Entrepreneurship

Finding an Organizing System That Works For You, with Lindsey Taylor

In our third episode of the series “How She is Nailing the New Year” Susan chats with organizational guru, Lindsey Taylor. Organizing comes easily for Lindsey, so much so she is seriously considering it as a side hustle. Today, she shares some of the tools she uses to keep things straight and encourages us to try a few of her tips out for ourselves.


Where to find what Lindsey and I discussed

Container Store – Gift Wrap Organizers

Container Store – OXO Pop Containers

Container Store – Clear Plastic Shoe Boxes

Emily Ley – 30 Day Simplicity Challenge


Transcript

Susan: Okay, Lindsey Taylor. I am so excited to have you on my podcast. I think it was you who pointed out to me not that long ago, that this month January, we will have known each other five years because our children met when your oldest—gosh, you have two now—when your oldest was three weeks old or was it two weeks old? I never remember.

Lindsey: She was three weeks to the day.

Susan: Three weeks to the day. And Will, mine, was, what? Six months? Four months?

Lindsey: Four months, I think.

Susan: You know these things better than I do. You know dates and you know numbers so much. You keep up with that stuff so much better than I do.

Lindsey: I know. But now you’re going to make me like tear up before we even start chatting about my love for you.

Susan: I’m just so excited to have you on this show to chat with us about something you are very good at or something you have a passion for. I would call it borderline obsession, and it is something I suck at. And it’s organization. But before I share everything that I know about you, the good, the bad and the ugly—I’m just kidding—I’m going to let you talk about yourself. So tell us a little bit about who you are and share a little bit of your passion with us.

Lindsey: Well, I’m Lindsey and I’m married to Scott. We have been married for almost eight years. It’ll be eight years in May. 10 years that we have been on this journey together. And we met through running. So in my past life, I was a marathoner. And that might be something I get back into in the future. But then my world changed like you said about five years ago, and I became a mama. So I have Caroline Grace, and she just turned five. She was our New Year’s Eve surprise baby. And from that moment on, things have been on her timing and she has shown her personality early but she is a delight and a joy and she’ll be going to Kindergarten in the Fall. And then we have our second miracle baby Jack and he just turned one right before Christmas. God has a sense of humor with my babies’ birthdays. And Jack is all boy. And as you’re coaching me, I’m learning about how to be a boy mom and to let go of some of my love of organization that he does not understand quite yet.

But yes, I have a passion for organizing. And we can talk about when that started, but I love it. I love all things, but I love making it accessible and easy depending on who the right person is.

Susan: So let’s chat about that. Where did this passion for organization come from? How did you get this gene and quite frankly, how did it skip me?

Lindsey: I will tell you that it is definitely not genetic. I love you Lolly if you’re listening right now, but I’m anxious to get my hands on to my mom’s house. So it’s not something that I watched, but I can definitely pinpoint and kind of look back at how I approach things and interacted with things. So I probably didn’t really play with my dolls like my American dolls, for example. I had a wonderful dollhouse that my grandfather built for me and my favorite thing to do was to take every single thing out of the doll house, clean the doll house, and then put everything back in its perfect spot, and kind of reorganize and redecorate. And I didn’t really understand what I was doing. But looking back as an adult, I realized I was organizing my doll house or I would organize my dolls things and that would kind of be my playing with them.

So I guess I would say that that’s where it started. And then some of it, I don’t realize that that’s what I’m doing and that I am organizing, that’s just kind of how my brain works and how my brain thinks. But there are other things that I definitely do not do as well. I shift a lot so when I’m in the process of organizing, I might move things from one room to another, in piles, as my husband calls them. And they were even in our wedding vows that I would work on my piles. So I definitely don’t want to give people and impression that just because you love organizing means that everything is always neat and perfect, because that is not how it looks in my house.
Susan: So you have a passion for organizing but maybe not taking pictures and posting all the pictures that you do have your organizing on Pinterest.

Lindsey: Correct. I use Pinterest sometimes as an example of things that I could do or to get ideas. But I think Pinterest can be a tricky place. So, I’m good at organizing so I could look at a picture of a closet and I could say “I could do that,” and I can use kind of Pinterest as my roadmap. However, something that is not necessarily my forte or my passion is arts and crafts. And so if I were to look at Pinterest and think that that was kind of the attainable goal, and it needed to look like that I would fail every time. So I think you have to be careful with Pinterest depending on what your strength is, are to recognize what your strengths are, to be able to truly see if that’s something that’s going to make you feel successful or not.

Susan: That’s a really good point because as a One that is something that I struggle with is I would see something on Pinterest and go, “Oh, it’s never going to look like that so thus, it’s never going to be good enough so why even bother trying. “

Lindsey: And I think that’s where organizing is kind of a four-letter word to people. And, you know I’m working with…We’ll talk about goals, I think later, but one of my goals for 2020 is to kind of turn this passion into a potential business or something where I could help others. And I think the one thing that I want to get across to friends that I’m helping or to future clients is that there is no right or wrong way to organize. And I think that just because your closet doesn’t look like the container store when you walk in, or just because you know, you can’t make your pantry look like that perfect Pinterest picture, doesn’t mean that it’s not organized. It just might mean that it’s not organized in that way.

I have been playing around with the idea of a beautiful mess because I think that, and maybe this is, you know, my love for my piles. But I think that messages aren’t bad, whether we think we ourselves are messes or you know, we’re looking at our closet and thinking that it’s a mess. I think you can make beauty from that. But you have to be open to making it work for what’s best for you and using the right tools for you, not the right tools because that’s what and society or that blogger that you love, or that beautiful home that you saw on the neighborhood home tour says you’re supposed to do.

Susan: That’s such a good point that inspiration doesn’t mean exactly. Does that make sense? Like it’s supposed to inspire you but you don’t need to replicate it to a T.

Lindsey: Right.

Susan: That’s really helpful.

Lindsey: And I think what trips people up is, you know, you kind of talked about how I have this gene and how I was born with it, I guess, and so some things just come naturally to me, and I’m learning as I’m researching more, and I’m talking to friends that not everybody thinks the way that I do. And so I have to really, I think, what’s a challenge and what makes me somebody that can really help someone is to figure out okay, what is that right system for you, Susan? Because even us being close friends, it may not be the right system for me.

And I think that in the world of organizing, people get caught up in, there’s only one right way. And here’s the road map. Here’s all the tools you’re going to buy and here’s all the money you’re going to spend, and it’s going to look like this. But if that’s not still kind of wired to how your brain is working, then you’re still going to fail. And it’s going to look nice for a few days and then it’s going to get messy again. And I don’t think that people need to continue to pay professionals to come back into their home. They may need somebody to help them at the start. But if you can figure out kind of the best tricks or if you can set smaller goals to help you, I think that in the long term, it will be longer lasting.

Susan: That makes sense. You think this is something people can do on their own. They don’t have to call in for help. Am I understanding your thought process on that well?

Lindsey: Yes and no. I definitely think that this is something that I encourage people to try. And it may be something as simple as trying to tackle a closet. I think that I am guilty of this. Especially as we start the New Year and the holiday decorations come down and it’s kind of a fresh start in your home and in your mind and so you want to tackle everything, or maybe it’s just the obsessive organizer in me. But that is not usually something that is a good idea. Because I think that focusing sort of on one room, or even one drawer is something that I think everybody can do by themselves. And I recently had a client that I helped and I was doing her kitchen and /or her pantry and she had a junk drawer and she was so embarrassed. “Oh, I have this junk drawer in my kitchen,” and I reassured her that everyone has a junk drawer in their kitchen because where else would you keep your post its and your breath mints, or, you know, for me, we have a lot of wine openers in our junk drawer.

And so I sent her a picture of what mine looked like. And before I went back to her home to finish the project, she had actually done the junk drawer by herself. And I had given her just some ideas and some tips of some tools that I use to kind of help hold my things in place. And like I said, a beautiful mess. And it still had “junk stuff” in it. But they all had their spot and their place to live. And she did it all by herself, and she was so proud of herself. And I almost think when you do it yourself, and you kind of put that hard work into it, it’s something that you want to keep that you have that pride behind it, and so you want to make it last longer.

Susan: I think you’re absolutely right on all of that. We all have a junk drawer, and we all have to go through it from time to time and I love that you’re junk drawers has junk in it and you just kind of make it, you make it work and you make it work for you. And that’s what’s important. It’s not about making it look pretty so you can post it on social media. It’s really about making your stuff and things in your home work for you. And I know that when I walk into a room, I can have a pile of books in the corner, and it’s not going to bother me because I know that those are books have trying to get through. But if I walk into a room, and there are Legos all over the floor, I’m like, “Oh, this isn’t working for me.”

Lindsey: Yep.

Susan: So what are some of your favorite organizing tips and tricks that you feel could benefit some of us working moms or work from home moms? What are some of your favorite? Especially in the stage of life that you’re in right now, that I’m in right now. We have young children. What are some of your favorite organizing tips and tricks that have really worked for you?

Lindsey: I love clear plastic shoe boxes. Mine happened to be from The Container Store. But I hit it up a few years ago at their annual sale and I think got 40 for 50% off or something crazy like that but you can even find them at the Dollar Tree. You can find them at an Ikea if that is local to you. But plastic shoe boxes have so many different uses. So I use them obviously for their main use as I put shoes in them. And because they’re clear, my shoes are put away and they stay dust free. I live in an old charming house but it brings in a lot of dust and so they stay clean, but you can visualize them.

And so that’s also what I use in my kids playroom a lot is I organize everything into a clear plastic bin. Now, what’s inside the bin is not necessarily organized. So if we have a bin for all of her magnets, they’re just all dumped in there. Because she’s five and that’s not going to be long term for me to put all the magnets kind of into a different little compartment. But I do have a space that she knows, okay, these are where my magnets live. They’re easy for her little hands to pop the lid off and put them back in and then she can put the box back into the cabinet where we keep those things. I would say plastic bins are my number one favorite.

My second favorite organizing tool is I love drawer containers and or drawer organizers. And so when I say that, once again, it doesn’t have to be from you know, whatever fancy organizing store or brand you have online or in your town. The dollar store will have them or I love going to Home Goods or what Garden Ridge used to be. At Home Now, I think is what it’s called. And just simple usually they’re branded art is desk organizers, and I think you have to kind of get your head out of what if I don’t have a desk, and that’s okay. That’s what I have my wine openers in. That’s what I have my post its and my Kleenex, all the things in my junk drawer. I might even use them in my little girl’s bathroom drawer so she has a bin that just has all of her hair rubber bands in it and a bin where her hair brushes go and it’s not to make her kind of anal and OCD but it just helps her know when she needs a hair rubber band she knows where to find them. I’m trying to teach independence.

And I would say my third favorite, or kind of my third favorite thing to organize is probably pantries. And I love using myself as an example because I don’t have a pantry. In this old charming house, we have just simple cabinets and the cabinets are what serve as our pantry. And so as much as I look at and pin all this beautiful walk in pantries that I dream about, as long as I live in this home, I’m not going to have that. And so I’m finding tools to kind of help organize. I think Oxo containers are every mom’s best friend. I personally have the Oxo brand but I found them recently for a client as an off brand at Home Goods. And they are just simple plastic containers that you can put your Cheez-It’s in or your Yeggie Straws or Wheat Thins, Oreos you know, sorry for all my friends on Whole 30 right now, but put all those in you can see how much you have, and your kids can see what’s in there and it keeps things fresh longer.

Because as a mom, I don’t have time to go to the store all the time and I don’t have time or the money to waste by having food go bad. So I think good storage containers in your pantry and then having baskets in your pantry. Or you could go back and use those plastic shoe boxes that we talked about at the beginning, and having a shoe box that has all of your gummy snacks or all of your granola bars in it and kind of having a designated snack area for your kids and family. When you come home from the grocery store, one trick that I like to say is take everything out of the box. So you bought granola bars, you bought fruit snacks, recycle those boxes and put them somewhere where you can truly see how many you have. Otherwise you might be guilty and you know, I’ve been guilty of it before too. I buy five things of oatmeal because I can’t see how many I have. And so instead I just have five half open boxes versus being able to kind of see the quantities. Those would be my kind of favorite organizing tools.

Susan: You know, as we’re talking about this, that is definitely something I do in my pantry, but I’m thinking about a place that I could do this that I don’t do this, and that’s in my fridge. Do you do this in your refrigerator too?

Lindsey: I do. So I don’t use the shoe boxes I use…I found them at Bed Bath and Beyond. And that’s kind of a side note. So I’m kind of naming all of my favorite places to find things. And that’s where I think using a home organizer or using a friend that has a passion like I do, because if you’re already overwhelmed about organizing, then sometimes walking in to a Home Goods is not going to help you feel like you can tackle your bathroom cabinets that day. Because there’s a lot of digging and there is a lot of trying to find the match of what it belongs to. Versus, you know, if you really are wanting to do this on your own and kind of start by yourself then I do recommend a place like The Container Store you are going to pay more, but it’s going to be less overwhelming. And there’s going to be somebody there that can kind of help guide you and show you the right areas of what you can buy.

Susan: So walking into the Container Store is helpful, because there’s somebody there who can guide you but if you’ve already got that person who can guide you and /or you don’t feel overwhelmed, hitting up the Dollar Tree or a store like that would work perfectly as well.

Lindsey: Absolutely. And I think it depends. So if I was going to come and help you organize your home office, let’s say, one of my favorite tools—I have a lot so I couldn’t fit it into my top three, but I would say my number four favorite is kind of unique to the Container Store and it’s part of their Elfa system and it’s my beloved gift wrap drawer which you have seen and that is a tool that they utilize that helps you get all those bags and tissue paper and gift wrapping ribbon all in a neat and organized way. And I’ve not seen something like that at other places.

However, the shoe boxes, or I love to use the cloth kind of pop up storage boxes. You can find them at the dollar store, you can find them at Target, you can find them at IKEA. And obviously, where you choose to find them the quality may be a little different. So it depends on kind of what you’re using them for. If you’re using them like I have them in my guestroom closet from IKEA. And they’re flimsier, but they’re not used all the time. And they help kind of keep that closet clean. But in my kids rooms, I use sturdier ones from Target because we’re constantly every day, getting the handles and going in and out of those, and I need them to last.

So I think you kind of have to weigh quality versus pricing. But I would say a plastic shoe box is a plastic shoe box, no matter where you get it. And so to be smart about where you want to spend your money and spend that energy of looking. I think they go kind of hand in hand.

Susan: And I appreciate you really thinking through—and I know you do this personally, you’re much better at this than I am—thinking through what is worth spending dollars on when it comes to organizing and what isn’t. I think sometimes it’s just easy to go, “Oh, I’m just going to go get that off Amazon Prime,” or “Oh, I’m just going to run The Container Store because I know they have it,” and just not think twice. And sometimes it’s okay, because that’s what you have to do because you have a child who’s cranky or whatever, you just need to get the errand run. But then there are other times where you can take more time and be a little more cost efficient and effective. And I appreciate that you do that regularly. And I think that’s something else that you do really well.

Lindsey: Well, thank you. Or you can have somebody help you. So, a client that I had, I purchased all of her things from Home Goods, because I live in a big city where I have access to one in my neighborhood, which is good and bad, and then from the Dollar Tree. And so those were the two places like I said we were doing her pantry and we were doing her kitchen cabinets, and I was able to kind of fulfill everything we needed. And we did make a few Amazon purchases where I kind of wrote down and she wanted to be able to pick some things out and to kind of have her personal hand in that.

And I think something too…And once again, maybe it’s my love for organizing, but I tend sometimes to get into that instant gratification where I just have to do this closet now and I’ve got to have everything. And so I find myself going to that one stop shop, whether it’s Target or Walmart. And I feel like so many different places have stepped up their game in kind of the world of organizing. But if you can be patient and sort of make yourself that roadmap, then I think you will find it to be something that’s not as scary when it hits your checkbook if a budget is important to you. It depends on kind of who the customer is. At our house, it is, and so sometimes I have to kind of slow down and not be so ‘I want it now’ to make sure that I am finding the right price of things.

Susan: Well, I think having that ‘I might want it right now, but I don’t need it right now,’ I think that’s something we could all do a better job of incorporating into our lives. I mean, one of the things we keep hearing about with using Amazon constantly and hey, I’m not dogging Amazon, I am as guilty as using Amazon as anybody. I used it this morning. But it’s how that affects our environment as well. And I know that’s like a whole different tangent we could go down. But when we think about things, it’s not just your pocket book that’s affected, it’s the environment as well. So I think everybody should definitely look at this from one side or another, no matter…I mean, it affects all of us. What are some of the tools that you incorporated in 2019 that you’re going to be carrying with you into 2020? Because 2019 your life changed yet a little bit again. Well, no, it was in 2018, I guess when the little guy was born, but 2019 was kind of crazy.

Lindsey: Yes.

Susan: So what are some things that you incorporated in 2019 that you’re carrying with you into 2020?

Lindsey: I think the two big things is, I would say, the courage to say no, and the courage to walk away and be okay with that. And that kind of goes into 2020. And I’m not usually somebody to have a word, but courage keeps kind of popping into my head, because I think those are both examples that might bring up negative connotations. But also, you know, to have the courage to start an organizing business or to have the courage to try something new, whatever that looks like, fill in the blank. But I would say kind of organizing my life, and I don’t mean through plastic shoe boxes and through a really fabulous planner, but I also highly recommend Erin Condren or Emily Ley’s life planners. I’m an old school pen and paper girl.

But I would say, organizing my feelings and my relationships. And so that’s where it came the courage to be able to say, “No, I’m not going to volunteer for that this year.” Or “no, I’m sorry, I can’t have that position at church or at my kids school.” And the courage to walk away from some friendships. I did that this year. And it’s scary and it’s hard, but I think that I needed to kind of reorganize my emotions, and that involved that.

Susan: That’s excellent.

Lindsey: And I think a lot of, you know, I used to think, when we talk about the Enneagram, I used to think that I was a One because I love to organize and well, the One is the perfectionist and so because you know, my shoe drawers are perfect or I am one of those people that my personal closet is color coded, and it makes me very happy to have a rainbow in front of me. But you look to the left where my husband’s clothes are and they’re not and he doesn’t even have all the same hangers and that really drives me crazy, but that’s okay because those aren’t my clothes. I don’t have to worry about that. And I’m certainly not going to color coordinate Caroline’s closet because It would last for about two seconds and would give me unneeded anxiety when I could focus that in other areas.

But part of my tools of having the courage to organize my life and my relationships and how I want them has helped me realize I am an Enneagram 2, and wanting to be liked and loved and needed. And that can be a really positive thing, like, it can help me in a business of helping people be organized. I just have to make sure I have the right motivation and intentions behind that.

Susan: That is such a good point, the right motivation and intention. It’s something that I struggle with as well, as an Enneagram one. Like, why am I trying to perfect this specific thing right now? Yeah, so I really appreciate that. And I love your word for the year that it’s courage. That’s a great word.

Lindsey: Well, and I think that you know, my heart for wanting to help people organize or you know, my hopes of somebody can listen to this and walk away and think, gosh, I can tackle that one drawer in my master bathroom. You know, it goes back to resolutions and goal setting, and I am somebody to say it’s okay to not have a new year’s resolution or it’s okay to not have a goal. I’m going to have to kind of look back at the last five years of my life and I’m, you know, I really resonated with your infertility podcast because that was a big part of my story and going through treatment and then ultimately having the baby and then going through postpartum depression and being treated for that. I would set myself these New Year’s resolutions that you know, when I fill in the blank or if I fill in the blank, whatever that looks like, then I’ll feel, be, look, etc, better or somehow feel whole. It can be a whole slew of things. And I’m not dogging resolutions at all, and I’m not dogging saying, hey, if your resolution is when I lose those 10 pounds or walk the 100 miles that I’ll feel better, because you probably will. There’s validity to that, but I see the kind of approach goals in the New Year similar to organizing and for me…

Susan: Don’t beat yourself up.

Lindsey: Well, becoming a new me or, you know, I think I saw a quote, and I’m going to butcher it about how tomorrow is January 1 and I can’t wait to meet all of these new friends of mine because everybody says, like, you know, I’m going to start this new year. And I’m becoming a new mean instantly on January 1 isn’t sustainable to my personality, just like I don’t want somebody to beat themselves up because they try to do that master bath drawer and it doesn’t work. That’s okay. Maybe that wasn’t the best place to start. Maybe go organize your china cabinet and your dining room that you use once a year. And so you can fix that cabinet, it can be perfectly organized and you’re not going to touch it again for 12 months, but hey, it stayed organized. And that should be something that you’re proud of.

So I think that having your whole house or your whole life or all of a sudden using a paper planner, when you’ve never used one before, “Oh, you forgot to write that doctor’s appointment down, paper planners aren’t for me.” Give yourself grace. Because if somebody were to tell me that I had to 100% use a digital calendar, I would have a complete heart attack, and I could not do that. And that’s okay. We’re all different and we’re all wired differently. And so like we talked about the beginning, organizing is going to look different for everyone, but I think it can be a really freeing and a really liberating thing w you kind of do, let some of that stuff go. And that doesn’t means that your house has to look like Marie Kondo says it does.

Susan: I love that. And I love everything that you just said,.That is fantastic and so helpful. And just the way you said it was so peaceful and so kind, because I think as women, we’re so bad, just about beating ourselves up all the time, that nothing that we’re doing is enough. And just the way you said that just gave me such peace of mind going into this year, because it can be so stressful.

Lindsey: Absolutely. Well, and I think people might be laughing at me that I might compare organizing to a scale. But as somebody who has kind of been through a whirlwind of five years, you know, to me, it’s like you don’t make that one gym class, or you can’t lose those last five pounds and you might get into your head, and this might be a little enneagram one in me, “Okay, I’m never going to be in shape again.” So just because you can’t keep your shoes organized doesn’t mean that you can’t have an organized life. That just might be not the right place for now. I know shoes are a silly example. I probably as a mom, I want all the moms kind of to hear that where you are in this stage of life, like, yes, my daughter knows that the magnets go in the shoe box. But if you were to look at my house, at the end of day, I work from my home and so my kids are with me a lot and things go everywhere. But because we have an organized system, then when my husband and I do attempt to tackle the mess after bedtime, it’s easier to pick up because we know where things are supposed to go. But that doesn’t mean that my kids don’t make messes or that things don’t get out of hand. And I have to decide like, hey, at one point, I had all of her Barbie shoes together and they’re not anymore. And I’ve got to let that go. That might have to do with my word of courage, is deciding where to pick my battles. But I think just taking baby steps and organizing. And maybe it is hiring that professional to help kind of get you a kickstart just like people might hire a nutritionist, that nutritionist isn’t going to eat every meal with you but they’re going to help give you the right tools that hopefully when you are making lunch or dinner or choosing a snack at the store, that you know the right ones to choose. That’s how I see kind of personal organizing.

Susan: That’s awesome. I’m going to ask you one more question, and it can be as short or as long as you want it to be before I let you go.

Lindsey: Okay.

Susan: And that is, what are you reading right now? And what are some books that should be on our list for 2020?

Lindsey: And I’m laughing at myself when I talked about my tools, my courage to say no, and to walk away because ironically, the book that I’m reading is called How to Walk Away. And it’s by Katherine Center. It was actually recommended by you. So I’m reading that. And next on my list is a book called A Woman is no Man by Etaf Rum. And I know that it’s going to be a heavy book. So I’ve kind of been putting off of when the right time to read that. But I highly recommend and from the reviews that I’ve read for any woman who’s listening to pick that up, especially in the political climate that we’re in this day and age, it’s about three Palestinian women living in America and their story. So I will have to report back after I read it.

But kind of books that I think should be on everyone’s list. I loved 100 Summers by Beatrice Williams. She writes historical fiction about things that you may not necessarily have known happened in America and there’s always romance and there’s always a little bit of drama. But 100 Summers would be my favorite book of hers. I loved, you know, The Great Alone and Where the Crawdads Sing. I think those might be cliche answers because the books have been so popular, but don’t be scared to read them because they are. And then I would say my last two if y’all can’t tell I’m a reader. And if somebody is planning a beach vacation this year, I think you should read Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman. It is just a light hearted, fun read, but actually does have a little history in it. And then if you’re wanting a book to stick with you, It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover has never left me. I read it in 2017 and it’s about domestic abuse and how it really can happen to any of us. So it was a really powerful fiction book for me. I love to read. So that’s my escape from organizing, is to read.

Susan: I love it. And I hope you’re enjoying How to Walk Away. I didn’t realize you were still reading it. I hope you liked it as much as I did. Thank you so much for being here today. This has been so much fun.

Lindsey: Absolutely.

Susan: I know you have a ton to get to for the rest of your afternoon. I think a little certain somebody I can kind of hear him in the background.

Lindsey: He’s not too happy.

Susan: I love that he joined us because one day he’s going to hear this recording and he’s going to go “What is that?” And you’re going to go, “That was you, you little stinker.”

Lindsey: Refusing to take a nap.

Susan: Sweet baby.

Lindsey: Yes.

Susan: Alright, friend. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it today.

Lindsey: Thank you for having me.



2020 Vision with Selfish Mom Project founder, Rachael Tapper

It’s 2020 and Susan is starting us off with a fun new series! “How She’s Nailing the New Year” is helping us kick off a new decade by chatting with amazing women who will help walk us through some of the tough questions we ask ourselves when it’s time for a fresh start. We couldn’t be more excited to kick off these inspiring conversations with the founder of Selfish Mom Project, Rachael Tapper. Rachael encourages each of us to determine how to live into our best selves for the season that we are in.

Where to find Rachael
Website
Facebook
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Transcript

Susan: Rachel, I am so excited to have you on the show with us today. One of the things that really drew me to you, or I guess we got connected a few years ago and was what you were starting with the Selfish Mom Project, we got connected through a friend and I just thought what you were doing was so needed for moms who are coming out of a time where they have a newborn or they have a lot that has gone on in their lives and are just looking for that next step and to figure out how to basically re-fined themselves and I think you’ve done that really well over the last couple of years and I have been an admirer from afar.

Rachael: Thank you.

Susan: So, for my audience who is not familiar with you or your work, would you tell us a little bit about yourself and then how Selfish Mom got started?

Rachael: Absolutely. So I’m a mom of three. I have a 10-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. So I am in those preteen and potty training days.

Susan: Oh, it’s that time.

Rachael: Yeah, they are long but they go fast. And we have a crazy chaotic life. But it’s fun. I never imagined that honestly, I would ever really be a mom. I have a brother that’s 10 years younger than me. I felt like I had been a mom most of my life and so I was never really interested in having kids. We got pregnant right after we got married. And I got thrown into this motherhood business very young. I was 24, almost 25 and decided a couple of years after that to have another child. So I was pretty content with two, went in to go get my tubes removed and found out that I was six weeks pregnant with our third child.

So, you know, we always say that if you ever wonder if God has a sense of humor, come talk to us because we think he does. But I struggled a lot with that last pregnancy, and not that it was a bad pregnancy. It was amazing, but just my mindset wasn’t really good. You know, I felt guilty that I wasn’t necessarily happy about that. And I’m so thankful I have my third baby, Max, he’s just such a blessing in our life. But I struggled really hard with postpartum depression after each one of my pregnancies, but especially with Max.

And we had friends over one night, and I had always kind of been in the health and fitness industry so I’d always run like a business online but I had kind of backed away from that because I was just in such a bad place, I was depressed, I had horrible anxiety, horrible overwhelm. I was really struggling to get back to myself and love myself. And we had friends over and you know, couple bottles of wine, and Rachael getting real raw and telling, you know, everybody in their place. I just was like, you know, I need to be selfish for like two months, like I just needed to be selfish for like 60 days. And I woke up the next day and had a hangover that I was definitely not proud of, but my husband kind of joked around and was kind of making fun of me that I was like, going to do this Selfish Mom Project, and I was like, “You know what, actually, I am going to do it.”

And I started a week later, November 1, 2017, I decided to start doing my own Selfish Mom Project, never expecting it to go anywhere or even remotely become what it has actually turned into. I really just thought I was going to have 60 days of honestly like mani, pedis, massages, ladies who lunch like, I just thought I was going to have fun. And I did have a lot of fun but what I realized was that it was never about all those things. It was about finding a different way to love myself and get to know myself again, and just really step into what my truth was. You know, I love my kids, but one day they’re going to leave me. And I kind of joke a little bit that every time you have a kid, it kind of like sucks a little bit of you, out of you because you have someone else to take care of and I was really struggling and that 60 days was exactly what I needed. And I just shared my journey on social media and outreach and support that I got was so overwhelming. To hear that so many other moms were going through the same thing that I was, and to be able to just be one step ahead and share how I was getting better, and getting a handle on my depression and my anxiety and my overwhelm and to be able to help other people. It was just, it was amazing.

Susan: I really appreciate that rawness and I really appreciate how you were vulnerable online and had the willingness to talk about it in public. And I think it’s one of those things that to one degree or another, all moms deal with this. It may not be all the way to postpartum depression, but we all deal with some sort of struggle of reconnecting with ourselves and finding who we are again after we’ve had a child. I think you’re absolutely right. And the more we talk about these things, I think the more out of the shadows things like this are, and I think the more we can grow together is just better for everybody. So I really appreciate you doing that. And really just putting yourself out there and, and sharing with others. I know it has made a difference in so many lives.

Rachael: Thank you. I really think it’s important. You know, I’ve always been real and raw nearly for the fact that like, I was raised not to lie, and I needed so many people to be honest with me about how, you know, that there are the great moments that we get to see. But it’s the behind the scenes moments that shocked me when I became a mom. Like, I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be, no one told me that. And I was the first one of my friends to become a mom and I just wish that somebody would have told me that and so I’ve just always promised that if I found myself in a position where I could, I would share that.

Susan: Absolutely. And I think the community you’ve created also helps with that struggle. And by community I mean, it is an online, and I know you do some stuff locally as well, but it’s also an online community on Facebook that you have put together, and I see women talking about these things and you blog about these things. And I just think that connection alone and not feeling alone, what you’ve created is something that women just really need. And I think the more who can find that, just the better, quite frankly. So, a little bit about how that piece came into fruition, like you started The Selfish Mom Project. It’s rachaeltapper.com. Am I correct?

Rachael: Well, you can do rachaeltapper.com or you can do selfishmomproject. com.

Susan: Okay. So you started the blog, you created this platform. How did it keep going? Like, where did it go from there after your 60 days was finished?

Rachael: So this is actually a really funny story, and I have not told this story very often just because it is such a vulnerable piece of a really bad day that I had. But I finished The Selfish Mom Project. I did my 60 days. And every day that I did it, I did a hashtag like, day one, Selfish Mom Project, day two, you know, going on to 60. So I shared it every single day. I was very open about every aspect of my journey. And like I said, the emails and everything just like poured in, like text messages, random people from literally all over the world. And January 1 rolled around, and I knew there was something like in me that just kept telling me to keep pursuing it, but I didn’t know where to go. And Max my, you know, surprise, he still does not sleep through the night at two years old.

Susan: That’s hard.

Rachael: But he definitely didn’t when he was younger. He’s just not a good sleeper. He’s not a good napper. It was just, this particular day was just bad. I was not like a good mom moment. I was not a good wife this day, I was just having a crappy day and sat down. And Max was in his room crying. And I was like, “Well, I’ll just let him cry it out four and a half time, hopefully we’ll go to sleep. I’ll give him five minutes.” But I was like in tears, and I just, you know, had finished a book, a Gabby Bernstein book that I had re-read. She’s an amazing author, I love her. And she said, you know, when she’s in a time of need, she just gets on her knees and prays. And I realized that it had been a long time since I had hit my knees and really just prayed and I sat in this chair in our house and sobbing, crying, begging God to just show me what I needed to do next. Like, where did I need to go next? Do I need to just walk away from this project. Was it done? Was there something else and I literally… It’s kind of like that what’s the baseball movie? Like, if you build it, they will come.

Susan: Field of Dreams?

Rachael: Yes, I had like that Field of Dreams moment. You know where it was I literally heard a voice in my head that said, “If you build it, they will come.” And so I quit praying and I went upstairs and I got Max and I put them on the floor, I got out my laptop, and I was like, “I’ll just start this private group.” I had done private groups for years when I was in the health and fitness industry. And I was like, “I’ll add one person,” and it was a girlfriend of mine and I texted her and I said, “Just let me know what you think about the group, I might like try and promote it.”

So she messaged me back the next day. And she’s like, “I love it, let’s share it.” And in two months, the entire process, I’ve added one person to this group, and in two months, it grew to over 1200 moms. And I just have always been proud of it being an organic growth. And you know, like any Mom, I go through seasons, where I’m in the group a lot and seasons where maybe I have to take a step back from just posting in there, but it’s always been like a steady stream of just moms supporting other moms and just really opening up the conversation and not putting any stigma on what we should be or who we are, who you have to be, if you have to be one particular kind of mom or not. It’s just a place for us to all, you know, whether you need to vent, if you need help and growth, or you just need somebody to talk to. That’s what that group is for.

Susan: Well, I think it’s great. And I think especially kicking off the New Year, it’s always helpful to find like-minded people who are in the same things that you were in, the stage in life, but also who are wanting a little bit more from that stage. And I think collaborating with others, and just bouncing ideas off of people and just being a support group. And all of the above, I think is really beneficial. I know when I’m, and I know you feel the same way, when I’m stuck in a rut, it’s my crew around me, that helps pull me through the weeds sometimes.

Rachael: Totally.

Susan: And I think this crew is really helpful with that. Share with us a little bit about your…I know this past year has been another big wellness year for you. How did you—and I mean 2019—how did that kind of…Did it fall into your lap? What were you looking for when you were looking to build either on The Selfish Mom Project or was it something totally different? Share with us a little bit about how that came about.

Rachael: Well, my wellness journey I think it’s definitely 2019, and me just physically healing and a lot of you know, emotionally healing and always growing. If we’re not growing, we’re not alive. And so the physical side really started years ago, but I kind of, you know, because I was taking care of my kids, I just kind of put everything on the back burner, which is not something that we should do. I use the example that when our kids have like, their stuffy noses or they’re coughing or their throat hurts, like we are so quick to make a doctor’s appointment for them because we are the advocates for our children. You know, we want to make sure that they’re safe, and they’re healthy and they feel cared for, but we don’t, you know, we always put our self on the back burner.

And so I had done that for many years, I had put my physical health on the back burner, and just started doing some research. I had implants in for like 15 years. And when I started doing the research, I realized that you know, there was this breast implant illness out there that a lot of women were struggling with. There’s a Facebook group for that as well if that’s something that anybody is interested in. But I just started doing a lot of research and realizing that I needed to put my health both physically and mentally, like on the front burner, it needed to be like the favorite burner, the one that you always put your…That you start first.

And then I was really, you know, it started to affect me being a mom. We would go on vacations, I couldn’t stay awake during the day, I would have to take multiple naps, I really wasn’t able to fully commit to my work and what I really wanted to do because I was so sick all the time. And we decided, you know, my husband and I decided that it was time to remove the implant and just move on. And it’s been an emotional journey because I’ve, you know, this is something that I’ve had in my body for 15 years. It’s been a physical journey. I wasn’t, you know, the hardest thing ever is to wake up and you’re not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for like 12 weeks.

Susan: Wow.

Rachael: And you have a two-year-old. So, you know, it’s been a lot, but I just…You know, and whether it’s…You know, like the fact that it was an implant means nothing. But the fact that, I guess that what I really wanted this year was to share with women, that if something doesn’t feel right, that you have to fight for your health. And whether that is mentally or physically, you really just…No one is going to fight for you. You’ve got to step up there and do that. Your health is just as important as our children’s. If not more, because without our health, we can’t take care of the family in the capacity that we want to. And that’s really where I found myself in September and then had the surgery in September. And I have never felt better, physically and mentally. I feel amazing.

Susan: That is such an empowering story.

Rachael: I mean, it was scary. It’s totally…It’s always scary to go through surgery. All my anxieties came back out and I will tell you, you know, we were talking just before this about surrendering. And four days before I had surgery, my two-year-old broke his nose doing things that you tell your two-year-old not to do.

Susan: Of course, that’s what happened.

Rachael: Yeah, I know. I didn’t have surgery. On the day before my surgery was like ripping his cast off his nose twice. And it was just so stressful that I just had to… I had to surrender and be like, hands up, white flag is raised. This is, you know, I’ve just followed wherever God’s told me to go. And yeah, I mean, it was scary, but it was so necessary. I feel like so much has changed just in the last month. You know, once I took a handle on my health, everything else in my life improved. You know, I wrote a book, and it wasn’t the book that I had previously wanted to put out. This was like a completely different book that I was able to write in 30 days because my brain came back and my health came back, and I was forced to recover in a bed and sit down, which I had never done before because I’m a mom of three, me binge watching anything on Netflix just isn’t the way that I work. So I opened up and I started writing. And it was just amazing that this all came out when it did because I had I not had that surgery, I never would have gotten my health back. I never would have been forced to sit down and just work. And my business since then has exploded. So it’s just really, you know, once we can take control of that health aspect, whether it’s physically or mentally, so many other things can come into play in your life. It’s crazy how it unfolds.

Susan: And the book that you’re speaking about, is this the book that’s available now or the one that will be available in June? Because you actually have two in the…

Rachael: I have two. So this is the one that is out now. And it is a 60-day guide book. It’s called The Selfish Mom Projects, a 60-day guidebook to being selfish and finding yourself. And this is basically what I wished someone would have given me when I started The Selfish Mom Project. Like I said, I thought it was going to be mani and pedis kind of deal and just all like fancy, and it wasn’t. And this is everything that I learned in those 60 days and just kind of guiding moms through their own Selfish Mom Project for…You know, I’ve always taken clients on separately, but I wanted to be able to create something that will help everyone and be at a price point that everybody could have and I wanted it to be at the fingertips of the masses because there’s only one me to work with. But this, I wanted to be able to help… My goal has always been to help as many moms as I possibly could.

Susan: And it has journal prompts in there as well, correct or am I mistaken?

Rachael: It has journal prompts, you’ll find daily gratitude, what I call “The Four Selfish Mom Love Languages,” which are social, emotional, physical and spiritual and kind of how to hit those little points every day, a space for you to write an affirmation or mantra, I also provide them in the resources section of the book, and then it has a to do list with only three things a day to do. Because the whole point of Selfish Mom Project is to put down the overwhelm and anxiety. And what I have found is that placing more than three things on my to-do list every day, creates anxiety and overwhelm. And we talked about creating a bucket list and it’s just a really… I’m really proud of this book. I think it’s an awesome way to segue into this next book, but I wanted to start everyone off with this amazing 60-day guidebook.

Susan: And I really cannot think of a better way to start the new year. I think this would be a great place for women who either find themselves in a rut or find themselves with a newborn, or just find themselves in those first couple of years. Like, I remember when I first started talking about the podcast, or whatever this vision was, it wasn’t a podcast at the time, but I was coming out of those first two years. So it would be how old Max is now. I was finally coming out of that, “Oh, he doesn’t need me as much as he did because he’s going to have school and he’s going to have all of this other stuff.” And I’ve put everything I have into this little Munchkin for the past, you know, 18 months, two years and where did I go? So I kind of hit that burnout phase as well. It sounds like you’ve hit it a few times. I think we all hit it a few times. And I think this guidebook would be a great way to start the new year if you find yourself in that place where you’re either at, I don’t want to say rock bottom, because that that seems a little too dramatic. It could be, but you don’t even have to be a rock bottom.

Rachael: Right.

Susan: You could just be sitting on that back burner, and not even realize you’ve put yourself on the back burner.

Rachael: Totally. And when I look back on it, you know, and just being honest here, I think that I was so frustrated because I always felt like I was just a mom. And I hate that thing because we’re so much more than that. Women, like, we are designed and put on this earth, yes, to be mothers. And it is an amazing opportunity to be a mother. I’m so blessed that I have it. But I also just, I felt bad for a long time for wanting to be more than that. And it was not okay. It took me many years to realize like, it’s okay for me to want to be a mom, but something else too. And because I had kids when I was so young, I think I never really got to develop that other side. And so I’m so thankful to be you know, that I’ve done the work, which is a lot that you’re going to, you know, you’ll do the work in this guidebook. And to just get to the point where I’m at now.

Susan: Absolutely. Well, and as a mom who had a child, when she was a little bit older, and we had infertility struggles, so on top of that, I finally became a mom. And then I was like, “Oh, is the rest of my life over? Is everything that I just did these last eight years, you know, in my professional life and in my social life and everything else, is that totally gone? Is that or not because now I’m a mom and that’s all there is, like, am I over?” And I think once you get out the newborn stage, because that’s a whole other stage in itself, and once you get on the other side of that, having the opportunity to kind of take some time to explore for yourself is really something that I think everyone should do.

Rachael: Totally.

Susan: Because you have changed, and I don’t think it’s a bad change, I think it’s a good change. I think it only enhances who you are as a person. But I think you need to go back and remember who you are as a person too. And I think that that’s hard.

Rachael: Yeah, and that’s what this guidebook does, it’s just kind of remind you. And maybe it’s not even a reminder, but it’s like discovering something new. And that’s what I think that I did i discovered something new about myself and my ability to go in a different direction or you know, I never thought that Selfish Mom would get to this point ever. And I mean, maybe it’s a reminder of who you were, and you can take those little nuggets back into this new life of being a mom, or maybe it’s just discovering something completely different, which is okay too.

Susan: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that is so well said. One of the things you and I first talked about when we first met, I’ll never forget, we were sitting in a coffee shop. And you were talking about the importance of vision boards. And at the time, I had just finished my very first one that I had ever done, because my own business coach had encouraged me, “Hey, you’re starting this new thing, this would be a great way for you to really visualize what you want to do.” And I know you’ve done some vision board workshops in the past. I’m sure you have some that will be coming up. I know in December, I think you did one or you talked about doing one online. Can you share a little bit about what your process is for vision boards? I know you love getting out the magazines and cutting and all of that type of stuff. Share with us a little bit about what that process has looked like for you.

Rachael: Yes, I’m a big believer in vision boards, or just in general finding vision outside of motherhood. I do the old school but I also do the online version and I you know, save that and it’s like the backdrop on my computer or my phone, places where I’m looking at randomly throughout the day. But I also think that finding vision is a process. And it’s one where you need to really just get quiet and you know, do some prayer, do some journaling, meditate, really finding out where you want to go.

I have a whole, you know, if you go on my website, selfishmomproject.com under the shop, I have a vision board course that is out. It’s seven modules, it just kind of goes through all of my steps. But one thing we talked about a lot, and this has really just come up for me in the last year is finding your vision in the season that you’re in. So I have three kids, all of them are in different seasons, and just really being open to you know, where can you fit in that vision? You know, if I’m struggling in the preteens and I’m struggling in the potty training, you know, my time is going into all these different people, I still need to make sure that I’m finding that course of vision in my life. And we’re doing the steps that it works through. So we go through a whole big long process.

At the end of this month, we’ll have in a Selfish Mom Project, the Facebook group, so if you’re not in that, go request to join, we’ll do an online vision board party, that’ll be like a virtual thing. They will just kind of go over my process and how to create the vision board online so you have that. But it’s just important for moms, I think, to find a way to have something outside of being a mom, whether that’s finding a hobby. A lot of my clients talk about how, like, I don’t even have a vision. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, we’ve got to start from the very beginning, we’re starting at zero, then what do you like to do?”

Susan: Yeah.

Rachael: What do you feel like you’re good at? And I would say that is 70% of my clients and people that come to me say that they don’t even have a vision, they don’t even know where they would start with a vision, or a vision board. And so that’s what we do is we start at ground zero and just making a list of every single thing that you like to do, or things that you want to do even, just creating a bucket list is basically what it is.

Susan: Yeah, and it’s one of those things, I think there are times where…And I don’t know how this happens. But I have put things on a vision board that I didn’t even think would even be possible. It’s something that is like, some of the things are like, obviously very, very obtainable. And then some of them are kind of pie in the sky like, best case scenario, this is what’s going to happen.

Rachael: Right.

Susan: And it’s funny how everything on that board, every little image, every little saying, every little word that you put on there might not happen. But the things that do happen, and once you start looking at and go, “Oh, wow, that happened this year. Oh, wow, that happened this year. Oh my gosh, that kind of happened too.”

Rachael: Right.

Susan: It’s really crazy. And it’s almost like this weird, you’ve really sat down and you’ve thought about it, you thought it out. And then you’re really putting it, I think, on something tangible like paper or putting it on your computer and then even printing it out. That’s what I do. I do mine in Canva and I have all these images, and then I print it out and I physically frame it and hanging on the wall for the year.

Rachael: Yes.

Susan: And it’s just like this constant reminder of this is what you want, this is where you want to go. And it gives direction I think, especially on days where you feel like you’re kind of lost, or you’re just like not wanting to do it.

Rachael: Totally. And I think, you know, a lot of times what I tell every single client when we are doing vision, you know, we’re working on creating vision is that it’s okay if it doesn’t…Like, you really just need to be open to what could happen. There are plenty of things I put on my vision board that didn’t come true. But because they didn’t come true, I’m so blessed they didn’t come true because I got other amazing opportunities that did become available to me. For example, one year I put that I wanted to buy a gym and I found out I was pregnant four days after I did this vision board. And I was like, “Well, that’s probably putting a lot on my plate for next year. Like, that’s not going to happen.” But what did happen was that I was able to create a community and The Selfish Mom Project. You know, it was just I’m so thankful. So you’ve got to understand…So that’s why I talk a lot about, like understanding your seasons, and just really like giving this you know, up to the universe, up to God, whatever your higher power is, and working in alignment with that.

Susan: Yes, that is a great way to put that, “working in alignment.”

Rachael: Yeah, because we can’t do it on our own. And it’s really the stigmatism that’s been placed on moms that we have to do it on all on our own. We’ve got to be everywhere, do everything, you know, I’ve got to be able to snuggle you and wipe your nose. And then at night, I’ve got to figure out how to be a sex goddess. And maybe I don’t want to be either one of those things that day, right? You know, you can’t do it all on your own. And sometimes it’s asking your tribe for a lot of help. And sometimes it’s really just releasing that up to a higher power and being like, “I need help, like, what is next?” And that’s really gotten me through, you know, those two things, and just have really gotten me through a lot of really hard and bad times and made me been the ones that cheered for me through the great times.

Susan: And I think that that thought right there, “what’s next?” I think there are so many people who are coming into the 2020 and that is the very question they’re asking, “Okay, here I am. I want something to happen this year, I don’t even necessarily know what it is. So what’s next?” And I think your guidebook would be a great place to start. What are one or two other, for lack of a better word practices, that you might encourage women to think about taking on in this new year to help along with that guidance?

Rachael: So, two of my favorite things that I’ve been doing for years, even before I started Selfish Mom Project, I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always kept journals, and two things that I think…And the guidebook you do this you know, we do this every day. And I tell the readers and my clients to do this every day because this works, and one of them is a gratitude list, so finding gratitude every single day. I cannot tell you how important that is in the times of stress, overwhelm, anxiety. You know, when you have a kid that like won’t for the life of him won’t poop on a potty, I’m just thankful I guess, that I have hardwood floors. We forget all…We’re so focused as a society about looking at the comparison and it’s a such a thief of joy. That statement should just be tattooed on all of us, especially in the mom world, but just finding gratitude in like the simplest things ever. We have clean water. There are people out there that don’t even have that as an option. And there are people out there that, you know, I was joking about the stress of moving, but there really are people that like don’t know how they’re going to find a new house or where they’re going to live and they can’t afford it. And I try to always go back to…I do my gratitude first thing in the morning while my coffee is brewing, there’s a little notebook next to my coffee maker. And that’s where I start my day, and is in gratitude.

Secondly, the second thing that I think that every mom should kind of add in is I call it journal therapy. And it’s just spending 10 minutes writing down your thoughts every day, and it doesn’t…I say 10 minutes because I would say on an average day, I write for, I would say, 5 to 10 minutes. But I have talked myself through amazing things. I have literally written multiple chapters of different books. I’m that someday I’ll right, and I can go back through these journals. I’ve been angry in those journals, sometimes I cry in those journals, sometimes I just brain dump, but just allowing your head to completely empty all of its thoughts onto a piece of paper. Sometimes that’s cheaper. And it’s actually proven to be just as significant as actually going to a therapist. It’s just that second voice in your head, just letting that voice in your head all come out. And those have been like the two practices for me that I’ve maintained, and two practices that I think for any moms that you should, should start in this New Year.

Susan: I think that keeping the gratitude journal by the coffee maker or whatever that first thing is that you go to when you get up in the morning. Mine is also coffee. When my feet hit the floor, I’m just like, when the alarm goes off, I’m like just “Get to the coffee.” That is the first thought in my head every morning, just get to the coffee and then you go forward. And putting that gratitude journal by the coffee maker, I think is the smartest thing. I’ve never thought to do that. And now I’m going to do that because I also journal in the morning. And now I’m going to go stick it by the coffee maker just to get extra umph because I’ll be real honest, it doesn’t happen every day.

Rachael: Yeah, that’s okay if it doesn’t happen everyday, mine doesn’t either. I do try and plug into gratitude every day because someone’s usually irritated me to the point that I need to find it. And that’s the other thing too, you should never be under so much pressure that if you don’t do gratitude or journal every day, that it makes you feel bad about yourself. That’s not how this should ever go. The Selfish Mom Project should never make you feel like you’re not your best. It’s just something that if you can do it, and if you can really just take the…You might have to like find some pockets of time. But if you do find those pockets of time, you will feel better, like this process will make you feel better.

Susan: Thank you so much for saying that out loud, that you don’t have to do it perfect every day.

Rachael: You don’t and you’re never going to. I’m in no way… You know, I teach this but I’m so far from perfect. I still lose my temper. I definitely raise my voice. I’m definitely not a sex goddess and don’t make it to the PTA functions. I actually like, I’m in a season of saying no right now. And I highly encourage everybody to do that in 2020. If it doesn’t bring you joy and it doesn’t serve you in a positive manner, it’s okay to say no. You’re in no form required in this lifetime or any other lifetimes before after to be perfect.

Susan: All of the above. I’m just going to say yes to that.

Rachael: Yeah.

Susan: Absolutely. So before we wrap up today, I want to make sure that everybody knows where they can find your 60-day guide, as well as where they can find this vision course that you’ve got set up online for everybody.

Rachael: So the book is on Amazon and it is also on my website and anything that’s ordered through my website. I signed. So you’ll get your special little copy that way if you want a signed copy. The vision board course is also on my website, www.selfishmomproject.com and there’s also lots of fun swag all under the shop menu or the shop drop down that you can get a selfish mom t-shirt, you can get coffee mugs, wine glasses, start your day, end your day. Who am I to judge how you do that? So yeah, we have lots of…Everything’s available on my website and the book, you can also find on Amazon.

Susan: That’s great. And then they can find the Facebook group over on Facebook under Selfish Mom Project.

Rachael: So it’s just Selfish Mom Project. There is, I believe three questions that ask you. Just basically, it’s kind of my way of making sure that the people that are coming into the group are people. Real people, not robots, and that it’s a safe space for everyone.

Susan: Yeah. That’s awesome. That is awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today. This has been so much fun and such a great way to kick off the New Year. I will make sure to post all of those links over on our website so that they can get to you. If they didn’t have time to you know, if the listeners didn’t have time to write anything down. And great, I will talk with you soon.

Rachael: All right. Thank you, Susan.


Finding the Wild Inside, with Marilyn Kay Hagar


Marilyn Kay Hagar is an expressive arts therapist and dream worker. She is also, most recently, an author. Her book, Finding the Wild Inside, encourages us to discover that wildly creative, place inside that knows there is more to life than we are currently living. Our society begs us to look outward for life’s meaning and purpose, but our inner lives are the true source of that deeper knowing.

Links

Marilyn Kay Hagar – website
Finding the Wild Insidepurchase link
Instagram
LinkedIn
Facebook



Transcript

Susan: Well, Marilyn, I am just so excited for you to join us today on the podcast. And I have read your book, and I have so many questions and so much of it, oddly enough, has resonated with where I am in life right now. When I read the first half of Life and then into the middle part of Life, I was blown away. And then finishing it, I said, “Wow, there’s just so much that I have to look forward to, both good and hard, I think.” But before I just go all over the place and jump in. I want you to share with my audience a little bit about yourself and who you are.

Marilyn: Yes, well, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It’s just a pleasure to have this opportunity to talk and get my message out a little further than my little country home here up in Northern California. Most important things I want to say about myself, which may sound odd, is that I’m 74 years old so I have lived a lot of my life already. I was born in…Actually, my family roots are in rural Nevada. And I feel like those roots have kept me very close to the earth and very close to nature all my life. So I grew up in Southern California, went to school in Santa Barbara and college, kept moving north to the Bay Area, then moved way up here in Northern California to the little town of Mendocino about 40 years ago, and I’ve been up here ever since.

I raised my family here. I have three beautiful sons, and now I have four wonderful little grandsons. And so I am still working. I operate a creative retreat at my property in Mendocino at this point in time and do creative sessions with people. I still see a few clients and groups and workshops.

Susan: Yes, and I for sure wanted to dive in and talk a little bit more about that in a minute, but first, Marilyn, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is your first book.

Marilyn: It is my first book. And I’m very proud that at 74, I actually… I started writing my book seriously when I was 66. And it took five years of very intense writing and that’s something I surprised myself with. It was something I always wanted to do, but just didn’t find what it was I was writing about. I’ve done a lot of different writing. But yes, my first book at 74

Susan: Well, it is fantastic. And I am so glad that you put it out into the universe to share. There’s just so much that I identify with in this book with some of my own things that I’ve gone through in the past couple of years in creating this podcast, and why this podcast was created came from a time in life that was hard, and it was born out of something that was difficult. And this was the fruit of what came out. This was what was born out of that, I guess for lack of a better word pain. That sounds…It wasn’t as painful. But that’s the only other way I know to describe it and share with us. What is it that you most want readers to take away from this book because I have so many pages underlined. You talk a lot about flow and light and darkness within ourselves and not necessarily that light equals good and darkness equals bad. It just kind of is. I have been studying myself before I found your book, which I thought was quite fascinating, I found an old – he is older—an old Franciscan monk by the name of Richard Rohr, who lives in New Mexico. And so when I was reading some of your stuff from your book, I saw a lot of what I had discovered from him also coming from your perspective, and I thought your language choices were quite interesting. And when you said flow, I went, “Yes, yes, we are all connected in this way.” But I’m talking all about your book., I want you to share what you want us to know about your book.

Marilyn: Well, I’m actually really pleased to hear number one, that you read my book. Thank you so much for doing that. It’s really been a pleasure to me hearing how people are responding to my book. It came kind of wanting to gather the harvest of my own life after living all these years. I wanted to trace this thread of my inner life and cement for myself where it had taken me and of course, I mean, none of us enters the arts without some judge in there saying, “Why are you doing this?” or, you know, even, “who cares about your life, Marilyn?” And I just had to keep writing through that voice, knowing that we have so much in common. And in this day and age, that, to me is one of the most important messages that I hope people take from my book, that when we read about another person’s life, it triggers inside us similar processes, because we are not that different. In many ways, our differences are more on the surface, though we think that’s the whole story. So my book is about stepping beneath the level of the surface, and looking at that underground river that’s going on in each and every one of our lives and honoring that in a way that our culture doesn’t necessarily hold, as precious as I have found it.

I think, you know, in this culture, we are totally enamored with the light of the mind, our rational self. We want to look at everything and we want to examine it in detail. And we’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from doing that. But there is this whole other part of ourselves that exists in the shadows, in the twilight, and in the darkness. And rather than seeing things in all their tiny pieces, this other part of us wants to see them as a whole. And our rational mind would just soon say that other part of us doesn’t exist. But you know, like the stars that still shine in the daytime, even though we can’t see them, that part of us is there and it’s affecting us in every way. And when we don’t pay attention, we are living on the half of our human potential.

So that’s what I hope people take from my book. I hope that it brings a conversation inside themselves that the stories that I tell about my life and the suggestions that I make at the end of the chapters, to my expressive arts therapy suggestions to explore these ideas from this chapter in your own life, I hope that’s what people take, and that it’s an offering and a gift that we all understand how much we actually have in common.

Susan: I agree with that. And finding those at the end of every chapter was very helpful for me. I don’t think that naturally I would have gone to expressive art in order to see some things that I think I needed to see in my life. I’m very good about reading and rushing on to the next book, and not even always contemplating what I have just read. It’s more…It goes back to that intellectual, just the more information, the more information and then just the taking and the taking and taking, and not always contemplating what I’m taking in, if that makes sense.

Marilyn: That makes total sense. I think we all do that in this culture.

Susan: And I really appreciate that your way, or one of the ways that you help us walk through in your book is, this expressive art therapy to me, reminded me of a practice of some kind in order to get into that depth within yourself. I know that is your main practice. And I hope that’s an okay word to use. I hope that that makes sense. Do you have other practices out there? I felt like there were a few that you kind of talked about in the book. One, besides the expressive art therapy was also the time that you spent with Keith.

Marilyn: Right.

Susan: Would you share a little bit about that? Was Keith a specific therapist? Was he also an expressive art therapist? Was he like a spiritual director, or kind of all of the above?

Marilyn: I would say in some regards, it was all of the above but by certification, he was a psychotherapist. However, his therapy had a great deal to do with body energy. So it was a somatic body focus therapy. It wasn’t so concentrated on the mind and the stories we tell ourselves with our minds, but rather what is our body trying to say to us. And you know, to me this the same thing, the arts come from the body, we do them from the body. And I would like to talk— I won’t say that now. But I would like to talk about the accessibility of expressive arts therapy, like when you say, “I wouldn’t necessarily go there.” So let’s talk about that at some point.

Susan: Well, let’s talk about it now. Let’s go ahead and get into that. I would love to.

Marilyn: Okay, but I don’t want to forget to say the rest about Keith. So, I feel like we all get alienated from the arts in this culture because we think of them as product and performance. And very early in our lives, I mean, by the age of five, six, seven, it can happen that early, that we discover that through our natural expression, you know, little kids just scribble on the paper, they don’t care what it looks like, and their imagination is flowing with what it is, whether it looks like it or not. And then there’s a point early, early, where an adult looks at it, or a teacher looks at it and says, “Hmm, what’s that? You know, it doesn’t look like that,” or “do it this way.” And it all gets focused on this accurate expression, rather than of what you know, like if it’s a boat, how does a boat actually look rather than this purple, flowing thing out there somewhere in the blue?

We lose our ability and we also become shameful about our attempts to express ourselves with the arts. You know, we get in school, there’s a kid who has a natural ability to the draw, and the teacher gives that child a lot of attention, their thing goes up on the board. And we very early learn that maybe ours doesn’t match the teachers expectations or isn’t as good as someone else. And because it’s such an essential expression that comes from us as human beings, when we get pressed down about that, like we’re not good enough, this whole realm of shame around it evolves, and we just decide that we will give the art making ability or the music making ability or the dance ability to the gifted few. And when we cut ourselves off from that basic human expression, we cut ourselves off from so very much.
So that’s been what I’ve dedicated my life to is, we are all creative because it comes with being human. And much of what I’m trying to teach Is that it’s, it’s liberating for an adult who thinks they can’t draw to start doing it. And I was one myself. I didn’t come to this because I was always an artist or a musician or a writer. I came to it because there was something deep inside me that drew me to express in those ways, whether I felt I could do with it or not. And it has been a major gateway to my inner self. So I just would recommend even that very first exercise in my book to open a, you know, have an art journal, open the page and scribble on the first page, and just start. It doesn’t take talent.
Once I learned that the art I was making was more about what the art was saying to me than about what it looked like, it became this open door to my inner self. So that’s really, really important to me. And I just feel like when we cut off our artistic self, we cut off a playful part of ourselves, we cut off a spontaneous part of ourselves. We cut off looking at our lives as a blank piece of paper and what wants to go on it. There are just so many things that we don’t know we’re cutting off when we think we’re not creative. So that’s my little speech about that.

But I do want to go back to your question about Keith, because that was so important to me as a woman. I feel like in our culture, I don’t know how many of you women feel really comfortable in our own bodies and own our energy, our sexual energy as our own, that somehow it’s so connected to relationship and the masculine. And the whole images of what of our society of what femininity is, what we should look like, what we should act like, what it means to be “sexy.” All those things are so repressive to women. I don’t know how many of us really own that that energy is ours, and it grounds us in the world.

And that was the great gift of that therapy I did for many years with Keith. It helped me to use my body to understand first of all, you know, through body sensation. It’s not intellectual. It was like, you know, say a sentence, what does your body feel like? Is it hot, cold, tingling? I mean, physical feelings? And then beginning to understand, you know, when I was angry, where is that anger in my body? A gut level kind of thing, you know? So that eventually, through that work, I came to accept my own body, the energy and, you know, feel like my body actually communicates things to me that my mind doesn’t really know. And it’s back to that rational mind being the most important thing in our culture. Our body is rich with messages for us, but we don’t know how to listen to it.

So that was the main thing for me. And I think I say in that chapter about how we women live with this split in our sexuality, we either have this virginal aspect where we’re not supposed to be sexual, or we have the slut aspect where we’re too, too involved in that energy. And we’ve lived with that split for centuries and centuries and centuries. So it was so important to me to finally understand my own energy inside my own body and that it’s mine, that doesn’t belong to anyone else, but me. And I can use it however I want to use it and it can communicate with me and I can communicate with it. And it is what grounded means. So that was really an important time in my life.
Susan: That is beautiful the way you just said. If I’m understanding this correctly, it really brought your mind and your body back together as one, instead of separating them like I think we often do.
Marilyn: Yes. And what I didn’t say there is that—thank you for saying that—It brought my mind and my body, and once my mind and body were together, my spiritual self became a physical thing rather than an eerie thing.

Susan: Oh, wow.

Marilyn: It is like heaven and earth coming together. And this is the feminine spirituality that was also split many years ago in our very early origins. You know, when a woman named Anne Bearing wrote a book, The Dream of the Cosmos. And in that book, she talks about how when we humans move from a consciousness where the Great Mother was everything. She was the earth, the sky, everything to humans at that period of time back probably in the matriarchal times. We moved from that consciousness where the Great Mother was everything to a consciousness where a transcendent God became the maker of everything rather than being everything. Nature and spirit were torn asunder. And we’ve been living with that. And as women how that came out, because women, because of our bodies, because we give birth, because we are the creative force that comes through, we women got attached with the nature part. And as the spirit part, the mind part rose, there was a denigration of women and of nature and all that is unfolding.

And so when my body and my physical self and mind made this healing, the heaven and earth coming together, my spirituality just became whole and material. It wasn’t split anymore. And that was such an incredible gift to me, and many years in coming. I mean it, you know, it takes a lot of living life and being able to move enough out of the cultural message for we women to really experience that and I am so grateful for that work that I did at that time that helped me come to that.

Susan: Yes. And I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but it was the thing—and I don’t want to spoil the book. But you had something happened in life that almost force…And I don’t know if this happens to everybody, I have found that this is how I have found myself there as well. And it wasn’t the same thing. It was just the way 2016 just kind of rocked my world and in so many different ways, not just the most obvious but so many different ways that I think I was forced to rethink some things in life and spirituality—not spirituality, I will say church was one of those things that I had already come to some conclusions. And then because of that, I was almost forced to make more conclusions, if that makes sense. Was that what moved you to the second half of life ,was that one rocking moment, or did you feel like it was a combination of other things?

Marilyn: Okay, so I am not worried about spoiling my book.

Susan: Oh, okay.

Marilyn: I just want my message out.

Susan: Okay.

Marilyn: So I would like to hear what part you’re seeing as that.

Susan: Was it your divorce?

Marilyn: Yeah, yeah.

Susan: Okay. And that was the breaking moment you felt that kind of pushed you into the second half, or the second part of life. Is that…?

Marilyn: Absolutely.

Susan: Okay.

Marilyn: Absolutely. You know, what was confusing me was the earlier story in my book of when I began to question my own spiritual roots and training. And so by the time I was divorced, near the end of my marriage, I had gone back to school and gotten my master’s degree in psychology, and was working as an expressive arts there. So at that point in time, I had already taken the arts back as a way to communicate with myself. I had taken you know, my body expression back, so I had a better relationship with this non- rational part of myself than earlier in my life, the first part of my life was all about how those non rational parts were taken away from me through different ways. And then the second part of my life how I took them back.

So by the time I divorced, and it was a completely devastating thing to me. While I was very into my work, and my mission life, I had really dedicated myself to family. I just could not imagine that even though there were divorces happening all around me in that period of time, I think that’s lessening now. But I never believed that mine was going to end in divorce, even though it was a challenging relationship. Sure, when that happened, it was like a death. It was an ego death. But it was like dying. It was like having to reform myself completely. And be very honest and true to myself. The art in that section of my book, I think expresses the complete fury at the time.

Susan: Yes.

Marilyn: Yeah. And that there’s one drawing of this Medusa haired, snake hair in the background and this little policeman in the front with his baton trying to control this Medusa woman. And she was just so full of feelings, you know, that’s where I saw myself; so full of these huge feelings of betrayal and just absolute rage, not just anger, absolute rage. And the other part of me this little policeman person saying “You can’t have all those feelings. You have to not have that,” and he was pretty ineffectual. He looked kind of small there with his little baton trying to…Yeah. And so as much as I could use my art and my body and my connection to nature to help me through that time, all those things don’t make the pain not happen. They just placed them in a larger perspective so it’s easier to hold the suffering.

We all suffer in one way or another as humans. And to me, spirituality is finding a big enough picture of who we are and why we’re here and what we’re doing here on earth, and the natural world around us to hold us as we have these experiences. And my divorce definitely set me looking more in an inner way of who am I and why am I here and what am I doing? And I took that energy out into nature because nature had always been a magical mystical place for me and it was the only place I could see that could hold the really primitive feelings that were coursing through me at the time. You know nature has earthquakes, nature has fires, nature has storms and wind and nature is always giving birth to itself, but it’s also always destroying itself. And it just was an intuitive thing to me that that was where I needed to take this wild energy inside myself at the time, and going out in nature, hiking by myself, even though I hadn’t done so much of that as a younger woman, was just vital to my healing.

I had to come to understand that in the circle of life, things are born and things die. And you know, not only people, which we know, but it takes a lifetime for that to really sink in. And this feeling that something even as precious as my family life could end. It was kind of a removal of the innocence of my earlier life where I guess I was invested in only beginnings and birth. And I needed to come to terms with the whole circle. And unless we put ourselves in that circle of life and accept the comings and goings and the birth and the death and the beginnings and the endings, we don’t really find our belonging on this planet because that is an important piece. And again, it doesn’t stop the grief when something ends, it’s important to go through the grief. But when it’s held in this bigger picture, that’s what I hope people will take from— is finding whatever it is for them that holds the big picture of what we humans are held in.

Susan: Oh, that’s so good. That’s so good, because I don’t feel like it’s the same for everyone. And I think that’s a good thing too. We don’t all see it the same way. Something that I’m realizing as you’re as you’re speaking, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you were already very well connected with your feminine side. And it seems like the times that you grew up in, your younger years of the 60s and the 70s and the women’s movement and your work through that. It seems to me that once you went through your divorce that you really stepped back. And I love how you did it, you really went and found your masculine energy that was already there inside you. And you’ve reconnected with that.

Marilyn: Right.

Susan: I feel like I’ve done that as a woman as well, where I feel like we’re in a time…And sometimes it’s easier as like this pro feminine woman to like, take on all of that energy and put the masculine energy aside and say, “Oh, I don’t need that,” or “I’ll deal with that later.”

Marilyn: Uh-huh.

Susan: Talk to me about that. And what is your experience been? Because I feel like you could offer so much wisdom in that area because you’ve kind of been there and done it already.

Marilyn: Well, you know, you have to put my day back to growing up in the 40s, 50s, 60s. In terms of my younger life, the 50s you know, I was born in 1945. So women, you know,

Susan: Wow.

Marilyn: So traditional in the…Well, I don’t remember that much about the 40s since I was only five but it was so traditional.

Susan: I’m thinking the old life magazines are popping up in my head.

Marilyn: Yes.

Susan: Yes.

Marilyn: You know, and my mom did not work until I was in college. And then she did some substitute teaching and home teaching, part time teaching to help get me through school, but she had no relationship to money even. I mean, my dad made all the money. And of course, the Women’s Movement came and the 60s happened. And that was an incredibly challenging time and I was there in the feminist movement. Early on, I read the feminine mystique late in college, and I considered myself a feminist. And once were little when I was having babies and my kids were little, I was part of the National Organization for Women and I was organizing consciousness raising groups in Palo Alto.

And what I laugh at, and I think I have that in my book, at the same time, I was still ironing my husband’s shirt and doing all the cooking, but I was a feminist and I was going to change things. And it’s a necessary phase that I had to go through. But it’s been a lifetime of trying to find a balance between the masculine and the feminine energy inside of myself. And my divorce, you know, I had not at the time of my divorce. I had not supported myself with my own money. I married right out of college; within weeks of graduating from college. And I guess I did support…One of my saying, I did support my husband as he was going through medical school in those early years, but I then started having babies one year before he graduated from medical school.

So I hadn’t really, you know, established a firm career for myself until I was in my 40s. And then it was supplemental income compared to what my husband was earning. And so when we divorced, it was like a crash course in now I have to support myself, now I have to take care of this seven acre property of forest land that I live on. You know, now I have to be completely in charge of my life. And I still had a son at home for three years at the time of my divorce so that was also single parenting, although he was in high school, but you know, it was a crash course and all those things I had turned over to my husband to at least help with or do the whole thing of. And it’s an ongoing work in progress to keep that part of myself going.

And certainly writing my book is a big piece of the outcome of that because it takes really a lot of discipline and focus to write a book and I did stay with myself. The earlier me, I don’t think I would have been able to do that. But what’s so very important to me, is balancing the two because this feminine part of me, this woman who gave birth…One of the most precious experiences of my entire life, was being pregnant and giving birth to my children. And this deep understanding that our bodies have as women. And also knowing that I can be in the world and do the things in the world. I sometimes think that part of the women’s movement that I was most involved in, sort of turned on that precious part of being a woman, which I don’t think is where we want to be in the end. I think we want to be in a more balanced place where we have both of these parts inside ourselves and we’re honoring both of them. Because every human being I think, has a feminine part and the masculine part, including men. And men, you know, are often having to pull forth their feminine energy and we women are pulling forth our masculine energy. But I just so want us to be in balance with that rather than one or the other being what is taking charge.

Susan: I appreciate how you said that “honoring both.” I think it’s hard. And I think our culture doesn’t help with that, either for women or for men, at all.

Marilyn: Right. Indeed.

Susan: We’re constantly fighting it. If we’re men, we’re constantly fighting the feminine and if we’re women, we’re constantly…Or it seems to be. I could be totally wrong. But it seems to be that we’re constantly fighting whichever one we’re not. Or giving it…Or maybe even…. I mean, I grew up… I don’t live in the south anymore. But I grew up in in the in the south, I grew up in South Carolina. So even just giving over to the masculine and forgetting our feminine or taking the feminine back to the 1950s feminine, which maybe that’s not always a good thing either. Balance is a hard thing to find. Do you have any recommendations on finding that balance?

Marilyn: Well, I just think being conscious…You know, I don’t want to act like I’m someone who’s figured it out completely because I’m clearly not. In fact, in my women’s group last night, I was talking about this aspect. I am a work in progress in this regard. And in some ways I my life, I don’t think it’s a problem I’m going to solve in our culture.

Susan: Sure.

Marilyn: I think it’s ongoing work, but to be conscious about where my masculine energy is and how its functioning and to be conscious of where my feminine energy is and how its functioning. And for me, that consciousness particularly often comes in my dreams. We haven’t spoken about that part of my involvement. You know, our dreaming self, we go to sleep each night, we all dream. If we turn our attention to our dreams, they have fabulous messages for us. But they’re all in metaphor and symbol, and story, and they need to be decoded. And for me, I often use the arts because I think they all come from the same place. But I worked for many years with a dream mentor, Jeremy Taylor, who helped me a lot in the writing of my book. And unfortunately, he died a little over a year ago so he didn’t ever get to see the end product.

Susan: Oh, I’m sorry.

Marilyn: He was such a dear man and really helped me use my dreams. I’ve been in a dream group with friends for about 30 years, which is a really long time. We meet every other week, and each person shares a dream and the people in the group respond to that sharing of the dream as if they dreamed that dream themselves. So they’re not telling the dreamer what their dream is about. But saying “if that were my dream, or in my event, imagine version of that dream, this symbol would mean this to me.” And we can offer each other a great deal of information in that way because we all meet on this simple metaphor level as human beings. We all share that same pool, and can bring important messages to each other.

So I watch my dreams about what are the women in my dreams doing? What are the masculine figures in my dreams doing? And that gives me the closest watch. I’m hoping I’m explaining that. Like, one time, in my dream group I was having a dream that I was on a basketball court. And I was dribbling all over the court and I was so skillful. And I just was so impressed with my dribbling and I was going around people and it was just masterful, and I was so proud of myself. And I finished reading the dream and a man in my group said, “My God, take a shot.”

So here’s a dream. Where the feminine part of me, you know, was being very skillful in all her maneuvering around the court. But she wasn’t taking the shot. She wasn’t scoring, she wasn’t making that mark in the world. So you know, I might not have come up with that myself but having people to share your dreams with… Jeremy used to always say we’re uniquely blind to a lot of our own processes. And that’s how we can help one another and come together with one another to understand these things about ourselves. But that dream has just stayed with me forever because my creative, feminine self dreams up and imagines all these things and is involved in all these relationships with women and men and friends and all of this. But there’s also this point where you make your mark in the world, and the masculine energy inside me can take this feminine energy and make it happen in the world. So I dreamed up my book, I went deeply into my creative self to write that book, but it was my masculine energy that made it happen in the world, but it’s out there as a book now, is my masculine energy.
And, you know, there is a… I don’t know, I think that book is still available. Clarissa Pinkola, the SDS book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, her chapter on creativity, it’s one of those books that I have underlined. I have read that chapter so many times in my life that, and each time that… I read it, I’m at a different place in my life so I underline different things. And literally almost every line in that chapter is underlined.

Susan: That’s beautiful.

Marilyn: Because she talks completely about this feminine dreaming up and envisioning and creating and all of this, you know, in the darkness, and then the masculine energy brings it out into the world. So I would recommend that book, in particular, because there’s other stories. You know, she uses fairy tales, and then talks about the underneath message of the fairy tale. And she has another chapter in there that I think is vital for every woman to read about the blue beard story, you know, where we all have this predator inside of us, and we as women need to learn to deal with that.

Susan: Well, I will look into that for sure. And I will link that in our show notes on my website as well. And I want to be respectful of your time, but I don’t want to forget to talk about your creative retreat that you hold called, I believe it’s called “For the Joy of it.” Is that correct?

Marilyn: Yes, in the last 10 years, thank you for asking, in the last 10 years, in working less and carrying less of a weekly client load, I decided to open my property here in the forest in Mendocino as a creative retreat, and host people in rooms in the upstairs of my house. And for me, this is an individual retreat, though I on occasion, do a group thing. But for a person to come by themselves, step out of their busy life and take some time to look into their inner world. I have an art studio on my property. And while people are here, they can have sessions with me. There’s a labyrinth on the property. We do dream work. If people are into their dreams. I create each retreat uniquely to the person who’s coming. But that’s been a great joy to me at this point in my life. I’m enjoying it immensely.

Yeah, I get a connection with younger people who are really busy in their career life. And I get a lot of people from the Bay Area, so a lot of the tech people, and they just come up in the forest here and everything moves at a different pace. And it’s an opportunity to drop in and discover a deeper part of ourselves, which to me is our authentic self and what we really want directing our lives rather than some outward thing that we’re striving for. How are we being directed from the inside, to move forward in our lives. So that’s what I’m doing in creative retreats, and nobody has to be skilled in the arts to come try that. That’s my main message.

Susan: Well, I think anytime that you can disconnect… I can’t even imagine being in the tech world and disconnecting. But anytime any of us now, in today’s world can disconnect and get into nature of any kind is a phenomenal experience. And I cannot even imagine just how much more fulfilling it would be to be with you and with the wisdom and everything that you bring to this, because you’ve already done so much work within yourself. It’s in your book. I mean, what you have done just it just flies off the page and it just hits you in the face of this is important stuff. You have to take care of your true inner self and you have to know who your who your true self is…As well as I think Richard Rohr calls it your false self. I don’t remember I get so many I read I’m reading so much, I can’t remember who says what. And you may have actually refer to it that way as well. I can’t remember. But just the importance of getting to know your true inner self and who you are, and how to connect with that. And you put it so eloquently, and you share it so beautifully in your book.

Marilyn: Thank you so much. It means a lot to me that that’s how it came across to you. And you know, the other person I would recommend a book called Belonging by Toko-pa Turner, is really on the same wavelength as I am. It’s an excellent, excellent book, so I would strongly recommend that book. And I love Richard Rohr. I read his daily medications, actually. So…

Susan: Oh, wow.

Marilyn: Yes. The language, as you say, is different for each one of us, but the important thing is for each of us to find our own language and talk about it. And by the other people and the way they see it. I just see it as a diamond with all these facets, you know, and this person sees it this way, but the diamond is still the diamond.

Susan: Yes. That was a beautiful way to say that. Oh, my gosh, yes.

Marilyn: Yeah.

Susan: That is so… Oh, wow. Yes, that is, yes. Wow, that just blew my mind. But yes, the diamond is still the diamond. Wow. I’m gonna have to sit with that one a little while.

Marilyn: Well, to me, there’s the power of image right there.

Susan: Yeah.

Marilyn: Well, that image struck in a particular way. And that is beyond…When you say “I have to sit with it for a while,” that’s beyond the rational mind. That’s where it struck in some way. That is beyond the rational, that some something in there goes, “Oh, yeah,” you know, that’s a gut level response. And so much of my work is based on that. And when I’m working with people with art, the images that come out on the paper, whether they can draw it or not, in an accurate way, those images come out. You know, a woman who doesn’t have any art, for instance, you know, can just get the image out, communicate something deeper, then “I don’t know what to do with myself.” Our arms are the part that do things in the world. And so, how to get underneath is what the images are really about to me. So that was a great example. I’m so glad when it struck.

Susan: Yes. Well, I really appreciate your time today. And I really appreciate your work and explaining to us what you do as an expressive art therapist. And it sounds like you are still just very much involved in your own practice, in your own figuring out things in life. So it sounds like even at the age of 74, the work just never ends as long as you’re still living life, and it sounds like you are, you are in it. And I love that

Marilyn: I do not want to work to end, actually. To me, the world is a mysterious magical place, and I want to just keep discovering as much as I possibly can about the world and myself until I am on my deathbed.

Susan: I love that. Oh, this has been my audience is going to love this this conversation but this has just been so meaningful to me. I have been looking forward to this since the first chapter I read in your book, and I thought, this is going to be life changing for me. And it really has been. It was really funny when I looked at the back of it’s listed as a self help/inspirational book. And you know, I think sometimes we think of the idea of self help, and we’re like, “oh, another one of those books,” like, but inspirational is definitely…It’s not the regular self help like, here’s step one, two and three years, it’s very much a memoir. And it’s a memoir, plus you tell the story of your life. And then you give people opportunities, and you invite them in to experience their own life in a different way. And I just found that so helpful, so, so helpful. And I think everybody should pick this book up. In fact, I’m going to be… I’m very lucky enough to have the advanced reader copy, but I will be buying a few more myself and giving them as Christmas gifts this year.

Marilyn: Thank you so much. You know, it’s just been a delight…You draw the best of me forward. And that’s a wonderful gift of an interviewer.

Susan: Oh, well, likewise.

Marilyn: I’ve enjoyed it. Am I did I

Susan: Before I let you go, are you active on social media at all? I know you have a website and I’m going to direct everybody to go to that website. But is there anywhere, besides your creative retreats, is there anywhere else people can find you maybe other interviews you’ve done that I can point people to?

Marilyn: I’m on Facebook at Marilyn Hager author. I’m on Instagram at Marilyn K. Hager, author.

Susan: Okay, great.

Marilyn: My website, you know, definitely has more information about everything I’m doing and that’s marilynhager.com.

Susan: Great. Well, I will encourage people to definitely go and check those out and definitely pick up a copy of your book. I think it’s one of those things it is, you didn’t write it earlier in life. You couldn’t have written it earlier in life. But at the time in history where we are in life, I feel like it is so needed now. So I think it came at just the right time.

Marilyn: Well, thank you. I’m hoping that it’s…I needed to harvest my life and I needed to offer some things I’ve learned. So I hope it’s useful. That’s my main thing. And I hope it goes out in the world in a synchronous way. Like you say, it finds people just at the point in time in their life when that’s what speaks to them.

Susan: Well, thank you very, very much for your time today. It has been an honor speaking with you.

Marilyn: Well, thank you really, I’ve just enjoyed it immensely.

Susan: Okay, thanks so much, Marilyn. Bye-bye.

Marilyn: Bye- bye


What is Period Poverty? – with She Supply co-founder, Kathy Meyer

She Supply is unapologetically female with a focus on empowering women by providing the most basic female necessities to women in the North Texas area. The organization provides pads, tampons, bras, and underwear to their community partners on an ongoing basis to fill the gap where their resources lack. They serve homeless shelters, food pantries, and domestic violence services organizations.L

Links

She Supply –
Website
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Other resources from this episode:

 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-menstruation-usa/even-in-the-u-s-poor-women-often-cant-afford-tampons-pads-idUSKCN1P42TX

www.povertyusa.org/facts

www.legalmomentum.org/women-and-poverty-america

www.period.org 


Transcript

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.

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