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EPIC13 at Central Exchange Recap

What’s EPIC13:

Every year Central Exchange, a local non-profit that aims to inspire women and female leadership, hosts a roundtable event called EPIC13. They pick 13 influencers who hold two roundtable sessions where members can sit at your table, ask you real / raw questions, and pick your brain for advice. I was honored to be among the 2019 EPIC13. 

I wanted to share the questions the ladies at my table asked me, because I think they each of their questions really made me think about my own story; where I have come from, where I’ve gone in the past few years, and how I can make a path for women who come after me. Without further ado, the questions:

Greatest challenge to date:

I’ve had this happen to me twice now: how do I keep going when everything goes to hell in a handbasket at once? Somehow I ended up in April 2016 starting a job at an ad agency in the basement of an orthodontist’s office, I didn’t have a desk and had to bring my own computer, my grandma had just passed away, and I had no idea how the hell I’d gotten to that exact point of my life. Then this past summer I worked on the biggest project of my career while my parents were moving, the week before I moved apartments, and my mom had just gotten out of the hospital.

What I took away from both was that I had to know which battles I would need to win to win the war. You won’t get everything right in these moments but it matters that you try to do your best with what you’ve been dealt.

What’s your best advice for new photographers?

Pick up your camera and shoot. I don’t have a fancy origin story: I received a $50 camera from Wal Mart for Christmas from my parents. That summer, I had to wing a 4H project the week before the county fair, so I took photos of my rat terrier, of my friends, of the plants out in our yard. I didn’t buy a professional camera until I was 27 and took every opportunity that came my way to take photos. That’s how I started shooting with Kansas City Fashion Council’s MODA shoots. That led into meeting clients, which lead into me opening my own business in 2018.

Also, learn from people better than you. Let them beat up your content (with love of course). Always be learning.

It is v. humbling to be billed on the same page as brilliant personal trainers, a mayoral candidate and entrepreneurs.

What’s your best advice for breaking into the advertising industry?

Tech skills are critical. Ad agencies need people like you (and me) to help the Kansas City creative community continue to evolve and grow. There’s nothing Mad Men-sexy about ad servers but trades like development, anything to do with the tech side of digital media (ie – programmatic or ad ops), and Salesforce are in demand.

Secondly, it’s okay to start at a smaller company or agency and “work your way up” if that’s your dream. You’ll get acclimated to agency life and get that all-important “ad agency experience required” checkbox checked even at the smaller agencies.

Your time must be divided between so many organizations, how do you keep up with it all while having a main job?

I’m good at tetris-blocking my time. I know that my day job, my household and my family come first. Everything else is secondary. I am intentional about trying to get at least 1-2 evenings a week at home. Otherwise, my cats would probably revolt and I would be perpetually exhausted. 

That being said, I don’t have to do everything every day: I might have two shoots a month, a few meetings and make sure I have content about 2-4 times a week.

What book are you reading? What’s your favorite book?

I just finished reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, in which I loved when she talked about how Laura Bush had served as a mentor of sorts to her as First Lady. I firmly believe that women have more in common than they do differences and that we ladies need to work together. I also finished Heartland by Sarah Smarsh, which made me profusely cry at several points having grown up working class and rural; I could see my family, friends and world in her words. I’m working my way through Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis and the jury is still out on it.

Favorite book? Non-fiction would be Heartland and fiction would be The Great Gatsby.

What makes a social media message powerful (and how do you measure its success?)

It’s easy to get stuck on metrics such as views, unique visitors, CTR. The real question is: Did you inspire someone to take an action beyond double tapping a screen? What value has your content provided: maybe someone found a recipe on your Instagram for those chicken thighs in the fridge, or they bought the product, or they even just feel inspired to live happier.

That is why I’m critical of the “influencer” scene. Sure, you have 10,000 followers, but what does that really mean? What have you (or I) done with the platform you’ve been given to make a brand, a person, or a community a better place?

Can you talk through how you got your blog started? Why did you decide to focus on that topic?

That’s the thing, I don’t really focus on a topic. When I really buckled down in late 2017 to start blogging for real I thought I could be a fashion blogger. Though I’m interested in fashion, I’m someone who wears a plain colored shirt, Madewell jeans and flats almost every day to work. So I expanded my content into wellness, nerd stuff, and just my life.

I’m cautious to not pigeonhole myself. In recent months I’ve tried to be myself more: the intersection of nerd stuff, wellness, and beauty / fashion. I want to be a blogger for women who don’t really like or see themselves in many other bloggers. (You’re allowed to slap me if I ever get a LikeToKnow.It account)

What’s your best advice to someone starting out their career?

Even if it sucks, get the most you can out of your first few jobs so you can parlay those skills into the job you want. When I got out of grad school, my first non-academic job was selling newspaper and digital ads in the south end of St. Joseph for the St. Joseph News-Press. I made a pittance, I had a dry sales territory and loathed having to be bill collector to businesses who hadn’t paid for their ads.

I worked there for a year, met my future boss because I’d sold digital and newspaper ads to the college, and taught myself a lot about buying media because I’d sold media. Most of the basic digital media / media skills I have I learned while working at the News-Press. I wouldn’t be where I am without that critical, though not super-fun, job I’d taken when I’d just moved to Missouri.

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