Three years ago, I started WhyWhisper Collective, a strategy & marketing firm focused on social impact. Today, I work alongside my incredible team members to empower innovative business and nonprofit leaders to address social, economic, and environmental issues. We believe doing good is mutually beneficial to everyone involved: companies, employees, and communities.
How did your past experiences (school, work, childhood, family etc.) help you get to where you are today?
When I was 20 years old, I lost one of my dearest friends, Cassidy, in a car accident. At the time, I was working an internship in luxury fashion while also attending NYU. The hours were long. The pay was nothing. The culture was competitive, and far too many conversations centered around buying the latest (cost-prohibitive) style, or losing another 10 (or more) pounds. I kept telling my friends and family how disheartening it was; how much I wanted to do something that I felt mattered; how trivial it seemed for me to focus on selling clothes when people were dying, starving, sick, or abused. To this, I was repeatedly told that they weren't sure what I was looking for, but I would have plenty of time to find it. They told me it was important to stay and build up my resume, and that I should be grateful for the brand name opportunity. When Cassidy died, my world changed. I couldn't stop questioning how someone so full of life, with so much to offer, could be here one second and gone the next. I became consumed by my grief. And while I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to do it, I was determined to live life on my own terms, to make the most of my every moment. Over the years, this way of thinking has helped me leave toxic relationships, jobs, and clients. It's led me to adopt (many) dogs and cats. It's motivated me to start my own company. It's pushed me to talk to a stranger in the dog park, who ultimately became my life partner. And it has served as my mantra when funds have been low or circumstances have been challenging. The way I see it, life is hard enough. Everyone is struggling with something. But every day that we wake up, we have the opportunity to make it easier -- both for ourselves and for those around us.
Do you think you want to start other businesses in the future or do you want to keep growing this one as long as possible? What is the dream?
For the past few years, I've been very focused on how business can be used to support people, as opposed to people being used to support business. Since I work in a consulting role, I have a broad range of experience across industries, and many ideas for how we can use business as a force for good. In the future, it is very possible that I could pursue one, or several of these ideas. But for now, I'm focused on making WhyWhisper Collective the best that it possibly can be.
Someone once said that you can’t tell your big dreams to small minded people. Do you believe that it’s a true statement? Why do you think that people close to us don’t often believe in our dreams / don’t understand what we are trying to accomplish?
Growing up, we're told by our families, our communities, our friends, and our media that certain things are of value. Maybe it's a job, or financial status. Maybe it's having children. Maybe it's travel and experiences. Maybe it's education. Maybe it's power and appearance. Whatever it may be, these things are different from person to person, family to family, culture to culture. As we grow up and develop our dreams, we choose which values we keep, and which ones we leave behind. When I seek advice or approval from someone, I've learned that I need to be very conscious of what that person values. If they value something different from what I do, or they make decisions based on different criteria, it's very likely that their opinion and/or their advice will not apply, or only partially apply, to me. If I choose to ask them anyway, I try to insulate myself, to take the advice that I feel will help me meet my goals, and let go of that which won't. Someone once told me to always ask for actionable advice for my business, not for advice on my choices. In following that, I've been able to learn valuable skills and protocols while protecting myself against self-doubt, and still staying true to my own path.
What does success mean to you? What does it mean to “be successful”? Can it ever be fully achieved or is it something that comes and goes?
About a year after I set out on my own (so two and a half years ago), I felt like I was really struggling. On paper, everything looked fantastic. I was running a financially healthy company with strong profits. I was working with passionate, talented, and reliable team members. I could technically make my own schedule.. so what was wrong? At the time, it was really puzzling. I started to get really down on myself because I thought something was intrinsically wrong with me, that perhaps I was wired to be dissatisfied. Then I had a moment of serious clarity. I realized I had set out to launch a company that differed from the status quo, but I was judging it by status quo success metrics. I sat myself down and thought hard about what it was that I really wanted -- not what I had been told I should want, not what I read about in newspapers or saw on award shows, but what I wanted. And I put together my own set of success metrics. In doing so, I realized that focusing on profits actually depressed me. They weren't what I was after. As long as I was paying my bills, and working with clients that I believed could create real change, I didn't care if our revenues were increasing year over year or if we were working with big flashy names. It was about quality, not quantity. I also realized I had been working too much, and in a manner that wasn't conducive to my well-being. As a result, I set limits on the number of meetings I could take each day, and strict rules around work hours and work-life balance. Today, my success metrics are as follows:
Every Friday, I set aside 15-30 minutes to answer the above questions. If I answer no to any of them, I put a plan in place so I can address the issue during the following week. Over time, I know my needs may change, at which point, so will my metrics. That said, they will always be personalized. They're my definitions of success.
Why did you become a member of Dreamers //Doers? How has the D //D community contributed to the success of your entrepreneurial journey?
Too often, I think our society uses fear as a motivator: fear of having too little money, fear of going down the wrong path, fear of criticism... I joined Dreamers // Doers because I was actively looking to combat my fears, to motivate myself with positivity, passion, and encouragement, each of which is in high supply in the Dreamers // Doers community. Both as individuals, and as a group, they are actively focused on empowering women, and I greatly benefit from tapping into their collective experiences, opportunities, and wisdom.