SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: BISILA BOKOKO

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Bisila Bokoko

Businesswoman

Entrepreneur

Philanthropist

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

I will quote Mahtama Ghandi "You must be the change you wish to see in the world".  I have no control or power over others but I can change myself. Therefore when I change myself my world changes, my own reality changes.  We all do have this power, and it comes from combining vision and action.  For me it is important because when we are consistent with our vision and we act on it we change the world positively. We don't have to try to change everyone, to help everyone! If I can only make one person happier and impact their lives then I am already changing the world.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

My work is focused on education, the love of knowledge and to empower people from within therefore all the people who cross my path can do their part.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

Believe in yourself and see your mistakes as a part of a journey, also to be comfortable is the enemy, the fear and hunger you can use as a motivator, will force you to push yourself to continue to survive, grow and evolve! The gift is coming right after that vertigo feeling!

 

Learn more about Bisila here.

Follow on social media @bisilabokoko

SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: PHYLICIA BERNARD

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Phylicia Bernard

Founder/Stylist

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am a wardrobe stylist for powerful women from all walks of life who are making big moves in the world, no matter what that looks like for them! I equip them with all the personal style and wardrobe building tools to stand out boldly, 10x their confidence, plus attract and magnetize the people and opportunities they desire.

I am based in NYC but serve women online around the world as well.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

I am truly passionate and believe that my purpose is to empower, motivate and inspire women to show up with unstoppable confidence in the world, inwards and outwards. This is so important to me because more often than not, women tend to put the needs of everyone else before theirs, forgetting that they have the power to be both feminine and nurturing PLUS BIG, BOLD and CONFIDENT. My passion is so much deeper than just putting women in nice clothing (although that is really fun). It is truly about confidence building and helping women transform from the outside in! Looking good=feeling good!

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

The defining moment to leap towards my dreams came from unhappiness in my “secure job” position and then the birth of my son. I am originally from Guyana (South America), and when my parents brought my siblings and I to the US, it was all about attaining a better life — and that meant securing a good job with benefits. So I began nursing as a teenager in high school, graduated, went to college as a nursing major, graduated with my associate’s degree in nursing and knew right then and there that I didn’t want to go further with my bachelor’s and master’s.

From the moment I was actually thrown into the medical workforce, I felt completely trapped, my self-expression through personal style decreased by 100% and it was almost as if I wasn’t myself anymore. I was praying to go home before the day even started. I kept praying for excitement in my life that just wasn’t there anymore.

After four years of practicing nursing, I left with the intention of following my passion in the fashion world...styling! I stepped out without any support, former schooling or idea of what I was getting myself into. After three years of trying to make a name for myself in the fashion industry, I became pregnant. Believe it or not, it was then that I decided it was my time. My time to start my own business and show the world why I was different. I knew it would break my heart to go back to work, and so I made a huge decision not to and Style IngeNEWity was birthed the month after my son was.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

I truly believe that the confidence my work facilitates creates even more of a drive to get out there, to do more (an increase in productivity), to be more and to truly design the life you want. There is no greater feeling to me, in my work, than helping women to look great and feel even better.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

I help powerful women and I choose to show up powerfully in my purpose daily. I am constantly pushing myself to take that next risk. To get out of my comfort zone. I also practice self care. Not to mention, my style is on point, if i do say so myself. LOL! I am fun, vibrant, confident in who I am and my style personality reflects that to a T!

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

Ooo this is a good one! I have had so many that I acted in spite of so far and I'm sure they'll be more, but the most recent one was live streaming more than usual to increase my audience. I decided to first journal around this and then do it any way. I created topics and bullet points on what I wanted to say and went for it. I do it way more often now for sure!

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

I would say to trust your intuition at all times. There are tons of How-Tos out there, but the only thing that will set you apart and bring you success is what you truly desire to do. If you ever find yourself in a dilemma, take a moment of silence and listen in to what it is exactly that you are being called to do.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

Right now it's, "Can't stop, won't stop." Simple but it motivates me. I repeat it daily to remind myself that I have the power to achieve everything. It is all up to me!

 

Learn more about Phylicia and Style IngeNEWity here.

Follow on social media @styleingenewity

SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: ELYSE KAYE

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Elyse Kaye

CEO/Founder

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I founded Bloom Bras out of frustration after years of searching for a sports bra that worked. It is truly an engineering challenge so I brought in the minds from NASA, the shipping and packaging industries, and a celebrity corset-maker who works with opera singers ballerinas and Oprah to create the ideal solution.  The Bloom Bra features patented lifting straps, adjustable cups, a breathable wicking mesh back and is designed to make you look as good as you feel.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

My goal is to empower women at any stage of life to feel comfortable and beautiful exercising and moving. Current products on the market are not designed for the average woman and are very unhealthy.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

When I ran my first half marathon I had no skin left from the chafing, and then I started reading blogs from thousands of women who were having the same challenges as me. The average bra size in the US has risen from a 34B to a 34DD in just 20 years time. The average body changes 10% per month. For a well-endowed women that is a full cup size. The results have been staggering. We sold out in 82 hours.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

EMPOWERING WOMEN!

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

I have stopped wearing underwire bras when possible. Additionally, I donate a certain percentage of all products to breast cancer survivors and women who have gone through non-elective reconstructive surgery to help get them back on their feet.

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

It has been a roller coaster of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We had over 240,000 people come through the Facebook page in just three weeks time without spending a dollar. But then we ran into crazy manufacturing challenges, which postponed further delivery. I have had so many women reach out with love letters excited about someone finally listening to their wants and needs. Yet every time an order comes in right now that we cannot fill, I cringe.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

Be 150% passionate about this because it will not be an easy track. However it is the most rewarding career move!

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

Surround yourself with people who inspire you.

 

Learn more about Elyse and Bloom Bras here.

Follow on social media @bloombras.

SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: JENNY DORSEY

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Jenny Dorsey

Founder

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I'm a professional chef based in NYC. I specialize in experiential gastronomy combining food and AR (augmented reality). I'm currently pivoting from running my own culinary consulting firm and popup dinner series (http://wednesdays.nyc) to launch a nonprofit (http://studioatao.org) which is an exhibition space dedicated to food + AR.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

Big, worldly change starts from personal change and development. Too many people I know relax into a submissive state with work, relationships, future growth. I want to create a space where people feel free to challenge themselves, are pushed to be uncomfortable, and move closer to that ideal of "self actualization" (which is different for everyone). So many of us are taught to find answers to everything but I believe many of us are not asking the right questions.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

My story is somewhat bland - I'm one of those people that have zero tolerance for anything I don't like so there's not much buildup for my leap. I had been in a management consulting role at Accenture for a little over a year and after a series of exciting bonuses & climbing my way up the rat ladder I realized I hated it. Once I realized I hated it, it was all I could think about every day. I woke up roughly a week after I realized this and said "no more", walked into culinary school, didn't bother for a tour, put my entire credit line down as a deposit for school, and started the culinary program the next month.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

I hope that my work with Wednesdays for the last 3 years has helped people push themselves out of their comfort zone and engage on a more intellectual level with a different sector of people they would never otherwise have met or talked to. I hope Studio ATAO allows guests to come into a place and walk out invigorated (and maybe a little daunted) by the work they can still do to improve themselves, about the stigmas they hold dear to their heart, and with some new questions for how they can improve.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

I'm always trying to change and improve. I love/hate taking myself out of my comfort zone and doing something that is challenging. Just this year I decided to shut down my growing consulting company - something I built by myself into a 6 figure business within a year - to pursue the opportunity to work for Chef Dominique Crenn in SF. I relocated to SF temporarily (I'm here right now) and am currently being paid nothing to work 14 hour days in the Atelier Crenn kitchen. But I knew it would help me hone my skills as a chef, creatively inspire me, and also help me down the line so I can discuss with her my idea for Studio ATAO.

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

I have lots of fears right now. I've closed a lucrative business and am taking home no money but still have the same bills and people to pay. I'm putting all my "eggs in one basket" betting I can start an exciting new venture in the AR space, even though I am not a developer myself nor know many developers. It's a nonprofit, which is something I've never created or have experience with. I currently worry a lot, but I also believe if your dreams aren't scary or just a little out of reach then they probably aren't the full dream you want to pursue.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

No one controls your career trajectory except you. Take ownership in your personal development. It is a luxury, the "easy way out" to be told what to do - don't let yourself wallow there.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

It's your life. Own up.

 

Learn more about Jenny, Wednesdays, and Studio ATAO here.

Follow on social media @chefjennydorsey

SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: SANA AASER

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Sana Aaser

Education Director

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am the Education Director of Noor Kids, a Harvard-supported educational program that seeks to build constructive identity among American-Muslim children. In this role, I manage the development of a monthly, subscription-based children’s activity book series that is read by over 25,000 children across 25 countries. Additionally, I conduct research, write content for parents such as articles and guides, and facilitate workshops with educators around the country. I received my MA in Education with a concentration in Equity and Social Justice from San Francisco State University, where I was recognized with the University’s highest honors for original research related to the impact of Islamophobia on 5-to-9-year-old Muslim children in North America. Due to the significance of this research, my team at Noor Kids subsequently raised $45,000 from over 550 contributors across the country to expand this study on a national level.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

My vision for change is one of education and empowerment. I believe that learning and growth is inextricably tied to our identities, and how we show up in the world. The words we speak, the attitudes and beliefs we hold, the actions we take -- who we are is a summation of who we are taught to be. This is important to me because I am an educator who knows that education is about the whole child.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

Last October, my husband and I both made the decision to work full time on Noor Kids instead of pursuing other, potentially more lucrative, opportunities. We had a close family member pass away shortly before, and seeing her leave this world made us think about our own temporality. We committed ourselves to doing meaningful work and truly making a positive impact in the world.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

In simple words, I believe our work teaches young children to be good human beings. At a time when children are hearing and seeing ugliness and hate in the media, we are promoting values necessary for better future generations. Within the Muslim community specifically, our work also supports children in developing confidence in themselves and integrating their Muslim and American identities.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

At Noor Kids, our mission is to build constructive identity among American-Muslim children. This was a challenge for myself, not too long ago. I was born and raised in the United States to immigrant parents, one of whom joined the U.S. military when I was a young child. When 9/11 happened, my world was turned upside down as both my country and my faith were under attack simultaneously. Negotiating my multiple, and seemingly conflicted, identities was, and still is, a difficult task. Unfortunately, American-Muslim children growing up in the current socio-political climate have even greater challenges to face. This is why this work is so important to me personally.

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

One of the fears that I have had, and sometimes still have, is wondering how to sustain this dream. We are solving a real problem and making social impact, but we are also running a business. It takes a lot of hard work and resources to make this dream come true each day. Reminding myself why I do what I do and hearing from our little fans is the fuel that keeps my engine running.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

One piece of advice I would give to someone starting out is to surround yourself with supportive, but honest, people. It is definitely critical to have a strong support system that you can rely on for motivation, encouragement, and help. However, it is also wise to have trusted advisors who will provide real, constructive feedback, ultimately resulting in a better end result.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

"It is a terrible thing to see and yet have no vision." - Helen Keller

 

Learn more about Sana and Noor Kids, here.

Follow on social media @noorkids

SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: WHITNEY ROBINSON

Whitney

 Robinson

Founder

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I graduated from Duke with a degree in Computer Science, and kept pretending the next job I landed in that field would be “the one.” This, of course, didn’t happen. After many failures, I decided to go in a completely different direction. I began by writing a blog to house my interests. And then, I started playing with leather and nose-dived into a life as a designer and founded Freshly Given. Freshly Given’s signature accessory is an envelope clutch. I channel my creative spirit into sourcing the leather and designing patterns for the brand.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

As a mother and woman of color, I'm exhausted by the external pressures to be successful. I want to see a space where women of multidisciplinary backgrounds can mesh and create amazing ground breaking "things". This is important to me because at first glance I'd be considered low on the food chain, so to speak. But I know I'm good at what I do - in the most humble way. There is so much untapped expertise out there, especially among women of color.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

Unfortunately, a late term pregnancy loss. The pain was too much to bear. Over time I allowed the grieving process to push me out of my comfort zone and into a role I had previously only dreamed about. Freshly Given was born out of this process.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

I have a Computer Science degree from Duke, and currently stay at home with 3 kids and make leather accessories. Society says I'm wasting time and not accessing my potential. I believe Freshly Given encourages others to rebel against norms and focus on purpose and drive. Even if you have no idea what they are. Listen, I never thought I'd create a business, let-alone, a "fashion" brand. But every part of this process has given me so much life. Degrees are only a piece of a big picture.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

One way I embody my work is sharing my story with others. I encourage women to take risk. I encourage mothers to take risks. I make myself available to others struggling to find an out, and land in a role that is fulfilling. I am vulnerable and open to sharing my failures so that others can thrive in areas I did not and do not.

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

Money money money. When people constantly remind you of your money making potential and you look up at them, surrounded by a pile of leather, and just stare because you know you have to be crazy to do what you're doing. I often felt stupid. I struggled with the thought that I'm wasting my degree. I handled it by pushing through, completing a handbag, going live with it, and enjoying the moment.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

To do this you need to be a bit looney. But there are so many others who will follow behind you. Be looney together.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise." – W.E.B Dubois

 

Learn more about Whitney and Freshly Given, here.

Follow on social media @freshlygiven

SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: STACIA STALL

Stacia Stall

Co-Founder Society Rebel

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am a rebel, a dreamer, someone whose crazy enough to believe they can make an impact on the world in a bigger way than just their family and friends. On that note, I am also a wife, a mom and a good friend! Society Rebel is a real life rebellion.  We like to say it’s our mission to give every rebel a cause and a place to call home. We do things differently. You will never meet a group of people who want to see you succeed in life more than our rebels. Society Rebel is a blogging community that gives you a platform to express yourself and share your story with others. You can share your experiences, and the lessons you’ve learned, but you can also just write about your last amazing purchase, or an awesome show you saw. We’re all about giving people ideas that help them live better lives. Even fun ones.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

I have a few platforms for changing the world, starting with love and kindness, which are quite typical, but a few more that are rather specific. 

  1. Giving people a place to share their story. When you know someone's story you have empathy and grace, if we could see people for the humans they are, the world would start to change.
  2. Embracing diversity by accepting we are all different instead of trying to make everyone the same, coat-tailed by acknowledging the prejudices we all feel, and instead of letting fear rule, being conscious of our often valid prejudices, but setting them aside for progress.

These are innately important to me, because I was born.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

In 2015, I had recently turned 30 and finally recognized one day I was going to die, and I hadn't accomplished nearly enough of the things I set out to do. So, I started acting like each day I lived matter, and set out with one of my best friends in the world to build SocietyRebel.com as a platform to initiate the changes I wanted to contribute to the world.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

One of the ways we like to best share the story is that the timeline of life is kind of like a long row of Oreos all stacked side by side. Each cookie represents a story or life we hear about, JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Oprah, but between every cookie is the cream which represents the hundreds of thousands of stories we never hear about, and yet they propel life forward just as much. We want to give every person a place to share their story, so their voice can be heard, and their stories can be known. Stories breaks down the barriers of the people different than ourselves, so we can know and love them, even when they are very different than ourselves. In addition to that, other people overcome from the stories of someone who has gone before, and we all feel less alone.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

I share my story, even when it's hard, uncomfortable or slightly too personal. I also try to live a life that embraces diversity and offers grace even when undeserved. 

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

At the beginning of 2016, I quit my day job to pursue my personal ventures full time. With lots of failure, less money than I expected and a grumpy husband in tow, it's been hard, but I know I'm on the path, I was created to be on, so I push forward. I handle it with a semi-organic diet, followed by regular doses of dessert and yoga, because the naysayers are many.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

It will be WAYYYYY harder than you think. It will take WAYYYYYY longer than you're planning for it to take. You are not one of the lucky ones, but showing up every day moves your progress forward a microcosm, and if you know you're supposed to do it, then don't quit.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

The reason personal storytelling is so important is simple. The world needs less idealistic "how to's" and more realistic "how did's".

 

Learn more about Stacia and Society Rebel, here.

Follow on social media @societyrebel