The Future of Travel: “Personalization will be key” with HomeAway’s Ajay Waghray

Expectations from customers will get higher: they’ll demand the right experience at the right time, and it will need to be seamless. Personalization will be key.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ajay Waghray, a senior product manager at HomeAway, part of Expedia Group. Ajay and his team focus on developing products that help travelers have amazing experiences when shopping, booking and staying at vacation homes around the world. Joining HomeAway in 2012, Ajay and his team have been instrumental in developing the e-commerce and mobile experiences for HomeAway and Vrbo. The HomeAway and Vrbo mobile apps are among the Top 20 travel apps in the App Store and Google Play store.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My love and curiosity for technology started when I was a kid. One of my hobbies was taking apart the family computer — I messed with graphics cards and performed unnecessary software upgrades so I could experience the latest and greatest updates. The computer was often out of commission during some of my experiments, but it really stoked my fascination with technology.

I graduated from engineering school the month before Steve Jobs announced the very first iPhone. I felt like the world was about to change — and it did. Today, I work as a product manager for HomeAway on the mobile team. I love that product management marries technology and design to create experiences that customers really love: every day I work to make that little rectangle in your pocket more useful and fun.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

When I first started at HomeAway, lots of people in my life told me that mobile would never become a “thing” and that I should focus on desktop web apps instead. I wish I could tell you that only happened once! Today across all industries, there’s much more focus on disruption and how new waves of technology can be used to create the best customer experience possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, I was asked to present some fairly complicated material to hundreds of people at a company-wide meeting. The problem was I hadn’t had that kind of experience yet. A combination of feeling very nervous and unprepared made my sweat glands go into overdrive — our chief product officer later told me it looked like I had run a full marathon in the Texas heat.

In our line of work, they say having a plan is less important than planning itself. Now I make it a point to be very prepared every time I have to step up to a mic.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think HomeAway is unique in that the scientific method isn’t just a tool we use: It informs everything we do as an organization. We’re always trying to understand our customers by marrying qualitative insights with quantitative data. We run all the traditional tests: A/B product tests, customer surveys, usability tests… we even collect behavioral and biological data in our Innovation Lab, where our team of scientists use neuroscientific research methods to work with volunteers to find out which parts of booking a vacation are frustrating and how we can make them better.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

It’s a marathon, not a race. When I first started out as a product manager, I wanted to prove myself by making everything happen all at once. What I didn’t realize at the time is when you’re trying to do everything, you’re really doing nothing. Anything good takes time and effort: when you’re busy burning yourself out, you don’t have enough in the tank for what lies ahead. Investments in the future take time and making sure you’re investing in yourself and understanding that is one of the most important things you can do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people that helped me along my way. If I had to pick a few, I’d start with my parents. They came to the U.S. to get a great education and to give me and my sisters a better life. They taught me the value of hard work, grit and remembering to have fun along the way! I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.

An honorable mention would also go to Tim Ferriss. I read “The 4-Hour Workweek” on the flight back from a trip with my family in India while I was still working at my first job. I still remember that chapter about quitting and following your passion. After reading that book, I walked into my boss’s office first thing Monday and quit. Best thing I ever did.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

We are always thinking about what new technologies and experiences are going to disrupt our industry over the next ten years? What expectations are going to change from our travelers as a result? In travel and hospitality I’d boil it down to four core innovations: adaptive experiences, virtual assistance, group travel and augmented & virtual reality.

The rise of mobile devices has truly changed the way we have to think about building products today. Because there’s only so much real estate on a small screen and customers interact with you in small micro-moments, machine learning has to be an integral part of our products. Customers don’t have patience for brands that treat them like a first-time visitor. And now you have a limited amount of space to interact with them. The great thing is that machine learning allows us to provide that just-in-time experience that adapts to your needs, wants, and preferences on mobile devices in a way that wasn’t possible before. We view that as a huge opportunity to invest in.

Virtual assistance is also critical in a world where mobile devices and voice are fast becoming the primary way customers interact with technology. Devices like mobile phones thrive in cases where you can provide simpler input. And voice is one of the simplest of inputs, but the bar is very high. Investing in this space we believe is the key to creating those great travel and hospitality experiences of the future. Imagine you could book a boat rental at the lake house you’re staying at by asking Google Home! That’s the experience of the future.

Trips with your group are precious moments for you to spend time with your loved ones. Planning that trip can be a real hassle though, and we believe it’s our job to make that process as easy as possible. Our focus is to deliver products that really help make that as painless and fun as possible. We actually just launched a collaborative trip planning tool that allows folks to like and save properties they’re interested in, then share the list with their family or friends, who can then vote on their favorite properties and add comments. We call this new tool Trip Boards.

Finally, virtual and augmented reality have a special place in travel and hospitality. They provide our customers with ways to experience their future and past trips that were not possible before. HomeAway is already leveraging some of this technology through virtual tours: an increasing number of the properties on our site include 360 degree immersive walkthroughs that provide more depth and clarity about a home, allowing travelers to look before they book.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

Travel is a very personal experience for connecting with loved ones and experiencing new things. We believe these innovations address various pain points in the shopping experience: everything from helping the group pick a rental that makes everyone happy to experiencing a property before you make that huge purchase through a virtual tour, all the way up to knowing everything you need to know about the place before you book and having everything you need for your stay through the help of a 24/7 virtual assistant.

Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?

  1. Expectations from customers will get higher: they’ll demand the right experience at the right time, and it will need to be seamless. Personalization will be key.
  2. Travelers are going to expect best-in-class recommendations from travel companies: brands who don’t come armed with excellent advice will lose credibility fast.
  3. Travelers are going to expect better tools to help make planning a big group trip easier and more fun.
  4. Travelers will expect these experiences to work seamlessly on any platform they are using. Thinking cross-device will have to be even more of a priority as new devices become available.
  5. Life is going to happen; plans and life situations are going to change. As travelers increasingly expect more personalization and customization, they will also expect more flexibility that mirrors the way they live their lives.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

One of my favorite things for my wife and I to do is experience cities and cultures by being in the heart of things. That means walking around, ducking into cafes and restaurants without a plan, experiencing art and architecture in different neighborhoods and seeing how people live. We also enjoy the outdoors and lately have been looking for more opportunities to stay in vacation homes that allow us to “nature bathe” and truly decompress.

Some of this may change when our son is born in June. I think that’s part of the fun and challenge in travel: the way you travel changes as your life changes.

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Working in travel is meaningful because at the end of the day, you know that the work you do helps people connect with their loved ones and find a place that helps them enjoy traveling together. I’ve also helped people on the other side of our business: homeowners who use vacation rental income they earn on our site to pay bills, enjoy retirement or even send their kids to college.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, I would start one around creating simple, easy and effective ways to make a positive impact when you travel. How can you help the people in the destination that you’re traveling to live a better life? How can you leave the place you’re traveling to better than you found it? How can you reduce your impact on the environment when you travel? I think that would be an amazing movement to participate in.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Twitter @ajaywaghray, but I mostly post on Instagram and Medium @ajaywaghray. Would love to see you there!

Thank you for these great insights!


The Future of Travel: “Personalization will be key” with HomeAway’s Ajay Waghray was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“Educate: giving education on a topic you’re knowledgeable about is a sound way to drive traffic…

“Educate: giving education on a topic you’re knowledgeable about is a sound way to drive traffic to your business” with Brenda Schamy and Candice Georgiadis

Educate: Social media has become a go-to source for education, giving something of value to your audience like education on a topic you’re knowledgeable about is a sound way to drive traffic to your business, educate them on your brand, and make you a credible authority in the space you want to build.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brenda Schamy, a founding partner at DiSchino & Schamy, PLLC. She practices a blend of litigation and transactional work. Brenda concentrates her practice in the areas of entertainment, hospitality, branding, startups, and general business dealings. She skillfully uses effective negotiation tactics and creative solutions to further her client’s interests. Brenda, an active entrepreneur, has been a business owner for many years, owning both brick and mortar and online businesses in the fitness, music, and travel industries. Due to her extensive entrepreneurial experience, Brenda understands the different issues and challenges that businesses face. Her entrepreneurial ventures have taught her valuable business management skills and how to be a strong, out-of-the-box thinker, which has allowed her to actively anticipate the needs, concerns, and opportunities of her clients. Brenda excels at looking beyond the legal scope of business and working closely with clients to actualize their goals. Born in Argentina, Brenda is fluent in Spanish and English. She received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami. Prior to founding her own law firm, which subsequently merged to become DiSchino & Schamy, PLLC, Brenda was a Miami-Dade Public Defender. She is comfortable in a courtroom and is always ready to fight for her clients’ interests. Having a passion for travel, Brenda feels privileged to have the opportunity to work with international as well as domestic clients from all over the United States. Helping people connect and working with creatives is where Brenda thrives.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, as a kid everyone assumed I’d become a lawyer because I was always about what was just! Having been an entrepreneur my whole life owning all types of businesses in the fitness, travel and entertainment industry and growing up as a dancer it was a natural progression that I would combine both the law and my passion for creative industries into one.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

I’ve been fortunate to interact with social media as a lawyer, business owner and consumer. As a lawyer on behalf of my clients negotiating deals for clients as well as brands, advising on FTC regulations, protecting content and more; as a business owner interacting with influencers for marketing, brainstorming and executing strategy, and creatively creating content (that’s a mouthful!); and finally as a consumer, I’ve watched social media affect how we consumer products, services, and how it affects our daily lives. Having interacted with social media from so many different ways has given me some insight others may not have.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

That’s a tough one! I worked in criminal defense before opening my own law practice, so I’ve had some wild stories when visiting jails! More recently, I’ve gone to see some of my music clients in the studio and may have ended up doing background ad libs on a track or two!

Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Interact with your audience: Interact with your audience and get to know what they like what they don’t like, what they want to know, what the care about, etc. One of the most valuable things about social media is the immediacy of information and answers from your target audience.

2. Familiarity: a psychological phenomenon that claims that people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Social media allows you to get your brand in front of your audience several times therefore causing this familiarity effect so that later on this brand seems familiar to them and therefore prefer it.

3. Educate: Social media has become a go-to source for education, giving something of value to your audience like education on a topic you’re knowledgeable about is a sound way to drive traffic to your business, educate them on your brand, and make you a credible authority in the space you want to build.

4. Use it to network: Use it to network with strategic partners. Social Media allows us to reach out to people and companies that we may not otherwise have access to. Know your audience and think of it as the world’s largest professional happy hour.

5. Marketing: As simple as it sounds, use social to market your business, expose your brand. It allows you to reach an audience that you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise, the amount of money required to reach that type of audience on another medium is near impossible (i.e. a $5 Million dollar commercial for the super bowl which is viewed by only 98 Million would get you 1.7 Billion, with a B, impressions on instagram.)

6. Call to action: Using your social media audience you can get your target market to do certain things, things as simple as repost to broaden your network, come to an event, raise awareness about a cause, or even promote your company!

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think education is fundamental. Not in a conventional sense but real-life education changes lives.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Probably Jay Z or Kris Jenner. Their mix of entertainment, culture, and business is admirable.

Thanks for all of the great insights!


“Educate: giving education on a topic you’re knowledgeable about is a sound way to drive traffic… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Keicia Shanta and Candice…

How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Keicia Shanta and Candice Georgiadis

Being a social media maven is a full time job! Be sure to respond back to comments on your page and also to engage with others online as well.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Keicia Shanta , Fashion Editor at FashionCrushWeekly. Keicia Shanta began covering fashion and style events before the “social media influencer” was a thing. Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama , she knew that fashion blogging was a new profession that people from her hometown knew absolutely nothing about. With a drive to cover street style fashion from New York to Paris she found her calling. Keicia Shanta began writing for a lifestyle website and that quickly transferred into her creating her own blog FashionCrush. Luckily for her local retailers hosted fashion previews and she fell in love. Keicia Shanta started to attend every fashion show Alabama had and that created an opportunity to attend New York Fashion Week in 2013. That’s when she knew being a fashion influencer was real! Keicia Shanta realized she could make a career out of this without having to move to New York or Los Angeles. Now retailers began to reach out to her! Keicia Shanta and her in-house team began creating seasonal look-books for retailers such as Belk, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom to name a few. Keicia Shanta does seasonal style segments for TV networks such as Fox and ABC. Keicia Shanta loves working with up and coming fashion designers and has turned into a new role as Fashion PR and PR Director for Magic City Fashion Week in Birmingham Alabama.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always loved fashion and styling. It’s like second nature to me. I was the kid that grew up daydreaming a lot. I always made clothes for my barbies in looks that I wish my Grandma could buy me. Not having access to certain brands growing up it made me want to learn more and research the fashion houses from back in the day. I kind of became this walking encyclopedia of fashion designers and their creative directors. That’s when I noticed that fashion trickles down and retailers manufactured their looks off of what came down those runways. I could and can still till this day know off the top of my head who designed a certain dress without having to look at the tags.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

Of course ! Having access to exclusive events and fashion previews gave me a springboard to create a social media page ie. FaceBook , Instagram , Twitter that was curated with fashion news and style influence. With the rise of social media and the ability to go live from an event or fashion week became a game changer for me and countless others. To be able to reach our readers/followers with real time fashion show coverage and reviews made me an authority in my field , especially in BIRMINGHAM. Thus being able to show what was the next big seasonal trend and that quickly opened up a lane for me to style and work with some of the biggest retailers in the country. Also keeping abreast of new technology that allows me to track the metrics behind my social media provide much needed data to back up any campaign that i may be apart of .

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I can say by far the most interesting story that happened to me since starting this career was running into Tim Gunn. I began my career in fashion as a stage mom! My oldest child wanted to pursue a modeling career and being the vigilant parent I wanted to make sure my baby girl was dealing with reputable people in the business. Keep in mind the fashion industry was a non factor in Birmingham. So my daughter was booked to walk the Lucky Brand Jean fashion show and unbeknownst to us Tim Gunn was a consultant and stylist to the event. My daughter didn’t know who Tim Gunn was but when I saw him I was floored. I didn’t fan girl out but I had an amazing convo with him and it solidified any doubts that I had about pursuing fashion from a southern city.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made when I first started out was that I had to learn the hard way that not everyone shares your vision. It’s the funniest to me because I should have already known this bit of wisdom.

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

Instagram ! When it comes to Instagram VS Facebook , Instagram wins hands down. I had to learn early that having a cohesive, clear and concise Instagram account is a game changer when it comes to any type of marketing online. I am the research queen , and with that being said I always tell my younger influencers to always stay educated on the wave of what’s the next big thing when it comes to social media platforms. For example, I hardly ever do sponsored post unless I use a particular brand or service in real life. My readers wanted to know my skin care routine. So I did a simple Instagram story on my morning face routine along with tagging the company. In return their PR team reached out to me about doing a collab with them. I was able to increase my business revenue by securing a paid sponsorship , free product, plus a slew of new followers all by simply posting my skincare routine on my Instagram page. Plus I was already a consumer so it seemed organic and a natural fit.

Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

Hashtags are your bestie !

Hashtag and tag everything ! If it seems organic brands will come to you.

Cohesive Content !

Make sure your Instagram is cohesive in color schemes and filters. It’s most definitely a stand out.

Authenticity !

Be your true and authentic self. There is data to prove that people love real people. We have enough social media wanna be’s !

Clarity !

Be sure that your social media is clear and to the point.

Research !

You are never to old to learn! THIS is also for researching different brands that may reach out to you. Every brand collab is not a good fit.

Stay Active ! Stay Engaged!

Being a social media maven is a full time job! Be sure to respond back to comments on your page and also to engage with others online as well.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

That would be creating a more sustainable fashion industry and supply chain. Sustainable is a word that has become popular over the last year and for good reason. The fashion industry is one of the leaders in top polluters in the world plus we have an ugly history of paying people bad wages and un humane working environments. We only have one planet and we as consumers have to reduce consumption, hold our designers/retailers accountable on the front and back end.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have dinner with Fern Mallis ! She is the mother of New york Fashion Week and I would love to pick her brain on the future of fashion shows and if they are even relevant in this new digital age.

Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!

Thank you so much for including me !


How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Keicia Shanta and Candice… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Catherine Campbell and Candice…

How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Catherine Campbell and Candice Georgiadis

Leverage your content! Instagram posts should come FROM somewhere and keep going TO other platforms. Use existing website content such as product descriptions, customer testimonials, blog post excerpts and more to inspire your captions (you can even just copy and paste). After it’s published to the feed, publish your latest post in your IG stories to encourage more feed visits and interaction. Publish it to Facebook and Facebook stories. Make sure you have a social feed embedded on your website. Tag influencers or other brands mentioned in your post so they share it to THEIR audiences. Include your favorite post in your next email newsletter as an embedded graphic that clicks back to Instagram. Each post should be lifting 10x its weight. Make it count!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Campbell, director of strategy at Bright Planning, a national marketing and PR agency for eco-friendly and socially responsible brands. Since 2006, Catherine has created story-driven marketing strategies for a national clientele.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

No one in my generation said, “I want to work in social media when I grow up,” because it didn’t exist yet! When I started college, we had MySpace. But after I earned my BA and then my MFA in creative writing, I knew I wanted to tell good stories about good people in the world and realized very early on that social media would become one of the most powerful ways to do that.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

I’ve been in social media since social media was an AOL chatroom. But professionally, I’ve been working with social as a core business strategy since 2006. My agency has worked with clients of all sizes, from fast-growth startups to Fortune 500 brands to help them integrate social media into their marketing strategy and focus on not only growing fans but also engagement and customers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I think the most fascinating and exciting time has been watching Instagram grow from just another social platform into a huge revenue driver for businesses, including some of our clients. Where it was once just a place to raise awareness, now it’s THE place to sell, too. The growth rate is staggering.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I blindly used hashtags. I didn’t do the 5-sentences-long hashtag thing, but let’s just say I unknowingly used some hashtags that would you should never, ever look up. They would make Urban Dictionary blush. Always research your hashtags, people!

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

For B2C brands, we’ve seen a lot of revenue growth from Pinterest. For example, we have a modern office furniture client, StrongProject. Because StrongProject’s products are so visually appealing, we determined that Pinterest could be a healthy traffic driver for the company if we set up “office design inspiration” and office product boards and pins with detailed descriptions and longtail URLs (leading Pinterest browsers to a product’s detail page rather than the home page). Within the first 90 days, this strategy led to $132,000 in sales leads for StrongProject. Today, Pinterest drives an average of 2,000 unique visitors to StrongProject’s site each month, with an average viewing time of 5 pages and a 24% goal completion rate.but I think Instagram is catching up to this really quickly and will overtake that position this year.

Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Use Stories for real-time updates to keep customers happy and informed. Because it’s not a slave to the algorithm, IG Stories are one of the best ways to update your customers throughout the day about important things. We work with restaurants and services that have really improved their overall communications with customers by using IG Stories to post daily specials hours before each meal service, fire sales, inclement weather closings and even celebrity sightings or event opportunities.
  2. Save mental stress with a link app. If you have lots of content and website pages to share with your audience, use a link app like Linkt.ree so you have one link in your profile URL that serves as a master link: this link then opens up a “landing page” with your chosen links. You can even schedule these chosen links, such as limited-time sales pages or your latest blog posts, to auto-expire from the landing page after a certain amount of time so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of what was posted, what needs to be changed out, etc.
  3. Save hours with a scheduling app. It’s okay to post in real-time, but for busy business owners, I strongly recommend a scheduling app. Buffer should do the trick but if you have multiple locations (such as our restaurant clients), you may want to look at a more robust calendar tool such as CoSchedule.
  4. Separate curation from creation. It’s fine to go “au natural” on your IG stories and IGTV while posting in the moment throughout the day…in fact, your audience will love it. They want to see your company without fancy lighting, without makeup, without the perfectly positioned hand reaching for that cookie product or whatever. But when it comes to the feed, curation is queen. This is where it will help to give some thought and a few hours of monthly planning to your IG feed. Ask yourself, “What is the most important message that will bring value to my audience right now?”
  5. For captions, use the Goldilocks method. Captions that are too short can be perceived as too hip to care and withhold vital information, and captions that are too long look self-obsessed and indulgent. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, aim for the middle and get it just right: 1–4 short sentences, bullet line breaks if necessary, emoji sprinkled throughout, or a call to action at the end. For example, if you’re a skincare company, you can post a beautiful photo of your latest eye cream to the feed and use the caption space to educate your audience about one little known history fact about eye cream (which famous rulers used some version of eye cream to look younger and more powerful). Then apply appropriate hashtags, hit publish and sit back and relax.
  6. Leverage your content! Instagram posts should come FROM somewhere and keep going TO other platforms. Use existing website content such as product descriptions, customer testimonials, blog post excerpts and more to inspire your captions (you can even just copy and paste). After it’s published to the feed, publish your latest post in your IG stories to encourage more feed visits and interaction. Publish it to Facebook and Facebook stories. Make sure you have a social feed embedded on your website. Tag influencers or other brands mentioned in your post so they share it to THEIR audiences. Include your favorite post in your next email newsletter as an embedded graphic that clicks back to Instagram. Each post should be lifting 10x its weight. Make it count!

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My agency works with food brands and restaurants because food has always been an important and personal issue for me. More specifically, food security. The U.S. has too many food deserts and one of my goals is to raise awareness around food production and sustainability, reducing food waste and improving access to good healthy food in these deserts. We need to have this conversation so we can continue to innovate solutions. Fortunately, I think it’s starting to gain some traction on the scene.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have breakfast with Chrissy Teigen — she knows how to fight for something but while keeping a sense of humor. She’s a badass mom, public figure, and author. Want to know how to rule social? Study her.

Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!


How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Catherine Campbell and Candice… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “How to Make a Social Impact Wedding” with Lauren Grech

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “How to Make a Social Impact Wedding” with Lauren Grech and Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Grech. Lauren is the Co-Founder and CEO of LLG Events, an international event management and design firm specializing in luxury destination weddings and experiential events in New York City and worldwide. In just three years, LLG Events became a Forbes 30Under30 nominee for taking a $300 billion industry and generating philanthropic revenue; after being the youngest-ever company invited to the Destination Wedding Planners Congress, where 70+ countries are represented. Lauren is an adjunct professor for New York University’s upcoming Masters of Science in Event Management program, the first of its kind in the country. They have solidified partnerships with resorts and tourism boards across the globe, worth over $1 million in corporate-sponsored travel for 2019. Learn more at LLGevents.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

LLG Events was born unconventionally. Thinking I would pursue a career in Biology/Pre-Med, I went to undergrad at Binghamton University and then went on to earn my Masters of Science in Forensic Science at Pace University. Post-graduation, I became a Research and Development Scientist where I determined cause of death, ran toxicology reports and researched new drug testing technology for pain management clinics. Turns out, I hated it! I thrive in social settings, with dynamic people, and although working at the medical examiner’s office was extremely rewarding, it did not feel like I was making a direct impact and I typically worked alone.

I was working at the medical examiner’s office in New York City when my now husband, Paul, proposed! I began planning my own wedding and learning about the world of events. There was such a flair, it reminded me of putting on a show, and I loved it. It felt like going to the circus for the first time — when you see all these different acts, and everyone’s talent and coordination to pull it off, how could you not get enamored by that? It was a lifestyle that celebrated the happiest day of people’s lives and I wanted to be a part of it. So, I began planning my exit strategy from research and development, and started LLG Events, one month after I married my husband Paul. I told him about my plan and he wanted to be part of it, so we agreed to be business partners. We sat at my mom’s kitchen table thinking of a name and creating a business strategy. We agreed that our first step was to go back to the place where we got married and ask to shadow the Maitre D.

And so we went, working 40 hours a week at our “normal” jobs, and volunteering every Thursday and Friday evening when they had corporate or social events, and every Saturday and Sunday when they had weddings. Paul and I would be there for 32 hours most weekends, and learned everything we could. We worked every job — from barback to waiting tables to bridal attending to valet to bathroom attending, we did it all. We shadowed anyone and everyone we could, to learn every aspect of the industry. I knew that if we were going to be successful and respected, we needed to have exposure to every position.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Accepting an Adjunct Professor position at New York University for the inaugural graduate degree in Event Management. This honor still has me amazed, even to this day!

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

When we started in the wedding industry, there were not many creative ways to incorporate philanthropy into events. Once we were in a position to be able to volunteer our time and services, we pioneered the following initiatives that were creative, inventive and completely new to our industry. We used social media to raise awareness on each of our initiatives and discussed our involvement.

● LLG Pro-Bono Wedding — Each year we plan and execute one pro-bono wedding for a couple that puts a cause or their community above themselves. We work with other vendors looking to incorporate philanthropy into their business and who are willing to sponsor or donate their time and services to this couple.

● VOW Advisory Board Members — Our newest philanthropic initiative, VOW is a collection of products and services that directly raise funds and awareness for the Girls First Fund, which fights to end child marriage. Started by Dutch Princess Mabel van Oranje, we are spearheading this movement in our industry.

● Floral Repurposing — We use a company called Repeat Roses to repurpose florals post-event. This was not our company idea, but we promoted it! We met with the CEO of Repeat Roses to discuss ways of encouraging other vendors throughout the industry to use Repeat Roses and to promote their services to their clients.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Lauren and Marty Bruckner, our inaugural pro-bono wedding couple. This couple put off their wedding to dedicate their time to the St. John recovery efforts post Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria. When we told them we were helping them to afford their dream wedding by working with vendors that wish to sponsor their cause, it was one of the best days of their lives. On the actual wedding day, 100 of their family and friends came from all over the world to witness and be part of their celebration of love. It was also the last time Marty got to dance with his mother, as she passed away from breast cancer two months later. We then hosted a pro-bono brunch for the Breasties organization, raising money and awareness for this inspiring organization of young women looking to create a youthful community of survivors, thrivers, pre-vivors and care-vivers. It was at this brunch where we found our next pro-bono couple, Jillian and Max.

It’s safe to say that one miracle led to another, which keeps us inspired and continuing this tradition for couples for years to come!

Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

We knew how much this wedding meant to Lauren and Marty’s family. I’m not sure if this is too personal, but the day after the wedding, I went up to Marty’s mom to say goodbye. We both knew it was a final goodbye at that moment, and we just smiled, cried and hugged. She thanked me for giving her the best day of her life. When she passed, I received a beautiful thank you letter from Marty’s sister, one that brought the whole team to tears. They thanked us for providing them with their last amazing memories with their Mom. I knew then, that I had to continue my mission of helping other families celebrate love and life. Organizing one pro-bono wedding per year is extremely rewarding and a team project where everyone gets involved. It’s an event we all look forward to and this year we will be executing Jillian and Max’s dream wedding in October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

In regards to our involvement as VOW Advisory Board Council Members — we believe the best way to help end child marriage is to raise awareness and funding within the wedding community. VOW recently has created partnerships with Crate and Barrel, and The Knot, where the company gives back a percentage from a couple’s wedding registry. Additionally, we’re in the process of creating partnerships with bridal designers, hotels and more companies, discussing how they can raise awareness by having a VOW symbol or a ‘Donate Now’ button or using their social media platform in order to raise awareness. LLG has several ideas on how to incorporate VOW into the next bridal fashion week season, as well as their 2020 weddings.

Thank you for these great insights!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “How to Make a Social Impact Wedding” with Lauren Grech was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Clearly define your objectives.

How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Clearly define your objectives. Consumers follow brands that have a purpose.” with Evy Wilkins and Candice Georgiadis

Clearly define your objectives. Consumers follow brands that have a purpose. When an Instagram user decides to welcome a specific brand into their newsfeed, it’s because they feel like it adds value to their life on an ongoing basis. The last thing they want is to be inundated with advertisements or product offers. Being a part of their newsfeed is something that is earned over time and is a privilege for businesses. Setting an objective for your Instagram page is the first building block to cultivating a relationship with your audience.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Evy Wilkins, the VP of Marketing at Traackr where she focuses on connecting the company with its prospects, customers and community globally. She’s spent the last 10 years working with emerging technology companies to develop their brands, thought-leadership positions and demand generation machines. Evy has helped define the practice of authentic, relationship-driven influencer marketing that’s at the heart of Traackr’s technology. Prior, Evy worked in global biodiversity conservation and donor relations. A native of Minnesota, Evy’s lived in Europe and Africa. If she’s not doing the heavy lifting in the office, you’ll find her doing the same in the gym.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been interested by the intersection between business and our society. I spent the first phase of my career with non-governmental organizations, personally focused on communications and donor relations for international environmental groups. When I decided to transition to the private sector via graduate business school, I became fascinated by the evolution of marketing and how the practice has adapted, not only to new technologies, but also to new social norms. In the Mad Men era, marketing was one-sided and consumers, for lack of alternatives, received most of their information about products from the companies themselves. What I noticed 15 years ago was that organizations were starting to take stands on important issues in their marketing strategies–simultaneously highlighting shifting societal trends or even sparking them on their own. From my naturally optimistic perspective, the overall evolution of marketing has been for the better. I see the rise of influencer marketing as one example of how businesses are evolving to bring more honesty and compassion to the way brands impact our lives.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

At Traackr, I spend my days working with our amazing community of customers and thought leaders who are redefining marketing within their organizations. Together we are defining the future of social media and influencer marketing, tackling big questions on how to structure marketing teams internally to deliver results in a social media driven world or how to discover and validate influencers in the complex social environment. I also cowrote a book on influencer marketing ?.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I’ll share one of the more interesting professional social moments I’ve experienced. A few years ago, I was hanging out on Twitter in the evening and saw a tweet asking a question about creativity at work from Beth Comstock, who was still at GE at the time. I responded, thinking for sure she would not respond and to my utter disbelief, she did! We had a short Twitter conversation during which I felt like I was meeting a celebrity. I imagined Beth was sitting on a plane, jetting from one corner of the globe to another, responding to me! The interaction reinforced all that I love about social media — the ability to connect with people you have never met and have meaningful exchanges.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know if it’s funny per se, but the solution certainly was! I used to suffer intense imposter syndrome. I was afraid I didn’t know how to accomplish anything and that because I didn’t already know how, I would never succeed. One day in the midst of a minor panic attack, my partner said, “Come on, there is someplace we have to go.” He wouldn’t tell me where we were headed. Soon we pulled into a Target parking lot and we made our way inside. He still wouldn’t tell me what we were doing there. Eventually we stopped in the toy aisle and he picked up a Captain America’s shield and without a word walked to the cash register, paid and we left. Outside he gave me the shield and told me it would protect me from my fear of failure. I started laughing and realized how the problem was all in my head. I can’t say I’ve never felt imposter syndrome since then, but I certainly have the tools now to squash it.

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

It completely depends on your business challenge (e.g. awareness, education, sales), and which platform your audience is on. It’s less about which platform is most effective and more about what type of content and format will appeal more to your audience, as well as your desired action. If you’re evaluating social media when working with consumer products, social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitch are all potentially important. If you’re a B2B company, LinkedIn can move the needle.

Instagram and Facebook, for example, have a more obvious call to action in regards to promoting a product and convincing your audience to purchase. YouTube, on the other hand, is typically used to educate and show tutorials to an audience before making a decision to purchase a product.

At Traackr, we work with a variety of global brands across industries on building their influencer marketing programs. Luxury haircare brand amika, for example, worked with Instagram influencers who were great at photography and putting together educational content on YouTube when they relaunched their product line in Sephora. This ultimately drove the influencers’ followers (amika’s target audience) into Sephora to buy their products. This campaign was a great example of matching goals to the content to achieve it.

Guess Jeans has also seen a lot of engagement and mentions on Twitch, which is traditionally a platform for streamers in the gaming industry.

Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Clearly define your objectives. Consumers follow brands that have a purpose. When an Instagram user decides to welcome a specific brand into their newsfeed, it’s because they feel like it adds value to their life on an ongoing basis. The last thing they want is to be inundated with advertisements or product offers. Being a part of their newsfeed is something that is earned over time and is a privilege for businesses. Setting an objective for your Instagram page is the first building block to cultivating a relationship with your audience.
  2. Establish a voice. The foundation to creating a solid brand presence on Instagram is to have an authentic voice along with some great visual aesthetics. Instagram users are visual creatures. In fact, 94% of people respond more to content with more visuals. If you don’t have these basics down, the harder it’ll be for you to succeed.
  3. Tell a story over time. Each individual post should be thought out. If you want to have an eye-popping Instagram page, it’s important to treat each post as part of a unique story that will intrigue your audience. Ask yourself: what type of story can you tell over time? Without a story tied to your post, your audience will start to get bored if they start seeing the same content all the time, resulting in less followers and less brand visibility for your business.
  4. Be interactive. Instagram is more than just a social media platform — it’s a community. Many brands and consumers join the social media platform for a variety of reasons. From sharing ideas on what outfits to wear to bonding over memes, users are constantly interacting with each other within the subsets of their communities and with other brands. Thinking beyond your own content calendar by focusing on how to insert yourself into other conversations can have massive results for your brand visibility. There are eight million business profiles on Instagram’s platform with over 80 percent of accounts that follow a business, and being interactive on another brand’s page is a surefire way to get on others’ radar.
  5. Think outside of the box when it comes to influencer partnerships. Going back to amika’s Sephora relaunch, they found a way to think outside of the box on their influencer marketing strategy. By teaming up with beauty influencers who shopped at and talked frequently about Sephora, they were able to drive their target consumers into Sephora stores, which resulted in exceeded sales goals. It is also important to maintain an authentic relationship with influencers in the process. Oftentimes, many brand marketers make the mistake of working with influencers they have no relationship with on one-off campaigns that result in a lower ROI. Inauthentic influencer marketing or pushing influencers to do something outside their natural affinity is a guaranteed way to lose their audience.
  6. Diversify your influencer portfolio. An old assumption of influencer marketing is the more followers an influencer has, the bigger and better reach. However, this statement has proven to be false. Working with household names, celebrities or influencers on the basis of a high follower count is a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t deliver. Recognizing the value that each influencer has — no matter the size of their following — is an important factor when diversifying your portfolio. For instance, celebrity influencers with millions of followers can raise brand awareness, whereas working with micro, nano and mid-sized influencers is where you can achieve higher engagement and potentially conversions. Marketers shouldn’t put all their budget into one influencer, but instead spread out their content and partnerships to achieve a better ROI.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have three movements that I’d love to contribute more too. 1) Empowering women and establishing true equal rights. 2) Redefining our society’s relationship with food by helping people understand how nutrition impacts their health. 3) Inspiring people to embrace their creativity, try new things and solve tough problems.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Going back to my interesting social media story, I would love to meet Beth Comstock, talk to her about her work to empower people to embrace their creativity in the workplace and beyond; and explore ideas for how we can do even more to evolve the way people work and approach innovation.

Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!


How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Clearly define your objectives. was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Listen to your intuition. Your heart knows the way.”

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Listen to your intuition. Your heart knows the way.” with Larissa Lowthorp and Candice Georgiadis

Listen to your intuition. Your heart knows the way. Even if people say you can’t, or something is impractical, there’s something inside of us all that guides us to the right path. Be true to yourself. The times when I’ve forced myself to be logical, or to follow advice that made sense but went against my gut, are the times that I’ve been left unsatisfied or things didn’t work out the way they should.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Larissa Lowthorp is a design, entertainment and technology creative. She is the founder and president of TimeJump Media. In 2017, Larissa donated all of her belongings and hit the road with her beagle, her laptop and two suitcases of essentials to see what life had in store.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Hi! I’m so glad to be able to be part of this series. Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it and I think it’s great that you’re highlighting the positive ways that influencers are using their platforms for good.

I’ve been sharing my life online in one form or another since my early teens — so social networking was a natural extension of that.

It’s a way for me to mesh my widely disparate talents and interests into a unified persona. My vivid imagination and creativity fuels my drive to innovate for a better world.

I hope to serve as an inspiration to people with big dreams, to be an encouraging voice to those who have yet to uncover their passions to discover what makes their souls sing.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t driven by a burning curiosity to learn everything imaginable about this universe, or a time when I wasn’t consumed with a need to create. I’ve always had a feeling that I’ve been put on this earth for reasons far bigger than myself, for reasons I don’t fully comprehend.

As a kid, I never fit in at school and I didn’t “get” it. For years, I was bullied for being different — for being myself. I went home in tears nearly every day. My classmates were downright cruel. At one point, the situation became so bad that I begged my parents to let me change school districts. When I was younger, bullying wasn’t under the spotlight as it is today, and the party line was, “kids can be like that.”

I’d fake being sick to avoid my classmates (pretty sure my mom was onto me). I missed weeks and months of school throughout the year, but I tested well — in the third-grade state-mandated aptitude test, I tested at the post-graduate level. Faculty and my parents recommended me to audit university classes but the request was denied due to my age.

It wasn’t until middle school that I began taking more advanced classes (this was only after I spent three weeks being intensively tested, yet again, to see if I belonged in what was then called “special ed.” At the time, my sister was in graduate school working toward her master’s degree in theology, and used me to practice her theorems and debates, and when I engaged the guidance counselor on a discourse about existential nihilism and Kierkegaard, she called my mom, who — I paraphrase — said “I told you so.”).

Even then, I never did my homework (didn’t see the point) and I got poor grades. My dad was of the mindset that I’d learn more out of the classroom and traveling with him, and I developed an insatiable wanderlust from a young age.

The fact that I did poorly in school didn’t mean I wasn’t continually learning — I devoured all the books I possible could and was reading from the library’s adult section from the middle of first grade. On my seventh birthday, my dad gave me an unabridged copy of one of his favorite books: The Fellowship of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. My mom said it was over my head and advised I set it aside for a few years. Just to prove her wrong, I read the entire novel from cover-to-cover and discussed it at length with my dad. My parents believed that learning was learning, and since I was always in discovery mode, they didn’t sweat my grades or attendance too much.

My original ideas and ability to think outside the box set me apart — and there was a long time when I didn’t fully embrace that, because I felt something was wrong with me.

I wish I could open the eyes of every young person out there who’s experiencing doubt or shame, to have them realize that who they are is beautiful — and to never feel the need to hide from what makes you unique. There isn’t one soul on this planet who’s born without a special gift or talent to offer the world — but too many people never discover what that is, or are afraid to share it. My older sister always encouraged me to become the best version of myself. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m very fortunate to have been blessed with a family who believes in my talents, even when they don’t always understand what drives me.

Since before I can remember, my creativity was my escape. Acting allowed me to become somebody else. Writing allowed me to think with different perspectives and put myself into the shoes of the people who tried to tear me down, and to have empathy for what others may be going through. I put my design eyes on anything and everything I could get my hands on.

When I was in tenth grade, I devised an elaborate plan to gain wide exposure, to start a company that did many different things, and to use my fame and fortune to re-invest it into my passion projects, those things that would fundamentally improve the foundations of people’s lives, and revolutionize the framework of the world at large. It seemed to me that all of the problems we faced couldn’t be that hard to solve. The money was there. The knowledge was there. So why wasn’t it already done? I figured that if wealthy people in power weren’t using their money and influence to improve things, I’d become rich and famous myself and do exactly that. So I continued acting, and I began to pick up work as a model.

As a teen, there was very little structure to the concept. It seemed impossible –for too long, I wrongly allowed naysayers and doubters to hold me back. My desire to change the world never left and it’s only grown stronger, particularly in recent years. I wanted to help my family. I wanted to change the world. I won’t stop until I have — and even then, I’ll keep going. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend and discovered that we share the same visionary ideas about bettering people’s lives and the world at large that I began to open my soul to exploring this side of myself once again.

By the time social media came along, people began following my posts for insights on how I saw the world (different from others, apparently), tech anecdotes, and to see how I merged the IT with my artistic side. It’s allowed me great freedom to be able to express different facets of myself.

My parents were involved in technology and manufacturing. I was rebuilding computers with my dad and programming video games in Visual Basic from elementary school. I began web programming when I was in middle school and it became a hobby. When I was a broke college student, I began bartering design services for things like photographs, hair styling, you name it. I established a roster of freelance clients who later sent new business referrals.

I had to leave university after my dad got sick. I needed a way to quickly earn money to support myself and my family. Web design was the most lucrative talent I had, and I put it to work. You always hear that “art doesn’t pay the bills” and, at the time, I had no other resources available — I had to get creative and do what needed to be done in order to get by. Focusing on technology achieved that. Eviction and repossession notices had been sent… my dad was in ICU for two months before he passed away. My uncle provided support to us during that time. I’ll never forget the time I was speeding to the emergency room to be with him, and answered the phone in case it was his doctor. It was a debt collector — when I told him I couldn’t talk because I was on my way to see my dying father, he accused me of lying to avoid paying the debt.

I didn’t choose a technology career. It just happened. I ended up having a talent for it and eventually got a great corporate job. About six years ago, I realized that I felt stuck. I knew I couldn’t keep going. My creativity was being stifled. I’d become depressed. My energy wasn’t in alignment and I felt out of harmony with the universe. I listened. I became more involved in my fashion pursuits, and I re-ignited my interest in the film industry.

Following this, I wrote, produced and directed a short film which screened as part of the Cannes International Film Festival to critical acclaim. I began writing feature-length screenplays — one of which was written with my mom based on her original concept. Mom and I have always done artistic things together. She established my firm belief in spreading random acts of kindness wherever I go. My other screenplays are children’s fantasy features and dark comedy action thrillers. They’ve been well-received, praised by industry insiders for their rich imagination and originality, and are currently in development for theatrical release.

As I began traveling regularly and became more entrenched within the entertainment industry, I realized that having a 9–5 job wasn’t conducive to my life goals, and I changed directions on a wing and a prayer. I left my corporate job and began consulting full-time in 2015 while working toward getting my films off the ground and following my dreams. I decided to document the journey on Instagram. I didn’t know it at the time, but my move out of the corporate culture motivated others I worked with to do the same — including my manager at the time. I’m very thankful that my actions have inspired people to pursue their passions.

In 2017, things shifted and my life did a complete 180. I was feeling entirely unmoored. There were very few people in my life who were able to anchor and guide me. My boyfriend was one of those people, and it was with his encouragement that I founded TimeJump Media. He’d known that it was a stepping stone I’d envisioned toward much larger goals of making huge positive changes in the world and, having started his own business and charity organization in the past, he helped me navigate what I found to be an overwhelming process. He’s used his experience in the entertainment industry in full support of my goals. I’m very thankful for and blessed to have his continued encouragement.

I continue to document my life online and I’m operating in several different spheres –entertainment, fashion, tech, corporate, and moonlighting on passion projects of mine. I’ve got ADD in a bad way, so to me, this feels natural. I used to try and hide from what made me different, but I’ve come to realize that the people who are doing truly original things — they can’t have a map because it’s uncharted territory. What I can say is that I’ve been happiest when I’ve followed my heart and intuition. It’s never led me astray. Since becoming more involved with film, and documenting that as a social influencer, it’s seemed that my path forward illuminates just as I’m approaching a dark corner.

I’m trying to say “yes” to life! A heart open to abundance and possibility has taken me far — and I believe it can do so for anyone. YES, you have to work hard and NO it won’t always be easy — sometimes it’ll be exhausting and scary — but at the end of the day, can you say you did what you loved and left the world a little bit better than it was when you woke up? It doesn’t mean you’ll never face hardship or strife. It means that you overcome it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

The most interesting story that happened to me since I began this career isn’t any one thing in particular. It’s been a chain-reaction series of choices and events over the years that have guided me toward this path, this moment.

I was fearful to embrace who I was, and my full potential, for most of my life. I had a tendency to minimize my accomplishments. My mind was full of ideas that were so revolutionary, so out of the ordinary, that, for the most part, I kept them entirely to myself. I didn’t think that anyone cared, or would understand. I’ve always been extremely artistic and imaginative. Throughout my life, teachers, friends, family, colleagues, and others have noted this, but when I was younger, all I wanted to be was normal. Except, that’s not why I’m here.

I spent years hiding this side of myself — trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t made for me. I was so consumed with being accepted and fearful of rejection that I lost myself. Having been there, I would urge any girls and young women out there — never do that. Yes, I know it’s so much easier said than done.

Life nudged me in the direction of a highly varied career path which allowed me the freedom to travel as I began expanding my brand and exploring my creative passions once more. This, and other life circumstances, led me — not entirely of my own design — to attend the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2014, and while there, I experienced a sense of calm and peace that was entirely unfamiliar, but very refreshing. I was finally beginning to be myself and follow my heart. I didn’t have any business being there — I couldn’t afford it. The entire affair was supremely impractical but I wanted to see what happened. I told myself that best case scenario, new doors would open, and worst case scenario, I had a vacation on the French Riviera! Win-win, right? I finally felt a calling — and had a deep inner knowledge, which came from somewhere beyond myself, that I had to pursue it, no matter what.

It was very impractical and highly inadvisable to quit my corporate job, but I had an overwhelming sense that it was something I had to do — no matter the risks. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. However, I still didn’t commit to it fully. Over the the course of the next couple of years, a chain of events just kind of unfolded which led me to this moment.

I was no longer resisting the universe — I was going with it and despite all logical reasoning to the contrary, things just seemed to work out the way they were supposed to and it finally seemed like I was on the path meant for me — when before, it had always seemed forced.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my early clients was a best-selling author. I priced out his project far lower than market value and spent time well above and beyond to get it right for him. He was an insomniac and would call me in the middle of the night, then send me rant-filled emails for not being available 24/7. He told me that he’d like to put me in contact with his marketing manager and set up a three-way conference call. A few minutes into the call, they disagreed about something and it turned into a full-on screaming match!

I later learned that the author’s marketing manager was his ex-wife. He insisted on having conference calls with her and I endured more screaming between the two of them. I didn’t know whether or not to speak up, so stayed on the line and listened to them rehash their dirty laundry.

I learned the importance of speaking up and asserting yourself. I learned to never under-value the worth of yourself or your work — nobody else will do it for you. I learned this the hard way as there have been a number of times in the past when people took my ideas and passed them off as their own, taking full credit without acknowledgement.

In years past, I was far too timid when this happened. I was hesitant and didn’t want to rock the boat, to hurt anyone’s feelings, or to make anyone mad at me. The result was that there were times when I didn’t speak up when I should have, particularly for those ideas that were truly transformative and served to catapult the reputations and careers of others, which kept me back.

There are always more ideas to be had and you have to keep looking forward. I’ve always spoken up for the rights of others, but it’s taken a lot of effort to make speaking up for myself a habit.

If you don’t speak up for yourself, people will walk all over you. Someone once told me, “you have to teach people how to treat you” and there’s a lot of truth in that.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Historically, I’ve used my platform to share the things that matter to me — whether it’s what I’m doing throughout the day, funny or interesting things I see, things I like, dislike, or find amusing. Over time, that’s evolved into sharing my perspectives and opinions on a variety of things. That’s what my audience loves — I provide inspiration to see the world in a different way. I was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and discuss the importance of understanding your audience — but it begins with an understanding of yourself.

I’m leveraging my social channels to raise awareness and amplify my message about my incredible new organization, FemmePower. FemmePower is dedicated to the support and empowerment of current and future female business owners, entrepreneurs, and micro-entrepreneurs throughout the world and from all walks of life.

FemmePower will become a crowd-resourced organization with a global reach. We work with female entrepreneurs establish business plans, connect with likeminded business partners and supporting services, obtain financing and micro-financing, craft promotional strategies, educate women on the basics of business ownership, and secure access to foundational elements such as materials or inventory. We connect women to women and to like-minded industry veterans in the role of mentors and coaches to provide guidance and answer questions.

We’ll connect female entrepreneurs to free, low-cost and accessible tools to drive sustained success. We’ll provide access to financing, opportunities for education, business knowledge, basic financing skills and meet women wherever they are in life and in the world to formulate viable plans to financial security, and independence.

By empowering women, FemmePower strengthens families and communities.

We provide tailored services to under-served, minority, and marginalized female business owners and entrepreneurs-to-be globally with an aim to permanently lift women and their families from poverty.

We serve women in transition by supporting female refugees, survivors of trafficking, forced labor, domestic abuse, and enslavement, and their families, by nurturing growth from strong new roots to a place of independence and financial security via business ownership. We aid women experiencing life transitions to pave the path to security and success.

FemmePower shall provide coaching and small business ownership classes online and in local communities. We work to build literacy and financial competency. We shall seek and find creative ways for women living in repressed conditions to shape their lives via business ownership in a way that seeks to minimize the risk of societal or political repercussion.

We believe that all women have the right to education, lifelong happiness, security, and independence.

Female entrepreneurs face a number of barriers to business ownership at all levels even as they become business owners at a higher rate than ever. Most of these female entrepreneurs are small business owners or micro-entrepreneurs.

FemmePower seeks to support these endeavours and to nurture their growth. Women have a worldwide historical pattern of obtaining employment in low-skilled, labor-intensive industries that consign their role to a societally-predetermined profession that’s seen as being appropriate for women. This practice undermines educational achievement, perpetuates cultural stereotypes, and truncates upward mobility.

Additionally, in a 2000 report, Worldbank found that gender relations plays a key dynamic in female business ownership . Worldbank reports that in Vietnam. there is a correlation between higher rates of abuse and households where women earn a higher income than their husbands, or are the family’s main income earner.

Worldbank also notes that although the Philippines has a higher proportion of female college graduates than male, women have little in the way of career mobility and are more often seen in production operator positions while more men are working as technicians or engineers.

There are a number of near-universal challenges faced by women entrepreneurs which are driven by a lack of education and insufficient access to resources. Female business owners have inadequate access to financial and credit services, insufficient connectivity, communications and information, and a drought of financial and business management skills. Large-scale efforts and major infrastructure changes are required to support women entrepreneurs, including through access to small loans, markets, and training. FemmePower seeks to remove these obstacles by equipping women with the tools they need in order to establish a viable path toward job and income security.

Women living in transition economies are particularly vulnerable to shrinking social sector services and market competition. Women around the globe impacted by the so-called “motherhood penalty” with little regard to economic status or race. For example, a survey conducted in China’s Shanxi province found that one fifth of women workers had suffered job losses in some regions and industries, with childbearing responsibilities listed as one of the main reasons for the lay-offs (Cooke 2001). To offset income insecurity and wage gaps, many women in Vietnam are forced to take on multiple jobs, with almost a quarter of women being both self-employed and engaged in wage work (ADB 2002). Women should never be put in the position of having to choose between motherhood and career. Business ownership affords women the opportunity to make educated choices in both their personal and professional lives.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

All women are impacted by this cause. FemmePower exists to empower existing business owners as they seek to begin, improve and grow. We’re here to support those interested in exploring business ownership learn more and get their dreams off the ground. For those who are lost and seeking their way, we can provide insight. We are the next step in the journey forward for women emerging from crisis situations and entering a rebuilding phase of their lives. For women living in vulnerable and repressed situations, our trusted network will aid in your efforts to achieve autonomy in a safe and discreet manner.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Here’s what I’d like to know. Once you have that exposure, once you have people who are interested in your causes, in your life, and in keeping pace with the things you’re doing and want to accomplish — how can you empower those followers to turn around and do good themselves? What’s the point of being a celebrity or having a large following if you don’t use it to full effect to improve the world?

Money, fame, vanity, and material possessions are all fleeting and will not leave a lasting footprint on history. In order to effect real change, one must be willing to put themselves out there, to risk things that others would not, and to take chances that haven’t been tried before. It requires a lot of guts, creativity, and persistence. Because you will fail, and you’ll fail a lot. As long as you learn from your mistakes, they’re never missed opportunities. Keep on going. I’ve made more mistakes than I can count, and I make new ones every day.

My career path has been anything but straightforward. I’ve always been extremely artistic, to the point where my math teacher told my mom that I was the best artist he’d ever had in class (I doodled all over my assignments and turned them in full of sketches of elaborate fantasy worlds and missing the answers). Art is my life, and I always knew I wanted to do something creative — but it wasn’t practical and I didn’t know where to begin.

From high school, I had a nebulous idea of starting one large company that did a lot of different things. I dreamed that at some point, my company would be making enough money and become well-known enough that I could use it as a platform to do what I really wanted to do — to foster a positive, worldwide transformation and work toward eradication of unnecessary problems such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, and conflict. Whatever was already being done wasn’t enough — and I didn’t understand why, because the resources are already there, they just weren’t being utilized. It was painfully clear.

But how? I was paralyzed. There are so many excellent charities and organizations out there that are doing wonderful things. I wanted my organization to be more than just one of many — my hope was for whatever I did to fill a real gap and really improve people’s lives in a sustainable way. I spent years trying to think of what that could be. I saw major problems in the world — but had a hard time identifying them for what they were or effecting a real way to change things and so I put it to the back of my mind. It stayed there for years.

I’d effectively run and operated businesses since I was a teenager (my parents were entrepreneurs and were very encouraging — plus it got me out of the house. I could be a pretty annoying kid.)

More recently, however, getting TimeJump off the ground posed new challenges — and it was a larger endeavor than I’d previously tried. I wanted to do it right. I wanted to set this up to sustain me for years to come because I was tired of spinning my wheels and doing the same thing every day. I didn’t want to keep building other people’s dreams for them. It was time to build mine, and to make a difference.

I frequently encountered dead ends which required me to come up with creative work-arounds. Banks were reluctant finance a small business without an established track record. This presented a paradox, because without that track record, I was unable to access resources required to grow, and lacking that, I was unable to service my niche as fully as I’d envisioned. It’s been a heavy learning curve, and very difficult at times. FemmePower will use and expand upon my experience to make things easier for other female business owners so they can focus on the things that matter most in their lives.

Although I emerged from a background of abuse (in various forms), this will never define me — even as it shapes who I am and how my endeavors will change the world for the better. Throughout this journey, I found very limited resources available to underpin long-term success. I defied the odds, despite every obstacle thrown in my path — things that would stop almost anyone else — and I plan to continue to defy the odds and stand up for what’s right for as long as I live. I don’t believe people ever want to give up — they encounter insurmountable hurdles. What if those hurdles could be removed?

I recently woke up one day and all of this had gelled in my mind to create FemmePower. The idea was fully formed and I couldn’t rest until I’d taken action on it. The idea came from beyond me. It was this amazing calling from God that I couldn’t get out of my head. I knew I had to pursue it. My journey away from abuse, and toward becoming a successful artist, technology executive, creative, and female entrepreneur, could be tapped to serve a much wider role and to fill a very real missing link in the pipeline toward achieving lasting autonomy, security and financial independence for other women — no matter what one’s life circumstances may be.

FemmePower is a resource providing aid to women from all walks of life, grow viable businesses, establish reachable goals, and to challenge themselves to do better.

Human trafficking and safely removing individuals from of hostage situations is an issue near and dear to my heart. Trafficked women can become inadvertently involved in the trafficking pipeline while they were trying to find gainful employment to lift their families from poverty. Many accepted (false) job offers to work overseas which were a bait-and-switch, and realized too late that the job was entirely different than what was promised, involving forced prostitution or other de-humanizing and illegal activities. Their captors cut trafficked individuals off from their families (or they’re forced to check-in with their families and fraudulently report health and happiness to fly under the radar) and, avoid return (when it is even possible — many have their identities stripped and passports taken) for fear of causing shame to their families or the societal repercussions they may face. Captors use both physical and emotional torture and manipulation tactics to gain compliance.

By seeking new opportunities and financial independence, these women became involved in something nefarious, and there are limited resources available to these individuals after a crisis has passed. Recovery and emotional and psychological rehabilitation is a lifelong process. There is an uphill battle of legal issues, particularly when they’ve been forced to perform illegal activities such as drug trafficking, organized crime, and prostitution — and this, in part, can be a major barrier to rebuilding their lives. As survivors enter the next phase of their lives, with robust support, their entrepreneurial spirit can be re-awakened and nurtured into a viable path toward a better life.

Survivors face tremendous psychological impact, and PTSD, anxiety, depression and substance abuse can result. FemmePower will work hand-in-hand with mental health professionals and legal case workers to aid in the healing and rebuilding process.

Society at large needs to shift their mindset from classifying survivors as victims, and work together to support these women as they pave sustainable paths to gainful careers. Trauma psychology plays a key role, and FemmePower will work with mental heath professionals serving survivors to nurture, support and cultivate the ability to thrive for life via business ownership for those who wish to pursue that path. FemmePower is a step toward the future for women emerging from vulnerable and at-risk situations. We foster social rehabilitation and re-integration via business ownership.

We will operate a network of vetted and trusted business ownership proxies for women living in repressive conditions worldwide who are working to establish secure and long-term exit plans.

FemmePower works hand-in-hand with crisis organizations such as Gino McKoy’s Kinder Krisis to provide long-range aid to women and their families after safe environs have been established. FemmePower is designed to support women and their families as they enter the next phase of their lives looking toward a bright future. We’ll lay a network of roots throughout the world promoting freedom of education, free exchange of resources, positive change and growth. FemmePower shall work in tandem with organizations throughout the world who are already involved in their local communities to ensure that we have a positive cultural impact.

FemmePower’s icon is the lotus flower because it is born of the dark and comes from mud. This symbolizes the journey of the female entrepreneur. There are universal truths and challenges that all women business owners have in common with one another no matter where they came from, or where they’re going.

The transformative power of the lotus has special meaning to me . I was born in July, my birth flower is the water lily (lotus) and my life has ebbed and flowed like the tides with phases of the moon — blossoming, fading and blooming again into something more beautiful than I could have imagined. The lotus is a symbol of hope and enlightenment, which is what FemmePower provides.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes, absolutely! Everyone can become involved with FemmePower. Strong women build strong communities. I’d love to hear from other women business owners who would like to become involved in our outreach and mentorship programme and inspire others.

I’d also love to hear from people willing to invest and finance women in business, from micro-loans all the the way to more substantial financing efforts. Access to credit is a key issue that women business owners face when attempting to grow their companies and when attempting to source inventory or materials. I love Kiva’s model of social financing and hope to implement something similar, or work directly with Kiva, Grameen Bank, and other local financiers and angel investors who would be willing to support women in business. I hope to speak with attorneys who are willing to provide low-cost or pro-bono services to female start-ups, and with people who want to work with our clients hands-on. Anyone who is interested in becoming involved in our network of mentors, people willing to volunteer their time and space on their feed to draw awareness, and as a way to highlight inspirational success stories of other female enterpreneurs.

Politicians can take real action beyond vocal advocacy and enforce anti-trafficking laws and ensure that women facing criminal charges as a result of their situation receive immunity from legal as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives. We can earmark more federal grants, scholarships, and money to get new female owned and operated businesses off the ground and plan for long-term success.

Female business owners who would like to be interviewed and profiled on the FemmePower website and social channels, please reach out! I love to share inspiring stories.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

FemmePower is quite new. Things are just getting off the ground and reception so far has been incredibly promising. I’m so excited about this and I hope you will be, too. I’m using a grassroots social media strategy and pointing people to the website (https://femmepower.co) as a starting point. The first thing I’d like to do to advance the cause is to raise awareness via social media (I’ve already started on Instagram at https://instagram.com/femmepowerofficial) about challenges women in business face at all levels, across industries, cultures, races and professions. I’ve been on a fact-finding and sharing mission to raise the voice of the cause. I’m first connecting with localized resources that are already in place to advance female business ownership and other like-minded influencers. I’ll then leverage my primary social media accounts to highlight our efforts and our progress. This is a journey and I want to take you with.

My biggest tip for anyone who’d like to follow my lead and use your social platform for good is to do it! You have a voice — raise it. Your followers watch you for a reason — there is something that makes them feel connected to you and interested in your life, your views. There’s no good deed too small. There are so many eyes on your feeds, why not take the time out of your day to inspire somebody? You never know when that will make all the difference for them to keep going. But don’t use it as your only method — get out there and get your hands dirty, meet others, never stop expanding your network and horizons because you never know what amazing door will open next.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

To be honest, if someone had told me five things when I first started, I probably wouldn’t have. I’ve always had to learn things the hard way, and experience it for myself. It’s a chief complaint of my family and boyfriend. At times they get to say “I told you so” but had I not learned to follow my heart and intuition, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now, I wouldn’t have had the incredible experiences I’ve had thus far and I wouldn’t have the guts to create an endeavor like FemmePower.

1. Listen to your intuition. Your heart knows the way. Even if people say you can’t, or something is impractical, there’s something inside of us all that guides us to the right path. Be true to yourself. The times when I’ve forced myself to be logical, or to follow advice that made sense but went against my gut, are the times that I’ve been left unsatisfied or things didn’t work out the way they should.

2. Be vocal! Talk to everyone about what you’re doing — don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It used to be that I was shy and reserved to share my ideas and what I’m working on — but whenever I have, it’s had an overwhelmingly positive result. Not everyone will be receptive or supportive to what you’re doing, and that’s okay. It’s all about awareness — the more people who know, the larger your potential network becomes.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I tend to be very independently-minded and, in the past, was reluctant to trouble people and had thought that reaching out for guidance and support was a sign I wasn’t competent, when in fact, it’s the opposite. Everyone needs support and those learnings will expand your horizons. Everyone starts somewhere. My knowledge is nothing compared to the vastness of the universe — we need to rely on one another. Most people will be eager to help and, when possible, offer to connect you with others or share knowledge they have to share.

4. Be true to yourself. Don’t let others define you. This seems like an over-shared platitude, but I think it’s so popular because it’s far easier said than done. In my life — past and present — I’ve encountered a lot of people who wanted to pigeon-hole me into focusing on just one thing, when the truth is, that I’ve been tremendously unhappy when I’ve tried. The truth is that I’m multi-faceted in talents and interests, and my truth is to live them all. They all exist in harmony for me. Even as I’ve been building out my social network, the major advice is to narrow focus to one thing — but that’s just not me. Initial feedback for TimeJump Media was dubious and many advised me to narrow the focus. I seriously considered it — I didn’t want to take the wrong steps. But in the end, I’ve got to do what vibes with my perspective and when that is aligned, I have seen that things fall into place — even when it seems to be against all odds. It’s amazing to see.

5. Don’t take things personally and be adaptable. The arts are a fickle place to be. It is highly unpredictable — you never know what will catch on or what will sink. An artist’s output is highly subjective, and (I can’t speak for other artists) for me, everything I create is tied to a piece of my identity. When somebody responds poorly to something I’ve made, it feels like a piece of me is torn away. My moods are extremely mercurial. I used to focus on one negative comment out of many, many positive ones and let put me into a funk for days. I’ve had to learn to recognize that their opinions aren’t a refection of who I am or the value of my work or worth as a person. An artist’s role is to get people to react, and those reactions come in many forms. You can’t take it personally or it could destroy you. People’s reactions to your creativity are a reflection of themselves and their own worldview, not of you.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My long-term goal and the next phase of FemmePower is to develop a global “underground railroad” of sorts to aid women seeking to exit repressive regimes. This will be network of allies who are willing and able to help women living in such conditions bring themselves and their families to safety — across borders if necessary — and to seek asylum where they can rebuild their lives and find a new equilibrium of normal as they look toward the future — but most of all, to be free, and happy.

If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be a movement to freely share knowledge. Everyone has a special knowledge and in-depth understanding of everything in this world. The Internet has been such an amazing development because it provides a vast amount of knowledge across the world. But there’s still a cost to accessing the web. It frequently costs to get online — not everyone has access to a public library or free wi-fi. The barrier to entry is literacy. If you’re unable to read, you find limited value in it.

With a global free mind-exchange, I would connect people to like-minded people in a knowledge-transfer network in which they can tap into that exchange of resources and be able to communicate with experts on any subject in an accessible way. It could be face-to-face. It could be online. It could be in written letters, over the phone, or via any other means. There’s still a separation between online life and off — if there were a way to meld and merge these into a truly free pool of human intelligence, how much more powerful and well-off would the human race be?

I’ve had incredible opportunities to speak with many people, and every single one of them has had fabulous ideas about something — how to improve things, how to change things, how to simplify things, how to connect ideas that aren’t readily apparent. Despite advances in connectivity over the past 25 years, people still have trouble getting their ideas out, and sharing their expertise. Access to education is limited and expensive. Student loan debt is crippling generations of Americans. Why? Knowledge can be free — and we are all enriched by its exchange. It’s already there but we aren’t harnessing its full potential.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Nah — life lessons for me aren’t found in Pinterest quotes. At times, I’ll share ones I find to be meaningful and articulate my life philosphophy — but if you’re getting your life lessons from memes, you’re not living!

Go out there, open your heart, your mind and your soul to the beauty and abundance the universe has to offer. It’s out there. You can find it. Stop over-thinking and allow yourself to vibe with the universe. No matter what you’ve faced or are facing — live life to the fullest. Fail frequently and use those mistakes and failures to rise higher in the future. I’m here to tell you: You have boundless possibilities living within you — even if they haven’t been unlocked yet.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to have a private breakfast or lunch with my sister Pauline, who was adopted as an infant. I’ve never met her. She was born in Ottumwa, Iowa on February 11th, 1967. Her birth name was Pauline Lee Neff. It was a closed adoption managed by American Home Finding Association. We’ve been searching for her for years. We don’t know the name of her adoptive family, her current name or the name she was raised with, where she was raised or is living now. We don’t even know if she knows she was adopted or would want to find us. But Pauline — if you’re reading this, we love you and think of you every day. If anyone out there has leads about who she might be or how to connect, I’d be tremendously thankful if you could get in touch!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m most active on Instagram at https://instagram.com/thelalastorm and on Facebook at https://facebook.com/larissalowthorp. Feel free to follow me to keep up with me and shoot me a message to say hello! FemmePower can be followed at https://instagram.com/femmepowerofficial and https://facebook.com/femmepowerofficial.

Also check out my websites:

My personal website: https://larissalowthorp.com

FemmePower: https://femmepower.co

TimeJump Media: https://timejumpmedia.com

Photo credit: John Wagner / Hair, makeup and styling by Jansel Hutton

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

THANK YOU!!!!! I’m very excited to see the series and read about what other influencers are doing and hopefully we can join forces to make an even bigger impact in the future!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Listen to your intuition. Your heart knows the way.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!”

“The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!” with Luisa Ruocco and Candice Georgiadis

The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media! This is such a fast-moving industry that even going offline for the duration of a spinning class seems like an eternity! When I first started having some attention on my page and started seeing results from my efforts, instead of celebrating with some much deserved time off, I went into panic-mode driven by the mentality of having to “strike the iron while it’s hot”. As you grow in your career and settle into a new role, you realize that actually putting your phone away for half a day while you read a book is crucial to your well-being and actually makes you more productive in the long-run, and also that your followers probably won’t even notice you’re gone!

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luisa Ruocco, a social media food and travel influencer with a huge Instagram following on her page @luisainsta #TheHungryTraveller.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you so much for having me, this is a huge honor! I actually never set out to become an influencer, to be honest I think like for most people I always looked at lifestyle bloggers in awe from afar — there are a few accounts I have been following since I was at university and I had always been jealous of their lifestyle: traveling the world and living out these incredible experiences rather than being chained to a desk nine to five, and that always appealed to me but seemed like such a remote possibility that I never considered it as a realistic career choice. Unfortunately, I have also always been very insecure about my writing skills because at school I was constantly told that essay writing was my weakest point, so I never felt confident enough to write a blog, or even a journal — even though I always had a lot to say!

I did however always know in my heart that I would end up working with food because that has always been my biggest passion in life; from the age of four my favourite playtime was helping out in the kitchen, and by the age of six I was already making my own pizza dough, so there had to be a career in there somewhere! Growing up my academic abilities overshadowed my culinary hobbies and I ended up studying economics at the University of St Andrews instead of pursuing my hidden dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu. Baking and hosting dinner parties at any chance I had got me through the tough maths-heavy curriculum and when I returned to my home town of London I quickly found a job in financial headhunting.

The job allowed me to pursue some of my wilder foodie ambitions such as dining in many of the world’s Michelin starred restaurants and being able to provide the catering for charity events that my friends were hosting, but ultimately I felt that it was keeping me from my two main life pursuits: traveling the world and having a significant positive impact on society. So I decided to quit and take a sabbatical so that I could travel around America and eat at all these restaurants I’d been making a list of over the years during escapism-driven Instagram searches which are what kept me sane at my desk job. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, but I ended up gaining 40lbs on that trip!

My friends kept calling and texting me to ask what I was up to, so I decided to start making more of a conscious effort to post on my Instagram feed about what I was seeing and what I was eating, but it turns out they were not the only ones interested in my adventures and my page started gaining more and more attention until the point where the reality that I might be able to turn my passion into an actual job started sinking in…and the rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Well *hahaha* I guess it’s something that happened to me on a recent trip to Jordan. A local Sheikh who is apparently also a huge foodie and had been following my page for a while got wind of the fact that I was visiting the country and invited me and my friends over for lunch at his house in the middle of the Arabian desert! It was the most surreal experience, and the best part was that he had told us he would arrange transportation to pick us up and take us over to his house on the day, but none of us had understood that he meant he would send CAMELS! So of course I was dressed completely inappropriately for that camel ride, I think I was wearing some form of ball gown as you do when you’re going to a Sheikh’s house, and as we were riding through Petra the crowds of tourists just stopped in their tracks and started taking photos and videos of us — it was a real “pinch me” moment!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Can you believe I gave a brand free publicity?! Honestly looking back on it I feel so stupid, but when I was first starting out I was approached by a very well-known restaurant chain who asked me if I could post about a special promotion they had on. I was so flattered that they had picked out my little profile with about ten thousand followers at the time that I didn’t even think to ask for compensation! I think that this is a trap many influencers fall into in the early stages of their career when you don’t yet fully understand the worth of the service you are providing to a brand, but when you later find out how much other influencers were paid for that same campaign you’ll feel pretty dumb! I will definitely not be making that mistake again.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

All of my work is based around food, whether that be eating out in restaurants or sharing recipes to make at home, so I thought that it would be amazing to be able to leverage my influence to really spread the word about our current food waste issue and what efforts we can make as a society to cut down on this. In terms of environmental impact, I think so much awareness has recently been raised on how best to dispose of our waste: recycling where possible and even composting, but so little is said about actually cutting the problem at the root, which is to reduce waste altogether! Of course this is true for anything from buying items with less packaging to reduce plastic waste to not shopping for a new wardrobe every season, but eating everything that’s on our plate and using everything we have in our kitchen particularly resonates with my followers, so I decided to focus on that specifically.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

There was actually one of my followers in particular who reached out to me to say that he completely turned his life around and was now trying to live a waste free life! When you are highly informed on a topic, it’s easy to lose track of what level of knowledge the average person has on the issue. My grandparents spent some of their defining years living in post-WWII Italy where resources were scarce and every penny mattered, so because they lived with us when I was a child I was raised to always be very conscious of my consumption and waste, and I naively always assumed that this was the case for most people. So when I started making noise on my social media accounts about ending food waste, my goal was to reiterate how important this social and environmental cause is, I figured that although everyone had certainly heard and read about this particular topic, it wouldn’t hurt for them to hear it just one more time just on the off-chance that my chiming in would be the tipping point for even just one person to take action. I never imagined that there were people out there that I would be educating from the very roots! This gentleman messaged me just after my interview with The UK Newspaper came out where I discussed the issue around food waste to let me know that he had read it and that I had opened his eyes to a topic he hadn’t previously given much thought to. It really touched my heart that I was able to raise awareness around the global environmental crisis for him and I really hope that he is now using his new-found knowledge to make positive eco-changes in his own life as well as educating others on the topic.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Well, once you get into the food industry you start seeing things that as a consumer you are completely unaware of. As an individual you are only really aware of the waste that is produced from leftovers from your own table, whether that’s from not finishing your meal in a restaurant or letting ingredients rot in your fridge at home because of bad planning — but once you start getting deep into the industry as a whole you start seeing just how much waste there is at every level, and you start calculating in your head how that all adds up…it can get pretty overwhelming!

I specifically remember walking through the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy and the chef explaining to me how he had made a parmesan broth that he used to cook risotto and how he had then discarded the boiled pieces of cheese and thinking “surely that was unnecessary — could they not have been used for a different dish?!” but that’s just not how chefs are trained to think, particularly in high-end kitchens that are not making an effort to cut costs.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Definitely! One of the best quotes on climate change that I ever read was “We don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly!”. Food waste is one of those issues where everyone can really do their bit and make a tremendous difference. Every little helps, from taking home everything you don’t finish in a restaurant to putting pressure on establishments to use up if not give away every last bit of food, it really does all add up. And also when it comes to throwing away food at home — really plan your shopping, use up everything in your refrigerator, and if you know you won’t have the chance to eat something before it goes off, either freeze it or give it away!

In terms of macro-impact, I would love to see new legislations put in place banning supermarkets from throwing away perfectly good food — France is actually one of the best countries when it comes to leading the food waste agenda, and their government has already put these maneuvers into action with great results. Unfortunately I think we are still a while away from seeing these changes in the US and my native UK, but all we can do is keep pushing!

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

It’s definitely a cause I bring to people’s attention as much as possible — whether that be in conversation with friends, when talking to chefs for work, or in the press. I’m really hoping that there is a ripple effect in place where the more we talk about it, the more it will casually get brought up in conversation to the point of eventually becoming a household topic.

When it comes to using your platform for social good, I would say that for maximum impact you need to find a cause that is both personal to you, but also relevant to your follower base. For example there are many other issues close to my heart which I support privately through hosting and attending fundraisers, such as cancer research and the refugee crisis in the Middle East, but those might not be strictly within the sphere of interest of many of my foodie Instagram followers so I try not to spam them too much with those. You really need to pick your battles!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1.The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!

This is such a fast-moving industry that even going offline for the duration of a spinning class seems like an eternity! When I first started having some attention on my page and started seeing results from my efforts, instead of celebrating with some much deserved time off, I went into panic-mode driven by the mentality of having to “strike the iron while it’s hot”. As you grow in your career and settle into a new role, you realize that actually putting your phone away for half a day while you read a book is crucial to your well-being and actually makes you more productive in the long-run, and also that your followers probably won’t even notice you’re gone!

2. You have more power than you think!

When it comes to having a voice and influencing people’s decisions I used to really underestimate how much impact I could have.

3. It’s okay to have flaws. And it’s okay to show them too!

For me this mainly relates to body image: I used to crop and filter the living soul out of any picture I was in, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of photos capturing great memories that I discarded simply because I had a blemish or was laughing so hard that I had a double (okay, triple) chin in them. As I grow older I’m becoming more comfortable in your own skin and showing my face and body from all angles because — well, because that’s what it looks like!

4. You are under no obligation to keep negative people in your life, no matter how long you’ve known them!

They say that you see who your real friends are in your moment of need, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true; people like an underdog and being a shoulder to cry on makes some people feel better about themselves, almost like being charitable. I actually think that you get to see who your true friends are when you have something to celebrate — they will be those people in the front row cheering you on and just as happy for you as they would be for themselves, with no trace of envy. Success makes some people uncomfortable and they may try to bring you down as a result. It’s okay to amicably part ways with anyone who makes you feel anything less than wonderful about your achievements, but remember to also show them compassion — after all anyone who isn’t happy for you probably isn’t too happy for themselves either.

5. Done is better than perfect!

This one particularly resonates with me and is a mantra I have to repeat to myself daily! I am both a perfectionist and a procrastinator, which if you think about it is a lethal combination when it comes to actually getting anything finished. I often need to force myself to send out an article or email knowing in my head that I could have tweaked it just a bit more, but in the end the person on the receiving end really won’t know the difference.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I definitely think that we need to overall be more conscious of our consumption! Besides the issue of food waste, which we have already discussed at length, we need to look at the fact that there is a lot of capitalism-driven mindless consumption happening. We constantly feel the need to keep up with trends relating to having the latest gadgets and wearing clothes which are “in fashion” but as a society we have been trained to not give much consideration to what happens to these items once they are discarded. Most of these items are forgotten about the moment they leave our home as garbage, but many of them end up in landfills where it can take hundreds of years for them to be processed. Giving your unwanted possessions away is a good start, but the overall aim should be to cut purchasing as much as possible in order to really have the biggest impact on helping the planet — if we drastically cut back on demand, retailers will eventually catch on and decrease production (I knew that economics degree would come in handy eventually!).

The ideal scenario would be to reduce consumption by only buying what you really need and always choosing the option with the least packaging; reusing and repurposing items where you can, and recycling and composting what you really can’t reuse. If we all stuck to this, we should see big changes in a short amount of time!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life starts where your comfort zone ends!”

As an ambitious person with anxiety, I constantly struggle with trying to do things that will help me grow as a person but that aren’t so out of my comfort zone that they will keep me up at night. In 2018 I organized my first solo charity event — prior to that I had always played second fiddle to somebody else which is where I am most comfortable — and I remember staying up at night thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong, but because I had made that commitment and the invitations had already been sent, I had no choice but to push through. In the end the event was a huge success and when I was still buzzing from the excitement on the next day one of my friends who lives in New York and had to miss the event called me to congratulate me, and I vividly remember picking up the phone with her screaming at me “You see! You’re capable of amazing things if you just get out of your comfort zone!” and I have to keep reminding myself of that every day.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oh how great would it be to go out for lunch with Jonathan Cheban! I think the word “foodie” gets thrown around a lot, but Jonathan is one of the few people I can honestly say gets genuinely as excited about food as I do, and we also share the same sense of humor — I think we’d have a blast! And we would probably order the entire menu. Jonathan — if you’re reading this, hit me up!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Instagram under the handle @luisainsta

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you, this was such a pleasure!


“The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Racism is the epitome of abuse and bullying with a big…

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Racism is the epitome of abuse and bullying with a big dose of oppression. Like any other abuse, if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t go away.” with Janice Robinson-Celeste and Candice Georgiadis

Others can speak out against injustices. Those who stay silent due to whatever reason, aren’t helping but are causing more harm. Racism is the epitome of abuse and bullying with a big dose of oppression. Like any other abuse, if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t go away. We have to talk about it constantly until it disappears for good. That’s what we’re doing about it and that’s what we ALL must do to get rid of racism.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janice Robinson-Celeste, an early childhood specialist published parenting and children’s author, owner of Ethnic Animations, and is the publisher of Successful Black Parenting magazine.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Successful Black Parenting magazine started when I was working with substance abusing parents in an urban area and my job was to help their children to reach important developmental milestones despite their environment and circumstance. Teaching their parents, I attempted to use articles from general parenting magazines and they quickly told me that culturally, “we don’t parent like this.” I immediately understood what they meant and began writing articles that were culturally sensitive and about topics that Black parents needed answers too, like caring for Black children’s hair, sickle cell anemia and more. That led me to start the first national parenting magazine in print ever.

Recently, I added animation to our product line with our company, Ethnic Animations on Youtube and I authored a book from one of our animations titled, “BIG Kid: For When You’re Feeling Small in a BIG, BIG World.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

The most interesting thing that happened to us was that the magazine won many prestigious awards, including one from Women In Communications and Allstate and that it was able to attract Fortune 500 advertisers in the 90s. We had no idea what we were doing but we did it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We did our first mass mailing of 30k magazines from my dining room, instead of using a mailing house. We worked for 48 hours straight trying to get those magazines out. We were so tired and punchy, we started singing and laughing. I’m still surprised we actually got it done.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Now that we are currently an online platform only, I recognized that we need to be more than just a magazine. We are currently advocates and activists. Parents contact us to share their message of injustice whether it’s at a school or a job interview with their teen. Because we are a magazine, we tend to get the attention of these organizations and advocate for the parents who could not get anywhere previously. When we post or retweet about a parents’ dilemma on social media, other news outlets tend to pick up our stories and some have gone viral.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Just recently, a mother of an autistic boy who was affected by Lil NasX song, Old Time Road contacted us to retweet her post that her son who didn’t speak began singing this song. They are now using it for his therapy. When we retweeted it, our readers shared it far and wide and then I believe Lil NasX and Billy Ray Cyrus did too.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

The tipping point was back in the 90s not seeing many people of color on parenting magazines. It has since gotten better but you will never see articles in a general parenting magazine specifically about Black parents using demographics, statistics and cultural experience related to the Black family, like having the talk about how to deal with police encounters so that your child makes it home alive.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The community can spread the word and support us. Our goal is to produce successful citizens and for families to thrive. If you can’t get behind that, then what are you standing behind?

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

Others can speak out against injustices. Those who stay silent due to whatever reason, aren’t helping but are causing more harm. Racism is the epitome of abuse and bullying with a big dose of oppression. Like any other abuse, if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t go away. We have to talk about it constantly until it disappears for good. That’s what we’re doing about it and that’s what we ALL must do to get rid of racism.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish they told me that you can have just enough start-up capital to fail. Even though we had the advertisers at the time, they came on board too late. We didn’t have any investor contacts and everyone was investing in tech. We needed someone to back us. We took a 23-year hiatus and now we are back as an online publication only — for now.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ask everyone to invest in a neighborhood that needs revitalizing, with a stipulation not to gentrify it or to raise rents where people cannot afford to live there. Buy a property that needs fixing and fix. This alone could bring back neighborhoods and thriving cities nationally.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Ironically, my quote is to “Never give up.” I noticed that those who hang in there the longest usually find success.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oprah. I actually had a dream once that we went shopping together and she of course, out shopped me. I need her calm wisdom in my life regularly.

How can our readers follow you on social media? You can follow us on Twitter, and Facebook @BlackParenting1 and on Instagram @BlackParentingMagazine. You can also find us on YouTube at Successful Black Parenting magazine.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Racism is the epitome of abuse and bullying with a big… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“Nothing beats hard work; Yes, you can be smart about it and having a good network helps, but so…

“Nothing beats hard work. Yes, you can be smart about it and having a good network helps, but so much of success in whatever you want to achieve is down to the work and dedication you bring to the table.” with Sophie Radcliffe, a.k.a. “Challenge Sophie and Candice Georgiadis

Nothing beats hard work. Yes, you can be smart about it and having a good network helps, but so much of success in whatever you want to achieve is down to the work and dedication you bring to the table. You’ve got to want it more than anything else and consistently put in the hours. The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why. For me, that was the day I delivered my first TrailBlazers workshop. I was completely immersed in a state of flow and left thinking “this is what I was born to do.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Radcliffe, a.k.a. “Challenge Sophie”, an adventure athlete, writer and motivational speaker who quit her agency job to climb mountains, race through the jungles of Borneo, cycle across Europe — and combat sexism along the way. Her mission, in her own words, is “to champion ordinary people to achieve the extraordinary.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up I struggled a lot with figuring out how to be true to myself whilst also trying to fit in and be socially accepted by my peers. I was bullied at two different schools and I found body confidence to be an ongoing battle.

Fast forward a few years, I graduated from university, moved to London and took a 9-to-5 sales job in a startup. Within 6 months, I felt constricted. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do and knew this wasn’t the place I was going to figure out who I was and what I was truly capable of.

Instead of letting the world define me, I decided to take this into my own hands and challenge myself so I could define who I was and what my limits were.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out!

My first challenge was an adventure race in the jungle of Borneo which completely changed my life. Everything I had struggled with for years suddenly became clear. It felt like a fire had been ignited that had been waiting to be lit my entire life.

The experience of setting myself a challenge, being dedicated and motivated, putting in the work, achieving something I thought was impossible and the sense of confidence and self-belief that comes with it. I loved being active as a child but wouldn’t say I was sporty and definitely didn’t grow up doing any kind of competitive sport and now I was adventure racing in the jungle!

This was 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve changed my life from an ordinary girl living in London with no sporting background to quitting my job and reinventing myself to become a globally recognised adventure athlete, motivational speaker, mentor, youth empowerment change maker and soon-to-be published author!

We all want to believe in ourselves and be courageous and resilient in the pursuit of the lives we deserve and dream of living, but the only way to strengthen self-belief is to do things that are difficult and scary.

We all want to feel that our lives are filled with limitless opportunities for growth, adventure, and joy, but in order to feel this, we need to be brave and challenge our limits. Finding out who you are when you are faced with adversity, I believe, is an incredibly worthwhile and powerful path to pursue!

Confidence is like a muscle, the more you train it, the stronger it gets!

I’ve also grown to accept and love my body for what it can do rather than what it looks like.

My mission is to champion ordinary people achieving extraordinary things! I want to help people become mentally strong, resilient, motivated, confident and courageous individuals who have the tools, inspiration, and support to overcome fear and pursue the lives they deserve. Hopefully, this gives an insight into what I do, why I do it and how I came to this career path!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

When I first quit my job, I decided to tear up the rule book I felt I’d been living by since I was born and start fresh. I had ticked a number of the boxes I felt I was supposed to tick: ‘get good grades, graduate from university, get a job, earn money, save, find a partner and settle down, etc…’ but I felt like I was following someone else’s dream and not mine.

Free from the shackles of the 9–5 I moved to Chamonix, a gorgeous mountain town in the French Alps and began a new chapter! I challenged myself to climb the highest mountains in the 8 Alpine countries and cycle between them — becoming the only person in history to do so.

This put me on the map and gave me credibility — opening the door to talk about the things I am passionate about.

A year later I was sponsored by Adidas and giving a Ted Talk ‘Achieve Your Extraordinary’ to an audience of 1,000 people. Just shows the change you can create when you make big decisions and go for it!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Whilst training for my first Ironman, I went on a week-long training camp with a triathlon club in Spain. To my dismay, I realised on the plane that I hadn’t packed any underwear and we were staying out in the middle of nowhere so I couldn’t buy any either.

This was just one more lesson in rolling with the punches and letting go!

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Ever since I started blogging and building a platform on social media I made a commitment to be a force for good. My goal is to break down barriers by sharing my experiences and insights in a way that’s accessible for people.

So whether someone wants to quit their job and start their own business like I did, move country, climb a mountain, run a marathon or be strong enough to leave a relationship that’s not working, I want them to think “If she can do it, so can I.”

I share my story openly and honestly on social media and my blog, I give talks around the world, do podcast interviews and offer daily support and advice to people who write to me.

However, the biggest part of my work happens offline. In a bid to tackle rising mental health issues with teenage girls, I founded a youth empowerment project called TrailBlazers which builds confidence, resilience and life skills in teenage girls to help them live courageously.

I also mentor people on a one-to-one basis to help them deal with change and adversity, and I organise an annual cycling challenge: 300kms from London to Paris in 24 hours to give people the opportunity and support to change their lives through the power of this epic sporting challenge!

We’ve since had over 500 riders — many who’d never done a long bike race before.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

A lady called Caroline emailed me a week before my annual London to Paris cycling challenge she was booked onto saying she wouldn’t be able to make it as her step-dad had just passed away and she’d just broken up with her boyfriend. She didn’t feel strong enough to do it and anxiety was taken over her mind. I offered some words of comfort and urged her to give it a go!

Here’s what she wrote to me afterward:

“I joined the start line with so much anxiety and limiting beliefs. Throughout the journey, I pushed through every one of them and more. The sportive gave me everything I love about life; movement, challenge, the opportunity to connect with and encourage other people. People who inspire me. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is where I truly find myself; I feel free and completely at one with myself. I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway! Fear and excitement live on opposite sides of the same line for me, they feel very similar physically. I am fortunate enough to have an inner drive and determination that won’t allow me to settle for an ordinary life. Therefore I have to take my fear which tries so hard to debilitate me and keep me still and push myself to complete these challenges because when I reach the other side, I feel so totally alive. It gives life meaning. The sense of positivity and self-belief increases and I just feel that it’s all going to be ok. It gives me peace, It fills my heart and soul.

This adventure has taught me that I can achieve so much more than I ever thought possible. That happiness is a choice, I chose to find my way to the start line and I know that that choice has put me in a much better position to deal with the loss in my life.

One day I will not be able to do this, but today is not that day!”

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

TrailBlazers was the tipping point for me. Everyone is aware of the dire situation in schools; mental health is a global epidemic facing our teens and social media is getting blamed but I think the problem goes far deeper than that.

Many of the girls I work with are described as “invisible” by their parents and teachers. They are dealing with so much criticism, judgment, pressure, and negativity on a daily basis — one of the most terrifying throwaway comments I hear students say to each other all the time is “you should go kill yourself” — that their aim is to exist without being noticed as much as possible.

I find this incredibly sad and vowed to do something about it! By creating a safe, support network and sharing my own struggles and vulnerabilities with the girls, I am able to help them bring who they really are in their hearts and minds to the surface and help them rise and shine.

Some of the girls were suicidal when I first met them and 8 months later they are different girls entirely with new friendship groups, mentoring girls in the year below them and winning ‘Inspiration Awards’ at school.

Recently I met with a group of the girls’ parents and one by one they came to me with tears in their eyes saying “TrailBlazers has changed her life.” So I know this is something I want to dedicate my life to!

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

– Invest in mental health initiatives that get people active, spending more time in nature and learning how to connect and foster a sense of community

– Make volunteering part of our lives so that everyone learns to invest in giving back and doing things to help other people

– Reduce the focus on bad news in the press. This feeds a mindset of negativity and what we need in the world are more people that see the good in the world and contribute towards it on a daily basis. Imagine if every news slot had 20% dedicated to people doing good around the world!

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I’m always adapting the type of content I put out online and thinking about what problems my community are facing that I can try to help them with.

I regularly ask them if there’s something specific I can help with too. I’m going to start doing more video chats with people and I receive hundreds of email conversations but I want to get these online so I can support more than one person at a time.

The advice I give is personal and practical but I believe in dreaming big and being bold so I always encourage people to adopt this mindset too. Often in our friendship groups, not everyone is supportive when someone wants to do something out of the ordinary, so I offer that support when someone needs it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each

1. Life is not a linear path in an upward trajectory. Sometimes you have to be prepared to take what feels like a step backward in order to move forward in a new direction.

2. 1 plus 1 equals 3. This is something my mentor, Chris Moss, says. The idea being that the combination of two people’s minds and energy is greater than the sum of their parts if they were working alone. Teamwork and collaboration are the way forward!

3. Try things on and give everything a go as it’s only through this that your path will become clear. Big decisions stir the universe and create waves!

4. Nothing beats hard work. Yes, you can be smart about it and having a good network helps, but so much of success in whatever you want to achieve is down to the work and dedication you bring to the table. You’ve got to want it more than anything else and consistently put in the hours. The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why. For me, that was the day I delivered my first TrailBlazers workshop. I was completely immersed in a state of flow and left thinking “this is what I was born to do.”

5. Be a do-er not a talker. Do the things you say you are going to do and don’t wait until you feel ready as you may end up missing your chance. Many people say they are going to do something, dream about it, talk about it, but never end up doing it. Be someone who takes action.

A ship in the harbour is safe, but that’s not what a ship was built for. Go Sailing!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The simplest things can often have the biggest impact.

Something that’s accessible to all of us, for free, and is really powerful for physical and mental health is spending time outside in nature.

The movement I want to start is to encourage people to spend one hour outside per week away from technology. In a world that’s constantly making us feel like we are not enough, it’s so important to make time to be still, reflect and look back, to appreciate how far we’ve come.

If we are always looking forward and moving towards the next goal we miss the opportunity to reflect. Being, thinking, creating, dreaming, watching, listening and walking are all incredibly valuable pursuits and just an hour in nature doing any of these is proven to have a huge impact on our mental health and overall wellbeing!

#DisconnectToReconnect #OneHourOutside

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One life, Live it!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama. I’ve just finished reading Becoming and as a woman who made a lot of personal sacrifices in her life in pursuit of not only her dreams, but moreso, her husband’s dreams, I’d love to have a really open conversation about that! I also think she’d love to hear about TrailBlazers!

Thank you for joining us!


“Nothing beats hard work; Yes, you can be smart about it and having a good network helps, but so… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.