I teach people and organizations the leadership skills necessary to cultivate equitable, inclusive environments that empower diverse people to show up as their full, authentic selves--to know that they’ll be seen, heard, and valued, and included. I believe that when we empower others with the knowledge and skills to engage in difficult conversations about difference with empathy and compassion, we create environments where people of all backgrounds can thrive.
What inspired you to start your business?
As a Black woman, an Afro-Latina, and a person with a disability, I know all too well what it feels like to be on the outside. OR even to be allowed “in” but never feel fully comfortable or fully welcomed in the space--be it because it was never made with me in mind, or because the people in it have been taught to ignore difference. But, our differences are what make us dynamic beings. They’re the way we continue our ancestors’ legacies, the fuel that inspires us to forge change and innovation. Our differences cause us to have varied experiences and exchanges in the world; they shape our thoughts, feelings and perceptions. So when we don’t get to bring our differences into workspaces or certain circles of friends, we dim our own light. We shortchange the world of what we have to offer.
I started my business because too many people are running away from these important conversations because they don’t know how to approach them. As a result, we live in a fractured, polarized time when people are nervous about saying the wrong things or being “outed” for their beliefs or even for the way they identify.
Now more than ever, I think it’s important that we all have the tools to work to understand one another rather than to fear each other’s differences so that people and organizations can use the individuality of their employees to bolster their team, to widen their reach, and to be more productive. When we allow people to be seen and heard for all of who they are, we create environments that are more productive, more profitable, more enjoyable to be part of. By doing so, we can reduce illness, burnout, and employee turnover. And (SURPRISE!), we increase company morale, employee happiness and retention rates too!
What is something you would say to someone who is struggling in their first few years of business? Is there something you struggled with and learned from in those first few years?
We live in a world that is go go go and where everyone seems to have it right all the time. It is so easy to get discouraged when you decide to go out on your own. So easy to get stuck in the comparison game.
So first, take a moment to acknowledge that what you’re doing--what you’re building--is HARD and BRAVE. It wasn’t until I plunged full-time into my business and began meeting other creatives that I realized how many moving pieces small business owners have to juggle. When I go to networking events with other lawyers who are working in more “traditional” roles, I sometimes astound myself by how much I’ve learned to do that I had never imagined having to know about. So pat yourself on the back for doing hard things.
Second, build your village: I could not have made it through my health journey, nevermind getting my business running without the village of people who have guided me, supported me, encouraged me, and help me clarify my goals. It’s so easy to get lost in the minutia of owning a business, or in the larger picture of your goals, and then lose track of all the things that need to happen to get there. Find mentors and friends on a similar journey who can help you learn the ropes. Who will help you be realistic about the goals you set and creative about the ways you can meet those goals. My village has been my strength when I’ve wanted to quit and have dedicated hours and hours of unpaid labor in support of my vision. That unshakeable belief in me alone is priceless.
Things will not always (almost never) be seamless. Learn to be okay with that. My lawyer brain has had the hardest time with this lesson. I can be so type-A that I get caught up on something being perfect before I release it into the world. Law school and legal jobs drill into you the idea that you are your work. And that what you produce dictates your reputation, (and your worth). While I’m sure they meant well with their advice, it’s taken me a long time to untangle my own self-worth from what I do and what I produce.
I am not the code on my website that won’t load properly. A split infinitive in an article I wrote does not define who I am. As a creative a wear A LOT of hats; if I let those things stop me, I wouldn’t get my message out into the world. Sharing a good product is better than never getting to share a perfect one.
My neurological disorders have forced me to learn the hard way. If I wait until all conditions are perfect for me to do my absolutely best work, I would physically never be able to share anything. And, I’d resent myself for it--I know because I tried. Save yourself the agony. Do the best you can with what you have and under your circumstances.
Lastly, get a coach who’s been in the trenches and will be straight with you. There are SO many shiny things out there.It’s easy to think you need to buy and do #allthethings in order to be relevant. Find someone who keeps your focused, who doesn’t let you forget your why and the bigger picture.
What hobbies, causes, or activities are you passionate about aside from your work?
I love reading, baking, swimming (in a different lifetime I was a lifeguard and swim instructor), and traveling. Most of all, I love meeting people while I travel and learning their stories and what drives them. I’m also a passionate advocate for immigrants’ rights and do pro bono legal work to help human trafficking survivors.