to college, they didn’t really have any formalized graphic design programs. And I had always had a passion for art, which is why I got my degree in art. And one of the things that I learned quickly when I started teaching was the students in the yearbook and photo journalism classes were beginning to lay out the page designs on the computer using PageMaker, which I had very, very little knowledge about. And so I was kind of thrown into a gauntlet, so to speak, where I had to learn desktop publishing and design on the fly very quickly.
And I also utilized what my students knew, you know, I wasn’t afraid to ask them questions, how did you make that work on the computer? And so on. And then two years in the teaching, I decided that it just wasn’t a great passion of mine. But one of the things that I really enjoyed doing was graphic design within the yearbook and photo journalism class. So I sought out a career in graphic design and got an entry level position as an advertising coordinator for Henry S Miller Realtors for their Austin offices. And that’s really kind of how I got my start. Four years after that, we launched Full Moon Design Group, and I’ve been doing it ever since.


Susan: That is really cool. I did not realize you had been in education prior to this. That’s really interesting. Before you got into graphic design, what was your favorite medium of art? Did you have one?


Vicky: Well, you know, when I was teaching art in high school, I had just about any medium available to me—we even had a kiln in our classroom for ceramics instruction and so on. I would say overall, over the years, my favorite has been acrylic on canvas, and just some pencil and paper, so to speak. I unfortunately don’t get lots of opportunities to do that type of artwork anymore because I am forced to creatively give everything I have during the day when I’m working. So at the end of the day, I’m creatively kind of pooped in a way and so I haven’t been able to paint in some time.


Susan: I think that’s so interesting. Stephen talks about that, as well. He was an English and government major in college and has since gone into law and is an attorney. But he writes all day long for a living. And he used to write beautiful stories and poetry and that kind of stuff and he finds the exact same issue that because he gives everything to his career during the day, which is great. He has nothing left for it on a more fun, creative scale outside the office. So that’s interesting and sad, in a way, I think.


Vicky: Yeah, but you know, I mean, given my profession and what I do for a living, I still feel like I haven’t abandoned my creativity, I’m just applying it in a different way, and I do that for my clients. There are some projects that don’t really require all that much from a creative standpoint, but then I work on projects that do, you know? So I mean, I still feel like I’m satisfying that natural urge that I have to be creative throughout the day.


Susan: Well, it seems like you found an interesting way to do it. And I think that’s really cool. I’m going to jump a little bit let, since we’re kind of already talking about it. Let’s talk a little bit about—without sharing any trade secrets, let’s talk a little bit about your process. And we can even use me for an example, if you want to, or you can use something you’re currently working on, I don’t really care. How do you get from A to B in helping a client figure out, maybe a logo or something?


Vicky: Okay, once I have a relationship with the client or I’ve been introduced and let’s just say they need a logo, I’ll use you as an example, you know, you came to me with this vision of what you wanted and we started with the logo design. And from a brand perspective, I always tell clients that your logo is ultimately the foundation of your brand, right. So everything that we do kind of bounces off what that ultimate like final logo design becomes, you know? And so that would be the…If I had a new client that was launching a new business of some sort, then we would initially talk about logo design. What I try to do is I try to just have a conversation about what they might envision their logo looking like, and I provide them a questionnaire to try to extract preferences and color options that they’d like to see incorporated, would they like to see any sort of illustration incorporated with their business name, and so on. And that’s really what we use as the launch pad for us to create the logo designs, and usually will provide a batch of initial logo designs, and then we’ll start the editing or proofing process from there.
And I found that overall, the processes worked really well. There have been a few occasions, I mean, I’ve done hundreds of logos over the years and I mean, there have been a few occasions where we didn’t knock it out of the park. But we certainly worked with the client as long as it took to get them taken care of. So my goal is to really try to help work with and guide the individual or business to try to steer them in the right direction. And be as helpful as possible when it comes to that. A lot of people don’t understand the creative process, what we need in order to get them taken care of and so on. But traditionally, from the logo development, once we have that in place, then it’s a matter of building out their brand. And that might look like, you know, us doing some business cards, us doing an informational brochure that they can use when they’re out, selling or doing their business development activities, us handling the development of their website and so on.
And I’ve found over the years that clients really start to see their brand come to life when we’re working with them because at the end of the day, I tell clients, you want all of your stuff, like if you laid all of your items out on a tabletop, you want everything to have kind of a cohesive look and feel to it and it needs to be professional as well. That’s our goal. You know, we want to help small businesses succeed and flourish. And you know, just me doing this for so many years, I’ve learned a lot along the way. So that’s pretty much how our process works.


Susan: I’m going to ask you, if you can just jump back in time a little bit, because I’ve heard this from writers and I’m wondering if from artists’ perspectives, if they have some of the same trouble. Do you remember what it was like trying to create this for yourself? Did you find that difficult?


Vicky: It’s funny you ask that because when we first started the company, I had a business partner at the time, and we started under a completely different name. And realized about develop the brand, develop the logo, develop the business cards, all the print collateral, and then realized about six months into it, we received a cease and desist letter that our name was too close to another competitor in the same market, she had had her name for quite some time. And so we really didn’t have any recourse to try to retain that particular name. But at the time, we didn’t have a tremendous amount of brand equity, right. And I talked to clients about brand equity all the time. You know, as your brand grows over the years, and your logo or whatever becomes— you’re putting it out there more, it becomes an asset of your business, right?
So at that time, we didn’t have a whole lot of brand equity and so we changed our name to Full Moon Design Group, which was extremely difficult because the hardest part was trying to come up with a new name because everything that we came up with was already taken to a certain degree. And one day I was sitting on the couch on a Saturday watching the weather report and the forecaster was talking about a full moon. And I was like, “Huh, that’s kind of…That works, Full Moon Design Group.” And that’s more or less how I came up with the new business name.
And then, of course, building our brand, I feel like it was probably one of the most difficult because you want to create something that’s memorable and professional. And so it was hard, you know, the process was hard. I think it was more we just had to get it done. You know, we were already six months into business and we had to get it done. So we were able to get it done fairly quickly so I’m fortunate for that.


Susan: Well, I’m fortunate to have had you help me through that process, because it is quite a process, and I think it’s easy as an individual getting started to get kind of lost in the weeds. Somebody used the phrase the other day, “You can’t read the label if you’re inside the bottle.” And I just wonder, was it just you and your business partner? Like, who was on your team? Who might have been in the background not officially on your team, but who was kind of in your group, your inner circle group that you were talking through this with to kind of help you navigate those challenges and just to kind of get above and see the big picture?


Vicky: I think that’s a great question. So how Full Moon launched, I was an art director for a title company, Real Estate Title Company and I manage their marketing division. At that time we offered pre 2004, we offered marketing resources and designs and just about anything anybody in a real estate transaction would need as a part of the service that my title company provided. In March of 2004, the Texas Department of Insurance said, “Y’all can’t do that anymore.” And therefore all the marketing departments within all title companies within Texas, literally kind of shut down their operations. So with the full blessing of my title company, as well as all the others, we launched Full Moon April 1, which was when the law took effect.
At that time, I had several employees working with me previous to that, but we were only able to bring over one full time employee. And then we quickly kind of grew kind of exponentially. I mean, I was very fortunate that in my world, I was able to bring over a book of business because these clients still needed these resources. It’s not like they could just stop doing what they were doing and stop marketing their own business, they still had to reach out to somebody to get these materials designed or printed or produced or whatever that looked like. And so I’m very blessed and still thankful today that I was able to start my company the way I did because I started busy.
But I did realize that it was important to surround myself around experts who could support me, right? So, not everybody can be great at everything. And, for instance, I knew it was important to have a good small business attorney that I could rely on when the business name thing came up, making sure that our business paperwork was structured properly with the state of Texas. I knew it was important to have an accountant that I could rely on when it came to making sure that my bookkeeping was in order. I knew it was important to have a payroll processing service to ensure that my tax withholdings as well for me, as well as my employees was correct. And I try to tell small business owners starting all the time that it’s critical that if you know that you’re not great at something—like for me, I don’t like doing the books, I’d rather pay somebody to do my bookkeeping. It’s critical that you surround yourself around people that can help you. But it’s also very important that you budget for that, especially when a small business owner is just starting out, they need a budget for brand development, they need a budget for the attorneys to get their paperwork set up properly, they need a budget perhaps to figure out their bookkeeping solution. And so I knew early on that I needed to surround myself around these different connections. And in many ways I did that through—I met a lot of people through networking too, you know?


Susan: I think that is so cool that you kind of had the blessing of the firm you were with to be able to walk away with some of that business. That’s not always the case, and that is really, I think, a really, really cool thing. They must have been, my guess would be they were a smallish business, maybe not small-small but small enough to where they could see the value and having you still kind of be an outside part of the team, but also wanted you to continue to succeed.


Vicky: Absolutely. You know, I mean, we did have more attrition than we thought we would when we first started Full Moon. But that was okay. You know, I mean, we still had to…And again, I think just from a blessed perspective, we didn’t need any more business at that time, we were still working out our operational glitches that, you know, because we shut down our marketing department on the 31st and opened Full Moon on April 1, so we had a lot of things that we needed to work out and figure out along the way. And then, you know, once we were able to kind of slide into an operational routine in terms of workflow and what all that looked like, I realized that we needed to get out into the marketplace and begin networking our own company. So my primary focus was to attend as many networking organizations that I possibly could; find the ones that I felt a connection to, and attend those on a consistent basis. And that is specifically how I’ve been able to grow our small business sector over the years is through primarily networking.


Susan: One of the things you mentioned that I wanted to touch on before our call was how because of your business, because of where it’s located, a lot of it is on the web. You compete also on a global scale. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s like? Maybe some of the challenges you’ve run into, maybe some of the unexpected joys that you’ve run into?


Vicky: Yeah, I have lots to share about that. Several years ago, somebody told me or I heard or I read, I can’t remember, that graphic design was one of the top five dying industries in the US.


Susan: That cracks me up.


Vicky: At the time I was kind of crying laughing when I saw it. But I realized even before I did see that, that we are ultimately competing, to some extent, on a global scale. And it’s kind of like, the iPhone, or you the smartphone, right? All of the phones, one of their primary goals is to make sure that they are providing a camera that takes the best photos possible because obviously, that’s one of the most important features to a phone, a smartphone. But it doesn’t mean that everybody’s a good photographer, right? Even though they have a great camera in their hand or their pocket or their purse all day, every day, not everybody is a great photographer. Actually, it takes a lot of knowledge and understanding to be a professional photographer. Well, the same can apply to my industry, where you have all of these online templated tools and options where a typical client or person or individual can go online and create like their own marketing postcard or flyer business card and so on, right? Or they can go on to these websites where you push out what you want, like in terms of a logo, “Hey, I want a logo, I’m willing to spend this much on it,” and you get 100 designs submitted from designers all over the world, right?
So that’s where we compete within a global market. I’m actually okay with that now. I mean, it’s taken some time, I was a little discouraged when I saw that because I’m like, “Oh, I’m in a dying industry.” But I did realize along the way that there’s still value to the service and the knowledge, right? So it’s somebody like yourself being able to pick up the phone, call me, talk to me about what you’re looking to do. Talking about marketing strategies, and how do you intend to market your business? So we create this, what are you going to do with it? And trying to help guide the client in the right direction to ensure they get the best bang for their buck? I mean, I’ve had many, many, many conversations over the years with clients who want to implement a direct mail campaign, which by the way, is still very successful, if it’s done well and correctly and frequently. But they were thinking, “Oh, I just want to mail something out every two to four months.” And I said, “Well, why would you even waste your money? Direct mail is about frequency and consistency, and if you don’t have the budget, let’s talk about another option that that you could do, or that you could use to market your business that might be more fruitful.”
And so I’m okay with turning business down. My goal is to build a healthy client relationship. I don’t want just one job from a client, I want to be able to work with them, build their brand, help them market their business, help them and support them in becoming successful within their company and I want to have relationships that last for years. I still have client relationships that I’ve retained since my corporate days. And I value those significantly, and they value what I do. And just to be able to know that they can reach out to me, make a request, and I take care of them.


Susan: Yes, you absolutely do that. And I will just say for listeners who are thinking about starting something or have started something, and you realize, like, maybe you did go out there and get one of those templates or do something like that and it’s not your forte, you can’t do all the things. I mean, I guess you can, but you can’t do all the things well. And I know we all have different budgets, and that plays into everything, and I get that. But you really do have to…It goes back to what you said when you started your business, you had your core group of “I had the attorney, I had the accountant, I had those things.” This is also a very, very important piece because it is what everybody sees, right?


Vicky: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.


Susan: I mean, I cannot say enough good things about how you have worked with me helped me when it’s even the smallest stuff like a stupid form on the website, and what a pain in the butt those can be. You’ve just been overly patient and overly helpful and I can’t say enough good things.
So you’re a creative, you have a business…You’re a business person but you’re a creative, I would guess that sometimes, maybe I have this issue, you might lose focus. Or you might lack the inspiration that you really need to get a project done. Or you might just be burned out from a project and you still have other stuff that has to get done and you’re like, “I’m out of energy.” Where do you go for inspiration when you’re just at rock bottom?


Vicky: That’s a great question. Not to be crass but you know, I’ve told people over the years, I can’t just poop out a great design right off the, you know, on a whim. And sometimes it takes time and energy to come up with something that I feel confident to pass to the client for review. And yeah, so I mean, there are many times throughout on a monthly basis, let’s say, where I’m just, you know, I’m dry, I can’t come up with an idea, it’s just for whatever reason, I’m just not creative that particular day. I mean, thankfully, I do have a full time employee; he also works out of Austin. And so whenever I’m feeling that way, you know, I’ll kick something over to Matt perhaps, or if I’m trying to come up with inspiration, then usually what I do is I’ll just start googling, like, I’ll just start googling all kinds of stuff, I mean, random terms. And it’s so funny because for remarketing, I’m constantly getting remarketed on for things that I’m googling for clients to clear my cache. That’s an SEO (search engine optimization) term, by the way…


Susan: That’s really funny.


Vicky: Yeah. So I jump online, I just start looking at different things. I might look at—and this is maybe where the creative piece comes into it, I might look at say, a painting or an illustration or something, you know, a piece of artwork or whatever and I might see a little piece of that that inspires me, right? That I’m like, “Oh, I really like kind of that texture that they utilize in the painting,” or whatever. And then I kind of get inspired. So I mean, I do resort to googling quite a bit just to try to help with inspiration.
And then there are other times when, I mean, it’s just I’m knocking it out of the park, you know? So it’s an ebb and flow type of situation. The nature of our industry, unfortunately, does require us to work fairly quickly from a creative standpoint. So we’ve trained ourselves over the years to work on these projects in a more expedited manner. And I think clients come to appreciate that as well.


Susan: One other question that crossed my mind—and I think I sent this to you. But you’ve been on your own now—and I didn’t realize it’s been 15 years. You’ve had Full Moon for 15 years? What are some things that you would go back and tell yourself then that you wish you had known if you were going out on your own? Because I think a lot of our listeners are at places in their lives where they’re making changes. And I feel like we’re in a time in history where there are a lot of changes being made. And I don’t know if it’s—it’s probably not all women, I would think a good number of my listeners are really thinking about where differences can be made in the world. And so if they’re thinking about maybe a career change, or they’re thinking about using the skills that they have and parlaying it into something else and going out on their own, what are some things you wish you had known then that you know now?


Vicky: So just to back pedal a little bit to your question, you know, I look at business owners in a tribal way, you know, you can’t have a tribe without chiefs and Indians, right? And my point is that not everybody is meant to be a business owner, right? It’s just that’s not what they’re cut out to do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And I would say if somebody were thinking about making the leap to do their own thing, it’s important, like I said before, to surround yourself with experts that can help support you. It’s important to have not only a budget to pay these experts to help you, but a budget to live on while you’re getting started.
I would say that I don’t really have any regrets because many, many, many, many, many failures have led to success. And so anybody that hasn’t experienced a lot of failures when they’re just starting their company, I would be surprised because those are the things that make the learning experience memorable, and so you don’t make the same mistakes again. And, you know, I’ve done operationally, I mean, I think about when we first started Full Moon versus how I operate my business now, it’s completely different. I’ve learned along the way to become more efficient. I’ve learned to ask my vendors, like what would be helpful to you to make your process more efficient, so we can keep everything streamlined? So I asked a lot of questions. And so I don’t really have any advice other than, you know, if you’re going to take the leap, go in off the high dive into the deep end and go full force. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row when it comes to getting your business setup properly the way it needs to be, make sure you have your brand developed, and just dive in, start meeting people. I predominantly meet people through networking, that’s my primary source for sales. But I would encourage anybody that’s thinking about it, do it, you know, what’s the worst that could happen? You know, they realize that that’s not meant for them, they’d rather go work for a company with benefits or whatever that looks like, then you can always go back to work for a company.


Susan: That is a really good point. And you were really instrumental in helping me finally jump. I mean, I think I was definitely one of those. In the beginning, I knew what I wanted to do, but I was scared to push it out. We had everything set up. I’ll never forget it. And one day you were just like, “Dude, it’s ready to go. Like, we can just hit the button now.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Are you…? Are you sure??


Vicky: Well, yeah. I mean, there are some people that fall in to the analysis paralysis situation. And I’m not saying that you were…


Susan: Oh, no, I totally did.


Vicky: It was just a fear of what people might think you were trying to do, which is a little bit different. It’s like, okay, you know. And I remember you and I had a discussion early on the phone, I think before I even developed a website for you. I was like, “Okay, well, you know, if you build it, how are you going to get people there?” And we talked about that and social engagement and so on. And I really just try to encourage clients that, you know, it’s not about being absolutely right, it’s just about getting it out there. And then if you realize you need to make some changes along the way, make changes. A business is a living, breathing, organic thing. And so if the pendulum stops, you’re not making any money. So sometimes it’s going to go backwards, you know, you made a decision that maybe wasn’t in the best interest of yourself or the company. And then sometimes you’re going to propel forward. You’ve aligned yourself with partners or networking opportunities that start feeding you additional business or referrals. So it’s a constantly moving organic thing. And that’s what I try to tell people all the time, “Let’s just get this done.” No one’s going to look at you and say, oh, you know, you’re horrible person because you made a mistake on something. I think, generally, it’s human nature for us to want to see our friends and peers and humans succeed by default.


Susan: I like that. I like that a lot. Well, I really appreciate your time today. Before I let you go, would you tell our audience—and I will make sure to link this in the show notes afterwards. Would you tell us where we can find you, online, if Full Moon has social? Where can we find you?


Vicky: Yeah, absolutely. My website is fullmoondesigngroup.com, and so you can check out our portfolio. You know, I’m kind of like a what? A cobbler’s daughter that doesn’t have any shoes, but I do try to keep our portfolio updated as much as possible. So most of the work that you’re going to see on there is recent work that we’ve done. And then as well as I do have a Facebook page, FMDG Austin. And let’s see, I do have a Twitter account, which honestly, for my business, I don’t use all that much. And one of the things that I talk with clients about because they feel like they need to use every tool out there that’s available to them, and I tell them they don’t, that they should focus on a couple of different things. And then start there and then maybe do something else, start layering in their marketing, networking and online activities, you know? So I’ll usually encourage clients to just start small and then start building from there.


Susan: That is such a good point, because we could spend a whole other 8 million hours talking about how much time social media takes up. And it’s a good thing. It’s a great marketing tool, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I really, really appreciate it. It has been great to talk with you not about craziness on the website, but just to have a good conversation with you and talk a little bit more about what you do. So thanks for sharing today, Vicky. I really appreciate you being here.


Vicky: Thanks so much, Susan. And I hope some of this information is helpful for your audience.


Susan: Aww thanks, friend.


Outro: Hey Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. 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. 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 ya soon.

What intimidates well renowned writers? – Part 2, with Latria Graham

Have you ever visited a national park?  Did you know you grants were available to live in national parks and write about them? Did you know that the land the government used to create our national parks used to be inhabited by people?  Latria Graham shares a snippet of what she has been working on as a Steve Kemp Writer in Residence in The Great Smoky Mountains.

Show Notes:

Latria Graham is a freelance writer and journalist who has written for many publications including, but not limited to, ESPNW, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, the LA Times, Southern Living and my personal favorite (because it was my home paper) The Spartanburg Herald Journal.

In this two part series Latria takes us behind the scenes in her life as a freelance journalist. 

A few of my favorite take aways from part two include:

  • Everyone’s story matters.
  • Even well renowned writers get intimidated. 
  • Take risks. Go outside your comfort zone. It can lead to tremendous opportunity.

Links:

https://www.latriagraham.com

Latria Graham – LinkedIn

Latria Graham – Twitter

Latria Graham – Instagram

Latria Graham E-mail –  latria.graham@gmail.com

Latria Graham Article: Outside Magazinehttps://www.outsideonline.com/2296351/were-here-you-just-dont-see-us

https://hubcity.org

https://www.smokiesinformation.org/writers-residency

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 hope you enjoyed part one of my conversation with writer extraordinaire, Latria Graham. Today I am excited to share part 2.  As you may recall, Latria and I both happen to be from the same home town though we never knew each other. I am thankful to have met her by chance at Hub City Bookshop over winter break in 2018. Per her website: she is “a writer, editor and cultural critic currently living in South Carolina.

Her “writing interests revolve around the dynamics of race, gender norms, class, nerd culture, and- yes, football.”  She is “ keeping her eye on publishers that are invested in celebrating the diversity of the human experience. Contributing to online publications that focus their attention on social justice and equality resonates with her values.”  She loves “speaking with people who challenge the status quo and care about living and learning without inhibitions.”  Latria has written for many publications including, but not limited to, ESPNW, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, the LA Times, Southern Living and my personal favorite (because it was my home paper) The Spartanburg Herald Journal.  So without further ado…here is Latria.

Susan: Tell us a little bit about, first of all, where you just came back from. And then I’d really like to hear how you made that happen. A well renowned, I’m sorry, I’m just going to say it, published writer, you’ve written for, I mean, so many different publications. You’ve written for ESPN, you don’t just stay in one field. So to me hearing that you were even intimidated to apply for such a thing fascinated me. Because I figure once you make it, you make it and then you don’t get scared anymore. So tell us a little bit about, tell us a little bit about what that’s like, even going after something like that and then what it was that you ended up doing.

Latria Graham: Okay, so I ended up applying and being granted the Steve Kemp Writer in Residence, and that’s put out through the Great Smoky Mountains Association. And that means that you get to live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in sort of like a ranger station/ranger housing for six weeks, and you get to learn more about the park and the scientists and do some of your writing out there and do some writing for the park in areas that you’re curious about. But I’ll back up and say that…So I did this piece for Outside Magazine last year called “We’re Here. You Just Don’t See Us” And that was about black people recreating in the outdoors and being a fifth generation farmer, and sort of what outside and outdoors looked like for me when I was younger, what it looked like when I went to college and got more into the outdoors and climbed Mount Washington, and all of that, and sort of reconciling the two.

And there was a professor, his name is John Lane, and he’s at Wofford College. And he had read that essay and he’s like, “There’s this incredible opportunity. I think you should apply for it.” And I was like, “Yeah, okay.” It’s kind of cool. I was intrigued by the Great Smokies because it is the park closest to me, but I’d never been to it, like I’ve traveled through it as a kid because we live in Nashville, and would travel back to South Carolina where my family is from and so we’ve skirted the park, but I had never been inside of it. And when I got older, you know, when I went to South Dakota, went to Badlands, went to the Everglades, but I had never been into this park that was so close to me because I was never on assignment, and I couldn’t get paid to go there. And right now, unfortunately, time is money and right now as a freelancer, there’s no days off.

So this idea that I was writing about environment and place and had not explored my backyard, so – forgive the phrase—but ass backwards, and I wanted to rectify that, but I did not think that I was good enough to apply. Like, I wasn’t sure who else was applying. And it felt like other people had better cred and somebody else is going to have a better story. And I talked about this with Maggie, my writing partner that I needed to start going after more stuff. I needed to start applying for grants and residencies so that I could get off of this hamster wheel that I was talking about where you just kind of live from paycheck to paycheck, you know, hand to mouth. So this was the first major application that I’d done. And I just told them basically what I told you, what I was curious about, why I wanted it to be this park, why I never had the chance to be in this park, and why I was curious about African Americans living in this area before it became a park.

So it became a park in the 1930s. And there were a bunch of people living within this 800 square miles. And they’re like, “Okay, people, you’ve got to get out. Here’s a check, please leave.” And some people fought it but eventually obviously lost. And now it is a park.

Susan: I didn’t realize that that happened.

Latria Graham: Yeah, a lot of…Especially because the eastern part of the Americas was settled much before the west. So this whole idea of the National Park System, somebody generally speaking, whether it was African Americans or Indigenous People, people were living in these places, and then somebody at a federal level was like, “Hey, we want this now. Get out.” And that’s a major factor that the National Park Service is having to deal with now, and having conversations about those people that were displaced, and how do you honor those people in those histories and all that. So I’m really intrigued by what they did and what they’re trying to do now to rectify it. And some of it is just talking about these histories and acknowledging the people that lived here. And if you go into the Smokies, they preserve some of the houses, not all of them, and some of the records. And so my job…There are no pictures of any of the African Americans that live there. We have a couple of census records, and we have bills of sale for slaves, but that’s basically what’s there. There are no pictures. There are a couple of cemeteries, but we don’t know how many things are buried in them, things like that. So it’s my job to try to find archival work and then pair it with the current landscape and tell the story of a region.

So right now I’m working on a magazine story about Sook Turner, S-O-O-K, and she lives in Wears Valley, which is near the Tremont area of Great Smoky Mountains and she and three of her family members are buried up on this ridge. The archive didn’t even have a photo of the graves. And so I found her in a census record. And I have an oral history of her when some children had the flu, she came in and cared for them. But they had never seen a black person before and one of the little girls was so scared, she hid under the bed. And so it gives you some sense that there were not a lot of black people at least in this particular valley—and start like, putting together her life. I probably will never know what she looks like unless I’m able to find some descendants. And I’ve got one descendant that I’m trying to reach now to see how much she knows about her family from 100 years ago. Right now, I think Sook Turner was around during the 1918 flu outbreak in that area. And so I’m trying to sort of piece together who else she may have cared for within walking distance of her home, or in this valley and sort of work backwards that way as well as work from someone that I think may be a current descendant of this woman.

Susan: Wow! Wow!

Latria Graham: Yeah, it’s a little depressing, you know, because they didn’t…When it comes to people of color, like there’s this one photo we found and it was like Josie and the Cook, Josie is the donkey and they did not name the cook. And so it was just that like black people were not significant enough to document. And so when you think about yourself as a black person now, and obviously I have a huge paper trail as a person census record, like, you know, voting records, all these things and knowing that they did not have that. And also thinking that there were either—it’s either 573 or 537 slaves in this area. There were three major valleys in the park and there were slaves there and trying to figure out what happened to all of them and where their descendants are in and all that, it’s a little haunting and slightly depressing. But it’s also really hopeful to know that some of them survived this and had families and things and try to figure out like the story and sort of resilience of these people.

So it was a little bit lonely in that way in the woods, but there are other researchers. So I’m not the only researcher out there. There’s one in Oconaluftee, there’s one working on the Gatlinburg side of the park, and then I’m in Wears Valley, the Tremont side of the park. But yeah, it feels a little bit like some sort of emotional archaeological dig, and I’m really curious. I thought I would be able to do this in six weeks and obviously couldn’t and now it’s like a two to five year commitment. But I’m really honored that I have the opportunity to do some of this.

Susan: It sounds like you have a book, not an article.

Latria Graham: Yeah.

Susan: I’m not saying that’s what you really want to do.

Latria Graham: Right. Probably, I will not deny that at all. I’m just sort of wary about it because I’d be like I have to find enough people for it to come together because this story matters. I was originally gonna say, I have to have enough pieces for this matter, but I was like, no, like she’s buried there, she matters. Like that is not the questions but in order to give people a full enough story, I have to have enough pieces that comes together. So it may be a book. I honestly don’t know. I also don’t want to, if she has descendants take that—not really take that story from them but give them that opportunity to tell that story or to be like, here’s what I found out about your great grandmother, like it may not necessarily belong to me

Susan: Sure.

Latria Graham: And that’s okay. I just happened to be lucky enough to have found it.

Susan: Well, thank you for sharing what little bit you did with us and I want you to keep going. I didn’t even know – total ignorance— did not even ever think about that area having been previously settled, or that people would have been living there when the US government said, “We’re going to make this a park.” Never even considered in my mind.

Latria Graham: Yeah. I honestly think most people don’t, unless there’s some current contentious thing going on, like the Grand Canyon areas of it, were occupied by Indigenous People who they did not consider to be people. That becomes sort of the like, very frustrating part of this. But yeah, I mean, the places that we recreate in and all of that…Yeah, there was one…This meant something to somebody, right? It’s not even necessarily about belonging, right, because the idea of ownership is really interesting, but it had sentiment for someone. And so that’s why I’m very careful when I’m in national parks and stuff and I really hate to see people both litter and just sort of behave poorly in these areas because it meant something to somebody.

Susan: Wow. Yeah. That is so, wow, that’s just so well said. I guess the big part of what you’re going back and doing then and now I understand it better is you’re going back and you’re telling the history of the parks. That’s what the whole point of this was.

Latria Graham: Yeah. Pretty much. Well, like that was my section. So another woman, the other Writer in Residence was like a poet and songwriter and so her output was a little bit different from mine, which is great, but that was what my specific project was, that I was curious about and tried to execute. And they’re very supportive of me coming back a number of times over the years to figure out. But like, I’m going to start with just one article and maybe it becomes something a little bit bigger than that. Yeah, but that was sort of the point was to get outside of myself, take out some of the fears that I had about both sort of being out alone in the dark, the fear of bears who are actually like, not out to get us. You know, and really, like start dealing with myself and like the bigger works that I want to do as I grow up.

Susan: So how did you…? John Lane is the one who found this particular opportunity and said you should apply for it, yes?

Latria Graham: Yes.

Susan: The piece that you went into do, was that already part of it, I guess, or did you discover that part on your own?

Latria Graham: I discovered that part on my own. I’m always curious about what life was like sort of before what we think of as the Common Era, before the 1980s particularly. I’m always really interested about what life was like before, you know, electricity, plants people use for medicine and things like that, just because of what I grew up doing. But yeah, like originally, I thought—I was really intrigued by these women named the Walker Sisters and their house. Even after the park was made a park, they were like, “We’re not moving.” So the National Park Service gave them a lease and said that they could live there until the last spinster sister died. And so that was like in the 1960s, late 1960s. And so they these women lived without electricity, without running water, and they would create poetry and sell goods on the sides of the roads to people that were passing through the park as a way to sort of make money and live off the land and live off of what they knew.

So they are a million stories, I’m sure within this park, and I just kind of knew an area that I was intrigued by and ended up kind of falling into this bigger story. That often happens by accident for me, so this was something I just happened to stumble upon, because I just assumed, which was, I guess, kind of naive, I just assumed they had it covered. I just assumed that I would be able to go into a bookshop and buy a book on African Americans in this region, and it wasn’t there. They didn’t even have a pamphlet, actually. So they’re working on it, and that’s no shade to them, but like they realize there’s an absence and they’re fixing it. But yeah, I just assumed that like somebody had done this work and they hadn’t.

Susan: Welcome to 2019 where we’re just now figuring out that there is history missing.

Latria Graham: Yeah, government, that’s something that I realized as a freelancer, I can work faster in real time, much faster than like the government can and the National Parks are a government entity in some ways because I asked them, I kind of grilled them on this because I was very frustrated when I went in that like things weren’t further along. They’re like, “Look, we’ve been thinking about this for 15 years.” It’s just by the time you fill out the paperwork and get the approval and stuff there, they’re already approving stuff like the ground penetrating radar that’s going to be done in 2020/2021. And we’re in the beginning of 2019. It’s a long time to get the ball rolling on their end. And so you know, I was 15 or something when they started thinking about this stuff, but it took until I was 32 for it to actually come to reality for some people.

Susan: Which makes such a great point that if you are a writer, or if it’s something that you care about, if there is a subject that you care about… I mean, one of the best things that happened to me at Converse was taking a women’s history class, just because so much of what was in our history books, much like what we read were a bunch of old white dudes, and that’s okay, I guess because, you know, that’s where history was. But we’re not there anymore. And there’s still a lot that needs to be written. There’s still a lot that needs to be said. There are still a lot of stories that need to be told, and they’re worth sharing, and they’re worth telling. And I really appreciate the work that you’re doing to tell that story. It’s really, really important. It’s really important. Wow! I’m kind of at a loss now.

Latria Graham: I’m sorry we can go back to like easier…

Susan: No! I don’t think it should be easy. I think….You know, it’s so funny and it’s weird to— not bad weird, not funny…I’m not a writer. I’m not working using my best words here. I only talk for a living now. And still don’t always use the best words especially when I get flustered. You know, one of the whole reasons I started this podcast was to help tell the stories of everyday extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. Because, you know, you don’t have to be Oprah or Ellen to change the world. And not only do you prove my point in this, although you’ve been published in The Guardian, so maybe you are Oprah or Ellen.

Latria Graham: I’m not. My bank account says no.

Susan: But you’re doing the same thing, and you’re going back and finding women that are no longer here to tell their stories. And I wonder…There’s just so many, there’s so many that are so deserving of being told. I mean, I realize this is not what you do on a daily basis. This is one project you’re doing. But I just want to emphasize that everybody’s story matters, you know?

Latria Graham: Yep.

Susan: And we’re not going to be able to read everybody’s story in a history book. But I do think it’s important that certain stories are told so that we know about the people who were there, and when they were there and why they were there. And now I’m kind of rambling. But I just really appreciate you doing this and stumbling onto this woman and her story and what was going on in the national parks and how they were created. This is something that I’m going to have to go research because I never really even thought about.

Latria Graham: I mean, I think you’ve made some really great points there, like to the point where I wanted I’m like, I need this recording because I need that last little clip. But if we realize its like, if we take that view that we have on history, right, and women surviving and overcoming and then we apply that same empathy and respect to our living comrades and compatriots and people that we engage with, imagine what our world could be.

Susan: Yeah, my mind just exploded, I think, because you’re absolutely right. And the way you said it was beautiful.

Latria Graham: Yeah, thank you, but it’s true. Everybody is surviving some really crazy…crazy is the wrong word, crazy is the word I need to omit from my vocabulary. Everyone is dealing with some tough stuff and all we can do is try to be better than we were the day before. And what I try to do when I’m thinking about, particularly like events, or podcast…Things like this. This is actually my first podcast, and I was sort of nervous but I’m like, be the adult you needed when you were at these various stages in your career or in your life. So like, that’s why I started talking about mental health and eating disorders because nobody was doing it when I was in college, right. You know, nobody was talking about this really hard recession shift, and about money and being on food stamps in grad school and everything that sort of came with that and the shame of being this intellectual that cannot see herself living in a city, you know, when you were a farm girl. I write about being the farmer’s daughter, because people thought that I would never be any bigger than that, and so they treated me like that, right? You know, Dartmouth be damned, right? And that’s how I got to Dartmouth like, I don’t know that I told this story. But like, yeah, my dad worked in retail for a long time. But when we move to Spartanburg, I realized that I did not want to stay here for very long and I wanted to go to the Governor School, I needed three grand to pay for instruments. And my dad is not the type of man…I didn’t even though that we had three grand, number one, like, let’s just be very clear about that. And maybe they did in savings and stuff but you’re not just going to give that to your kid and go, “Okay, you know, go off with my life savings and hopefully you become something,” he made me work for it. And so I still have this pickup truck even though he’s gone but it’s this 1997 Gold F150 and he loaded the back with watermelons and he’s like, “For every watermelon that you sell, I will match your profit.” And what I did not get in scholarships and stuff like that for college, what I did for food money and all that stuff, it was paid for in watermelons and tomatoes and all of that stuff. So people don’t necessarily know that about my background, right, they see the degrees and stuff. But they don’t know that I’m standing on this agricultural background and this legacy and the people that were rooting for me, both in this neighborhood and on the farm and my family, and stuff like that.

So it gives me a lot of empathy when I see people trying to make it because I realized part of it, yes, I worked very hard, but I also got very lucky. You know, I just happened to have a parent that understood business, right? And all of these things came together to make me the person I am. And there are things about my past that I would love to change, but I will never do it because I realized those things made me who I am. And once we start realizing that about ourselves, we realize that what people are going through and the choices that they’re having to make, sometimes you’re just given really terrible choices, you start looking at things a little bit differently and you start treating people differently.

Susan: That’s so true. Are you a first generation college student?

Latria Graham: I’m not. So my dad went to Benedict in Columbia and my mom would FIT in New York City.

Kl Oh, that’s right. I knew about that.

Latria Graham: Yeah. So I got really lucky in that way, but they could not prepare me for the internet. They could not prepare me for student loans. There was so much that had changed about college. And my mom says that now with work and stuff and freelancing—because she’s always, you know, had, I’ll say, for the last 20 years or so she’s had a job where you clock in, clock out, sort of deal, right? She has a job with hours. And so the idea that I am sitting at home, you know, she thinks I’m sitting at home writing and eating bonbons until super recently, she realized I have to be incredibly disciplined. So like the world has changed so much in the 40 years or the 30 years and between when they went to college and when I went to college, that it was very much a different playing field. I have so much respect for people that are first generation college students. Even though that’s not my story…Yeah, trying to figure out how to navigate like the FAFSA, I had to do that all on my own, SATs and ACTs. Prep was mostly on my own and stuff like that, too.

Susan: I actually was a first generation college student and just hearing some of the things that you were saying, really resonated with me and that’s why I asked. How funny? And yes, I would never do a FAFSA again, if someone paid me money. Those were awful.

Latria Graham: Yeah, I don’t know what my kids are going to do. I don’t have kids now, but plan on having them even if they’re adopted. And I would like, one, I will help them with it. We know this, right? If they really need it, I will help them with it, as long as I understand it. But like, that’s such a privilege, because I would be like, “Yeah, I’d love to pay somebody.

Susan: Right.

Latria Graham: But like, that’s such a, you know, again, that’s beyond and not everybody has that. But yeah, it used to be the most stressful sector of my life. It was like, I don’t know if I can afford to stay here, you know, and if you can’t, yeah, you can pile on the loans and you go home. That’s what I mean by the whole like, tough decisions. And this is another one that was really horrifying sort of for me, and like Dartmouth didn’t prepare me for this. Like, this is one of those things like life things that I had to when, like, my dad was really sick, and like the electric bill got behind, and I had to decide between paying for his medicine and letting them shut the electricity off. And like, that’s not…Like that is a life experience that gives you empathy for other people. It is not something that a business proposal or a paper in college or a presentation with the options will ever give you. You have to look at your parents and decide what you’re going to do.

Yeah, it was…And, you know, my mom was at work because that’s how she kept insurance and like, you know, you get the notification and you have to figure out what you’re going to do. And the fact that I was privileged enough to even make a choice sounds very silly, but I did, I had the money to pay one. I could have been without both.

Susan: And let’s be real. We’re in a situation in this country where there are people without both.

Latria Graham: Yes.



Susan: It does sound odd that choosing one, you could make the choice as a privilege. Because to me, it just doesn’t even sound like a privilege. But I see what you’re saying when you make the point that some people don’t have the choice.

Latria Graham: Yes.

Susan: Oh and other situations we could fix in this country. All right, okay, friend.

Latria Graham: We will fix.

Susan: We will fix.

Latria Graham: Positive, like optimism some days is the only thing that gets me through this job. You feel like Sisyphus, I don’t know if you know that the King in Greek mythology that rolls the boulder up the hill all day long. And then he gets towards the top and it rolls completely back down. And the next day he does the same thing again. Yeah, it’s optimism. It really has the optimism that keeps us in the game.

Susan: Well, thank you for sharing all of this. I know you have to go do work that will pay you money. I wish I could pay you for being on my podcast.

Latria Graham: No, this has been very good for me because again, it gives me that retrospective feeling that I don’t get often, that I don’t think… Yeah, because I don’t think about this stuff. You literally wake up, feet hit floor and go. I’m not as good about the self-care and reflection as I should be. I’m getting better as I get older and my body is making me but like, it’s not in me so I’m not very good at it. So I’m just, one, I’m thrilled that you asked me to be on and that we got to talk about some really good stuff. And yeah, we’ll just go… Yeah, I’m really delighted. Like, I’m glad hopefully we can make May in Spartanburg work.

Susan: Yeah, for sure. Okay, before I let you go, tell us where we can find you online, on social wherever your work is. Give us some highlights.

Latria Graham: Okay, so most of my work is up at latriagraham.com. So that’s my website. And then I am Latriagraham on Twitter. And then Instagram is where I write my really interesting sort of long stories up to, I don’t know, maybe 400 words or something with photos either that I have taken or other people have taken. And you can find me at mslatriagraham on that. And then the Steve Kemp Writer in Residence, it’s Great Smokies Writer on Instagram and we post a lot of our stuff up there and I’m also on Facebook. I am going to say not really a public figure, but like my Facebook is public. And so stuff that I write, stories that I tell, articles I find interesting, things I think other people would appreciate reading, I post on Facebook. So I’m everywhere. And I’m also under my name on LinkedIn.

Susan: Well, sweet, thank you so much for sharing all of that. I know I’m going to have some listeners who are going to go check out your stuff. And thank you for spending time with me today. I really appreciate it.

Latria Graham:Yeah, of course, like this whole…When you told me you were a first generation college students, I was floored and I want to know more about that. I know like outside of this, we will talk—and like trying to figure out how to support those students. Because again, like even I come with some sense of privilege, those kids will not and you thought about…Even though we both had our things that we thought about, we thought about two completely different sets of circumstances.

Susan: How funny. All right, friend. I will chat with you soon.

Latria Graham: Sounds good.

Outro:  Hey Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. 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. 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 ya soon.

What intimidates well renowned writers? – Part 1, with Latria Graham

Have you ever read an amazing piece in a magazine or newspaper and wondered what the writers life might be like?  Maybe you have even wondered if you have what it takes to be a professional writer or journalist.  Latria Graham takes us behind the scenes in her life as a freelance journalist in this two part series.

Show Notes:

Latria Graham is a freelance writer and journalist who has written for many publications including, but not limited to, ESPNW, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, the LA Times, Southern Living and my personal favorite (because it was my home paper) The Spartanburg Herald Journal.

In this two part series Latria takes us behind the scenes in her life as a freelance journalist.  We discuss everything from getting started to how to build a community within your profession when you often work alone.

A few of my favorite take aways from part one include:

  • We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  Figuring out a niche within your own profession will help differentiate you from the rest of the pack.
  • Having a partner, mentor or colleague to bounce ideas off of is beneficial.  There is strength in numbers.
  • When hard days come, its helpful to look back at words from people who believe in you.  Keep a stash of those e-mails or letters within reach.

Links:

https://www.latriagraham.com

Latria Graham – LinkedIn

Latria Graham – Twitter

Latria Graham E-mail –  latria.graham@gmail.com

https://hubcity.org

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 am so excited about today’s episode. That is because I am sharing my conversation with Latria Graham.  Latria and I both happen to be from the same home town though we never knew each other. I am thankful to have met her by chance at Hub City Bookshop over winter break in 2018. Per her website: she is “a writer, editor and cultural critic currently living in South Carolina.
Her “writing interests revolve around the dynamics of race, gender norms, class, nerd culture, and- yes, football.”  She is “ keeping her eye on publishers that are invested in celebrating the diversity of the human experience. Contributing to online publications that focus their attention on social justice and equality resonates with her values.”  She loves “speaking with people who challenge the status quo and care about living and learning without inhibitions.”  Latria has written for many publications including, but not limited to, ESPNW, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, the LA Times, Southern Living and my personal favorite (because it was my home paper) The Spartanburg Herald Journal.  So without further ado…here is Latria

Susan: Well, hey, Latria Graham, thank you so much for joining us today. I am so looking forward to this conversation. You have no idea. I’ve been looking forward to this all week.

Latria Graham: Yeah, same here. Hi Susan. I’m glad we found the time to get together and talk a little bit.

Susan: Yeah. Friends, Latria is a writer. And I don’t mean just any writer. Latria reminds me of somebody who is out there writing, and is literally changing the world through her words. And we’re going to get into all of this. This conversation could go on for days. I’m just really not sure yet.

Latria Graham: We’ll give them part two.

Susan: Yeah. Hey, you know, I’m not opposed. Let’s start out with just you. Who are you? How did you become a writer? Why do you love writing? Let’s just start at the very beginning.

Latria Graham: Yeah. So I started writing professionally—I had my first published piece in 2008. And that was actually a segment of a book. It was an essay called “Black and White Thinking.” And it was in this book published by Random House called Going Hungry, featured by Kate Taylor, or edited by Kate Taylor. And that came out my senior year of college. But it was one of those things that I went to Dartmouth thinking I was going to be a biomedical engineer. I feel like I’ve lived 1000 lives at this point, because I thought it was going to be a number of things, and then finally settled down and decided to become a writer. But I have loved words and spelling and writing and terms and phrase since I was a little kid, but I grew up in a culture and environment that basically only taught the dead white guy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, people like that.

And so all the writers that I knew, or at least that I had read in school, basically died penniless in the gutter under sketchy circumstances. And I knew that I needed to make money. You know, Spartanburg is very much a mill town or a production town and everybody kind of makes something or they’re judged in some way by their production. And so I knew that sitting on my butt creating words the way we think of like Shakespeare, again, another dead white guy, was not the way to go so I decided I would become something else. My parents really wanted a doctor, so I thought I would do that. And then I got to Dartmouth, and like, started taking classes and you know, working in a hospital, and I was like, “No, this is not for me.” But then become a biomedical engineer. And just, I really disliked it and sort of had a nervous breakdown. And my therapist was like, “What do you want to do? What would you see yourself doing if you didn’t have all these restrictions?” and I was like, “I would be a writer.”

And by then I learned that there were these things called journalists. My parents did not get the newspaper, they were TV news watchers, and so I did not have a sense of how a newspaper came together. My mom read magazines, but I didn’t really understand sort of the production value of those. So I got the chance to learn a little bit more about those, but why not have a journalism program. So I got introduced to some living writers, but I was still in a very academic vein. But there was something about sort of this idea of writing about the self and investigating the self that was really intriguing to me.

So after graduation, I moved to New York City, September 1, 2008, which was basically the start of the recession. I plugged in my TV in this cute little New York apartment that I’d gotten and there were no jobs. Lehman Brothers was closing that day, and everybody was walking out with their boxes of stuff. And so I put in 100 applications, and I wound up at the New York Society Library, which is the oldest library in New York, as a Library Page. And I learned about history, I learned more about books and how they’re made and all that. And I really started to sort of figure out what type of writer I wanted to be. I got to engage with living working writers with contracts and understanding that a little bit better, and getting into the magazine world. So that’s really how it started.

And then I went to the New School in New York City, for my MFA in creative nonfiction. And I started working on a lot of these stories about my family. It was much more of a history, but I realized now it had some of the markers of climate change, some of the markers of gentrification, and all these things that were starting to happen in my community, but we were just telling them through oral histories. And so I finished that up in my second year, the program’s two years, my dad got cancer. And so I came back and finished my thesis here, and I needed a way to make money while also caring for him. So I started freelancing, and I started writing essays about my experiences growing up, what it was like being black with an eating disorder. And really, editors started coming to me asking me, because they knew I was one of the few people of color that would talk about mental health. And that, you know, 2008 to 2013 range when the internet was sort of starting to get into personal essays. And they would ask me about pieces. And I was starting to start doing that. And that’s how I supported myself. So I felt like when I was out of options, I started making options myself, I didn’t know that there was a job called a freelance journalist or freelance writer. So that’s how I started getting into it.

Susan: Okay, I want to go back just a second, because I love how you discussed and I can remember sitting in a class vividly and thinking, “I am reading a bunch of dead white guys,” with like the exception of Emily Dickinson or somebody like that, white woman, so…

Latria Graham: Still dead.

Susan:  Yes, also dead.

Latria Graham: Very much still dead. I mean, that’s the thing was that, like, we’re not talking about living writers and so we can’t talk about living wages and how they live and put ourselves in their shoes. I’m never going to be a 19th century Victorian white woman with the leisure time and the home help in order to be able to write like that. And that’s no shade to her. That is just not my reality. So it takes some of the possibilities of who you could be off the table.

Susan: Just a little, maybe. I don’t think any of us…I would not want to go back to Victorian times, anyway. I don’t think it was good for any women back there. I realized that there are groups of women, minority women who it was way worse for, absolutely.

Latria Graham: Right. Right.

Susan: But in reality, it wasn’t good so I agree with you there.

Latria Graham: It was an okay walk.

Susan: Right. Tell me, how did you even find a living writer?

Latria Graham: I was really lucky. She came to me. It was Lucille Clifton, who passed away in 2010. But she was at Dartmouth as like the poet in residence. I think she was only there maybe like a month. And the poet in residence would live in this house on campus, and they would have dinners with her. And so my advisor, Michael Chaney, who’s still a professor in English at Dartmouth, he was my advisor, and he’s like, “You have to go meet Lucille Clifton.” And I’d heard of her as a poet before, you know, they’ll accept a poem in our maybe black women writers class or something like that. I was like, “Oh, okay.” And I did not realize sort of the power of presence that she would have. And she talked to us about sort of how her poetry came about, how it ended up being published, this network of women that she exchanged work with, and sort of started entering into that conversation. I was like, “That’s how writers are doing it. That’s how writers are forming community.” And so I was just very lucky and happen to be on campus when she was there. I think that was my Junior year of college. And I have a photo of her with my black women writers professor, Shalane Vasquez, and it is one of my treasured photos, like I adore it. Yeah, so I think she was one of the first—I won’t say that she was the first but she was the first one that really talked about the process and how hard it was to sort of make that community happen because she was doing it well before the internet.

Susan: I can’t imagine doing a lot of things before the internet, much less being a writer in a professional situation where you’re not around other, you know, other people in your field on a regular basis. It’s not like you’re a part of a press corps or something or working at the Times or something like that, or even the Herald Journal, or the Dallas Morning News. So I cannot even imagine.

Latria Graham: Yeah, even with the internet, it’s still hard and not something that we can get into in terms of community building and where you find it, because I do spend a lot of time like that whole, like surviving on Coca Cola and pork skins and my yoga pants with just my, like, reading my words to my dog is very much my reality, basically. Now, if I wasn’t on the phone with you like that, I’d be sitting here, I’m dressed a little bit nicer today. But like, it’s a lot of alone time, which in some ways you need as a writer, but when things are going poorly can be incredibly isolating, and so trying to find that balance is really important.

Susan: Well, how do you do that? How do you find community within your profession, because I would think it would be important to be able to bounce ideas off of, and also find people that you trust, or that the people you’re bouncing ideas off of aren’t going to try to walk away with your idea.

Latria Graham: Right. The first thing that I will say, I think, and people will probably disagree with me on this is the idea that like nobody can really, truly steal your idea. And I say that because nobody can write it the way that you can. And so sometimes I’ll get—as I actually will give you the example, my first piece I ever did was on Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers, and I ended up doing this long form piece on him. And I followed him during his last season, the season the Carolina Panthers went to the Super Bowl. And I just kind of didn’t know what the story was going to be. But I was like, “Ha, this is a really interesting dude.” And somebody else came out with a long form feature on him first. And I was a little crestfallen because this was my first major piece ever about someone else, I’ll put it like that way, it was my first journalism piece ever. And I was a little worried about it, and I read it and I, “But this guy doesn’t have the stuff as I do, he doesn’t have the perspective that I have.”

And so I finished the piece and I turned it in, and it ended up being a bigger piece. And I don’t say that in a braggadocios way, it’s just to show that we came from two different perspectives. And somebody else may say, “Look, technically his piece is better in terms of structure and storytelling and some of the other stuff.” But if you read both pieces, you would get something different out of both pieces. And that is okay. And so even if somebody else decided to take the idea, you have something in your back pocket that makes you you that they’ll never be able to replicate it. So that’s why I’m not sure sometimes. Like, Standing Rock, a bunch of people covered Standing Rock, I covered it very differently from them. I did the same thing with Flint. So some of these major news stories, particularly, you’re going to have a bunch of people, a bunch of reporters in one space, and you just have to figure out what you do well, what you do differently from everybody else. So that’s sort of the first part of it.

And then I’m really lucky here in Spartanburg that we have a literary community. And so I go to my local bookshop a lot. And I am actually on the board of Hub City Writers Project now. But I can go in there and talk to people about books. And some of them are editors, and some of them are just very veracious readers, but we can have this conversation, keeping the pump primed a little bit in your brain, because you don’t have to sort of think about sort of analyzing what you’ve read, it just comes out in conversation. So there’s that.

 I have a writing partner, Maggie Mertens, we went to graduate school together. And we are both working writers, both working freelance writers. And we bounce ideas off of one another. And I did this writer’s residency, we would have a call once a week or every two weeks and say, “Okay, what are your goals? How can I keep you accountable? What do you need help with?” Sometimes I’ll get stuck on plot for a long form piece, and she’ll recommend a book for me, sometimes I’ll send books to her and we sort of celebrate our triumphs. She was just in the Atlantic talking about women’s soccer. And you have somebody else to root for that you’re incredibly proud of. So that’s sort of the second thing, is finding a writing partner. And not all writing partners are going to be great fits, because I had a different writing partner before that and she took a different job and stopped writing. And so I was like, “Well…” Talking to her about writing is fine but she’s not living it in the same way. So I partnered up with Maggie.

And then the third is finding a mentor. And I’ve been very lucky because I’ve run across a lot of people that have mentored me along my way that I can send an email to and say, “Hey, I’m not sure about this piece,” or “can we jump on the phone, I just need some life advice as to whether or not to take this next job. Is this a step forward? Is this a step back?” Especially in regards to pay or is going to be a major consumption of my time. So Kim Cross, who was an editor at Southern Living, and now is working as a freelance editor. I met her at the Archer City Story Center, and I was invited to go out to the writing workshop, and I had the opportunity to go out to Archer City, Texas, which is where Larry Mercury is from, and spend a week talking about like form and structure. And I knew at that point in my career, I wanted to go out there and really start challenging myself and adding extra tools to my tool toolbox as a writer.

So I go to this tiny town in Texas and I just hit it off with her. And I hit it off with Glenn Stout, who is a sports editor and does a number of baseball books. And then Jacqui Banaszynski was out there, she won a Pulitzer on her work back in the 80s with HIV and AIDS, correct me on that if I’m wrong, but then I want to make journalism awards. And then Eva Holland is an outside writer, outside/outdoors writer that I admire. She’s working on a book, but she actually did this long form piece on what it was like to feel yourself freeze to death. And she put herself outside to the point where she was going to freeze herself to death, or was going to freeze to death, and wrote about it. So you’re reading these really incredible, intense people, and not all of them became mentors. But like they, again, they’re making you think in very different ways. And you end up keeping in contact with some of those people.

 So that was a way that I sort of started finding mentors and started engaging with people. Sometimes it takes being out of your comfort zone, sometimes traveling to a conference. And I don’t do that often, because they’re very expensive. And sometimes time prohibitive, if I’m on deadline, but that does help find the mentor. Writing an email to someone to say, “Hey, I could use a mentor.” Sometimes helpful. Sometimes it’s not, just because it can be very time consuming for the other person on the other end, and they’ve never, never met you, you don’t know exactly what your interests are, and things like that. But those are the three local bookshop, writing partner and mentor.

Susan: That’s really interesting. I really appreciate how you put that. I think there’s something to be said for finding people and being able to connect with them on a personal level, rather than just emailing them. And I mean, I took a lot more away from what you just said than that. But that was kind of something that stuck out to me as somebody who is behind a microphone so often, also works from home, also, you know, is alone so often and going out and finding people and going to the local bookshop. And I love Hub City, whenever I’m town, I try to stop in and just because there’s not a lot of places like it, and where you have that community of intellectuals just hanging out at a bookstore. Before Hub City existed… What was it called? There was a sandwich shop across the street. I worked there in college, what was the name of that place?

Latria Graham: The Sandwich Factory? Is that the one you’re talking about?

Susan: The Sandwich Factory, yes. Everybody hung out there. But before the bookshop existed, and then they created the Writers Project, and then the bookshop came and it was such a—I loved just being around those folks, even if it wasn’t really my jam at the time, because you just knew there was like so much information there in front of you and so much creativity, and just gleaning any ounce of that that I could—I tried to.

Latria Graham: Yeah. Do you remember Java Jive at all?

Susan: Yes.

Latria Graham: So I was like not old enough to be there. I was like 12 or something like 12 or 13, yeah, because it closed by the time I was like 15 or 16. It was definitely off the radar. Java Jive, you know, had these like…For people listening because I realized this may make it as cut and may not, but Java Jive had these really interesting—was the first coffee bar and had these gigantic cookies and like they had taken bathtubs and turn them into seats. And there was a really eclectic, interesting kind of unbridled energy in that space. Particularly like, we weren’t out late. We definitely had to be home by eight o’clock. But it was starting to get really interesting after five, right after school. So like, we knew that Jill’s older sister was going to have to pick us up and take us home. We definitely had to be home by nine, for sure. But, you know, there was that weird, interesting space. And the Sandwich Factory was sort of this really eclectic intelligence that is sort of what they call it like space during the day. And like Hub City feels like this great, but not crunchy version, like fusion of the two. And that’s why I sort of love it. It’s got this unbridled energy to it. But it also has this incredibly intellectual side of it because you know, people are they’re reading 900 page biographies of somebody. So yeah, I adored both places, even though I was a little bit younger than you and did not get the chance to like, you know, grow up in the spaces.

Susan: Okay, well, thanks for calling me old.

Latria Graham: No, no, no.

Susan:  I’m totally kidding. I’m totally kidding. I’m totally kidding. I’m yanking your chain.

Latria Graham: No. You’re the host. You never want to like piss off those.

Susan: Oh, honey, you couldn’t? I’ve had too much fun getting to know you. And one of the most respected people in my life is the one who—well, after we met, she actually recommended you. So yeah, there’s no way that would ever happen. Because I don’t want to piss her off.

Latria Graham: Yeah, neither one of us wants to, actually. We’re going to leave her as she will not be named. But she’s incredible. And I think incredibly highly of her and of you. So yeah, we will keep it all good. I will send you like some Disney merch or something that would make me super happy.

Susan: Oh, you are hilarious.

Latria Graham:  So I will come up with something.

Susan: No, I was totally kidding you. Let’s go back to—you made a point that you were at Dartmouth, you graduated, you moved to New York City, you came home to help take care of your dad, who had cancer and you knew you had to earn money. And so you figured out a way to marry your passion? I’m going to say it this way. I don’t know if this is a good way to say it. But marry your passion with figuring out how to make money. Can you share a little bit about that? Because I think a lot of people have trouble with that step. They have a passion, but they cannot figure out how to monetize it, if and when that becomes necessary.

Latria Graham: Oh, that is a rough one, oh my gosh. And the way you said it was really interesting, because I definitely have passion projects. But I see writing as a skill that I have to like utilize it. So I would not necessarily say just blanket, you know, writing is my passion or books is my passion. I think that’s how people think of the profession in of their passions, right? Like they think of art, like it ends up being this kind of big thing, where it’s like, no, I have a particular set of skills that I’ve drilled down where I’m very good at this. When you are able to get very specific about what you’re good at, and what your skills are, you start seeing where they fit within a market in order to be able to better monetize them.

So I realized that I am not—and there’s no shades of them, because we need them. I am not a traditional newspaper writer. And I thought for a little while that I was going to go that route. And I’ve written a couple of things for my local newspaper. But I’m much more of a long form feature writer, and really getting spending time with someone getting inside their heads. And being able to take a big policy issue, put it in, like show how a person is living through it. And I realized that’s what I’m really good at. And I have a harder time with content marketing work and things like that unless I did a piece on Shalane Flanagan when she won the New York City Marathon. And that was very much getting into her body and Amy Crags body and spending like four days with them in order to like push through that. But if they had wanted me to write about their sneakers for 6000 words, I’m the wrong person.

So it’s very much like once you know who you are and what your skills are, you can really market them in a way that makes sense for you. Because like my tagline, and I really do live this, if you look on my website, it’s “Social issues deserve subplots.” And I believe that because like I don’t think you can have this one, like, sort of we think about it, I’m trying to give a really good analogy. Right. It’s the iceberg in some way. We think about this huge point on top, we don’t think about all the things that are going on underneath. So I’m never going to be the type of writer that writes maybe three or 400 words on just this is by you know, x is that. It’s always going to be much more nuanced and have all these shades of grey, because life is so much messier than we think. So again, if someone’s wanting me to write, and someone actually was willing to pay me a lot of money, to be an editor for a conservative sports vertical, and it would have been sort of hitting people over the head with morals in some ways. And that’s just not what I do. And so I stuck to my guns and passed over it. But I was like I would have also been really terrible that job because that’s not the tool kit that I had, you can’t take a plumber’s tool kit and try to go fix a car. It’s just not going to work, you’re not going to have everything that you need. So did that answer your question a little bit?

Susan: I think so. If I’m understanding you right, it sounds like you do have a passion for certain subjects maybe that you’re writing on. And then you also can back away from that. And it’s not just that you’re always doing work that you’re passionate about. You write, you’re willing to write and you do write about other subjects. But then there are the passion projects. Yes? And it’s all within this writing circle.

Latria Graham: Yeah, well, and I look at it as more storytelling. My passion is storytelling, I’ll put it that way, whether it’s visual or written words, figuring out a way to tell those stories, but my skill set…So yeah, that’s a great way of putting it. So my passion is storytelling, but my skill set is stronger in writing. And then it’s stronger in long form features that have a person living through policy aspects, right? So it very much narrows down what you what you do, and the type of work that you do. So that whenever you put up your website, you put up your Instagram stuff, everything is sort of in one vein. So even when you look at your Instagram, the way that you tailor the stories and the things that you tell, coupled with the photographs that you have, and I think Instagram is a brilliant way of thinking about this. If you’re whenever I open your tab, and it shows me all nine photos, your most recent nine, right? Like you can get some idea of who you are in a theme and where you’re going. And you’re like, “Ah, okay, I see that about myself. Here are the things I know about myself, here’s how I can market myself.” So if you look at my Instagram, and my top nine things, it’s all adventure things. But if you click on them individually, every single one has a story. I’m never going to post something that just has one or two sentence, it’s got to have a revelation about something that I’ve learned either about myself or that I’ve learned about someone else. And so you learn through scanning my Instagram scanning my social media, that’s the type of stories that I do, where you’re going to get an unexpected twist and learn something that you didn’t anticipate. And so yeah, when you start having those sorts of things, you can say…And people are really good at the elevator pitch. My brother works in San Francisco, and he can tell you exactly who he is in 100 words or less. I have a very hard time doing that because I’m a writer by nature, and brevity is not my strong suit, and that maybe should be my tagline. But yet you start getting very defined about what it is you start finding your tagline, you start figuring out how to describe yourself. And that sort of becomes the way that you market yourself. And when word gets around about what you do—and this is in any I think passion when people find out what you do, and they have a specific project, they start coming to you with that project, because they know what your identity is, they’ve been able to figure it out because you’ve marketed yourself that way. Is that a better answer? Does that  make more sense?

Susan: No, I think it’s fascinating the way you answered that, considering we started the conversation with you getting, I guess it was a Master’s at the New School. And one of the things you were doing was writing out the stories of your family.

Latria Graham: Right.

Susan: And I think that it kind of it just in a weird way. It just kind of came full circle of you’ve been doing this a long time.

Latria Graham: Yes. It feels like I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’ve been gathering information my whole life. I just didn’t realize that the pain and the information would be useful to me. Yeah, that’s the difference. It’s like people said to me, “Someday this pain will be useful to you.” And I was like, “Damn, they’re right. I hate that they’re right but they’re so right.” Yeah. And I actually just looked back at my Instagram and started looking at, you know, what was up there, and like the first things that I put up there were shots from the farm that we had picked up and shots to the produce stand and things that we’ve gotten in and stuff that that I learned, I hadn’t looked at this in a really long time, because like freelancers never looked back. It’s sort of how I think of it. But yeah, it all informs who I am. And it’s like, how do you distill that down so other people can understand it, too?

Susan:  Yeah. Wow, that’s such a… Yeah, that’s really cool. I also liked how you said “freelancers never looked back,” and you are looking back right now. It’s pretty funny.

Latria Graham: Yeah, it is. Because you don’t like once that check clears, if you don’t write another piece you don’t eat. And so I never…Like I get on that. I call it the hamster wheel. You never see how much…It’s not a treadmill, you don’t know how far you’ve gone, you just know that the wheel has to keep moving in some way. So we don’t look back. I don’t think about the awards I’ve gotten or anything. And when people ask me for a bio, I’m like, “I have written a lot, I have been doing this for a while.” And that’s the only like, contemplative moment that I have is when I’m forced to look back.

Susan: Well, I ran back in the day I was a runner, I guess I could still be a runner, if I put on some running shoes and went outside. But I was actually in training, like I was winning a few local races and stuff like that. And so reading back through your writing and reading the article you wrote.  I’ve watched all of her races. And I remember her falling. And I remember watching it happen and crying and thinking, oh my god, like that’s it, you know, because she was picked to win. And it was devastating. And for the life of me, I can’t remember which race it was. And so the way you wrote about her, it was just so moving and inspiring to me. But a lot of your writing is that way to me because I’ve read everything on your website. Tell me what you enjoy writing most about like, do you have favorite subjects? Because I know it’s freelance but what are some of the favorite things that you write about? Or you have written about or people? What are your favorites?

Latria Graham: Oh my gosh, that’s like, in some ways asking me to like choose children. So like the piece—this is going to sound basic, but like the piece that I’m maybe the proudest of, even though it years ago, and like probably technically not as good as what it could be if I’d written it now, was the Josh Norman piece because I didn’t know that that was coming. And it really announced that I had become a writer. And I’ll tell the story really quickly if you’re okay with it. But like so my dad had passed with cancer. And that was in 2013. And no, was it 2013? That’s very silly. I should know when my dad passed. Sorry, it was 2013. So my dad had passed of cancer. And I was trying to figure out who he was at that point. And one of the things that my father like loved, loved, loved was football. He started as a Washington Redskins fan back in the 60s, because Carolina did not have a team but whenever Carolina got a team, my dad rooted for them. But because we were farmers, like in summer is our major time, He never went to training camp, even though it’s five miles from our house

 So I was kind of lost and didn’t know what I was going to do who I was going to be, if I was going to move back to New York. I graduated, while my dad was ill, but I didn’t have a job lined up, obviously, and was devastated. So I was like, “I’m going to figure out who my dad was through football, I’m going to do something he never did. And I’m going to go to training camp.” And I met Josh Norman, he was practicing on a field like an hour after everybody had gone in, you know, Cam Newton and signed autographs and disappeared at this point and stuff. And I asked him a question. And he answered it, and I just kind of kept coming back and observing. It’s kind of like, what is it about this dude. And it turned into this long form piece. And I’m really proud of the storytelling and the orality I was able to do in that. Josh Norman’s piece one of my favorites.

The Standing Rock piece pushed me further than I ever thought that it could and I had such admiration for the people that I covered. And so that is another favorite, but any chance that I get to explore those big copy issues, and it’s happening less and less, would sort of be collapsed with certain digital media outlets. I’m not getting to do it as often as I would like. Any chance that I get to bring those types of topics to a new audience that thought they would not have skin in the game, I’m really proud of that. I’ve always spent time investigating the body, both my own and other people and how it reacts to the environment and those cases with water and what the stakes are. I love those pieces. If I could do those pieces, types of pieces for the rest of my life and get paid on time. I would say that I have my dream job.

Susan: Well, let’s…You brought this up. So I’m going to kind of shift gears for a second. And this is not a question I prepped you for. You brought up online publications that aren’t making it or that are leaving us or what have you. Journalism right now is so, so, so important, and accurate. Storytelling is so important. We need you, right? We need your stories, we need what you’re writing, because we don’t all get to go out and experience this every day. What does the non-writer in the United States need to know right now about the importance of good journalism? And where can you still find good and accurate and real journalism? What are your thoughts on my questions? Maybe you don’t even answer the question. But what are your thoughts on those types of questions?

Latria Graham: This is a whole other…So the first one that I thought of was when you read really good stories that like touch you in some way, like because writers like maybe not as much for the post, but sometimes those guys are freelancers too, like, let them know, like I keep every email that I’ve ever gotten about somebody that said something positive about my work, you know, going back to you 2013, right? And so I kept every single email. And when you have like really crappy days, you can go back and be like these people believed in what I was doing. So that’s part of it.

And then the second one is paying for journalism. And people are really annoyed with their pay walls and things right now. But like the fact that people read for free means that we don’t get expensive, like I was very lucky with that Standing Rock piece, that piece would’ve cost me probably about $2500, if I’d had to buy my own last minute flight to South Dakota, and try to get a hotel and food and rental car and all that stuff. And ESPNW, believed in that story enough to be like, “Okay, we’re going to front the expenses, you don’t have to pay for that. Go tell a good story.” And that has happened to me maybe four times in my entire career. And the biggest story—well, the big story I told for The Guardian, which had something like I think 4 million readers. I slept in my truck, because I could not afford a hotel room. And I knew that that was not going to be expensed for me.

So it’s realizing that new people are people too, and some of us are putting everything we have into this job because we know what’s happening is important. And so sometimes it’s feedback, sometimes it’s knowing that people are paying for news, and that you’re going to get reimbursed for your expenses. But some of the biggest stories I’ve told, I’ve only broken even on. And I told them because they were necessary. And the story I was talking about with The Guardian was called “Last of the Dying Breed.” And it was an African American female swim team. And it was the last African American swim team at HBCUs and it was going to be disbanded. And I got to catch one of their last practices and talked to them. And they also enabled me to talk about African American discrimination and why we don’t swim and why so many African Americans drown.

And yeah, like I got paid maybe less than $300 probably for that piece. And so by time I paid for food gas, drove my own truck, but could not afford a hotel. But like that story, knowing that like, this was the last time that this was going to happen, I had to be there. And it was a springboard on to some other stuff. But that’s part of it. Also, just checking—whenever we talk about new sources, and I’m hesitant to throw out like the big ones, because they do some really great reporting. But they also have their leads, but just really say, what was the point of this article? What did I learn from it? Was it incredibly skewed? And that’s something that I see people, like the number of times I have to say, this is fake or this has been disproved by Snopes and all that I’m sort of like, the journalist fact checker on social media for some of my friends. A lot of them appreciate it. But a lot of them get really annoyed by it. But I was like, “You can’t…Just because you want this to be true, doesn’t mean that it’s true. And look at more than one source and see what’s coming out there and figure out what the endgame is supposed to be and why you believe what you believe.”

So I mean, because there are a lot of really great places in like Southerly is doing a lot for the American South and picking up a lot of these environmental stories for the different smaller—and some of them are small sources. And sort of compiling them and giving people stuff to read The Bitter Southerner is another one that people would not necessarily think of, but I read it just as much as I read The Atlantic. So I’m hesitant to throw out too many names, because everybody is always going to think—and they’re great, impressive pillars of journalism. But I respect Brendan Meyers was at the Dallas Morning News. And he was one of the greatest long form writers. He’s about my age. But I read everything he wrote, because I thought it was incredible. So there’s so many places, people will always think of the New York Times, they’ll always think of The Washington Post, but they really should be thinking locally too about their newspapers in their communities, and who’s doing really interesting long form stuff. Where are the investigative people? If they’re not there, why aren’t they there? You know, and start looking at stuff that way. So yeah, this was not a question you’ve had before but I am so passionate about it, that I will stop rambling now and hope that I gave you some pointers.

Susan: You’re not rambling at all. And some of the smaller publications you mentioned Southerly and what was the other one?

Latria Graham: The Bitter Southerner.

Susan: Yeah. I’ve never even heard of them.

Latria Graham: I mean, they’re incredible. So The Bitter Southerner is like, really trying to take away the red necky, only had two teeth, almost sort of hillbilly elegy thing that has been put on the country. It especially got prominent after our current president was elected, but like taking this, you know, they think of us as sort of backwoods, know nothing’s, and that’s not the case. And it was not necessarily meant it to be political. But it is just like the South is so much more nuanced and interesting than you thought it was. And that’s the case like Charlotte, our state is doing some really interesting stuff now. Charlotte Magazine, Atlanta Magazine has always done really interesting things. And I get a lot of these, even though I don’t live in Charlotte and Atlanta, but I frequent these places. And so I do read them a lot and keep up with some of their writers and look for them whenever they come out with books and stuff like that. And that’s the other thing is like some of these, some of it will leak over like Beth Macy was a newspaper writer, and she wrote Dopesick, she wrote Truevine. And so they go on to write books and supporting them that way. And some of the longer work they do, because you appreciated their newspaper or magazine, was another really good way to get into it too.

Susan: Those are really helpful. I’ll admit, sometimes I get really heavy in the bookworm side of stuff, and I can sit and read books for hours. And sometimes I forget about, I mean, I read the newspaper daily, I’m probably one of the youngest people that does, I don’t know if everybody sits around, read the newspaper. And I do read it on my computer. I’m not sitting there with the old school paper, and I and I pay for it, and multiple papers. I’m kind of a nerd. But I do get heavy sometimes into books. And I forget about small, not smaller, but like magazine publications that are local… I mean, I read like the Dallas Observer, or sometimes I go back and read…Although I don’t think it’s there anymore. I think the Village Voice is gone.

Latria Graham: The Village Voice is gone, but y’all have Texas Monthly, which is incredible. They’ve done some major work. And they do all have a couple of lesser and I know Texas is contentious, because it’s the South but it’s also the West like, it’s also a very big place, having been there. So there are a number of ways that you can…But yeah, Texas Monthly does some really cool stuff. And Long Reads is a great place that compile—they pull from everywhere. And generally it’s stuff it’s over maybe like 5000 words. And sometimes it’s things like Texas Monthly or the Atlantic, but it can be The Bitter Southern or it can be outside. It pulls from everywhere. And they publish during the week, and you can follow them on Facebook. And some of the more interesting long reads of the week you can find there, as long as there’s a digital version. So that also is helpful because I get probably 20 to 25 magazines a month. And I can’t get through them all. And I also get The New Yorker, which sometimes I like. I adore it when I read it. But the fact that it comes more often than I’m home can make for a serious backlog. So we recycle all our magazines. But like right now, I’m sure my house—because my mother is also a magazine person. I’m sure we have 2000 to 3000 magazine in this house. And it’s just too many. It can get overwhelming for people. So sometimes having an editor that will feed you things the way that Long Reads does it helpful for people just breaking into and trying to figure out how to support that longer reading habit.

Susan:  Well, that’s such a good point. That is an excellent point. Because you’re right, it can get overwhelming. And we won’t even talk about Texas trying to consider itself the South. Now Southern Living has even included them. And I’m like, “Y’all, I am from The South. Just be Texas. Just stick with Texas. I love Texas. But it is not. It is just not the South. It just isn’t”

Latria Graham:  It’s a very different version of the South. And there’s barbecue out there.

Susan: Right. And it’s wonderful, but just be who you are. Don’t try to be something else. That’s a whole other conversation. I want to switch gears and go back a little bit and talk about –because I know I have listeners who love writing, and I have listeners who might be moms right now. And they’re thinking about getting back into the workforce or they’re thinking about doing something creatively. Maybe they’re just doing it on their own maybe it’s just journaling. But if somebody is considering maybe getting a few things published, or writing a few pieces and seeing where it goes, what would you—because you’ve been doing this for so long, and you went to such an accomplished…I mean, you went to the Governor’s School for crying out loud and South Carolina, you went to Dartmouth, you’re not dumb. You’re really, really, really smart and clearly had very good SAT or ACT scores.

Latria Graham: Oh, no, I was saying mediocre, actually, mediocre SAT scores. I think I had a lot of ambition. But that’s the thing people think you need incredible score. So I will let you repeat that again or re-say the intro again. But yeah, I realized I interjected and shouldn’t have. But yeah, my scores were meeting, my grades were excellent. But I’m not a great test taker.

Susan: Hey, I get that. I wasn’t either and somehow, I got lucky enough to get into Converse College. And it’s not Dartmouth, but I’ve got a college education. And now I forgot was going to ask you. Oh, yes, I know! If somebody was thinking about really jumping in and getting into writing and they wanted to try to get something published, how would you suggest they go about doing that on a smaller scale? Would it be contacting their local magazine or local publication? Or what does that even look like?

Latria Graham: So first, I would say anybody that journals and journals daily actually has more discipline than I do, so kudos to you, I am one of those people that writes, sort of when I’m on deadline, or have an assignment, and I’ve tried. I have 20 journals, and have not been able to fill them. So that’s the first thing, the discipline to sit and write even several times a week, I think you have it to work on getting something published. So the first thing that I would say is the Internet has made things so much more accessible than it used to. So for people, it depends on what they want to write. So some of it is doing a little bit of research, if you want to write Op Ed’s, or personal essay, or journalistic pieces. That’s how I wrote my first personal essay, it’s like, I googled, how do you write a personal essay? I knew what my subject was going to be. But first thing was to sit down with your ideas, give it a little bit of structure, or write and see where it goes. And don’t be afraid to get rid of what’s not working. If you have people you trust like that bookshop or writing partner or mentor, somebody in your circle that also writes or understand, sometimes you can show that to them and get their trusted opinion. But like, make it as good as you can on your own before sending it out to somebody. And the reason I sort of emphasize the internet is like, The Atlantic and the New York Magazine, and a lot of those places, these people are on Twitter, and their email address is in their Twitter bio. You don’t necessarily have to start out on the smaller scale, if you have a story that is compelling enough, or timely enough that it should be on the national radar.

 So that is something incredibly important to say, like people had essays about their time at Notre Dame and obviously, when the fire crumbled, they were like, “Okay, this is something that I need to send in,” or spend time thinking about and get it really good and then send it in. And so some of it is knowing that you don’t have to have small. But part of it, the only thing stopping you in some ways is you in terms of competence, I was really bad about writing stuff, and deciding not to send it in because I was just worried it wasn’t good enough. If you wanted to start on that local level, and you’ve written a couple of things, you can have copy, or you can at least email them at your local newspaper magazine and see if they’ll at least have a meeting with you. Or you can send them a couple of clips. And when I first got started right out of graduate school doing book reviews, I did pho clip, which means that like I didn’t publish them anywhere. I just like looked at what a book review was. And I sort of modeled myself after that person, but chose a book that they had not written about, so chose my own book, wrote what would be considered a standard book review in my voice and use that as clips.

So you don’t have to necessarily have published-published work in order to have the resource. They want to know that you can write, they want to know that you can find a story. And then they want to know that you can turn stuff in on time because if you have a really great story, but you can’t turn it in, the editor still has nothing. So there are a couple of different ways to go about that. But if you really don’t have anything yet, the modeling clips idea works really well. So modeling clips, coffee with editors that may be willing to entertain you. Don’t get discouraged. Some of them don’t have time. And then also using the internet to find the bios of some of the big guys, if you really do feel like you have a national story.

Susan:  Well, those are really, really excellent points to just have the clips themselves or smaller pieces that aren’t necessarily pre published that way they can see that you can actually in fact write. That makes perfect sense to me that just seems like a no brainer that you might not think of on your own. So thank you for sharing that. Because sometimes you just don’t think past your own. You get stuck in the weeds and you don’t really think above like the tree line.

Outro:  Hey Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. 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. 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 ya soon.