Creativity

Ethical and fair trade fashion with co-founder of Brookes Collective, Kate Heihn

Brookes Collective was founded by two sisters living on different continents. Kate lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas called Mckinney. Kimberly lives in a village close to Cape Town, South Africa called Muizenberg.

One day as they were talking on the phone, they began chatting about fashion; what fits well, where to find beautiful pieces, and most importantly: how could they ever afford a sustainable and ethically sourced closet?

The sisters decided it shouldn’t be this difficult to buy beautiful clothes while at the same time valuing human life. It should not have to be one or another. This is the point in the conversation where one sister suggested they figure out a way to do it themselves.

Links:

Brookes Collective – website

Brookes Collective – blog

Brookes Collective – Facebook

Brookes Collective – Instagram

Show Notes:

Transcript:

Susan: Well, Kate, I am really just so excited you could join us today on the show. For those of our audience who are not familiar with Brookes Collective, I can’t believe they’re not because if I know about something that’s up and coming in fashion, then I just presume at this point, the whole world knows about it because I’m never at the forefront of fashion. But I do think I was lucky enough to meet a mutual friend of ours and she had on the jumpsuit, and I finally got one of my own and it is one of my favorite pieces. I absolutely love it. But before I just go on and on and on, I’m going to let you share your own story about Brookes Collective and about your sister who, unfortunately because this is a second recording of this podcast couldn’t be here today, and I’ll explain all of that to my audience later. But yeah, tell us a little bit about what’s going on at Brookes Collective. And tell us about a little bit about yourself and your sister and how all of this kind of came into being.

Kate: Yeah. Oh, cool. Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be on here. Kimberly was so disappointed not to be able to make it work. But she is living in South Africa. And she is, she has been living in South Africa for the last 10 years. And it is a little tricky to do, to coordinate meetings sometimes. But Brookes Collective, we started about a year ago, maybe more like a year and a half ago when this concept of Brookes Collective started. Kimberly and I are super close. And like I said, she lives around the world from me, but thank goodness for technology, we’re able to talk all the time.

And so we were just talking on the phone one day about fashion, just the normal stuff that we you know, what new styles are you into? What are you looking to buy this season, that kind of stuff. And we started talking about a pair of boots that were, you know, a little bit more expensive than—These were Kimberly looking into these—A little more expensive than she normally likes to buy. But she’s like, “You know what, but they’re quality made. I know they’re going to last. I know it’s from a company that’s fair trade.”And so we sort of started going down that rabbit trail of fair trade and what that means and what it looks like. And we realized, you know, we talked about fashion all the time. But what our conversations now are is to like, what kind of fashion is fair trade and what is quality? And it’s not so much about the sales and the cheapest thing we can buy and the fleeting fashion, but the classic pieces, and we both were kind of like, “Hey, this is something that we could really get behind. Is this something that we could do?”

And that’s how Brook’s Collective kind of blossomed. This is what it was, just this one conversation, like “Maybe we could do this “And so we did, I mean we just said “Let’s just see what happens. Let’s take this as far as we can and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, then, you know, it maybe will be a little fun adventure along the way. “And so that was last March. And we launched our very first line on March 1, 2019. It was our spring/summer line. And it was amazing. It was such a, I mean, a crazy adventure ups and downs, of course, we manufacture our clothes in South Africa, where Kimberly lives. We use a manufacturer that’s amazing. We just love partnering with them. And at this point now, we’ve used several manufacturers that we have gotten to know personally, we know the situation that the women are in that have created these clothes. And we just know that every step along the way, these women have been treated fairly. And maybe for those of you who aren’t quite sure about what fair trade means. It’s basically a concept of creating, whether it’s clothing or home goods or whatever, fair trade can be anything. But it’s creating the product in a way that really honors the artisans.

So these women are paid not only a fair wage, not only minimum wage, because we know that that’s not always enough, and especially in some of these developing countries, it’s for sure isn’t enough. And so it’s a living wage, it’s a wage where they are able to really care for themselves and their family. And it’s a living wage, and it’s a clean, safe environment. And it’s also a lot of upscale so they might come in not knowing the industry and, you know, particularly, at one manufacturer that we use, they upscale all of their artisans and they—It’s amazing. These women might come in with very little concept of what it takes to be a seamstress, and then by the end, they’re doing all sorts of things. They’re learning as they go, and I just know that for us in the United States, that’s kind of an expectation, right? Like, we want to keep learning and growing in our industry. And it’s something that maybe is taken for granted and that’s something that in fair trade is considered.

So, that’s what we did, and we were super excited to get our first line out. And we just started out with nine original pieces ranging from like you said, the jumpsuit, which looks amazing on you, by the way, I’ve seen you in it. I love it. The jumpsuit, and we have some dresses and some tops and you know, another piece of what we’re wanting to do is to have really classic pieces just to keep them in style longer. There’s so much fast fashion out there, you know, you see the stores in the mall where you can get clothes for so cheap. And you think, you know, if I wear it one or two times then it makes it worth it. And if you’re taking it as just what it is, it’s a piece of clothing, a shirt, whatever, then maybe that makes sense. But if you go back and think like, okay, so who made this? Under what conditions were they able to sell a shirt for $12, $6, whatever it might be, like someone had to have been paid for that, well, maybe not because otherwise a company’s trying to make money and they didn’t make money if they’re paying someone a fair wage on that. So we’re trying to have classic pieces that are going to just stand the test of time as well.

Susan: Yeah, and you know, I would also add that what you guys have they’re beautiful pieces, but they are not astronomically priced. They really are at a price point where I think it’s totally, I don’t want to say always affordable because I know everybody’s income levels are different, but I mean, these are not like, I mean, you have tops on here—I’m trying to scroll. I’m actually on your website right now. I mean, you have something that I’m looking forward to getting now that I have seen, it is something called a grandpa sweater, which is like this huge like, blankety looking sweater. It looks so comfy and so cozy. I want to sit in front of a fireplace right now in it, except that it’s October in Dallas, and when we’re recording this, it is 90 degrees outside, whatever. It is $62. So it’s like, what you have is definitely on the affordable end of fashion. And I appreciate both ends of this; you’re not only paying someone a living wage, but you’re also like not up charging this to a ridiculous price that’s unaffordable for the average person, and I love that about your thing because I feel like it gives everybody the opportunity to participate in something like this, because that’s the way I see it, I see it as a participation, it’s like you gave us the opportunity to participate in something that’s just a fabulous idea, and I just love everything about what you guys are doing.

Kate: Thank you. Well, and that is something that was really heavy on our hearts in the beginning of, do you think that if, one, if everyone knew what happened in the fashion industry of how people were treated, who create our garments, if people knew that if they would shop differently, but if it was affordable, people would shop differently as well. So like you said, affordable is a hard word because people are coming from all different backgrounds financially but we did try to make them moderately priced so the day to day people can afford it, not just people who can spend tons of money on clothes but most people can afford it, and know that they’re taking a step in the right direction when it comes to fair trade fashion.

Susan: Well, and I’ll just also add because I have the jumpsuit and it’s amazing. And I’ve already said it once, but I will say that it is really honestly well-made clothing that will last. It’s not something—And I know you said this, but like as somebody who owns a piece, it’s not something that’s like, just good for a season and “Oh, I’ll never wear that again. “It’s not that type of thing. So I appreciate all sides of that.
Yes. Tell share with us what were you doing pre Brookes Collective? Because this kind of came across from a conversation that you guys had. Did you have knowledge about the fashion industry? I know your sister was already living overseas. Did she have the opportunity? Was she already involved with some of these companies that you would be going to help manufacture this type of your clothing? Tell us a little bit about that process and what that looks like.

Kate: Okay, well, yeah, it’s kind of funny because no, I would say no to that answer. We do not. We are two girls that it’s like, where did we even come from to do this? And Kimberly is actually been overseas for 10 years, and working in counter human trafficking, among other justice issue problems around the world, and so she is, I mean, she’s amazing. I’m her big sister, she’s in the trenches, I’m so proud of her things she did. She showed up when she’s 20 years old ready to go change the world. And she made a huge impact in the counter industry of the sex trafficking movement. And so that’s her background. She’s worked with women and people, children and even men who have been treated unfairly in this life. And she’s worked against the system to try to make changes, so mostly in the sex industry.

And so that’s her background. And so she always had a very soft spot on her heart just for justice. I mean, from the time she was a little girl, we all knew that she was going to do something but our whole family… And so I think really, if I take it back another step, our parents really raised us to have a soft spot for justice. I wasn’t in the trenches like she was. I’m not quite as brave as she is. But I did social work before I had kids. And so I work with at risk families and children. And so we both had this, we both have always had just a heart for people and seeing just fairness.

And so when it all started, we didn’t have the connections necessarily, but we did have Google. Yeah, there’s that. No, but we just kind of started off, figuring things out as we go. And I just think it was amazing the relationships that we built along the way. This is true story, how we found our first manufacturer. Kimberly was actually working, doing some research about what our first steps are in a coffee shop in Cape Town. And she just turned to someone who she just had seen mutually around town, around the area and was like, “Hey, do you know any manufacturer around here? “And they’re like, “Yeah, actually down on this one street, there’s someone.” So she just pops in there. And she expected to set up a meeting and so her and I could talk and figure out what we want to say but she wanted to set this meeting up. And Kate, the owner of Spirit Society, who is our manufacturer was like, “Yeah, come on, let’s talk.”

Susan: Oh, wow!

Kate: I don’t even know like what questions to ask yet. But it was amazing because we worked together so well. And Spirit Society was our main manufacturer for that first line. And I mean, we just learned so much from each other starting out. It was really incredible. So we did not come into this with experience, but we have learned so much in this past year, year and a half that we’re just like different people going into it now.

Susan: No kidding. So now that you’ve been through one launch, well, two really, what were some of the lessons—this is totally off script—What were some of the lessons that you learned from the first launch that you were able to take into the second launch? Was there anything that like sticks out to you that you were like, that was the one thing that if anybody else, were starting a business or starting a company, that that would be the one thing that I would tell them?

Kate: You know, I just think expectations can be killer. You know, we came in, and—I mean, luckily, we were smart enough to say, well, we can’t come in with the first line this very next season. We knew that if we started March of 2018, we were going to need to wait until a full year to get things: our designs in place, our fabrics chosen, and everything manufactured. And there’s bumps along the way; every step there’s bumps and so I think we—And some of them were very unexpected to us. And again, like we had to work through how are we going deal with this? I’m across the world from the manufacturing, there’s a lot that I couldn’t do. There was a lot that Kimberly couldn’t do on this side.

So our expectations just needed to be, I don’t want to lower, that doesn’t sound very good, but they had to be realistic, you know what I mean? And we have to be realistic of we’re working with humans, and there’s mistakes that are going to be made and that’s okay. And kind of have a little softer timeframe. And so the second go round, I think that for the manufacturing piece, we learned a lot to kind of expect that, to just know that things were going to happen. But then now our next line is held up in customs. So it’s like there’s always something that’s going to happen, and then it’s okay, we’re trying to just roll with it. Because we’re not fast fashion, we’re slow fashion, when bumps along the way happen and it pushes back our timeline, it’s okay, because we are valuing human life. And in doing that, like we’re allowing for some mistakes to happen and we are okay.

Susan: You know, I’m so glad, I’m not kidding, I’m really so glad you said that. The podcast is about a year and a half as well. And I’ve kind of been going through some of the same stuff of, “Oh, I need to be doing so much more every day”. And I have like, you know, my list of things that I have to get through, and I get through it sometimes, I execute that really well. And it’s like, “Wow, I should really be doing more. “And it’s like, you can always be doing more or you can always be figuring something out, or you can always be tweaking, and sometimes what I really lack is patience with myself, patience with the process, patients was starting something from the ground up. And so I think your words are very wise. I think that is great, great wisdom to impart on people, is you just really have to have patience, because there isn’t a real zero to 60 overnight.

Kate: Mm-hmm. True.

Susan: I appreciate you saying that. So, your stuff is currently locked up in customs, huh?

Kate: Well, it’s on its way through. And I just got an email this morning saying that it should be available on the 6th, which is Sunday. So we’re like celebrating. We were hoping to get it in July. So this is good news.

Susan: Well, also good news is that the weather is finally maybe going to get cool. So you know, we can all not only purchase these wonderful pieces but wear them, so there’s that.

Kate: Yep.

Susan: Right? Well, it’s kind of perfect timing then?

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: All things work out in the end.

Kate: They do.

Susan: One of the things that I wanted to talk a little bit about is your inspiration and the design of the clothing. And I know that, I think you said neither one of you actually know how to sew. Is that still the case? Or are you…? What are we delving into now that you’re on your second line?

Kate: We are learning so much more.

Susan: Yeah.

Kate: We’re learning so much more. But no, we’re still pretty hands off when it comes to the actual process of it, and as far as the manufacturing goes.

Susan: Yeah.

Kate: Yeah, we’re taking it on. So our designs are going through, our manufacturers also have designers in-house and so we’re working. We’re collaborating really closely with them. And they’re amazing. And we have just really gotten to know and love them on a personal level, and love to see their creativity come out. It’s pretty special.

Susan: It’s really such a neat idea of y’all just really finding some amazing people and saying, “Hey, we’ve got an idea and can you help us out,” and they’re like “Absolutely, and we have the perfect people to match you up with. “I just think that’s fabulous, absolutely fabulous. I know one of the other things you’ve mentioned in the past is not only is it fair trade as far as working with people and making sure people have a living wage, but you also are very conscious about the types of materials you use. And I think we’ve talked a little bit about that, but could you dive into that just a little deeper for us?

Kate: Sure. Well, we’re really excited because this next line that comes out is almost all natural fibers made and grown in South Africa and so cotton, natural cotton. So the Grampa sweater is an example of that. That’s all South African cotton. It’s so soft, it’s so great. It’s so amazing to be pouring into this economy even further in South Africa and their farming as well. And so that is our goal is to move into all natural fibers. And I will say the first line isn’t completely but then it’s baby steps, we’re taking the steps to get there as fast as we can, and we’re really excited about the progress that we have made.

Susan: That is really neat. Now, with your finding, I presume farmers are what they’re called there just like they are here. Is that through the manufacturers as well that you’ve been able to build those relationships? Or how have you been able to find all of your different words that fit the puzzle?

Kate: Yeah, we’re working with just the textile companies, so the fabric companies. It’s just about relationships, and that’s really true. I wish Kimberly was on here to talk a little bit more about it; in South Africa, it’s such a relational culture. It’s amazing. So when I was there, let’s see when was that, in November, last November, I was there and we go to talk to a couple of different fabric stores. And we start talking about what our needs are, what we’re looking for, and the owner of one shop was giving us a ton of time and we were so appreciative of him, we were learning so much.

Again, we’re learning as we go. And we’re telling him what our vision is, and someone sitting right across the table from us. And he’s like, “Oh, well, you’ve got to use this guy here. He does all the cotton here, “and he was sitting there listening to us and he was able to talk to us and fill us in and give us contacts. And it was really amazing timing. And it was just so neat that we just felt like it all fit together so perfectly that he was giving us the time listening to our vision, and then he had known this man and knew that he was going to be perfect. He also introduced us to our knitwear manufacturer, who created the grandpa’s sweater as long as well as a crew neck sweater that we have coming out also in the South African cotton. So it’s so amazing to see how networking and relationships can build a company. And that was one of the biggest surprises for me in starting a company and something that I love is the networking piece. I love hearing other people’s stories and seeing how we can work to help each other and, you know, growing companies together. And you know, that’s how I met you. I just think it’s such an amazing piece that maybe isn’t talked about. But networking is so important and so incredible.

Susan: Oh, you’re absolutely right. That is such a very valid and good point. I have really enjoyed doing this podcast, not just because I’m helping share stories, but it is because of all of the amazing women doing incredible things all over. I’ve met women all over the country at this point. And it really is just amazing what women are doing and how we can support each other and empower each other and encourage each other to just follow whatever path we find ourselves on. Yeah, I want to switch gears just a little bit. Something we haven’t chatted about yet, but I want to get your take on is working with family. I think it is amazing that you and your sister have such a good relationship that you can actually have a company together. I think that is a testament to many years of probably being pretty close. But now I’m jumping in and trying to tell your story for you. So I’m going to let you talk a little bit about that and share with us what it’s like being that close working with family regularly.

Kate: Yes, yeah. Kimberly and I are super close. And we have been, you know, for years. I’m six years older than her so you know, of course I—Maybe not when we were little, but ever since I was into adulthood, she’s my very best friend. We call each other our soul mates. We’re very close. And I mean, we haven’t lived in the same city for, well, at least, let’s see, probably close to 15 years. We miss each other. And going to South Africa for Brookes Collective was not my first time, like I would be out there to visit her when she had her children, and she always came into town when I had my children, and just doing life together is like what a tragedy is my life that I can’t do day to day life with my sister, that’s such [inaudible 27:21] there. I just I love her so much.

And so doing business together—Sometimes the closer you are to someone, the easier it is to get irritated with them or to be able to, you’re comfortable enough to voice your frustrations where you might bottle that down a little bit more with someone you’re not related to. And so we have been very conscientious to make communication key and talk through—we’ve always said, what is most important to us is our relationship. So if that’s starting to suffer, Brookes Collective has to go away because her and I, our relationship is so important. And that’s been like a baseline for us from day one. And there have been some rough times where it’s hard to work together. But I would say mostly we’re able to talk it through. She knows what my frustrated voice sounds like, I know what her sounds like. And we’re able to say, Okay, wait, stop, let’s talk this through. And what’s amazing, because we’re so entrenched in each other’s life, not just, you know, outside of Brookes Collective as well. She’s able to say, like, “What’s going on outside of this, like, clearly, you can’t be just frustrated about what’s going on here. So let’s talk about your life.”

And so then we’ll be able to talk through personal and business, and that’s, you know, that’s huge. And we just have such a mutual respect for one another, that we’ve kind of fallen into the roles that we’ve taken, just naturally in some she’s on the ground in Cape Town, so she has to do the meetings with the manufacturers, all that good stuff, and I’m here and I’m doing distribution and she’s fallen in to the social media role and it’s certain things like that. And I really think we respect one another and how things are being moved along and how that works. And so that’s also a huge point of success for us as well.

Susan: I wonder, because you guys were clearly raised by amazing parents who really put an emphasis on others, taking care of others. There had to have been an emphasis there on family and staying connected with family. A lot of the women who listen to our podcast are moms. I think you’re a mom, too. Am I right on that?

Kate: I do have three girls.

Susan: Wow, it’s three. Wow. Do you have any words of wisdom or things you have learned, either through being part of Brookes Collective or just or working with family or any words of wisdom you might share for moms out there who want to make sure—Because I think with us at the end of the day, there’s so much that we’re doing for our kids, right? We want to make sure that the earth is still here for our children. We want to make sure people are treated fairly because it’s a world our children are going to be growing up in, and we want everyone to have equity. It needs to be an equitable place to live. So do you have any thoughts on that or any words of wisdom that you might share with moms out there who are also kind of working owning their own thing, starting their own thing but are also in the trenches with kiddos?

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So, my three girls are 10, 9 and 7, and then Kimberly has two girls that are 5 and almost 4. So there are a lot of them and they’re all — what is it called? Stair steps down in age. And I guess I just want to say that they are watching, and it is powerful to have my words come out of their mouth. And it just shows me that, okay, they’re listening and they’re paying attention. And maybe I might have had these ideals of fair trade fashion and how I want to shop responsibly before but because I’m so entrenched in it now with Brookes Collective they’re seeing and hearing it constantly.
And I have a video of my now seven year old talking about how when she grows up, she wants to stop slavery, and I just like, it meant the world to me that she is sharing that and processing it and seeing her mom and her aunt take an active role in that. Because in the fashion industry, obviously with clothes being so cheap, slavery is a common place. And so they know that. We’ve been transparent to our children about what that means and why we’re doing bricks collective. And so they’re aware of it and they are proud of me and their aunt, that’s really special too. Because if there’s someone I want to make an impression on in this world, it’s them. And I think that we have and I think that it’s going to continue. And Kimberly and I have these great hopes of someday our girls stepping in and being a part of this with us. And we just love that they’re seeing us being empowered enough to take a step. And I love that they’re seeing us empowering other women around the world. And it means so much to us to invite them into that conversation.

Susan: And that is such a good conversation to have, not just with your children, but with your friends around you. I don’t remember—It may have been y’all who kind of made me look into like some of the brands that that I love and first of all, even trying to figure out where some of this stuff is sourced is like crazy. It’s almost impossible. But then it’s not just your cheaper clothing that you think that you might, you know, like the $5 t-shirt or whatever, it really is, like even some of your higher end clothing, the way it is sourced. So I don’t want somebody to go out there and think, oh, just because I bought this piece that cost a fortune, think that that was necessarily sourced from an ethical situation, because that’s not necessarily the case. Do you guys have any stats on that or how that’s working? I know that there are companies out there because of public pressure, that are trying to do a better job or at least put a better face on what they’re doing, whether they’re actually doing it or not, do you guys have any stats on that or anywhere people can go and check that out and look if they’re really interested in.

Kate: You know, it’s really funny that you’re bringing that up because I just did—On our website, we also have a blog that Kimberley and I write, and it’s a lot about just information because we think, you know, information is power. If you’re educated on what is going on in the industry, you’re going to take steps in the right direction most likely. And so we think that that’s a huge piece of what our business is, is just educating our consumer. And I just wrote a blog about this about companies that are—just how to be aware of— just be a savvy fair trade shopper. So the example that I gave was Target’s got this new brand out called Good Threads. Is it Good Threads? I think it’s called Good Threads. And so were walking by when Kimberly was in town this summer, and they had got this plaque that says “fair trade denim.” And we’re like, “Oh my gosh, this so incredible. This is amazing.” So we go, we like grab everything up from this line and go try it on because we’re so excited to see it at a big box store, and we start looking closer at the labels and we realize it’s not only just the denim that’s fair trade certified, but it’s only like two pairs of the denim that’s fair trade. And we just felt like it was really sneaky. Like, that’s really — marketing is tricky, you know, it’s so hard to get around it.

And so we walked away feeling just manipulated by the situation. And so we didn’t buy anything, and we were just not pleased. And I did research a couple different times. And I just thought, you know, if this is truly fair trade denim at Target, you would think that would be a really big deal for them. Why aren’t they…? I mean, I see them marketing and they’re trying to get you to buy the whole line, even though only these two items are fair trade, but I just was surprised there wasn’t more information out there. And there’s just such a lack of transparency in so many brands.

And I finally found enough information to feel really good about the pair of denim that they are offering. And it’s made in a factory where Made Well and J Crew make their fair trade denim and Everlane make some denim there too. And so the thing is I don’t have statistics, but I do know that there’s good websites out there that will help you narrow it down. But the thing that we really have to look out for is a company who’s going to maybe make one product, two products that are fair trade, and then that tricks the consumer into believing that their whole line is.

And I want to applaud companies that are taking steps in the right direction. So we would like, they’re hearing us, they’re hearing that we want change in the fashion industry. So they are taking a step in the right direction. But is it enough? They should be you know, or are they on trend to start making all of their clothes fair trade? Or are they going to stop with that because it’s enough to satisfy us? And so that’s just the kind of information that we’ve got to do our research on. And there are some really good websites, and I’m sitting from my computer right now and I actually have this website called the goodtrade.com, and it’s usually up on my computer. And it’s a great way to list fair trade brands. It’s a great way to research if it’s something that you’re not sure about. So I think that we luckily live in a time where we can do the research online, but it’s kind of tricky what they’re doing to us out there.

Susan: And it was called the goodtrade.com. Is that what you said?

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: Okay, we’ve said it twice. And I’ll go ahead and make sure to link that in our show notes as well on our website. That’s really helpful information because you’re absolutely right, I didn’t think about the marketing piece of that. It’s kind of like when, you know, back in the day when they used to say, oh, the calories are lower, it’s lower fat or lower this or whatever, it is. Then we really started making people like list the calorie count. It’s like, oh, I don’t know if I actually really wanted that information. But when you do have the information when it’s sitting there and staring you in the face, sometimes I think you make different choices.

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: So I appreciate that that information is out there. Whether we always want the information or not, I think being educated and being an educated consumer is important.

Kate: Yeah. It is hard to be an educated consumer because we are such generally emotional shoppers; we see something real quick, “Oh, I’ll just grab that.” You know, it’s everywhere, all the marketing, and then the products and there’s so much of it out there. And you’re going to Target for maybe cereal, and there you are with jeans right in front of your eyes. Like it’s hard to say, timeout. I’m going to do my research first, I’ll come back and make this purchase, because everything feels so urgent in fast fashion. It feels like you need to get it because of the sale, you need to get it because it’s going to sell out, you need to get it because it’s what’s on trend today. But when we can slow down fashion, choose classic pieces that are going to last, and then style them. Kimberly and I are really big on styling our pieces, so wear the same shirt 10 different ways, styled differently. And choose your variety through your accessories and through just layering and things like that, where you don’t have to buy, you don’t have to have a closet full of clothes. You could have a really minimal closet and still have very unique and different look within the clothes that you have.

Susan: For sure. Well speaking of your line, let’s get back to your line and talk about some of—you’ve clearly heard about and I don’t even own it yet. You’ve clearly heard me talk about the grandpa sweater enough here. Tell me some of your other favorite pieces that are going to be coming out in this new line that you guys have coming, or this new line that’s out for the fall winter and all that.

Kate: Well, we have a shawl coming out and it is my favorite piece I think ever that we have. It’s pretty simplistic. It’s one piece and it tucks in through a loophole. And it’s so soft but it is so classy, it’s in a gray, and fabric, and I love it. So we did our photoshoot in Europe this summer, so much fun. And we were up in Northern Europe so it was still cold, it was perfect. And we had it layered with dresses and it looked so classy, dresses and heals. We also had it layered with a long sleeve striped T and distressed denim and tennis shoes. And it was so cute like that too. I love when you have a piece that’s maybe unexpectedly dressed down or unexpectedly dressed up. That’s one of my favorite things to do when styling and this shawl is perfect for both. It’s amazing. That is my favorite piece. I could go on and on and on and on.

Susan: That’s awesome. I’m actually looking at it. I’m looking at right now.

Kate: That’s one that’s available now, and then the other items, most of the other items are coming in, hopefully on Sunday—cross our fingers. But we have a lot of like long sleeve tees that are all South African cotton. We’ve got a great top that it’s white long sleeve, it’s longer so it’s going to be great over leggings or jeans and it’s longer in the back with a slit on the side. And that one adorable, and it’s going to be a really great staple piece for our wardrobes.

Susan: Awesome. Well, I am really looking forward to it. Are you guys planning any pop ups around the Dallas Texas area or anywhere around the holidays. I know it’s early so to even ask that is way too much.

Kate: Well, you know, and this is one of those things that live and learn, right? A lot of the big pop ups start taking applications in January of the year before.

Susan: Wow!

Kate: Yeah, in January of this past year, we didn’t even know that we were going to be, how we were going to be marketing our products. We were not sure. I mean, this was how green we were getting started. Are we going to just sell out the first night? Are we going to be all online? Like, we truly didn’t know what to expect. And so a lot of the —we’re working hard on getting into some but I don’t have any definitive dates of pop ups at this point. We are going to do what we can to get into some.

Susan: Awesome. Well, when you have those, shoot them to me, and I will make sure to post those on my social media and share those as well because I can’t wait. And I know that we can order online and I will obviously be doing that as well.

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: Cool. Well, have I missed anything? Is there anything that you wanted to talk about that I just totally blew past and didn’t even think about?

Kate: No, I just appreciate the time. I think that if people want to check out the blog to maybe understand about what we’re about, and just get some good tips on, like I said, we love styling. That’s actually my favorite part about all this is the styling piece. So we talk a lot about how we can do that, giving some good ideas, and then just some facts about the industry and understanding it so that we can be educated on why we’re making the choice for fair trade fashion. So we try to just educate along the way.

Susan: I will absolutely link all of this in the show notes. And yes, please check out their blog. It really has some great information. And I just really appreciate you coming back and doing this again. This was so much fun, and I really enjoyed chatting with you. And I hope to see you again soon.

Kate: Yes, absolutely. I enjoyed talking with you too.

Susan: All right. Thanks. Have a great day, Kate.

Kate: You too.


The Real Slim Schumie, with Chelsea Schumacher

Chelsea believes you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to thrive in today’s crazy world; your personality, your sense of humor, and most importantly, your heart. Through her weight loss journey she has the desire to spread body positivity among everyone in her community. All of these elements brought her to start The Real Slim Schumie.

Links

The Real Slim Scheme – Website
The Real Slim Scheme – Instagram
The Real Slim Scheme – Facebook
The Real Slim Scheme – Pinterest
What is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) – Mayo Clinic

Show Notes


Transcript

Susan: Hey, Chelsea, I really am just so excited for you to be here today and for you to share your story with my audience. Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you’re from, and what is your story because you have a really cool one.
Chelsea: Yeah, so I’m Chelsea Schumacher. I am from the Dallas area. Well, originally from Louisiana, but I’ve lived here for like 15 plus years. I had weight loss surgery almost two years ago. It’ll be two years this coming up December. I’ve successfully lost 175 pounds and been able to maintain and keep all that off. In my journey and through the whole process, I’ve been sort of documenting everything through my blog and my Instagram. And I really, especially in the last couple of months have started to create a community of people that either have had weight loss surgery or lost weight in some form or fashion or just be fitness oriented. And I’ve really tried to start creating a community of people like locally and online that can connect and just be supportive of each other regardless of where they are in their journey.
Susan: That is such an inspiring story. And your story in general is inspiring. Share with us a little bit about what prompted you to make this change?
Chelsea: Yeah, so…
Susan: That’s a big deal. I know other people who’ve had the surgery. This is not like an easy thing. And there are lifestyle changes that are all part of it as well.
Chelsea: Absolutely. And you know, so rewind right back to whenever I was considering. So I knew that the surgery wasn’t going to be this like magic wand that came in and just fix all the crap that I was going through. I knew that. So what I did was I decided to go ahead and start working out with a trainer. I joined LA Fitness for the first time and you know, really had my eating in line so I was meal prepping pretty regularly. I started working out with the trainer three times a week, like they hadn’t sold, right?
I will spare you my story about meeting Western for the first time, but we still work out together. And it’s been almost two years, so wild, right? Well, it has been two years actually, now it as. But so that was right before… I had just transitioned jobs. And so when I joined the gym and like went back to working out and getting my lifestyle together I had just transitioned to a new position in my career. And I finally felt like I could start taking care of myself and making myself a priority. So I started doing all of that. And you know along with that goes with like going to the doctor, all of those good things that sometimes slip away. Like I don’t know, when you become an adult, you all of a sudden forget how to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
Susan: Yes, also dentist appointment.
Chelsea: Oh, yeah, dentist, dentist big time. But so I went to the, you know, for my well women’s exam, and I was diagnosed with PCOS. And I had no idea what that meant. The gynecologist that I was visiting with pretty much said, “Yeah, hey, you have PCOS, here’s a pamphlet on it. You’ll never be able to have kids, okay, bye.” And I was, “What!”
Susan: That’s some serious bedside manner.
Chelsea: Oh, it was so fantastic. He hands me a pamphlet on it. And I was sitting there like, almost in tears because, you know, as a woman and especially as I’m married, I’ve been married for almost—It’ll be five years is coming up June. So, you know, my husband and I, we tried for years, and I couldn’t put the puzzle pieces together as to why nothing was happening, right?
Susan: Yeah.
Chelsea: It was a silent struggle. That’s not something that like, my husband and I talked about, like, all of our friends didn’t know that we were trying to have kids, my family didn’t know like, obviously when I started doing you know, some things and like being more open about my journey, they found out but they’re like, “We had no idea.” Yeah. I was diagnosed. I had that awful, awful, you know, statement of, “you’re never going to be a mom and never be able to have kids,” like, I had that light over my life. And here’s like, “Well, maybe if you lose a little bit of weight, you can, I guess.” And I just, I felt so disconnected from myself and it felt like a very out of body experience. You know what I’m saying? Like, I felt like I was watching myself react to what this guy was saying.
Susan: Yes.
Chelsea: Needless to say, I don’t go to him anymore.
Susan: Yeah, you immediately switched.
Chelsea: Immediately changed doctors, didn’t change my diagnosis, but don’t go to see him anymore. And, you know, I essentially was handed a pamphlet and told to get along my merry way. So I think that was really difficult for me, and I’d been at the gym at that point for about like three to four months, and I wasn’t really seeing like any physical progress. And so, you know, Weston and I are like, okay, trying to manage my stress levels. He’s like, “Are you sleeping okay? I know you’re eating is in line. Obviously, your workouts are in line because you’re with me,” you know, and we couldn’t wrap our heads around why nothing was happening. And so I get diagnosed with PCOS and I was like, “Okay, yeah, there it is.” Because one of the symptoms is an inability to lose weight.
Susan: Oh, whoa,
Chelsea: Yeah. So, I was having a really hard time with that. And so I went to my husband and I said, “Hey, I’m going to consider weight loss surgery.” I was like, “I already have a consultation scheduled with a surgeon.” I said, “I just want to get more information. I want to see what our choices are and what the options are, like, I don’t even know if our insurance will cover it.” I had no idea. I didn’t even know that was the thing.
Susan: You didn’t know that that could happen either.
Chelsea: Yeah, if it’s considered medically necessary, some insurance companies will. And so I didn’t know that, but all I knew is that I had to go talk to the surgeon and I had to see what my options were.
Susan: Yeah.
Chelsea: So I remember sitting in the room, right and her and I are having a conversation and she asked me similar question. She goes, “What prompted this.” You know, she’s like, “I see your 375 pounds. Like, you’re so young, you know, what prompted this?” And I told her I said, “Not even two days ago, I was diagnosed at PCOS, and I don’t know what to do.”
Susan: Oh my.
Chelsea: I like start sobbing at this point because I think it was the first time that someone like connected with me on it. And it just gets worse from there because she grabs my hands and she looks me dead in the face and she says, “I have PCOS too and you’re going to be fine.” And I was just like, “Okay, she’s right. Like, I am going to be fine,” you know? And I was like, “This is going to be all great. Like, it’s going to be okay.” And so I talked to her about the whole insurance coverage thing. Like I said, I didn’t know that was possibility. And long story short, I got my insurance to cover all of my surgery. We barely paid anything out of pocket and the rest is history.
Susan: The rest is history. That is amazing. That is such an interesting, I mean, on top of like, everything that you were doing is like, “Oh, and by the way, I have this medical condition.”
Chelsea: Right? And it’s like, oh, by the way, here you are.
Susan: That’s a medical condition that rocked your world.
Chelsea: Yeah. And you know, it’s pretty common in women. But I didn’t know that. That pamphlet that I was given, didn’t tell me that. It left me feeling like I was stranded on this desert island by myself. And like, you know, at the young age— I was 27. So, you know, I’m sitting there as a 27-year-old who’s been trying to become a mom, and be told that hey, you can’t be a mom, and here’s why. And women that have PCOS have babies. So like, I don’t have a fear of that now, but it’s just like, I feel like that medical professional didn’t handle it right. And, you know, hindsight, it prompted a lot of change in my life.
Susan: Yeah.
Chelsea: And so I don’t know, maybe the universe is trying to like, help me some way, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know. I’m trying to have like a positive spin on it.
Susan: And I think there is, I think, I mean, you’re sharing your story, and I think it’s helping others. And I think that it’s really, really admirable. I don’t know if a lot of people would be willing to share their story. I know a lot of people aren’t willing to share their stories. Because I’ll say something on here sometimes or another guest will say something and I’ll have people you know, DM me or you know, email me “Oh, I’m so glad you said this, because I have this too” or “this is going on in my life too and I don’t feel like I can talk about it.”
Chelsea: Yeah.
Susan: I feel like the more we talk about things, and the more we share these things, we realize we’re not alone. Everybody’s got issues and oh, by the way, this person has your issue. Congratulations.
Chelsea: And you know, I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned through this journey is like, it is totally 100% okay to be a work in progress and still be motivational to people because I mean, like, especially on my Instagram, like half of the stuff that I post on my Instagram story is like, stuff that I need. I post it because I need to hear it and I need reminder. Whenever I’m scrolling and I just click on my story just to view it, you know, I share it because it resonated with me and I needed to that in that moment. And like so many people a lot of times, they’ll messaged me back saying, “Thank you so much. I needed this,” and I’m like, “See, everybody here is struggling and nothing is perfect.” It’s easy on social media to sit here and, you know, make this perfect life, right? Yeah, that’s not always the case all the time.
Susan: No, and I really appreciate that authenticity there because I think women who are listening who have a sole proprietorship of whatever their thing is, or they have, you know, their thing that they’re doing and everybody’s saying, “Oh, you have to worry about social media. Oh, you have to worry about…” I worry about social media, everybody worries about posting on social media. And it’s like, okay, maybe you do have to have those things that you schedule. Absolutely. But making sure that you pop in with your own authentic self regularly is also just as important to people can see the real you and who you are.
Chelsea: Absolutely. And that really means a lot is because these last two years, almost two years, have been about living such an authentic life. Like I’m sick of living a life that I don’t feel happy with and that, you know, I’m not being fulfilled in every way possible. And that’s career, that’s physical fitness, that’s my eating, that’s just existing in general. I’m not settling anymore.
Susan: I love that.
Chelsea: That’s okay too, right?
Susan: Yes, I’m all here for that. Let’s segue. You mentioned Instagram and we talked about social media. Let’s go ahead and chat about your blog and what kind of came from this journey because you really started sharing the journey, not with just the people who are close to you, but everyone, which I think is brave.
Chelsea: It is really scary. It’s scary to post about, like, everything that goes along with this journey. Anyone that has had weight loss surgery or has undergone like extreme weight loss, will most likely tell you it is not all cupcakes and rainbows and perfect and pretty. A lot of things came to light to me after I had the surgery that I didn’t necessarily know beforehand. I mean, I always thought I had a pretty semi healthy relationship with food. Fun fact, I didn’t, you know, and I turned to food a lot, even in those times when I was in the gym and being super healthy and meal prepping.
Food and alcohol, right because everybody, we’re all social now, everybody either goes out to drinks and dinner. That’s what people do. So I found out that very quickly that that was my coping mechanism whenever I was stressed out or dealing with something that I didn’t even really know that it was dealing with. So the surgery brings a lot of those things to light that you may be privy to, or you may not because guess what, I can’t cope with food anymore.
Susan: Yeah.
Chelsea: And that’s why sort of the blog started and The Real Slim Schumie because I needed an outlet. I had one of my girlfriends called me and she’s like, “This just popped into my head today. And I really think that you should hear me out.” And I said, “Okay. What? Like, what? You know, what are you going to say to me now? “And she tells me, she was like, “I think you just start a blog.” And I was like, “Jordi, you are insane. I’m not starting a blog, like what?” And she was like, “you should start a blog.” And she was like, “Even if nobody reads it, you should start a blog for you.” And I was like, “You know what, I may be right.” I was an English major for my undergrad degree. And I was like, “You know, I think this would be good.” Like I could write and you know, just really express myself in my way and it will be my words, and it could be short, it could be long, it could be whatever I want it to be.” And that was kind of pretty to me too. I liked that that it was my own and I could really take it and own it. And so I told her, I said, “Okay, I’m gonna do it.” So I look up how to start a blog, right. I literally googled how to start a blog.
Susan: Hu-huh, I’m familiar. I looked up how do you start podcast, so yeah.
Chelsea: So you know exactly right. So I quickly, I text two of my girlfriends who, they’re so witty, and they’re so quick on their feet. And one of my coworkers at my old job, I’m no longer there, by the way, but she started calling me Schumie because she thought it was funny. And I was like, “Okay, so that’s really cute. Like, I think that should kind of be in there because it’s play on my last name.”
Susan: Yeah. And so I text two of my girlfriends, and I was like, “I need the funniest, funniest name for my blog. Go.” And so I told them what I was going to write about. And my friend Jesse came up with “The Real Slim Schumie” and I was like, “Dude, that’s it. Like, that’s gotta stick.” So that became my Instagram handle, I created an Instagram profile that day. Next thing I know, I’m buying the domain to this website. And I don’t even know how to make one. So that was really fun figuring all that out. So that’s how everything really started. It started with kind of my girlfriend’s really rallying around me and like, helping support me and like, help push me in a way that I can find an outlet that I could just share my story. And I said, “Okay, well, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to be as authentic, as transparent, as raw and as real as possible. And I’m going to tell you the stuff that they won’t tell you sitting in a surgeon’s office.”
Susan: That’s awesome.
Chelsea: Sometimes I feel like it bites me in the butt, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because that is the authentic truth about this journey. It’s not easy. It’s not something that’s for the faint of heart. And if you think that having a surgery is just going to fix all your problems, you’re sorely mistaken. And so, yeah,
Susan: When has it bitten you in the butt?
Chelsea: Well, just like, you know, I feel like it’s easy whenever you’re in a down mood to kind of hide from, like social media, right? And it’s very easy to do that.
Susan: Sometimes you need to do that.
Chelsea: Sometimes you need to do that. I’ve been a little bit on a small hiatus myself right now because—So last week, I started working with my friend who’s a life coach, which everyone needs a life coach. I firmly believe in this after—I’ve only had two sessions with her and I firmly believe this now. So there’s that. But I came to the realization during my first session that I have an incredibly hard time saying no to people. And I’m like, “Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so drained and depleted is because I’m not saying no.” This is like a very, like present day kind of thing, right? I’m working through all this now. So the thing about being transparent when I say it’s bit me in the butt is like I post now when I’m not in a good mood, or, you know, I’ll say like, having a rough mental health day, and I feel like…It doesn’t really bite me in the butt, right? It’s more one of those things like, helping change that stigma of like hiding and not being okay and just like really needing to recharge. But you have to post about it, right? Because that’s the authenticity piece that we talked about.
Susan: Sure.
Chelsea: It’s kind of like I don’t want to say a double-edged sword, but it is because on those days when I feel like I want to hide, I still post like, “Hey, I’m having a really rough mental health day. I’m struggling with eating right, I haven’t been in gym in three weeks, I have no motivation.” And it’s just being real. It’s easy for people to just pretend that they’re motivated all the time.
Susan: Something you said a minute ago prompted me to write down the question, how do you keep the burnout away? But it sounds like you’re going through a little bit of a burnout phase.
Chelsea: I am.
Susan: We all do it.
Chelsea: We all do it and like I said earlier, it’s okay to be a work in progress and still motivate people and experience your own parts of your journey, right? And this is just one of those for me right now. Like I haven’t been to the gym in three weeks and that’s not me. Like I regularly go to the gym five times a week, and then I spend three times on top of that. I put into a bike in two weeks. I’ve just been physically exhausted, drained emotionally. I’m in grad school right now. So I’m very kind of overwhelmed with that, too.
Susan: It’s a lot of work.
Chelsea: Yeah. Oh my gosh. It’s a lot of work and especially, I’m approaching my internship next semester so like it’s…
Susan: What are you in grad school for?
Chelsea: Okay, so fun, awesome thing about the surgery and not willing to accept being unhappy, I last summer went on a service trip through my sorority that I’m in and I worked with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. I volunteered at a –It’s called go ball. It’s an amazing sport. It’s a Paralympic sport. But the United States association of blind athletes has a National Championship tournament day they throw every year. So I volunteered for that. And I made an amazing friend. I love him to pieces. We’re still really close now. His name is Noah. But the crazy thing about whenever you meet an individual who’s blind or visually impaired, your connections are inherently deeper, right? Because there’s not that surface level interaction, which is crazy, because all of our social cues in society are very visual. So, you know, I meet Noah for the first time and him and I are having a great conversation. He said, “So tell me what you do.” And I was like, “Yeah, well, I’m in sales for little….” And he goes, “I hate to say this to you, but it sounds like you hate your job.” I said, “I do. Like, I do. I do. I hate it.”
And I met him kind of towards like the middle of this week long service-learning experience that I was in. And towards the end, I was like, “Man, you know, I just wish I could work in this community full time because this is really where my passion is and where my like heart is, and how can I be involved and give back and make a difference here, well, not at a global tournament, but like, in this community, working with individuals who are blind or visually impaired, forever, like I need to be doing this forever.” And he was like, “Hello. There are people that help us,” and I said, “Oh, I didn’t know that”. And so like, we had a good laugh about it.
But he was like, “You should really look into orientation and mobility.” And I said, “What’s that?” And he was like, “Your ONM specialist essentially helps individuals who are blind or visually impaired, learn how to travel and navigate the world independently.” “And he was like, you would be so good at that.” So I go home, it takes me literally almost three weeks to stop sobbing. Like I would cry at random times of the day, like in my cube and all my coworkers like, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “Yeah, just leave me alone, thanks”. I’m crying my eyes out because like, I just missed that feeling of community and like, connecting with people that were genuine. And I was transplanted back into a cubicle that I really didn’t like. And I think it was the first time that someone that barely knew me, called me out for not living an authentic life and having a job that I hated. Like, I was so wild. So after about two weeks, I start looking into programs on how to become an ONM specialist and what all it takes. And next thing I know, I looked at my husband, I said, “Hey, I’m going to grad school.” And he was like, “Hold the phone. What?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m going to go to grad school.” So I applied to Texas Tech. And now that’s where I am.
Susan: That is amazing.
Chelsea: Yeah, it’s wild. And I eventually quit my job. And I do this full time. And yeah, it’s crazy to think like, I’m almost 30 and I’m back in school, chasing after career that I care about. But I would rather be very, very happy and doing something that I’m passionate about, so yeah.
Susan: ,You say that but it’s not that crazy because here’s the thing—I’m not advocating people do this. I’m advocating people…Okay, I’ll just say, I have been to Napa at a time or two, Napa Valley and have talked to winemakers, like people who become winemakers, people who go out and buy the vineyard or whatever. They’re all like, ex doctors, ex lawyers, ex whatever. Now, they’re older. They’re in their late 50s, early 60s to 70. But they’re doing this because they got done and they didn’t…. They wanted to retire. I don’t think they wanted to retire. They wanted to do something, at least two or three that are coming to mind—Oh, they’re also ex accountants. And they wanted to do something, they didn’t necessarily want to retire, but they were burned out and done. So I think you should absolutely— Obviously, you have to have a plan in place. But if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, you’ve got to get out and you’ve got to figure out what is going to make you happy. Otherwise, you’re just going Dead.
Chelsea: Exactly.
Susan: I mean, really, like you’re talking about becoming who you are and you’re a work in progress and whatever, if you’re not a work in progress, I don’t care how old you are. I firmly have come to believe this over the past couple of years that I’ve been doing this, if you’re not constantly a work in progress of some kind—And I don’t mean all over the place, right? I mean, if you’re not becoming yourself on a daily basis, then aren’t you dead? I mean…
Chelsea: You’ve got to be at some point, right? Yeah, I just feel like it’s super important to like, make sure that you give yourself daily affirmations. And before, I don’t know, I never did that before. But now like every morning—And I feel like this little rut that I’ve been in lately, like I haven’t been doing these things that I normally do and I think that is playing a part of it. So today was my first day back and it felt so good this morning.
So I stand in front of mirror every morning and I first tell myself like, be grateful that you have another day. And then I think my body for everything that it’s done, and I tell myself that I’m worthy and it’s okay to take up space, and then I go continue on my day. And like, I know that sounds insane but I talked myself throughout the day. And like, whether it’s I’m having a moment where it’s like an emotional moment, right, and I just go pick up like a snack or something. I’m like, “Wait a minute, self, like, selfie, you need to go put that down and go put that back because you need to marinate in the feeling that you’re having right now instead of turning to food. Go get a bottled water and you need to just sit in it.” And first of all, I do a three-step process for every like emotional stuff, emotional thing that I’m feeling. So I accept it—Or I knowledge it, sorry. I acknowledge it, I accept it. And then I try and move on because wallowing in it, whatever that feeling might be, isn’t going to make it go away.You just have to move on. And whenever I say I acknowledge it, I acknowledge every aspect of it. I tell myself, I’m like, “Okay, it’s okay that I’m feeling this way. It’s normal that I’m feeling this way. And, you know, you’re not crazy, basically. And, you know, whatever it might be, whether it’s, you know, an emotional moment with food or whatever, I don’t know. It could be that my blog has got me crazy and I, like want to cry about it. I don’t know.
Susan: No, I totally get that. One of the things that we’re talking about, and I don’t often like try to create themes or whatever, but one of the ideas that I’ve noticed it happens a lot on the podcast, so I’m kind of just trying to ruminate on it and bring it all around and talk about it more proactively and kind of make a point about it is habits and practices. And it sounds like you have some pretty amazing practices that when you do them—And I’m the same way, we all do it, we have practices that we put in place to start our day and then we sleep in because we’re tired or something happens and your life shifts, and it’s like, I’m not going to do that today. I’m just going to…you know? And here and it happens. It’s like, here I am weeks later, my inbox is overflowing because I haven’t you know…And I know that’s something, I’m actually looking at my inbox, which is why I just said that. But you know, it’s stupid—It’s not stupid. It’s little things like that, that really, you don’t, they’re not so little right, they actually are bigger and more important to make them out.
Chelsea: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the things that, you know, I try and do every day in those little daily affirmations and just making sure that I follow that three-step process of whatever it is. You know, I keep going back to food because that’s just seems to be an easy example.
Susan: Sure.
Chelsea: I feel like especially in the weight loss community, like weight loss surgery community, it’s pretty easy for people to beat you up about you know, not eating low carb or all of a sudden everybody becomes a dietitian and wants to tell me that Sour Patch Kids are bad for me. I know they’re bad for me, but I still love them so…
Susan: That’s my thing, so yeah.
Chelsea: I eat them sometimes during my workouts and that’s something my trainer and I do together.
Susan: Awesome.
Chelsea: We do it because I need a little boost during, because of the type of surgery that I had. I had the sleeve. So what they did is they removed 80% of my stomach. So my stomach hold a very small amount of food, only about four ounces at a time. Depending on what I’m doing that day, depends on how quickly a burn through that. So calorie intake in general is between 800 to 1000 calories per day. So just imagine operating on that much of a deficit all the time, and then working out on top of that.
Susan: So you have to eat constantly then.
Chelsea: Constantly. I eat all the time. And so my issues with food that I was talking about earlier, I have to walk this very like thin fine line of eating for fuel versus my old habits of eating for pleasure. And those two sometimes don’t want, they want to collide a lot. Especially in the seasons where I’m not really in the gym. But I’m planning on getting back, don’t worry. And it’s just sometimes you just need a break, and somehow you need to breathe and get a grasp, get a grip on your life, and that’s okay.
Susan: Yeah, it absolute is. It really is, and I hope you believe that.
Chelsea: I do believe that and it’s okay to breathe for yourself. And that’s something that like, my friend that’s a life coach has really been like helping me realize and she has…That’s the cool thing about life coaching is like, they just help facilitate your own realizations, which is so freaking cool. So I had a session with her last night and that’s exactly what we talked about. And so I feel so good about it. I feel like it’s such a good spot about it like, understanding that it’s okay, but this is a part of me living authentically is talking about this sort of stuff. Like if I sat here and pretended that I was this perfect person on Instagram, personality on Instagram that, you know, didn’t have days where I struggle or like even these little small seasons, I would be lying and that’s not something I’m about.
Susan: No, I think that’s fair. One of the things you—Your thing is food and I think it’s really interesting. In the space that I’m in right now in my life, I’m surrounded—I have a five-year-old so I’m surrounded by a lot of moms. And like all the moms stuff out there is like it’s not cupcakes or ice cream. It’s like you have a glass of wine. Here’s a glass of wine. You need a cocktail? Have this because life’s hard. And on some level, that’s funny, and I recognize that there’s a funny ha-ha to it. But there are a lot of people out there who struggle with alcohol, alcohol is or vice. And so when you’re saying that it’s almost giving—It’s enabling people in a way, right? So I’m not going to lie. I’ve absolutely reposted those things myself. I did it.
Chelsea: That’s funny.
Susan: But now I’m like, I need to seriously rethink that and where I’m posting that and how I’m posting that because I don’t want to be affecting somebody in a negative way. And that’s an easy way for me not to do that, although I am still texting my friends, “Hey, oh, it’s been a day.” And I’m not perfect at it, and I’m saying it on my podcast so there’s that. But I recognize that that’s not always a healthy thing to be, hey, here, take a drink.
Chelsea: Right. And I mean, that’s the thing is everyone copes with things differently.
Susan: Absolutely.
Chelsea: It’s just a matter of how we talk about them. And I feel like in the past, we haven’t really talked about it. Until recently that it’s become okay to sit here and say, like, “Hey, I’m having a really bad mental health day and I know we have plans. I’m sorry, I love you. But I’m not. I’m just not. Not today.”
Susan: Yeah.
Chelsea: Like, it’s only become until recently that it’s okay to say that and it’s okay to tell your friends like, hey, I need to step back because I need a break. And part of me wonders why that is, right. I mean, why is it only been a recent thing? Because you know that everyone’s struggled with this stuff before, but why is it now just socially acceptable to talk about it? I don’t know.
Susan: No, it’s so true. It’s like, you know, my husband I and we’ve done an episode about it now, had infertility struggles. And it wasn’t a horrible diagnosis, but it wasn’t a diagnosis I was excited about because I went to the doctor to ask questions and I had questions that I wanted answers for. And their answer was, “Well, you have unexplained infertility. We can’t tell you.” I’m like, “I paid you how much to tell me that?” So yeah, but my point in mentioning that is we didn’t use to talk about that. You know, when women got pregnant, they didn’t even talk about getting pregnant. I think the term I’ve heard my grandmother used in the past was, “Oh, she’s that way again.” It was like, we didn’t talk about anything. And I don’t know if that’s just Southern or if that’s because I grew up in South Carolina, or if that’s like, just a US thing. I don’t know what it is. But you’re absolutely right. And I think I’ve had other people say, “Why do you want to talk about that?” And I say, “Well, it’s because I don’t want other people to feel alone. Like I’m sharing this because it felt awful in the moment when I didn’t see other people around me struggling.” When other people called me and like, “Hey, I’m pregnant.” And I’m like, “great. I haven’t talked to you in over a year and I’m not but I’m not going to sit here and tell you why now.”
Chelsea: Right. Right.
Susan: And it’s not that I was mad at her, it was just more like, I wasn’t talking to people exactly about it either.
Chelsea: Right.
Susan: So yeah, I think it’s important to talk about these things. I’m glad you are. I really am. I want to be respectful of your time. But I also want to talk about anything that I’ve missed, anything you have coming up. Anything you want people to be aware of, either on your blog, conferences, I don’t know what you’ve got for us.
Chelsea: Yeah, so I’ve been on a little bit of a hiatus on my blog. I’ve been posting on my Instagram, but my blog posts have been pretty, pretty minimal. So those are coming back. I also have an event coming up in October. I’m extraordinarily excited about so I’m not going to go fully into detail about it just yet. It will be at the end of October. It is going to be a workshop.
Susan: Oh, cool.
Chelsea: So tickets will be going on sale for that soon.
Susan: Okay. Oh, yeah. And when you get that, shoot me—I’m not exactly sure when this will go live. But shoot over all that information to me, definitely be before the end of October. So we will make sure to post all that on our website. I’ll repost it on my social media, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I’m excited to…
Chelsea: It’s be going to be awesome. It is going to very much so play into everything that we’ve talked about today.
Susan: I’m excited. I’m so excited. Okay, so where are you? What’s your social handle? And where can we find you online?
Chelsea: Yeah, so I am on Facebook and Instagram at The Real Slim Schumie. And you can check my blog out at therealslimschumie.com.
Susan: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I am so, so, so thankful you made the time, especially in your hiatus.
Chelsea: But you know what, it is good to be back.
Susan: I’m so glad.
Chelsea: Thank you so much.
Susan: Thank you.


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.

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.

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 if you just quit? With Rachael Piper

We have all played the “What If” game, but have you ever followed through?  Rachael Piper asked herself “What if I just quit”…so she did. 

Show Notes:

Quitting? Even the word makes us sweat!  I don’t think we ever want to be labeled a quitter, but is that the right way to think about it?

In this episode, Rachael shares the invaluable experience she gleaned from entering the workforce in 2007 that she still leans into today while running her own company. 

A few of my favorite take aways include:

  •  The person in the room that “has all the answers” probably knows the least.  The person in the room that’s asking the most questions, is who you want on your team.
  •  It is important to make decisions that will keep you true to yourself, even when they are hard
  •  Spend a little, save a lot (there is freedom in living below your means)

–  “I’m not going to limit myself just because people wont accept the fact that I can do something else” Dolly Parton

Rachael reminds us of the importance of being true to yourself and that taking calculated risks (although scary and perhaps intimidating) can be fun and life giving.  She also helps us remember that we are the only ones who can define success for ourselves.

Links:

Linked In

Instagram

Brené Brown

Dolly Parton

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, have you ever thought, what if I just quit? How does that phrase even make you feel? Does it inspire and empower you? Or does it terrify you? Maybe it does a little bit of both. My guest today is Rachael Piper. And one day, she did just that.

Susan: Rachael, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing a little bit about you and your story. But for those of our audience who don’t know you, would you share a little bit about who you are, what you do, and your life in digital marketing.

Rachael Piper: Absolutely. Well, thanks for having me on as well. So kind of my quick background, if you will, for the most part, I grew up in Flower Mound, Texas, which is just outside of Dallas. And then I went to college at SMU, which is in Dallas proper. I was a double major there with advertising and sociology. I put myself through school and was able to get both majors completed in the four years that I was there. So I graduated from there in 2007. So I entered the workforce right around the same time as the recession. So it was a kind of trial by fire, learned a lot through that, you know, experience kind of got a good taste of the real world right off the bat, if you will. Originally…Know too that I talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, so feel free to interrupt me as needed.

But, I originally was leaning a little bit more into the sociology side, but was trying to temper that knowing that I couldn’t go into a full kind of traditional sociology, like social work type of a job because I knew that I would not be able to separate work from home. But I was really fascinated with sociology and even just like the getting the dual major. You know, a lot of people didn’t see how it connected but for me, it was like, you know, advertising is the study of getting people to do what you want them to do. And sociology is a study of understanding why people do what they do. So for me, it made perfect sense and really kind of just hit major interest points for me and just being fascinated with people and connections and relationships. And that’s where everything…

So anyways, I ended up starting in HR and doing recruiting kind of right off the bat before moving over into advertising, and I was attracted to advertising because to me as a creative person who hasn’t ever really found their true creative outlet, it was the marriage of creativity and business, and I felt stronger my, like, business acumen than I did in my creative export, if you will. And then also, you know, I’m 22 and ad agencies have ping pong tables and beer cart Fridays, and just kind of all the things that they just sort of sell you on. And oddly enough, my first crack at it was in media, which was like my worst subject in school. It was where I had the least confidence, but it was sort of this, well, if that’s what gets you in the door, get in the door, and then move around. But I ended up strengthening these muscles that I thought were weak and giving me like, fuller confidence.

So yeah, I was working for an agency. And again, recession time, got laid off. I actually ended up then going to work for Newsweek on the sales side selling their digital properties. And was working there for a while before Newsweek closed down their satellite offices, ad sales offices, including Dallas and several other offices, kind of in one sale swoop. So there I was laid off again. And then I had gone back to the original agency that had laid me off before because they needed some support. So I was actually doing some freelance work for them, and was just kind of bridging the gap there. And right as I was getting a job offer for another agency in town, the agency that I was freelancing with that I had originally been with, they were being absorbed by another agency and then they offered me a gig. So it was just this kind of fluctuating time, if you will, but I ended up working at that other agency for several years. And it really was one of the few people that really held the digital knowledge and expertise, which is kind of an odd setup to be young and so indispensable in a way—I mean, you’ve been let go and laid off so many times so early in your career, but yet you’re the one that has this specialized knowledge that the industry is leaning towards. So it was a kind of just a peculiar position to find myself in and to navigate.

But anyways, I was there, you know, for several years and was spread pretty thin, because I was touching pretty much every account that had any digital component. And that would range from handling lower level admin support to being a new business pitches with CEOs pitching to potential business and trying to win new clients. So that was kind of the traditional background, if you will. And then in 2012, I ended up breaking out on my own and have been doing my own digital media consulting since 2012.

Susan: Wow. Well, I want to backtrack just a second. Your story is really interesting to me because I came out of school in 2004 as a business and marketing major, and I liked that you added the sociology aspect to it. I never thought about it that way. But graduating in 2004, the economy wasn’t great. The economy wasn’t bad, it was nothing like 2007 but they were not hiring—big ad agencies weren’t doing a lot of hiring at that point, it was one of those lulls in the market where marketing and advertising your dollars weren’t being spent there. And so going into school, it never really occurred to me how that world would work once I was in it, the constant—and it seems like you’ve experienced this to coming out of school in 2007, where it’s like, okay, I work for this firm for a little while, or I work for this company for a little while. And then they can’t do any money towards marketing so I take a step back, and then I go back and it’s this constant back and forth. If you’re looking for security coming out of school and a job, marketing probably isn’t it. And I don’t think anybody ever really told me that. It’s fun and I think it can be amazing. But unless you’re working for yourself, and you have your own agency like you do now, I think it can be a challenge. Am I saying that correctly, you think?

Rachael Piper: Yeah, I think that that’s very fair. I mean, I think when a see to it board sit down on a table and budgets have to get cut, the first place they look is marketing, right? You’re going to cut the marketing budget before you cut the operations budget. So just by results of how business decisions get made, marketing often gets the short end of the stick. That being said, to what you said, the only part that I would contradict is just because I have my own agency or run my own marketing company now, there’s still really isn’t that stability or security. I mean, marketing budgets still get cut just as quickly, and I feel like these days a lot of people just make a change for the sake of making a change, especially in advertising and marketing. It’s like you want a new idea all the time. So it’s almost as if like, if you’ve had an account for say, three years, I’m like, “Oh, that’s a legacy” you know? And it doesn’t matter how good the results are, it’s just there’s going to be a new change of guard at the client or at the agency or whatever it is and on down the line. And then inside that marketing bubble, media is often a budget that can get cut before say, creative, or production because media is not nearly as exciting. Like you go in and you sell somebody this big creative vision, and it’s the bright, shiny object, and people are stoked about that and they are wanting to spend money on that. It’s the sexy part of advertising. You can to have a conversation with me and I’m like, “Well, let’s look at spreadsheet one, tab A,” and all that advertising sex appeal is kind of out the window, and here we are as data junkies looking at all these data points, and you know, it’s just the bottom line is budgets get cut, money moves around, accounts, go left and right. And that doesn’t matter if you’re at the biggest client or agency in the world or the smallest. Everybody’s fair game there.

Susan: Well said. One other thing that you said that I thought was interesting was when you were working with the ad agencies, you were going in with CEOs and all of that doing some of these big high level pitches. And tell me if I’m reading this correctly. But it seemed like what you were talking about, was the fact that you understood the digital world and what was coming and maybe had an inkling because you were a part of it, whereas the old guard wasn’t as in tune to what the market was looking for coming forward so you understood the market a little bit better. Is that what you were getting at or no?

Rachael Piper: Yes. I don’t know that I necessarily understood the market a little bit better, because it’s not like I was trained in it either.

Susan: Well, none of us were. We all graduated as it was coming along.

Rachael Piper: Exactly. So there was no digital media course when I was in college. There is now.

Susan: Sure.

Rachael Piper: So it’s not like I had any formal education or any training. I think my benefit was one, just coming in at the age where I wasn’t really expected to know anything. So it gave me more license to learn and to say, “I don’t know, let me look into that,” or “I don’t know, let me figure that out.” And I mean, I definitely had other people that I worked with that educated me and guided me, but I was also never scared to raise my hand and ask the question. I always say, when it comes to digital advertising in particular, the person in the room that has all the answers probably knows the least, the person in the room that’s asking the most questions, it’s who you want on your team. They’re the ones that are wrestling with it, like nobody has this figured out. So you want the people that are going to be in there wrestling with it, and figuring out because it’s constantly changing. So anybody that coming from this sense of authority with it, there are holes there. So I think the kind of C suite or higher up—and this is just my assumption, right? But I would say maybe they were more intimidated to talk about it because they felt such a need to be an expert if they were going to talk about it. Whereas, I was able to be more bold and I was able to self educate and to learn. I wasn’t intimidated by figuring it out. I was excited about figuring it out.

Susan: I like that “you were excited by figuring it out.” I like the inquisitive nature of that. That to me is very fun and refreshing and it’s not stuffy.

Rachael Piper: Yeah. I mean, like, I love puzzles, just like quick anecdotes that probably ought to get cut.

Susan: No!

Rachael Piper: I remember one time doing a puzzle with my mom and it became so competitive that we literally wrestled to the ground over who was going to put in the last puzzle piece. I mean, yeah, seeing the picture come together for me is it, you know, that the focus comes in, kind of the eyes glaze over and I just get really locked in on loving to figure it out and to see it come together.

Susan: Well, you clearly love the digital marketing world. You loved it before you decided to go out on your own. You clearly still love it and you’re still doing it, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Tell us a little bit about the story of finally saying, I can’t do this here, but I want to continue doing this, and I think I would be best doing this on my own.

Rachael Piper: Yeah, just to kind of set the stage you know, at that time, I was feeling really overworked and under appreciated.

Susan: Yeah, because you said you were spread really thin.

Rachael Piper: Yeah, I was spread really thin. The team that I was originally with, I want to say there was like seven of us and then it had dwindled down to just me, and I was being asked to take on portions that I wasn’t confident in being able to do. So specifically, what that means is like they were asking me to take on some of our search campaigns but because I was digital—even though I’d always been in the play space, so that was outside of my discipline. And I was like, “I can’t in good faith just take this over right now. I would need time to learn this.”

Susan: Sure.

Rachael Piper: So it was just kind of this result on top of just this kind of cultural normalization of this kind of pay your dues, you should just be grateful to have a job, kind of unhealthy work environment for me. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, and the agency that I worked for was great, and I have nothing bad to say about any of them from top to bottom, it was just the product of the environment and the time and it just kind of all came together. But I remember even just having a lot of conversations with the CEO and the CFO at the time. And that was because I chose to take them up on their open door policies. So I was going in and wanted to have conversations about, you know, that I thought the agency model was broken and wanted to have a clear picture of the future and just wanted to be more involved and all of that.

And really, I was getting great feedback from them. I mean, to their credit, they were really receptive. And again, here is this young 20 somethings coming in requesting a meeting with the CEO and CFO and saying, “Hey, I think the agency models have broken,” and they didn’t just appease me or pat me on the head, we had dialogue and they would push back and I would push back, and it was really good for me, it was really healthy. And I think it was good for them as well. And essentially what they told me was that they agreed with a lot of what I had to say and with my vision, but that I was essentially asking an elephant to pivot, and that I just needed to be patient, give them time to get it all worked out and kind of the underlying message was that I was set up in well in the future if I could just hold out and wait for it to all come together.

So I tried, but essentially the—to kind of answer more specifically, the straw that broke the camel’s back, I remember it very vividly, we had open concept seating at the agency and you know, I was eating my lunch with you know, kind of working through lunch, eating some frozen meal. I still remember exactly what it was; my leftovers that I had heated up in the kitchen. And I was sitting there and I was working on actually somebody else’s account, somebody else’s project that had a digital component. So I was going in and I was fixing a few things. And I remember just getting frustrated with an email that came through or whatnot. And I pushed myself back from the chair because I was just like, so frustrated that it had a physical reaction. And I remember just like looking around, because I wanted to vent to somebody, I wanted to say “Ah, can you believe they’re not going to meet this deadline that they confirm they would or they moved it up?” Whatever point of tension it was. I was just looking to connect with somebody and to vent.

So I looked around, and I realized I was the only one working through lunch. Everybody else was out running their errands or having lunch or in the break room, or whatever. And I was already frustrated. And I just remember thinking to myself, “What if you just quit?” And as soon as that thought came to me, I felt better. And I just repeated it again, “What if you just quit? No, really, like, what if you just quit?” And next thing I knew was smiling and still asking myself that question. It was like, “Yeah, yeah, what if you just quit?” And so it went from this very dejected question to this very powerful and exciting question. And I remember I pinged my mom and I said, “Hey, can you Skype tonight? I want to talk to you about something?” She was like, “Yeah, no problem.” And I talked with her that night, and got her feedback, which was positive, but she really wasn’t on board with my plan, but was very supportive of me. You know, my mom is coming from this “You don’t leave a job until you have another good job.” So she was like, “I know you. I know if you could have made it work, you would have made it work by now. So I’m on board that a change needs to happen. Let’s just be smart about how this change happens.”And I’m like, “Mm-hmm,” and by 9am the next morning, I turned in my resignation. So it was definitely motivated by emotion and a gut feeling and that’s not a recommendation but that’s my story.

Susan: So, by 9am the next morning you had turned in your resignation, did you have a lifeboat at all?

Rachael Piper: I did. But before I go there—and it was a small boat, but it was a lifeboat. So maybe we’ll call it like a life… What is it like the orange ring…?

Susan: Oh yeah, the life preserver.

Rachael Piper: I had a life preserver. I didn’t have a boat. But let me tell you how I knew I made the right call. So of course, I got up early because I had to print my resignation at the office, right? I don’t have a home printer. And so I had to get in there and get that done before everybody else you know, was in at the office. So I remember taking it off the printer and walking back to my desk and the first people that were in that morning, were a couple of interns. Or they might have been just hired admins. I don’t remember exactly. But what I remember is walking back from the printer, and engaging with them and joking around. So even though I was making this like, terrible decision, right, nobody was like, “this is a good plan, this was a good idea.” My spirits were lifted. I was back into who I am as a person, and I was feeling good. And I was in control of my life and my decisions again, and I was being my best self. I was caring about them, asking about their day, making jokes, laughing, even though I was incredibly nervous. I mean, I was going in, and I was disappointing people and I was letting people down and I was making this big change. I mean, like I said, this had been a department of seven that’s now one. And now this one is saying, I’m walking out too. So even though it was a very heavy decision, I knew that I had made the right decision, because I felt like I was back in alignment with myself and I was who I actually am, even though I was going to do a really hard thing.

Susan: I like the way you put that, that you were back in alignment with yourself.

Rachael Piper: Yeah. But going back to the life preserver to answer, you know, that part of your question. Yeah, so I had about six months before I resigned, another agency in town through a colleague that I had worked with, they had a small digital media project that they needed help with. It definitely wasn’t something that they could hire somebody on for or anything like that, they just needed a little bit of support. And so I’d gotten approved at the agency that I worked for, for me to help them out. So essentially, I was moonlighting for them. And we were…If I remember right, we were in conversation about one potential project to come through, that if it did come through, and if it did work out, I want to say it would have netted me about $3,000. So that was the life preserver, that was a, there’s a good chance that there could be up to $3,000 for me to bring in the next couple of months.

Susan: Got it. So, you already talked a little bit about feeling—you were happy about yourself, but you were feeling bad that you were letting some people down. How did this ever happen? And how quickly did it happen? After you turn in your resignation?, did you go, “What was I thinking?” You know, there’s that moment of jubilation but did you ever hit the other end of this where it was like, “Oh, this was the craziest decision. I’m not sure what I’m doing.”Did you ever have that moment? And what was that like if you did?

Rachael Piper: Yeah. I mean, I think I still wrestle with what am I doing? What was I thinking? And not because… I have full confidence that I made the right decision for myself, and I’m so grateful and so blessed, but I’m still always trying to fine tune and figure out who is my best self and what is my best life look like? So I still struggle all the time with, “Oh, what was I thinking turning down that job,” or “what was I thinking going after that account that I knew was going to be terrible for my overall well being?” But no, I never regretted quitting. I never regretted doing my own thing. I did…I once went—I want to say this was within that first year. I remember going maybe three months, maybe a little bit more, a little bit less, but without getting paid. And I knew it was coming, like the paycheck, like I’d already done the work, the paycheck was coming, but it was just making its way through all the channels to actually get to me. And so I remember just feeling some anxiety around that. But I also had the benefit of the fact that I put myself through college and so I fully—and at an expensive college—so I fully understood what it felt like to be broke, and that there’s a difference in being broke and actually being broke. And I wasn’t actually broke, I was fine. I had money coming in. It was just a matter of getting there and waiting for that check to come in.

So you know, I kind of lived by and still live by the mentality, and every time that I give my niece and nephew money for birthdays or holidays, I give them the same advice that I give myself, which is spend a little save a lot. And by living below my means, I take a lot of that stress out of the equation. So I think that that helped balance the financial intimidation of going out on my own. And I think that that’s the main thing that people question when, “Did I make the right decision or should I do this?” It’s a financial consideration. And it should be, but you also have to look at the fuller compensation picture, you know, how much is your time worth? How much is the freedom to do xyz? Or even just the fact that…Like, I remember that first year working on a project and feeling really stuck. I didn’t have the solution to the problem, I didn’t know what to do, and here I am out of my own so I don’t have anybody to ask. It would be the time that I would take it up a ladder and I would go ask my boss what to do, only there is no ladder. I have no boss.

So that was a scary, “Oh god, what have I done? I’ve committed to people, people are expecting me to come through and I’m out of answers.” And so I remember what I did. I went and I got my bike and I went for a ride at White Rock Lake in the middle of the day. And I just remember feeling so grateful that I had the freedom to do that. And I think it shifted my energy and shifted my focus and all the sudden I’m riding my bike, and poof, the answer comes to me. And I think that there’s a lot at play for how and why that happened. And I would say, the majority of it, I don’t understand how and why it works that way. But one of the biggest takeaways for me in that are lessons that I learned, and just gratitude that I brought in and something that I just incorporated into my life was just feeling so thankful to have the capacity or the choice to work in an unconventional way. You know, had I been working at an agency and I would have taken it up to the boss and they would have, hopefully come up with an answer and given it to me, and that’s great. But knowing that I was able to figure that out on my own, and then I was able to do it in an unconventional way that you know, relaxed part of my brain to give another part of my brain space to step up and come into the solution, that makes me feel a lot better and more confident and excited about future problem solving, instead of, well, I just had the right people to go ask or I had the right support in place.

So I don’t know if that makes sense. And I feel like that’s a little probably out there for kind of some people, especially in our kind of corporate world, but even people that instead of just like taking a regular sit down meeting, they do walking meetings, things like that, just having the space to work a little bit differently. And not just in the open concept seating or let’s have more conversations and less emails, but really having the freedom and the flexibility to figure out how I work best has been a huge benefit. I do a lot of my best work late at night after hours, because that’s when it’s finally quiet and calm and emails aren’t coming in distracting my brain. You know, and I’m a night owl. So I get to plug in and go knock out a big project. You know, I might work on that from 10pm to 2am, which if you send a 2am email at a traditional corporate world, it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, what is she doing right now?” Like, that’s crazy, you know? But instead, it’s like, “Well, I’m tapping into when I do my best work, and I’m giving myself the freedom to do that.”

Susan: I love this thread that we’re on right now and I want to continue it. But I want to backtrack a little bit first, because you brought something up that I think is worth talking about. And I’m wondering if you have any ideas around it since you have done it. You mentioned the fact that you went to SMU—not a cheap college—you put yourself through college, and then you were still able to go out on your own. I think a lot of people would love to have your experience to be able to work, when they want to work, to be able to do all the things, to be able to take a bike ride in the middle of the day. You know, I mean, I have other friends who are moms who are dropping their kids off between nine and two and they would love to have the freedom instead of going to a corporate or to a part time, whatever to be able to do whatever it is they’re dreaming about from their home. Yet, there are still bills that have to be paid, as is anybody. Talk to us a little bit about maybe even putting yourself through college but financially, what that can look like. And I hope my questions making sense but taking that leap and the financial but being able to do it in a way that still serves your soul. Does that make sense what I’m asking?

Rachael Piper: I think so. Let me try to answer it. And if not, let’s fine-tune it and rework it and wrestle with it a bit. But you know, again, I think so much of it comes to living below our means and just figuring out how much we actually need. I should say, kind of as a society where the minimalism movement, it’s becoming more and more like mainstream. Having traveled quite a bit and sometimes for lengthy periods of time, like 10 weeks at a time. Last year, I worked abroad for five months of the year, and that was really broken out into two times. It was in the Spring and in the Fall each for about two and a half months. So the first time I went out, I took my maximum baggage allowance, right? I’m like, “Oh my gosh, 10 weeks, I need everything.” And I was constantly paying baggage surcharge fees, this and the other in foreign countries that didn’t have as much or as generous of limit as we have in the States. And so the second time that I went out, I learned from that lesson, I was like, “I’m going to take a lot less with me this time.” And so when I originally packed I thought I was really streamlining it. And then I weighed all my bags and stuff that morning, or the night before. And the morning I was heading to the airport, I ended up just dropping another 30 pounds worth of clothing and shoes and whatnot from my bag. And as I was out on the road, I was so grateful to have such a lighter load to carry, I didn’t care that I was wearing the same clothes and having to find places to do laundry more often. That was so much worth it.

So, anyways, I tell that story or that anecdote to say, I think a lot of times we let society or own expectations kind of dictate what we want or how much we need to actually be happy, and we’re in this culture of more and more and more. And I think Warren Buffett says it, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” And so I think that there’s some wrestling that can be done with, “Okay, how much do you really need?” And I’m not saying like, skimp, right? It’s the same that minimalism movement. It’s not saying don’t buy things, it’s saying just buy things you really want. So for how this applies with work, it’s like, work on things that either you really enjoy or that there’s a big return for you, and how much is your time worth versus how much is your financial compensation worth? And how do those balance out with each other? Or having the freedom to work on things you really want to work on versus a project that you hate.

So I don’t know if I answered your question, or if I gave anything that was helpful, but that’s something that I’m kind of continuously retooling in my life and just trying to figure out that full compensation package. For me, I hate grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping 10 times more when it’s crowded. So for me, I love the fact that I can go grocery shop on a Tuesday morning. But I’m also just not necessarily going to pay to just pick up my groceries because I have the time in my life right now to go grocery shopping on a Tuesday morning. So it’s finding what works for me on the spectrum right now, and then setting up my life in a way that works with that. And that’s not to say that I set my whole life around my grocery shopping schedule, but that’s just one example of you know, okay, I could go the full convenience route. But I don’t mind putting in a little bit of effort as long as that effort isn’t that full effort of, you know, Sunday afternoon incredibly busy shopping time. So I found the right balance for me. Does that help? Or does that answer where you were going with that?

Susan: No, I think it does. I think I was also just thinking about, you know, there are so many of us…I mean, I graduated in 2004 so a few years before you and there were some scholarships and then my parents helped me a little bit, and then I had some financial debt as well. And I think the idea of everybody coming out of college right now, and it’s all over the media is that it’s just so daunting. And I mean, it can be daunting. I mean, my college was not cheap, either. So I think you’re right, and it’s finding the balance of “you don’t necessarily need more.” And they talk about it. I heard somebody speaking about it yesterday about how the generation that is even coming out of school now, they’re not buying houses, they’re not buying cars, a lot of their income is going to pay for these college loans that they took out. And there’s a… I mean, we could talk all day about that, but I do think you’re right, and somehow just finding what works for you, and not necessarily doing what everybody else is doing. Just you have to find what fits you, your personality, your work ethic, your family life, whatever that looks like. So I appreciate you kind of delving into that a little bit.

Rachael Piper: Yeah, so just one more thing to kind of cap that. I think it’s like redefining what success is, right? So the traditional societal definition of success is how much money do you make and what’s your title? Those are the two main components. And I think we’re merging into this kind of new world or new set of priorities and how it all kind of shapes out at the end of the day. So for me, I’m reexamining what success means in my life. And I encourage my friends and family to do that as well. You know, because there’s some study that was done that’s like, you know, for basically, once you hit $60,000 a year, then your level of happiness doesn’t increase the same way with dollars, right? So going from $40,000 a year to $60,000 a year, you’re going to see a big jump in the happiness of that person. But going from 60 to 80, you’re hitting a point of diminishing returns. And then I think it’s like after 80 or something, it’s negligible. And I know that that’s going to be different for every person, and we’re talking about averages here. But it’s that. It’s, if you have enough to take care of the things that you have to take care of, and have enough in the bank and in the security and this that and the other, then instead of just piling on to that, maybe removed some of the stains, maybe it’s about less and not more is a fuller picture. It’s something that we have to…

And then it’s going to change at different life stages and depending on what’s going on. If you have something come up and illness or your house catches on fire or your car gets stolen, or…There are the things that, yeah, you’re going to need to shift and make more money to take care of these items or this financial pressure. But if you don’t have as much financial pressure that instead of just making money and making that your major priority, what if you spent that energy on other things that make you more happy? And that is a fuller picture of success instead of just a financial picture of success.

Susan: Yeah, I think that’s a very good point. And I like the way you put that, the difference in how we view success, not only as individuals, but it as a society and how that is shifting, and how that definitely needs to shift within ourselves somewhat. I want to go back…Now I kind of want to jump forward again. We were going down the trail of your travel and some of the things that you’ve been able to do out of the country, and I can’t remember where we left off, but I’ll just ask the question. You sent me something that I thought was interesting, and I’d never heard the term before. But when I looked it up, I was like, “Oh, this makes total sense.” The idea of being a digital nomad and how you did that, and why you did that, would you kind of share a little bit about what that is for my audience who may not know and how you were able to achieve that?

Rachael Piper: Sure. So, I would say that it is something that is kind of currently being defined, but it’s just sort of this movement that there can be freedom in how we work, and especially with how much of us really just require a laptop and Wi-Fi to get our jobs done that you can essentially work from anywhere. So, that was appealing to me that that was my story, that’s what I need, I need my laptop and good Wi-Fi. So, in 2018, that’s when I spent five months working abroad, the first section of that, I went through a company to – they basically took care of arranging your housing and a workspace and some community events, and then were also there for support. So if the Wi-Fi went out, here’s a hotspot, sort of a buffer, if you will. And then that company actually ended up going bankrupt in the summer. So when I did it in the fall, I just kind of did my own itinerary with some friends that I had made through the first part of this travels in that first month.

It was an amazing and transformative experience. It’s not a sustainable lifestyle for me. For other people it is, but if it is something that you’re interested in, or curious about, I would highly recommend you giving it a go. There are different companies that you can use to kind of set up those logistics for you and to kind of introduce you to the community. And it’s really the connecting to the community that’s the major benefit as far as I’m concerned because like, I could talk all day about the benefits of it. And I call them by travel friends and my travel family but I talked to those people in those connections pretty much every day now, at least somebody from that group. And we’re so supportive of each other, and there’s just such different perspectives that we bring.

So it might be a friend who is a lawyer, and so they’re bringing their perspective to me, or has done a lot, in finance or is a writer, or is an executive admin. I mean, everybody just has these different skill sets that we wouldn’t normally interact with or wrestle our projects with together or just for fun kind of scope out new business creation ideas. But it gave me just such exposure to people and cultures, and even just being in these other countries and what role work plays in their life and in their culture versus what we’ve been taught, and just figuring out ways to get it done and working on different time schedules. Like when I was in Bali for a month, I’m pretty sure I saw the sunrise every single day because I would be up having conference calls that might start at go from 3am to 7am. And that would be my work day, and then I would have my whole day to literally go chase waterfalls, or ride my scooter around or go sit in the workspace and ID-A. Is that how you say it, ID-A? Anyways, just go talk about ideas with my peers. And I’m using kind of “ peers” because in this world and in my regular life, I don’t know that they would necessarily be my peers. Like professionally, some way above, others a little below or age, travel experience. I mean, we just range from such a spectrum of life experiences, yet we’re all peers. So you might have this person who’s high power and always in control, and now they need help navigating around this ghetto crazy town on a scooter and parking your scooter and having to get a cow to move in order to do that, and all the sudden this really powerful person is kind of helpless in that situation almost. And here’s this other person that’s really powerful in that situation that might be not a power person professionally, you know? So it just shifted all these power dynamics and stereotypes and just expectation of people and you kind of drop all the labels, and you get right into the heart of individuals. And then you’re there. And you might come from all these different countries, it’s just total…

Susan: Immersion type?

Rachael Piper: Yes, it’s full immersion. And you’re figuring out ways to connect and support each other and take on different perspectives and share a new perspective. And it’s just such a growth opportunity above and beyond getting to work at a cool place. Like, that’s so the undersell. That’s like going to yoga because you think it’s just going to be good exercise or taking an improv class because you think it’s just going to be funny. You know, there are so many more layers to the onion that you don’t fully understand until you go. And caveat this, and I was big about this, i’s not all roses, it is really hard. It is not like living on vacation. It is really, really hard. But just like a lot of things that are really hard, it’s really worth it. So if it’s something that you’re excited by and encouraged by, go experience. Even if it’s the worst thing that ever happened to you, you’ll learn so much about yourself by doing it.

Susan: So let me understand it correctly, you basically hired…It’s not just like you’re traveling and while you’re traveling, you’re working abroad, you are actually put into a situation where you’re with other working professionals who are doing the same thing and you’re kind of like in a community workspace. Is that what this is?

Rachael Piper: Yeah. And there are different ways that it’s configured but if you’re going with a sort of “digital nomad” company…

Susan:Got it. Okay.

Rachael Piper: Yeah. And those people…Nothing’s required, right? So it’s not like you have to go to office hours or you’re going to meet everybody. Like people organically will put together accountability groups or meditation seminars or whatever based off their own interests. Like there was one night in Australia that we did a like post it notes session where everybody would write a problem that they were dealing with, specifically about work or a professional problem. And we would put it up on the board, and then whoever would just go up and they just picked out a problem. And the whole room…Which it was only maybe 10 of us in the room, maybe less than that. But now the whole room is going to work to sort this problem. And so I would solve the problems for a software engineer, because it wasn’t technical problems, it was perspective problems. It was balanced problems. It just required some outside of the box thinking.

Susan: That is really, really interesting. I wonder if things like that exist within the US so that like for those who might be interested in doing something like that, but say they have a family or they need to be home by a certain time or….And not that they wouldn’t travel but they would travel during the week, like fly out on Monday and be back by Thursday or whatever that work life looks like. I wonder if that is a concept that is happening in the States?

Rachael Piper: Yeah, I don’t know if it is, I would love to see it. Maybe the analogy that I would apply to that is kind of like inpatient versus outpatient because if you leave and you come back into your world, you’re going to be tempered by that, versus if you’re there and, you know? My first stop and the first place that I went was to Bali. And so I am geographically about as far from Texas as you can possibly be. And not only did I not know anybody in Bali, I didn’t know anybody who knew anybody in Bali.

Susan: That’s a good point, yeah.

Rachael Piper: My best connection was a friend—and I’m blanking on exactly who it was, but who had previously been to Bali and she was like, “This driver is awesome, and here’s his contact info.” And that was my best and most secure relationship going into Bali. And I had never been to Southeast Asia, right? Like, I am completely out of my depth here. So yes, I definitely think that there is a need for it and a gap to be filled for it domestically but the intensity of it is, I think, heightened by being in a foreign environment and foreign on every level.

Susan: Oh, absolutely.

Rachael Piper: Learning to drive a scooter in Bali is a life skill I will hold with me for forever because you’re not using—there are no rules of the road. The rules of the road are like group mind. So it’s like schools of fish that swim and just happen to know how to do that or birds that flock together. Like that’s what driving in your scooter in Bali is. And I swear to god, one day I saw a man driving his scooter and he had five dogs on that scooter with it. You might see a family of four on a scooter. I mean, it is crazy stuff and I’m like, “Okay, are we yielding here? Is your turn signal on? You know, can I make a left turn here?” All those things, completely out the window and you just have to figure it out. Just like with so much of life, you don’t figure it out by studying it or trying to figure out how to be perfect at it. You figured it out by rolling up your sleeves and getting in and wrestling with it.

Susan: No kidding. You know, I have loved talking with you today. I want to be respectful of your time but I have really enjoyed talking with you today because you just have this not just an entrepreneurial spirit, but a carefree spirit in a way, in a safe way, I would like to say because you’re out there and you’re like figuring out a way to make your career and life work for you. And just the way you’ve put some of the things we’ve chatted about. I’m really impressed. But I really can’t wait for my audience to hear our conversation because I think it brings up…My mind is just going nuts because I think it just brings up so many ideas of “Oh, I could think about this this way or I could do this this way.” And I just really appreciate your perspective. It’s really refreshing. You don’t hear it a lot. And I mean that in a good way, a really good way.

Rachael Piper: Well, that is very kind of you and I’m working on receiving compliments better. I’m resisting all of my impulses, and I’ll just respond with a thank you.

Susan: I love that. I have to work on that, too. I think a lot of us have to work on that. So I totally respect that. I remember talking to you before, and I said, one of the things I always ask is where can we find you online and all of that. And you said, “Well, as a digital marketing consultant, you might find it funny that I don’t have a website.” I still think that’s hilarious. Is there anywhere we can find you, if there’s a personal page that we might be able to see some of your travel pictures or what you’re up to? Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Is there somewhere we can find you? And if no, that is fine, too.

Rachael Piper: mean, I do have a LinkedIn profile. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember the last time I’ve updated but you know, it is there, it does exist. As far as my travel pictures and all of that, no, my friends kind of make fun of me that I use Facebook as a micro blog. But that completely accurate for me, it functions of the journal, a journal that I don’t mind being public to my connected people, and that sort of thing. Like that’s the function it provides for me. It holds so much of my history and I’m able to go back and look at those photos. But even by you asking it, that makes me want to put more stuff out there and make it more accessible for people because the same way that I saw my former roommate go from couch potato to triathlete, because I knew him and I saw that, it made me go feel confident to go get a bike and a spandex, set up and actually go out there and do my first triathlon and get into that world.

So I do think that just exposure and connection just to see…And this is the whole point of your podcast, right? That as everyday people, we can do more than what society told us we could do or do what’s safe. And that safe is another one of those terms that we need to wrestle with and figure out what is safe for us because that’s defined differently for different people.

So yeah, unfortunately, I don’t have a good source to direct you to. I mean, even my Instagram is super boring. It’s just pictures of food I make and my dog.

Susan: Do you have a source that you go to that might be worth sharing with the audience then? Do you have any favorites?

Rachael Piper: I mean, I am a big fan of Brené Brown.

Susan: Yes, ma’am!

Rachael Piper: I think that the work she’s doing is transformative, and I think that she has given me such language and such clarity and perspective that you know, I am a huge Brené Brown fan. And also, the person in this world that I’m probably the biggest fan of outside of my mom and personal connections that I hold very dear to the point that my friends kind of make fun of me about this sort of a running joke, but I have always, always been a huge fan of Dolly Parton. I think that she is iconic. Actually, this is fun fact. My very first profile picture on Facebook before you actually put your own pictures on Facebook was a picture of Dolly Parton. So, yeah, she’s a source that I go to for a lot of just like inspiration and just simple wisdom, but also boldness to live your own life and not to fit into anybody else’s thoughts or expectations. One of her quotes is…Oh, gosh, how does it go? It’s something along the lines of “I’m not going to limit myself…” Oh, goodness, I messed it up. I don’t remember it exactly. But it’s essentially, I’m not going to limit myself based off of who you think I am.

Susan: I love it.

Rachael Piper: Yeah, I’ll find that quote.

Susan: Find it and send it to me, that’d be great.

Rachael Piper: But yeah, so again, sorry, soft answers. I have people I follow in inspiration. And books I read and podcasts I listened to and all of that, but there isn’t a like single primary source and I’m like, “Oh, this is where I would direct everybody.”

Susan: No, it is perfectly fair. And I love that you mentioned Brené brown and Dolly Parton. Brené Brown is one of my faves as well. But anyway, I really appreciate you joining us today. And we could go on for forever and I would love to have you back sometime.

Rachael Piper: Cool. I would love that as well. And thank you for giving me my first taste into the podcast life. I’m honored by it and I’ve appreciated you and how you’ve walked me through this experience and walked with me through this experience. So thank you and I appreciate it.

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.

Supporting Women with Your Holiday Shopping

Since the holidays are in full swing, I’m sharing a few of my favorite women-owned brands to shop.  Great products for gift giving or just a fun treat for you.  I share a little U.S. History on women-owned businesses and why I think it is important for us to support our sisters in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Show Notes

The holidays are here!  Have you finished your shopping?  Me neither!  Out of ideas?  Our holiday episode features a few of my favorite women-owned businesses.

To add a little context to why it is important to support women owned businesses I share a little history of U.S. policy and why it is necessary for small business owners and entrepreneurs to advocate for themselves.  If you own your own company or are thinking about your own start up, you will love this segment!

Then, on to the fun stuff.  Shopping!  I share a few of my favorite women-owned companies.  These are all companies I have discovered in the last several years that are truly near and dear to my heart.  The women who started these companies are women we can all learn from.  They are talented and strong.  They inspire and empower me on the regular.  I have even interviewed a couple of them in the past.

We talk everything from bath and body to accessories to sweets.  A fun episode for one of my favorite seasons of the year.  The season of giving!  The season of peace, joy, and love!

 

Episode Links

National Association of Women Business Owners

National Women’s Business Council

Jackie Vanderbrug

Kate Weiser Chocolate

Akola

Link to interview with Brittany Merrill Underwood (Founder of Akola)

Rosa Gold

Thistle Farms

Whatsoever Things on Facebook and on Instagram

Two White Sheep

Beauty Counter with Gina Curtis

Happy Magnolia’s

Art by Genevieve Strickland on Facebook and on Instagram

Link to interview with Genevieve on the podcast

Emily Ley

Transcript

Happy Holidays Pod Sisters.  Today we are talking all about women owned businesses.  The history of women owned businesses, where we are today from a policy standpoint and then a fun segment on some of my favorite women owned businesses to shop and support.  Have a listen and then head on over to our website where everything will be easily linked in our show notes and transcript.

Happy Holidays!  Today I want to have some fun and tell you about some of my favorite women owned businesses. Before that though, I’d like to first chat about the history of women owned businesses.  Crazy enough we are only going back to 1988 (that is right…30 years).  Up until 1988 women who who wanted to take out a business loan could not do so without the co-signature of a male relative.  It could be a father, husband, even a son and he didn’t even have to be involved in the business. He just had to be male.

These practices were changed via HR5050 (Women’s Business Ownership Act).  A bi-partisan effort born out of the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business. “[T]his Act that was decades in the making by smart and driven women entrepreneurs (many of them NAWBO leaders), key stakeholders, advocates and allies who saw a critical need for equal access for women business owners and government support for these business owners.” https://www.nawbo.org/blog/hr-5050-was-money-then-and-now

So what did HR5050 do? Well it did a number of things. Two of the most notable was that it eliminated the requirement for women to have a male co-sign a business loan.  It also established the creation of the National Women’s Business Council – with the purpose to “review the status of women-owned businesses nationwide and to develop detailed multiyear plans in connection with both private and public sector actions to assist and promote such businesses. Requires annual reporting to both the President and the Congress.”

So, where does this leave us today.  Well, it ain’t all bad, but there is room for lots of improvement.

According to the 2017 annual report from the National Women’s Business Council

“The growth of women business enterprises over the last ten years is unprecedented. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2-1/2 times the national average (52% vs. 20%), and employment in women-owned firms grew at a rate 4-1/2 times that of all firms (18% vs. just 4%). Women are starting more than 1,140 businesses per day, at a rate of more than 47 per hour.Yet, the comparison of revenue generated by women-owned firms does not reflect similar growth rates; the growth of average annual revenue of women-owned businesses merely paralleled that of all firms and only 1.7% of women owned businesses have average annual revenues of $1 million dollars or more. Equally concerning is that only 2% of women-owned firms have more than 10 employees, while 89.5% of women-owned firms have no employees other than the owner.”  https://s3.amazonaws.com/nwbc-prod.sba.fun/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/05040802/2017-annual-report.pdf

“We are committed to working more closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Congress, and the White House to promote and construct policies that will address access to capital and market inequities that women business owners still face. We strongly believe that if we can address these two particular challenges, then women business owners will have the most important tools that they need to successfully scale their businesses and to accelerate their impressive rate of job creation. “ https://s3.amazonaws.com/nwbc-prod.sba.fun/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/05040802/2017-annual-report.pdf

Now, to give you a little background on the access to capital piece (because remember access to capital without a male co-sign is where this all started 30 years ago) According to Guidant Financial and this is consistent with other studies “Both men and women cited obtaining funding as the top challenge when opening a business…[f]indings indicated business loans for women may also be harder to secure. Only 6 percent of women reported they used an SBA loan to fund their business, 24 percent less than men. This is consistent with nationwide statistics, which report business loan approval rates for women are 15 to 20 percent lower than they are for men. Despite this, the top funding method aspiring female entrepreneurs pursue is still an SBA loan.

Without access to traditional funding methods, women are left with less access capital to launch their businesses. Male survey respondents were 19 percent more likely to invest more than $100,000 in their business. And when asked about the difficulties of running a business, 10.7 percent more women listed lack of capital as a top challenge.” https://www.guidantfinancial.com/small-business-trends/women-in-business/

So, by now if you own a small business you might be chomping at the bit to go and check out the National Women’s Business Council’s website (you should totally do that.  It is really cool and has lots of great info and data). I would really encourage you to do this and also check out ways you can get involved even on a local level in policy making.  No matter your side of the isle many of these small business initiatives are bipartisan and advocating for yourself and other small business owners is important.

If you don’t own a small business you are probably asking when is she going to get around to shopping.  I’m getting there.  Patience sister. First, I want to share WHY I think it is so important to invest in women owned businesses.

Now, when I say invest I don’t mean an investment where I see a $ return.  I will point you to http://www.jackievanderbrug.com. For a conversation on investing with a gender lens.  An amazing woman with amazing insight.

What I mean by invest is that I am spending my money on products I need or want in companies that I know are doing the most good.  I am talking about social investment.  Choosing to support women owned businesses because I know that when you invest in a woman you invest in her family and her community.  We know this because the data shows that women have different spending priorities.  According to research done by Goldman Sachs when a woman earns additional income 80% goes into her family’s health, education and nutrition compared to 30-40% of men.  So when you invest in women when you invest in her business you are investing in her family and her community.  These women are advocates of bettering their families, their communities, themselves.

So now we have had our history lesson and you know that supporting a women owned business is a micro impact you can make in your community.  Let’s chat about five of MY favorites in no particular order!  And upfront I just want to say these endorsements are mine and mine alone.  I have not been paid nor have I received any free product.  These businesses have no idea I am even promoting them.  Although I will of course reach out to them and let them know once this episode is released.

Kate Weiser Chocolate

Funny enough you may have already seen Kate Weiser on a few things already this holiday season.  Because after just 5 short years in business (yes she launched her amazing chocolates 5 years ago during the holidays) she has made Oprah’s favorite things list this year with her Carl the Snowman.  I discovered Kate Weiser 3 years ago when someone gifted me with her beautiful chocolates. They look like amazing pieces of art.  Almost too good to eat.  It quickly became my go-to gift for neighbors, teachers, friends…literally everyone!  Boxes start at $18.  Per her website: Kate graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2005. She then returned to her home town to begin her career.  She worked in various restaurants including Pachamama’s of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City’s 4 star restaurant, Bluestem under pastry chef Megan Garrelts and James Beard Award winner, Colby Garrelts.

After a brief stint at Stephen Pyles and an Executive Pastry Chef position at Nobu, Kate decided to hone in her skills on one thing: chocolate.

Kate began her chocolate career with an Executive Chocolatier position at Chocolate Secrets in Highland Park. While there, she was able to experiment and create a style of chocolate making that was new to the Dallas area. Her Handpainted Chocolate Collection and artistic style quickly gained attention and excitement through the DFW metroplex.  She opened her own store in August 2014 in Trinity Groves in Dallas and has since expanded to Northpark Center as well as the Shops at Clearfork.  This holiday season you can also find Carl the Snowman in Neiman Marcus and on Oprah’s Favorite things list.  You can also shop on her website kateweiserchocolate.com. Family favorites at our house include Ninja Turtle, Cookie Monster, salted caramel and passion fruit are fan favorites in our home.

Akola

If y’all are regular listeners of the pod you have heard me mention Akola a time or two and you have probably even heard my conversation with its founder Brittany Merrill Underwood.  But I could not do a holiday show without mentioning Akola.  And if you haven’t had a chance to listen to our conversation I will make sure to link that in show notes as well.

As a quick reminder…and I pulled this straight from the website” In 2006, Brittany Merrill Underwood founded Akola when she was a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX after she met a Ugandan woman named Sarah who cared for 24 street children in her home. Inspired to action, Brittany discovered that by training and giving work to women who are struggling in crisis and guaranteeing them a monthly income, Akola could care for thousands of children. Today, Akola provides training, dependable living-wage work opportunities and holistic education programs to over 500 women in Uganda and Dallas, TX who care for approximately 4,000 dependents.

Every dollar spent on Akola products is reinvested in our mission to provide work opportunities and training to women in poverty in Dallas, TX and Uganda. Additionally, Akola relies on donations to provide social programs that teach women how to use their income to create meaningful change in their families and communities.”

Akola has also expanded since Brittany was on the podcast you can shop their exclusive line with Neiman’s in store and online.   I have also seen it available at Neiman’s Last Call. You can shop their main line in their holiday pop up shop in Northpark Center, their flagship store in Snider Plaza or online at akolaproject.org and as of now there is also a line available through HSN and I will make sure to link all of this in the show notes.

Rosa Gold

I shopped Rosa Gold this year for a few family gifts after I learned about her last year from the Jen Hatmaker podcast.  They are known for their blanket scarves that are very warm and toasty as well as stylish and fun.  They also have a fun Beret line, bridal line and jewelry line worth checking out!  Straight from their website: “Most importantly though, we’re a company that gives back.  Right from the start, ROSA GOLD baked compassion into it’s business model, so a portion of all profits goes straight to education-based charities (You can find out more about that here).

we enjoy creating each and every piece.  We’re making this stuff for you, and you’re making a difference by wearing it.”

“From the beginning, I knew that compassion needed to be an integral part of the ROSA GOLD business model.  Not only did I want to build an awesome little company, but I wanted to use it as a vehicle to give back.

I TRULY BELIEVE THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, AND BECAUSE EMPOWERMENT IS BUILT THROUGH EDUCATION, A PORTION OF ROSA GOLD’S PROFITS SUPPORTS 2 CRAZY-COOL CHARITIES – PENCILS OF PROMISE AND DONORSCHOOSE.

Pencils of Promise works to build schools in developing countries, giving lots of girls abroad access to a quality eduction.

DonorsChoose helps our amazing teachers here at home by funding requests for supplies, books and technology to use in the classroom. (Did you know that teachers spend an average of 1.6 BILLION dollars of their own money per year on supplies?! That’s crazy and unacceptable to say the least.)

Not only do I want you to feel warm and cozy in your monogrammed blanket scarf, but I hope you’ll feel proud knowing that your purchase is helping to make it’s mark on a child’s education.”

 

Thistle Farms

Founder Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, priest, entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms.

“Handcrafted with love by women survivors” – natural products for bath, body and home.  Based out of Nashville TN.  Specifically for women who have survived trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

Our 2-year residential program, based in Nashville, Tennessee, provides housing, food, healthcare, therapy and education, without charging residents.

Residents and graduates of our residential program are employed in one of our social enterprises. Here the women can learn new job skills and make a living wage to support themselves.

Similar to an alumni network, after the women leave our program, they still have access to counseling, education opportunities and emergency financial assistance

I am particularly partial to their cool shave gel as well as head to toe body wash and bath soak.

If you are in Nashville they also have a cafe that I hear has amazing food and you can shop their flagship store there as well.  If outside Nashville you can shop online at: https://thistlefarms.org I believe they are in some retail stores as there is a place to inquire about having them in a retail location so if you are interested in adding them to your store or finding out who carries their products I am sure you can reach out to them on their website.

 

Friends Businesses

Whatsoever Things on Facebook and on Instagram – Vinyl Monogramming Fun

Two White Sheep – Traditional Monogramming and Applique

Beauty Counter with Gina Curtis

Happy Magnolia’s

Art by Genevieve Strickland on Facebook and on Instagram

Link to interview with Genevieve on the podcast

 

To close thanks so much for listening today. We have one more episode before 2018 comes to a close and I just can’t believe it!  If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make It easier for others to find. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook posts you leave and I am always, always, always excited to hear your feedback. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here Community page, and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode as well as any other fun, How She Got Here content. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.