Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Oct 19

The Only Way Out Is In

I read this quote earlier and it stuck with me – “The only way out is in.” We spend a lot of time pushing “out” these days. Publishing, blogging, tweeting, posting, preaching. I, myself, am a big fan of sharing. It has a way of making things real. I think it’s the reaction we’re craving. As a marketer I’ve always know the real thing we’re all after is a reaction, a true moment shared with someone else that is worth remembering. We want to show we have an impact, that it mattered…whatever it is.

Real talk moment though…we all know that sharing something doesn’t make it real. I mean we knowwww this.

I believe that turning inward is more likely the only way to make something real. Like deeply turning inward, where you sit in the discomfort. You scream something at yourself and bask in it. Thinking about it, considering it, letting it flow over you like a wave until you are literally surrounded in it and likely cold, and somewhat lonely, and kind of freaking out because you don’t know where you are or where you’re going.

I think about this a lot, as someone who lives life very fast. Between work and friends and health and learning and creating and all-the-other-things-ing, I almost never sit and truly process anything. Everything needs to be solved, or shared, or made better. Every word that comes at me is more often “troubleshooted” than heard these days. And if I’m being completely honest I’m often more of a facilitator than a participant in life these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is real value in embracing life so fully that it just engulfs you so deeply, that most of life is lived through you to others that need it. It makes for more connections and for more impact.

It also makes for less time to sit and process. I was thinking the other day about all that I’ve gone through in the last 6 startups I’ve worked at, and the last 12+ years of my career, and the last two heartbreaks, and the different cities I’ve lived in and the different deaths and sadness I faced. You know what I thought?

Holy shit. Seriously. No wonder I’m tired.

But a funny thing happened. I felt energized by remembering what I went through, by experiencing it, if only for a minute, deeply. The last few months have not been the easiest of my life, but they sure as hell haven’t been the hardest. There is strength in remembering what you’ve seen and what you’ve done.

Sometimes the only way out is in.

 

Dec 26

My 2014 Style Resolutions & How I Did

What a year it has been. Holy snap. If you all remember a year ago I made my 2014 style resolutions as a forcing function to be more bold and #wearwhatIlove. It only seems appropriate for me to look back and see how I’ve done. So here we go!

Resolution #1: Wear more dresses
Result: Success. 
Nailed it. I wore more dresses this past year than the previous five years combined. I have to admit I was often tempted to throw on jeans but remembered the resolution and went for it. Certainly made for some fun dates, some fancy events, and more. A few of my favorite dress moments (please note there was a great deal of twirling this year!)…

Resolution #2: Find the perfect pair of nude heels.
Result: Success. Done! This was one of the first resolutions to get completed. I’ve worn them a bunch since then as well. The rumor is true – they really do make you look taller. The boyfriend also loved them, so bonus points for that.

Resolution #3: Discover orchid accents.
Result: Loss. Meh. Confession: I bought a few things and honestly didn’t love them. They ended up sitting in my closet for most of the year. With that said I did wear a lot more bright colors this year and I am BEYOND excited for Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year – Marsala. Deep, wine red? Yes please.

Resolution #4: Finally figure out boyfriend jeans and heels.
Result: Loss. Booo. Not so good. I didn’t wear them one single time. Sad but true. You’ve alluded me yet again boyfriend jeans. Wait until spring comes around and let’s see what we can do. It’s not the end boyfriend jeans…just you wait. Continue reading →

Dec 10

Authenticity is a Huge Deal

Jack Welch said that. You know who else said that? Anyone who knows anything. The reality is “authenticity is a huge deal.” It’s kind of the whole deal in a lot of ways. Over the past decade of startups and the chaos of the storm I have come to whisper that sentence (and at times scream it) over and over and over.

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get caught up in the “what’s the best way to say something” or “what will get you what you want right now.” You can tell yourself “it’s just a temporary front” or “this is what we have to do to get through this.” I get it. These sentences feel so real at the time. It’s hard for you to take a step away from whatever you’re working through and realize…

There is no excuse. Authenticity is a huge deal.

It’s also not easy, but it’s necessary for good living. For kindness. For heart.

I’ve been told I “tell it as it is” and at times that has caused trouble. I’ve been harsh, or too upfront at times. My bar seems too high, my transparency too much. People want me to sugar coat it, or lie for the better of the moment. God I wish I could. I wish I could look you in the face and tell you Continue reading →

Oct 06

Life Bitch Slap #7: Be the Plot Twist

Today was a day. A real day. You may have noticed I haven’t written in a while, as I’ve been busy jumping all in with my new team at Porch. In just under three months we’ve seen insane growth, solved really hard problems and made a pretty big promise to the world that I couldn’t be more excited to explore and execute on.

But things have also been a bit crazy. With any new job comes a new schedule and new challenges and adjustments and rhythms. None of it unsolvable but all of it is very real. New perspectives meet with others and hard conversations and big questions are asked. It’s both what is exciting and exhausting about taking this startup road.

One of our co-founders had this great quote the other day. He said, “Lots of people say it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But I don’t believe that. If it was a marathon, I’d be going a lot slower right now. It’s more like a series of sprints, and we are just at the beginning of one.” I loved that. It so perfectly sums up the last few months and what I hope to take on for the upcoming years — it’s like this series of sprints, all of them full of new challenges, each of them bigger and faster than the last.

So today was a one of those “real days” and at the end of it I found myself turning to an old friend…a video I’ve watched dozens of times at this point. It’s a video done by an agency out of Portland explaining their approach to beautiful marketing. You can watch it here. Every single time I watch it I get chills, because I believe it. I believe in that approach to authentic, beautiful, valuable storytelling. No matter how challenging or long a day is in marketing or startups for me, I can turn to that video and I’m reminded why I’m the luckiest lady in the world.

Tonight as I was watching it, I was bitchslapped by a sentence. It happens at 2:37 in the video where they state: “you’re like the plot twist.”

As marketers and storytellers, we are just that. We are the inciting incidents in the story of a company or a product or a brand. We take the storyline and we find Continue reading →

Mar 25

A Beautiful Impact

I get asked all the time… “what drives you?” I never really know what to say. I feel like over the years a million things have driven me in startups and marketing and life. I didn’t give the question that much time. The irony, of course, being that I have spent so many hours thinking about questions that really are far less important. Stressing over why I said that one thing, or acted that one time. It all comes back to what motivates us.

The past six months I have had the honor of working with one of Seattle’s most amazing professional coaches – Stacey Sargent, CEO of Connect Growth and Development, Author of a fantastic book on how we all handle our inner critics and brilliant woman all around. The funny thing is – she’d smack me if she saw I called her a professional coach. She adheres to “whole-person intelligence” coaching and believes it’s about helping us bring our life back into work. It’s so up my alley. I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t have work life balance. Never have. I’ve helped build 6 startups, four effectively succeeded, one failed, and one is in the middle of an exciting adventure. I’m a tech advisor, a TechStars mentor, a professor at UW. I’m launching a shopping app, I blog for Entrepreneur.com, MarketingLand, and here. I have been talking, learning, teaching, and doing marketing and tech for over a decade. I’ve traveled the world teaching hundreds of thousands of marketers how to do great marketing. I’m not married, I don’t have kids. Heck, I just got a betta fish, and I have to co-own it, because I have a hard time remembering to feed it. I don’t do balance. 

Or as Stacey has shown me…perhaps I do my balance. And perhaps it is perfectly in balance.

For the past five months we’ve met every other week to work through what I would call “hard stuff.” We talked through my inner critics, my mistakes, my regrets, my weaknesses. We also worked through my strengths, my superpowers, and exercises that showed me just how intense those two camps fight with each other. We worked through what I love about what I do, and where I want to end up. What do I want from all of this? What makes me truly happy?

It all made for a lot of intense sessions of self-reflection, a lot of late nights of reading, and writing, and pushing myself to get at the core of it all. It might sound new-age to you, or cheesy, or even a waste of time, but I can honestly say…working with Stacey has been the best thing I’ve done for myself professionally, hell possibly even personally.

After half a year of us working together, a few huge things came out of it (and a million smaller things). Big things include;

  • I know my core values. I have six core values (on itttyyy bittty notecards) I now carry around with me. I value “passion, acheivement, family, helping others, creativity and humor” more than I value most things. They steer me. They anchor me. They helps me identify when I feel off course.
  • I know where I am easily derailed. Aka, I know why I screwed up so much. Or at least I have some good theories. The first few years of my career were driven by pure ambition. I was very competitive, and not always that empathetic, and I acknowledge that now.  During that time I strengthened some muscles and not others. I now know what I need to work on and where I need to level up.  I can correct for it faster. Especially since the ambition is still so prevalent (and will always be a part of me). There is beauty in a team that is mutually ambitious and working with each other toward a common goal. That excites me.
  • I have words I am comfortable defining myself by. Eeekkk! Okay…here I go. I am an entrepreneur, a business woman, a storyteller, a marketer, a mentor. I am grounded, maternal, and an artist. I’m just gonna throw down on this — most women (and some men) have a hard time screaming “I AM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL BUSINESSWOMAN…AND I AM GREAT AT WHAT I DO!” So we hide it. We blush. We deflect when someone compliments us, and rarely do we own it. I am owning these words. I am these things. I work hard for them.
  • I have a mantra. We did this great exercise where I got to invite 6 business people to dinner. Any 6 in the world. Then we talked through why them, what would I ask them, what advice would they give me. The common thread between my six people were that they: challenged the status quo, empowered other people, were building a legacy, were driven & focused, and they worked their asses off. When it came down to the collective advice they gave me, I concluded they (in my story at least) said this: “Stop worrying and JUST GO!”  … I mean for real people, why don’t we all just stop worrying and JUST FREAKING GO?!

So those are some of the takeaways that really stood out. But the biggest success after all of this was that I had finally nailed down what really motivates me. I could identify the two words that feel so “me” that I can honestly say I wake up every morning, and work late into the night with this on my mind. I take opportunities based on these words, I pass on others because of these words. These two words are me.

I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. A beautiful impact. I want to build companies and brands that want to have a beautiful impact on the world. I want to work with investors that believe in investing in a beautiful impact. I hire people that work hard and build things. I believe in the power of design, and imagery. The visual has always been key to the experiences I’ve built and sold. I love beautiful people. Like really beautiful people – inside and out. Honest, real, full of flaws, that are making a difference. “Beautiful” to me means you have the power to stop someone in their tracks with a moment so real that it encourages a deep breath, a thankful breath…for that singular experience. That experience could be between people in a community, between a consumer and a product, or a brand and a customer, or two colleagues building something together. It could be felt when you see a photo or read a story. Moments of beautiful impact are rare, but to me…it’s what this is all about.

As Stacey pointed out with every superpower comes the other side…it’s called the “light” and the “shadows.” The light of such a goal is pretty obvious. But the shadows include – lack of patience for those mailing it in, a need to move fast and go hard that can cannibalize others. It can be intimidating, my obsession for progress can come off as inauthentic (because what crazy person could care that much about a homepage layout? #raiseshand). I have a high bar for the beautiful which can cause friction with fans of MVPs, baseline experiences, and uber lean approaches. To have a beautiful impact you often have to be bold, outside the box, and you have to often follow your intuition. You have to trust the consumer, hear what they need, put them first. You have to aspire to delight them at every corner…sometimes at the detriment of short-term revenue. This is hard, and frankly…not right for every company. It’s not the goal of every team. With the light, comes the dark.

Mar 11

The Value of Stiletto Networks

I was wandering the web the other day and stumbled upon a post on Entrepreneur.com about the Rise of Stiletto Networks, and I have to admit – I was caught a bit off guard. What is this new trend regarding women in business that I have yet to hear about?

A stiletto network is loosely defined as “a group of power women that meet often and support each other” and apparently it’s like a thing. There is even a book on it {that I admittedly just ordered}.

Honest moment…something about the name rubs me the wrong way. Which is strange because I love both confident women and beautiful stilettos. Hell you all know how much I love shoes. Like a lot. But it feels like a name that goes against the nature of the cause. Like it somehow suggests you have to be wearing stilettos to be powerful, or maybe that you have to be a stereotypical type of beautiful to be powerful. Neither of which is true, obviously. Powerful, confident, world-changing women wear all sort of shoes. They come in all sorts of sizes, styles, and types.

On the flip side…a stiletto is a very powerful shoe. It’s synonymous with bold, beautiful, power. All of those words are exactly how I view the women I know that are leading the way. They are bold, beautiful, and powerful.

It’s what I aspire to be daily…bold, beautiful, and to have an impact on the brands I build, consumers I reach, and technology world in general.

I’m a fan of camraderie between women in business, especially women in tech. In fact, I’m more than a fan. I’ve spent the last few years of my career very much focused on investing in other women entrepreneurs, marketers, and technologists (this focus of mine has come with it’s own challenges, which I plan on writing about at some point). I mentor two women myself, and take any chance I can to get in front of women and remind them how exciting technology is and how perfect a place it is for their unique skills.

My mentor is a woman. My professional coach is a woman. My closest industry liasons are women. Without even knowing it I have created and joined a number of “stiletto networks.” In fact, right now I am actually, intentionally, working with a fellow fashion blogger on building one focused on fashion and tech. We just didn’t know that it was called that. So meta. I find it very interesting, that without having been exposed to the idea, or learning about it’s value, I was actually creating and participating in so many of these.

The value of these networks (call them whatever you want) are so amazing. From them we get professional guidance, personal support, connections, advice, and what I believe to be an “innate understanding” that somehow helps me silence my inner critics, and be my boldest, best self.

I feel very fortunate to have found myself surrounded by so many women I adore and admire professionally. If you are a woman in tech and you find yourself without a group like this, I encourage you to go create one. It can start with just two of you, and see where it takes you. Invite in those with other skills, and similar ambitions and before you know it…you’ll be rocking a Stiletto Network yourself.

And if you really can’t find that second person, ping me. No I mean it. We’ll figure something out. #thepoweroftwo for women in tech can be a very powerful beginning. So go get started already.

Dec 25

My 2014 Style Resolutions

Dear 2013, you were one hell of a year. Full of emerald greens, leather accents, and personal mountains…I must say…just wow.

I am quite excited about the year ahead. Choosing to take the reins more, go after what really makes me happy, care less what others think, and put my time just where I want it to go. Call it my early thirties, being single for the first time in three years, or just good ole fashioned New Year mojo – but I’m ready for you 2014.

I thought I’d throw together a fresh list of my style resolutions. Rather than commit to more work/life balance (meh, no thanks), or to cook more (I’m way ahead of you 2014!) or finally get back to dancing (which I really do want to do) – I decided to come up with resolutions at they relate to fashion, style, makeup, and more.

Last year I challenged myself to learn more about the fashion industry, committed to blogging more, got up my ISITaYES site/blog, and finished up my fashion app (ready to launch soon). So what is the next chapter for me in this stylish ride? I’m not entirely sure, but I think these style resolutions are a good place to start.

1. Wear more dresses. I’ve been drawn to them lately. Maybe because I miss being feminine, or maybe because I feel more free flowing than previous years. But this year I vow to wear more dresses. Long ones, short ones, cinched at the waist, and layered. I went on a date not to long ago and the man picked me up and twirled me and I kept thinking – man I wish I had on a beautiful maxi dress right now, so the wind could catch and this moment could last longer. [Yes I think those things. That's totally normal, right? right?]

Goal: Twirl more.

2. Find the perfect pair of nude heels. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t own nude pumps. Yup. I said it. I know they are the staple, the thing to own. But damn they are hard to find. If I have to dedicate multiple weekends to this adventure, I will [cough] [cough] [willingly] put in the time. Suggestions welcome, as are shopping buddies. I must find them to help me tackle #6, and to also figure out that whole “make your legs look so damn long” thing. With all the dresses I’ll be wearing, it’s a must.

Goal: Find the confidence to show off more leg.

3. Discover orchid accents. Pantone…I adore you. Last year it was emerald and this year orchid. I appreciate you keeping us on our toes. Purple is such a rich, and soulful color. It reminds me of being young and carefree. I’d wear head to toe purple, and bounce around. So this year I will embrace this feminine accent in fun new ways – maybe menswear, maybe jewelry, maybe a pair of kicks if I can find them.

Goal: Lace into my life the softer side of bold.

4. Finally figure out boyfriend jeans and pumps. You might be thinking this trend is “over.” Oh that’s right…I don’t care. I am 5 foot nothing, and I dig boyfriend jeans. High heels and jeans. I’ve been trying to understand the boyfriend jeans and pumps phenomenon for the last two years but with little success. This is the year. I must figure out the right length, drape of the jean, height of the heel, so on and so forth.

Goal: Show up at a happy hour in said outfit, order martini, look fabulous. Repeat.

5. Explore hairstyles & find a signature. Confession: I have absolutely no idea what to do with my hair. I’ve been a blond, a brunette. I’ve cut it short, grown it out, permed it, straightened it. I’ve done bangs, no bangs, back to bangs, back to no bangs. Hell I’ve tried it all. Alas…I am no closer to really understanding how to do my hair. Most days it’s a high bun, or a low ponytail. There has to be more. Tis the time to figure this out.

Goal: Stop pretending a messy bun looks great [caveat: everyday for every occasion].

6. 31 year old professional me…figure that out. I’m 31. I’m 31. Holy snap. I’m 31. I want to start dressing like what 31-year-old Joanna should dress like. What is that you ask? Don’t panic - I have a pinterest board for just this occasion…uhmmm and a Wanelo collection. [Don't judge me!] Clean lines, polished, sexy, bold colors, and layers. Leather, chic, with the occasional “favorite piece.” Oh…and once a while there is a casual -  ripped jeans, meets soft t-shirt, with bulky sweater and chunky necklace look. Anyway. I’ve got a magnet pulling me this direction, so it’s time to get after it already.

Goal: Stop throwing on jeans and a black sweater. For the love of all the others things in my closet – start taking chances. Continue reading →

Aug 12

Busy Moments

I wandered Pinterest tonight for a quote to get up that speaks to how I’m feeling lately…because I am too busy to write a whole post. I then wandered Pinterest, unsuccessfully, for over an hour. What the hell?! That one didn’t quite work out as planned.

Nothing jumped out. Or rather all of them did. Everything seems to resonate these days. Quotes about leadership and resilience and priorities. Quotes about forgiveness and love and being scared.

Quotes about being bold. I’m not sure if it’s because I feel bold these days, or because I’m so inspired by bold friends — ones that chose to leave jobs and wander the U.S. and write, ones that uprooted their lives to start a new adventure in a new state, ones that handed in the easy gig for the opportunity to be challenged. It’s been a hell of a summer that’s for sure.

It’s amazing what a season can bring. One season that is full of busy moments. Moments that push us to our limits…ones that push us into wandering images hoping one speaks loudly enough to sum us up. To make sense of the noise. I did come across this one…

…and I couldn’t help but think…my days are so packed full of busy, challenging, amazing moments. I’m kind of in love with it.

Sure…I bitch about how tired I am. My to-do list is out of control. I haven’t been at inbox zero in four days. My apartment is a mess. I miss yoga. And running. And sleep. And crossing things off my freaking list.

But my cup runneth over. With moments. Great ones. I’m thankful for that.

I’m also thankful for Pinterest which gave me a chance to get lost among the words. One of my favorite things. Hope your Monday was a lovely one.

 

Jun 15

Happy Father’s Day Dad…You Are One Hell of a Man.

Dear Dad,

I wish I could say there was a million things I wanted to say to you, but it simply isn’t the case. You’ve always appreciated honesty. You and I have been able to share every story, every question, every fear…always. I’ve said it all (okay, okay…maybe the wine helped, but whatever). We’ve said it all. Thank goodness for that.pic of dad I

I thought to myself – what’s left for him to know? He knows I love him. He knows I’m thankful for him. He knows that I consider him to be the most amazing father, and that he really is my best friend in this bizarre world.

He is the one that understood why I traveled to a different coast. He was the one that encouraged me to wander, and do startups, and explore. He gets that I put more pressure on myself than the world, and he loves me anyway. He slows me down, and reminds me just how lucky I am…just when I need reminding. So what’s left to say? Continue reading →