Yai Vargas: Founder, The Latinista

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My Native Admission Statement: My name is Yai Vargas, also known as “The LinkedIn Ninja”. I’m a community builder. I carry out my mission day-in and day-out by helping individuals understand how to brand themselves and articulate their values when it comes to their career and leadership development. With The Latinista, I host monthly events where Latinas and women of color invest in learning new skill-based and habit changing strategies for career mobility. I have chapters in NYC, Miami, Chicago and LA where I travel almost weekly to meet with community leaders, executives, organizations, and individuals to bridge the gap between diverse talent and organizations. I am also a national public speaker on women’s empowerment, LinkedIn branding, and female entrepreneurship.

Career advice to those in your industry?

The Diversity & Inclusion industry is always evolving. The most important piece of advice I received about the work I do is to develop relationships with other consultants so that we can collaborate and leverage our unique services to win larger contracts. Playing as an individual contractor and contributor won’t get me nearly as far, so there’s an absolute need for like-minded professionals to band together and work as a team while learning new parts of the business. 

My Motto?

Favorite proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I am from the Dominican Republic, and it’s wonderful to go back home. I also love Thailand and Tanzania! 

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ANNA SULLIVAN: FOUNDER, THE CREATIVE EXCHANGE

My Native Admission Statement:  Anna Sullivan is the founder of The Creative Exchange, a content studio and social media agency based in Brooklyn. Anna founded The Creative Exchange in 2015 after working for several small business and Fortune 500 brands handing social strategy and creative concepts. The Creative Exchange is based in Brooklyn, where she leads her small team of creatives to create creative content and social media campaigns for consumer brands. The Creative Exchange has landed on Agency Spotter’s Top Social Media Agencies list the last 3 years. Anna’s drive, passion, and team has lead to the success of The Creative Exchange.

What are my aspirations?

Social media is so unpredictable, and as people say don’t put all your eggs in one basket. We have to be on top of what’s going on and it’s our job to make sure we are doing the best for our clients and community. We want to grow the company into offering experiential marketing as well as become more of a hub for our local creative community. Building something that gives back and is more sustainable than just one industry is our current aspiration as a business. 

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I love @thingtesting - this account informs me of the newest brands in an aesthetically pleasing way 

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MIRA MAGECHA: INTERIM CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER, JUST EAT

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My Native Admission Statement: My passion is solving key business problems and developing the best possible outcome, building diverse teams to help solve the problem. Commercial, pragmatic, globally experienced, people leader with a passion, desire and proven ability to deliver business results. My experience has been built delivering successful transformation programmes across different industries primarily focused on Operating Model and people delivery. I work with and influence at all levels within an organisation. I’m passionate about helping and supporting people through their career / growth journey. I’m told I build great teams, it’s true I love working with different people, with different perspectives and diverse teams see different solutions to the same problem. i was appointed as Interim Chief People Officer at Just Eat in September 2018. Prior to that she was International People Director supporting Just Eat through its growth and multiple global acquisitions.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Don’t give up. If you have an aspiration or a goal, keep going for it. Don’t let anyone put you in a box or make you feel like you have to limit where you can get to - but make sure you enjoy the journey along the way - don’t run so fast at something that you forget to look around and acknowledge how far you’ve already come, take stock and remember to celebrate. But most importantly, don’t forget who you are and where you have come from - embrace your differences, make them be the reason you are you.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My favorite people are the real ones, I’m relatively down to earth (yes I am) and for me it’s not ‘the famous hero/heroine on our screens, but people I can connect with. I’ve met people in my everyday work that are role models in one way or another. I’m inspired by real life stories, overcoming challenges and those who are highly driven to achieve.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I love going to beautiful beaches. It’s important to take time out from work and just exist, unwind and centre myself and they’re somewhere where I really feel at home, where I can reconnect with me.

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LARRY NAMER: PRESIDENT/CEO, METAN GLOBAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP & CO-FOUNDER, E! ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION

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My Native Admission Statement: My best skill is being able to observe popular cultures anywhere in the world and then being able to create content that is relevant in that country.  Most people think it comes from my mother dropping me in my head as a child ( true ) I am the co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, a company now valued at over $3.5 billion USD, and the creator of several successful companies in the United States and overseas. 

Career advice to those in your industry?

Learn how to self-evaluate your efforts in as much of an impartial way as possible. The problems most entrepreneurs have is they think everything they come up with is brilliant and they hang on too long to bad ideas.

What do you love most about Your City?

The weather

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Uncle Bernie’s Deli in Encino - Bagel and Lox

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Akiko Izumitani: Director, Producer & Writer

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My Native Admission Statement: Akiko Izumitani is a female director/producer/writer born and raised in Japan. She is also an active member of AWD (Alliance of Women Directors) in Los Angeles.Akiko first earned recognition through her feature-length documentary, "Silent Shame" (2010), in-depth exploration into Japan's war crimes in WWII. It won numerous awards worldwide, including Best Feature in the Beijing Movie Festival. It has been sold to China and Denmark.

My Biggest Success? To come to the U.S. by myself and learn English and got a greencard via work.

My Most Challenging Moment?  When my father died in Japan. It reminded me how far I live from my family.

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TONYA LADIPO, LCSW: FOUNDER & CEO, THE LADIPO GROUP

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My Native Admission Statement: I’ve never been satisfied with the “way things are supposed to be”. As a child, I watched my mother work full time, go to school at night, and raise me. I knew that I didn’t want a life of exhaustion. I think that’s when the seeds of SOS for Superwomen were first planted. I am the visionary behind the region’s only counseling and consulting practice specializing in serving Black and African-American communitiesn. I am also a graduate of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program (2016).

How did you get into the industry?

When I was 24 years old my hair fell out. I was single with no responsibilities, yet the way I was working resulted in stress-induced alopecia. I spent my life watching my mother and grandmother work long and hard hours. My grandmother cleaned houses and my mother was a full-time teacher going to graduate school at night. I assumed being a Black women meant working hard and long hours so that’s what I did. It took me a few years to return to my childhood thought that I didn’t want to live a life of survival and exhaustion. As I learned new ways to work, be in supportive relationships, and ultimately thrive in life, I wanted to share these lessons with other women. I combined my personal experience with years of working with Black women facing similar struggles and created SOS for Superwomen.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Water soothes my soul so I’m happy anywhere with a beach and ocean. Or sitting on the beach in Chicago, where I was born and raised.

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Lauren Steinberg: Founder, Queen V

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My Native Admission Statement: My name is Lauren Steinberg and I am the founder of Queen V. Queen V is a female-run and female-focused feminine wellness company specifically focused right now on vaginal health. Queen V takes a really easy and fun approach to a topic that can be super confusing and embarrassing… trust me, I have been there. I have been around vaginas my entire life, not only because I am female but because my dad is a gynecologist.  Our products are made for women by women and take a really unique approach to vaginal health. We have created an easy to follow three-step process that helps women maintain, heal and enjoy their v. Maintaining your v is all about keeping your vagina clean and healthy by using products that are pH-balanced. Healing your v addresses infections and problems that can arise like yeast infections and UTI’s. Enjoying your v aims to help women love and embrace their vaginas.  Each of our products fit into one of these color-coded categories. Maintain products are blue, heal products are green and enjoy products are pink.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Being a 25-year-old female in an industry typically dominated by men has been and still is a challenge. Whenever I pitch this brand, getting male retailers and male investors to understand the need for these products can be difficult. Talking about my vagina and vaginal infections was a bit embarrassing at first, but I now encourage women to be empowered to speak about their vaginas. At one point, I was even told that I was “just a girl.” Instead of letting this comment get to me, I have owned it. It’s true! I really am just a girl who became frustrated with vaginal products on the market and did something about it.

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BRITTANY DRISCOLL: CO-FOUNDER & CEO, SQUEEZE

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How did you get into the industry?

I started my career in marketing & advertising working with Fortune 500 brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Disney, Coca-Cola and Hilton. I fell in love with Drybar as a client first and then had the incredible opportunity to run marketing for 4 years which led to my partnering with Alli Webb & Michael Landau (Drybar Founders) to create Squeeze.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Be consistent with your daily habits. It's the small decisions on a daily basis that make up your life. Choose wisely and be intentional!

Goal of the Day?

Chase discomfort. I try to push myself forward even on the days when I'm tired or defeated. Progress and forward momentum are critical to success. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable to achieve big dreams.

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Chizoba Anyaoha: Founder, TravSolo

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My Native Admission Statement: Chizoba Anyaoha is the Founder of TravSolo, providing travelers the tools to create their itinerary on-the-go, meet people and to bring back home a travel story to share with loved ones.

Best Solo Travel Experience: Australia – where it started it all for me. Who every thought going 10,000 miles away was going to alter the course of my life forever in a big way? Certainly not me but I knew there was something out there waiting for me. People were so opened towards me, got blessed with free drinks every day, shared our life stories with one another and how far we have come, we challenged each other, met some crazy people I still call friends today, and unexpectedly fell in love with one of the most genuine person I know at that time.

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ADRIANA GASCOIGNE: GIRLS IN TECH FOUNDER

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My Native Admission Statement: I’m Adriana Gascoigne, the CEO and founder of Girls in Tech. We have 47 chapters with more than 62,000 members in 33 countries. I just wrote a new book, Tech Boss Lady: How to Start-Up, Disrupt, and Thrive as a Female Founder, about how I founded the largest organization for female entrepreneurs in the world. It includes true tales from more than 20 leading women in tech about how they got started in our industry and I’m very excited about it.

How did you get into the industry?

I zig-zagged into the tech and startup world. After graduating from UC Davis, I hung around LA for a year, working in marketing and advertising at JWT Hill & Knowlton. I landed in San Francisco for a quick year to work for Chase Communications before returning to Los Angeles for an opportunity in consumer brand marketing strategy. Later, I moved to Miami to work for a real estate development company for nearly three years. A later job was for an online video start-up in 2006 and I’ve stayed in tech ever since.

What should everyone try at least once?

Going to a developing country. It’s important for people to learn about other cultures, see how other people live and understand that other people may not live the same way they live. It’s also important for people to learn to have gratitude and appreciate what they have in life.

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Mariel Hemingway: Advocate, Activist & Author

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My Native Admission Statement: Though I started my career at 13 as an actress and have continued acting to this day, my true mission is as an advocate for mental physical and emotional wellness. Having come from an incredibly celebrated and prolific family that suffered from addictions, trauma and mental illness which lead to physical problems back in a time where no one knew the correlations of body- mind connections. My mission is to help others to realize that total health is a balance of everything you do from the water you drink to the thoughts you think. My mission, along with my life partner, Bobby Williams, is to create a curriculum that teaches people how to live in every aspect of what that means from the physical to the mental and spiritual.

How did you get into the industry?

I started my advocacy work after having written my second book Mariel Hemingway’s Healthy Living from the Inside Out. After writing that and a cookbook, I then made a documentary that I co-produced with Oprah on my family and their mental health problems( along with their spiral towards suicide), called Running from Crazy. The film was released at Sundance in 2013. I soon began speaking around North America, sharing not only my story but my realization that a focus on the balance of mental and physical health is one and the same.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Leaving my marriage of 24 years was the most difficult thing I probably ever did because I left before I was truly able to acknowledge that my own happiness mattered. It affected my daughters though they were 18 and 20 and made me feel guilty for a long time. But it allowed me to find myself and love myself. Sometimes my choices didn’t serve others’ desires and that was a challenge for me to accept . Now years later I am a stronger and happier person for it.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

I admire my life partner, Bobby Williams, for his integrity, incredible physical and mental strength, and for his unconditional love.

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Darby Cox: Smoke Cartel Co-Founder & CEO

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My Native Admission Statement: I think the most important thing I’ve learned – and continue to work on everyday- is fully embracing fear. Challenge is a part of life, and you’ve gotta learn to embrace and enjoy it if you want to build something great. Knowing that every day is an opportunity to improve on something I’m not yet satisfied with. I learned at this point the importance of forgiving myself for not having all the answers at the start. Everyone is growing and trying, myself included.

How did you get into the industry?:

My business partner [at the time, roommate], Sean Geng, came to me and said, “Darby, I think I’m going to start selling bongs.”. I told him he was insane. I didn’t like the idea of working for Smoke Cartel until I went to my first industry event, and I realized the impact this industry was going to have. Nearly six years later, here we are, and I could not be more of a proponent for cannabis legalization and further research into our products.

What do you love most about Your City?

Savannah, Georgia is a wonderful place to live. It’s up and coming, it’s changed tremendously in the past seven years I’ve been here. We have a great food scene, a growing beer culture, and tremendous southern hospitality.

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Betsy Wentz: Studio B Owner

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My Native Admission Statement: Betsy Wentz, owner of Studio B, likes to host clients to a collaborative and interactive experience. Her 3,000 square foot design studio stocks wallpapers, fabrics, rugs, and accessories. Betsy believes there’s a simple psychology behind allowing clients to have ownership of their design.

How did you get into the industry?

My mom was a designer. She ran a business from the carriage house at our home. Childhood served as on the job training, exposing me to all of the things I’ve come to love and appreciate about design.  Although I earned a Master’s degree in counseling psychology and practiced for several years, I missed a creative outlet! In 2001, I partnered with my mom. We had so much fun working together.  In 2011, an electrical fire destroyed our family home and my mom, diagnosed with early onset dementia,retired soon afterwards. I rented office space in the business district of our town, renamed the company Studio B and kept going from there.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Coffee by day/ tequila by night

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Ericka Spradley: Confident Career Woman Chief PowHer Officer & Founder

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My Native Admission Statement: I am the planner who didn’t have a plan; the woman who took a leap of faith after spending most of her career in her comfort zone and who quite honestly took 22 years to get a 4-year degree!! Although my bio and website will tell you that I’m the Chief PowHer Officer and Founder of Confident Career Woman – which is true, I believe it’s equally important to share aspects of my non-traditional career story so that other women feel compelled to define professional success on their own terms; not necessarily what society says success should be. In my role as Chief PowHer Officer, I coach women to do exactly that – leverage strategy to achieve career success based on their goals. In addition, I provide ongoing support and advice for my clients, I coach them to master the interview (at least 80% of my clients get hired) and I also partner with organizations who are committed to advancing women in the workplace by facilitating customized workshops, typically with their Employee Resource Groups.

What inspired you to start your own business?

As a senior in high school, I was advised to go to college, get a good job and save some money. The idea at that time was to follow the aforementioned blueprint and I’d be “alright.” What I discovered is that I wasn’t alright. I didn’t have as much money as I thought I should have so I knew something needed to change– starting with my mindset, my decisions, my actions and the information I was consuming. After researching entrepreneurship and reflecting on the success I achieved managing someone else’s business, I decided to bet on myself. I made a promise to myself which states: “The only way my business will fail is when I die or if my health fails.” With that being said, I refuse to quit on my dreams when I’ve committed most of my life to building someone else’s dreams. Being employed is a blessing that prepared me for where I am today; therefore, I’m grateful for every opportunity and each employer. I’m simply stating that abandoning my dreams is no longer an option for me – especially when I believe I am currently doing the work God created me to do.

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Liz Accles: Community Food Advocates Executive Director

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My Native Admission Statement: I have been the Executive Director of Community Food Advocates since 2013. My organization spearheads the coalition-based Lunch 4 Learning campaign. In 2017, we secured universal free school lunch that for all 1.1 million NYC public school students.We are now building on that success. For households with school aged children, there is no more effective anti-hunger program, that simultaneously addresses health and education equity, than school meals. I bring my 30 years of experience in advocacy, organizing, and coalition building, that is grounded in solid policy and budget analysis,to promote high impact public policies that strengthen  income and food support programs that are crucial to financially struggling New Yorkers.

Biggest Success?:

My biggest success has been spearheading the campaign in NYC for universal free school lunch for all 1.1 million public school students. This change reversed decades of public policy that had separated students by income in school cafeterias and imprinting a poverty stigma on the program that directly impacted student participation. Previously many students who were hungry and didn’t have other options just sat out from school lunch for fear of being shamed by their classmates. Right now an additional 31,000 students are eating school lunch each day – that is 5.4 million additional lunches being served per school year. We know that this is just the beginning. We are working to build on this foundation to make the school cafeteria a social hub that students seek out rather than avoid.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Two cups of coffee in the morning and one in the afternoon. Green tea on occasion.

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Michael Beber: Exiger President & CEO

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My Native Admission Statement: I would say I am most defined by my ability to think creatively with an open-mind around pretty much anything. Admittedly, I’m not good with rules, but I’ve used this to my advantage in business. I don’t perceive barriers; Instead, I look at everything in terms of how it can be bent or changed. At work, I am able to objectively understand and evaluate different actions, reactions and consequences, and this allows me to think freely to explore opportunities that others might have overlooked or written-off.

How did you get into the industry?:

My first foray into the governance, risk and compliance space was through forensic accounting. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario, I was working on my Chartered Account (CA) designation and had already fulfilled all of my requirements, but needed to complete the remaining six months of work. That’s when I came across forensic and investigative accounting. I remember thinking how exciting that sounded. The job description included investigating fraud, bribery and corruption – some things Exiger employees do today – and that is how I landed my first job at Lindquist Holmes. The Canadian accounting, litigation and consulting firm became Kroll Lindquist Avey, was acquired by Marsh & McLennan, and eventually sold to Navigant.

Career advice to those in your industry?:

When people ask me whether I live to work or work to live, I tend to think they don’t understand what it means to truly love what you’re doing. To make the most of a career, I encourage everyone to find a business they fundamentally appreciate – one that plays to their areas of interest. In our industry, for example, I advise individuals to look beyond “compliance;” dig in and find out what the role really entails. Secondly, I suggest people find a growth-oriented organization, one where growth and change are central to the business’s culture. If you’re part of an organization where this is a focus, and you deliver high quality work, then you’re going to come across new opportunities that you never expected were possible.

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Pamela Hawkins: Organic Love Beauty Founder

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My Native Admission Statement: I am the Crafter and Creator of Organic Love Beauty. Organic Love Beauty is a skincare line that promotes healthy skin, wellness and relaxation using God given natural ingredients and encourages Love for Ourselves, Love for the Earth and Love for One Another. All of the Love I infuse into my business I infuse into my daily life. I aspire to be the most loving and patient mother to my children. I aspire to be the wife my husband doesn’t want to live without. I aspire to be a loving inspiration to everyone I meet. I aspire to have a business bigger than my wildest dreams.

Biggest Success?:

My biggest success in business so far is being one of ten finalists in the NY Start Up! Business Plan Competition 2018. Writing my business plan was a big hurdle for me. I had a lot of fear and doubt in myself and what I could accomplish. I also didn’t feel like a business woman, I was stuck thinking of myself as ‘just a mom’. And I had actually entered the competition the year before and withdrew because of those mental roadblocks. So, when I completed the plan and then had an opportunity to pitch my business to a panel of judges, it was surreal. And although I didn’t win I felt so accomplished getting over those obstacles that I put in my own way. That was when I transformed into a business woman.

My Goal of the Day: Wake up with prayer and gratitude, go to bed with prayer and gratitude. Everything in the middle I deal with as it comes.

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Samantha Brown: Celebrity Stylist

My Native Admission Statement: I am a NY based wardrobe stylist, dressing people of all ages, body types and lifestyles. My goal is to help my clients cultivate a unique personal style that makes them feel confident and ready to achieve their personal and professional goals. Each styling project is as unique as the person I am dressing. I also work on everything from runway shows to trend presentations, ad campaigns to commercials. I’m in the business of getting people dressed, no matter the occasion.

How did you get into the industry?

My background was in editorial styling at Nylon Magazine and in design at Badgley Mischka. I was personally trained and recruited by Stacy London of TLC’s hit show, “What Not To Wear”.

I always aspired to be in fashion, whether it was on the design side or the styling side. There’s no real road map to a career like this, so I took some turns along the way (like launching and shutting down a clothing consignment business called “The Missing Piece”). Ultimately, dressing people and helping them feel confident in their clothes became my ultimate priority. I have the best job in the world. I also offer private training lessons to aspiring stylists to help support them in their freelance journeys.

Motto?:

A quote by Steve Martin always resonates with me: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

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Kristy Wallace: Ellevate Network CEO

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My Native Admission Statement: My purpose in life is to connect women to their power, to help them succeed and invest in their ability to build businesses that positively impact the world.Personally, I aspire to be engaged in my community, which I define by my family, friends, neighbors, and the local people who surround me every day. I’m always thinking about how I can work to make that community stronger and better. I also push myself to learn more and be better; I strive to put myself in uncomfortable situations that push me to think outside the box, to improve, and to grow. Professionally I aspire to build and grow Ellevate and its impact in helping women succeed in the workplace – helping women make meaningful connections that provide the support and opportunities for them to succeed in the workplace.

Biggest Success?:

My greatest success is the Ellevate Mobilize Women Summit, for a variety of reasons. It’s an event that we created truly to disrupt the conversation around equality and amplify the voices that are often unheard in these conversations – the voices that don’t have the platform or the privilege to be heard. I say it’s my biggest success because as a parent, I bring my children to this event and know that I am exposing them to diverse ideas, people, and mindsets that will help to shape them as human beings. As a leader, I see impact on businesses globally where professional women are becoming stronger leaders and managers, and our organizations are working to develop inclusive workplaces. On a societal scale, it’s important to continue these conversations and to provide the platform that uplifts the voices of people who are marginalized, helping tomove our society to a place grounded in understanding and equality.

Motto?:

Fake it till you make it – like many others, I’m oftentimes in situations where I doubt myself, my abilities to be a leader, the importance of my voice in thought leadership. I worry that I will fail in some way, and I’ve decided to be intentional about pushing myself to rise to these challenges, to continue to use that self-doubt to propel me to a place of action and, ultimately, confidence.

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Erin Bury: Willful CEO

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My Native Admission Statement: I describe myself as an entrepreneur, speaker, startup advisor, and former technology journalist. I’m the co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform that makes it easy for Canadians to create a legal will online in less than 20 minutes. At Willful I’m responsible for driving the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. I’m also a professional speaker with Speakers’ Spotlight, a board member at Save the Children Canada, and I was named one of Marketing Magazine’s top 30 Under 30 marketers. I’m passionate about travel, and in 2019 I’m traveling to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Scotland. My claim to fame is being retweeted by Oprah – twice.

How did you get into the industry?:

Willful was inspired by my co-founder (and husband’s) Kevin Oulds’s experience after a family member passed away. He realized so few people – about 56% of Canadian adults – don’t have a will, and even if you do, chances are it’s out of date due to a life event like the birth of a child or a divorce. Not only that, but we just don’t talk about end-of-life planning with our family, because of course it’s uncomfortable to think about death. Originally I was an investor in the company and a marketing advisor, and I ran a marketing agency that helped Willful with its naming, branding, and launch communications. When I was looking for a career change in early 2019, I decided to join the company as CEO.

Emerging industry trends?:

Estate planning is an industry that’s ripe for innovation. We plan for death the same way now that we did 50 years ago – by going to a lawyer during work hours and paying a lot of money for what is often a simple document. Just like Wealthsimple has changed the way we invest our money through a beautiful, user-friendly online platform, other financial processes like purchasing life insurance or getting will are also moving online. In the future, I imagine that not only will we prepare for our own passing using online tools, our executors will also be able to wrap up our life using online tools.

Industry opportunities and challenges?:

One big trend that is driving the industry is digital legacy – we leave a massive footprint when we pass away, from our emails to our social media accounts to our online subscriptions. I think a huge trend in the industry will be giving people an easy way to assign contacts to deal with our digital footprint.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

My husband Kevin, who is also my co-founder, had a family member pass away unexpectedly, and while he did have a will, he had never discussed other end-of-life plans with his wife of almost 40 years. Kevin and his family were left scrambling, asking each other questions about his burial plans and funeral wishes, and guessing at what he would have wanted. It made Kevin realize that it’s a broken process to wrap up someone’s life, and it’s even harder if you don’t have a will in place. That can lead to long, drawn-out court battles, and the government deciding on how your assets should be distributed. He decided to launch Willful to make it easy for people to create a will – which we see as the “Painkiller” in estate planning, the thing that every adult with assets or children needs – while also allowing people to include other estate planning information like their burial preferences and preferred funeral wishes. Our vision at Willful is to help every Canadian create a legal will online easily and affordably, so no family is left scrambling when someone passes away.

What's next for the Business in the near future?:

We’re currently participating in the FounderFuel startup accelerator program in Montreal, and we pitch on stage at demo day on July 9th. We’re also expanding across Canada, and launching partnerships with financial institutions and life insurance companies to get our platform in front of millions of people.

How do you motivate others?:

I prefer to motivate with empathy and positivity. I believe that the best leaders are empathetic, and motivate with kindness, constructive feedback, and mentorship. The best leaders have a mix of warmth and competence – you can’t have one without the other, so I strive to have a balance of both.

Career advice to those in your industry?:

My biggest tip is to pay attention to your personal brand, and put time into growing it. A strong personal brand can help with everything from networking to new business, and it’s something that most people ignore until it’s too late.

What do you do best?

I’m a great storyteller. I’ve spent a decade as a journalist telling startup stories and interviewing amazing entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban, and as a marketer who has helped startups shape their stories.

What makes you the best version of yourself?:

The thing that makes me the best version of myself is getting enough sleep and getting enough exercise. Those two things don’t happen all the time – or happen consistently – but when they do, I always feel better.

Motto?:

Positivity is a choice! I’m an extremely optimistic person, and I truly believe that you can decide to look at the world as a half-full glass.

Favorite People/Role Models?:

My role model is my mom. She was a marketing executive at Nortel in its heydey, and she now owns her own communications consulting business. She taught me the value of hard work, and showed me what happens when you build an incredible career. She also imbued with a love for travel, and I’m very grateful for that.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

It’s so hard to choose my favourite place! We just went on our honeymoon to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, so I would say right now New Zealand is at the top of the list. It’s incredibly beautiful, and everywhere you go is a wine region (bonus). But I would say South Africa and India are two of my other favorite places. Going on safari is one of the most special things you can experience, and my favorite travel day ever was going on a tour of the Chandni Chowk market in New Delhi, which is an incredible place.

Favorite Products/Objects?:

My favorite product is my AirPods. They truly changed my life! They’ve changed the way I listen to podcasts, work out, and conduct business meeting.

Current Passions?:

My passion has always been travel. I’ve been lucky to travel to incredible countries like Brazil, South Africa, and India, and while I don’t care about fancy cars or expensive possessions, I am obsessed with spending my disposable income on travel.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

I’m from Toronto, but right now I’m living in Montreal for the FounderFuel startup accelerator, and I absolutely love this city. It feels very European, and it’s absolutely beautiful – every side street has colorful walk-up apartments, trees, flowers, and historical buildings. It also has an incredible restaurant scene, which I’ve been working on exploring!

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

If I have a breakfast meeting, my favorite breakfast meal is avocado toast from Soho House in Toronto. If not, I eat the same thing every date for breakfast: whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Sleeping! I usually wake up at 7am to go for a run or hit a workout class, and I’m at my desk by 8:30am.

10:00 AM – Working.

12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal? My favorite lunch spot in Toronto (where Willful is usually based) is Le Gourmand, a cafe at Spadina and Queen – they have the best grab-and-go sandwiches and salads.

7:00 PM – Either at a workout class, at an event, or watching Netflix.

11:00 PM – I would like to say sleeping, but more likely, scrolling through Instagram.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

At least two coffees in the morning, and lemon-flavored Perrier at night (I can’t have caffeine after lunch or I bounce off the walls).

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I use Todoist, a to-do list app that helps keep me organized.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In any new city when I’m traveling. My favourite thing to do is explore a new neighborhood with my husband when we travel – walk around, grab a cocktail, and get lost.