Woman Wednesday: Denise J.


Q and A with Denise J. from Brampton, Ontario Canada

“I grew up in a not-so-nice area as a kid, but I know that it has made me who I am today because if I was raised anywhere else, I don’t think I would have as thick of skin today as a mom of three.”


Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: My biggest passion has been and still is helping people. I have been a registered massage therapist for the past 13 years and this was my goal when I was in high school as I had taken a course on the body and fell in love with what I would be able to help with. I am loving what I do and, over the early part of the pandemic, I got my life license. I had no idea what I was going to get out of it, but WOW! I was shocked at all that I learned and now could educate others and help plan/protect their families. Then I started an online business in the essential services industry. This is where I have been able to provide my customers with better rates on services, they pay for in the home such as natural gas, electricity, internet, mobile, home phone, travel, and health care.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: My younger years were amazing because I was always out and about playing, or we were at the Boys and Girls Club after school and evenings program where we went on many fun outings and once took a Tim Hortons camp trip to Alberta. We often traveled back to Jamaica and the US for a few weeks and see family. I played many if all the sports I could in school up until high school as I then became focused on my studies.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: I grew up in a not-so-nice area as a kid, but I know that it has made me who I am today because if I was raised anywhere else, I don’t think I would have as thick of skin today as a mom of three. I don’t look at where I came from as a bad thing because I know it gave me humble beginnings and some to look back and see how far I’ve come. Even though many kids didn’t end up in a good place as an adult, I can safely say my siblings and I all went on the great things in life.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?


A:
Feminism to means….to be honest, I don’t give it much thought because I teach all three of my kids to not think they can or can’t do anything because of their size and sex. Yes, the world doesn’t see a woman as equal to a man in some cases but knowing that we can do anything they can do if not do it better.

Denisejohnson.acnibo.com

Thank you for reading!

Woman Wednesday: Katherine J.


Q and A with Katherine J. from Bethlehem, PA

“Never stop caring, growing for others, and building connections!”


Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: As a copywriter for service providers, I’m passionate first about community and second about writing. I founded my business on a love for helping others and a professional background in writing and marketing for nonprofits, sharing stories, and promoting causes that improve and enrich lives. My joy comes from channeling the right words to lift purpose-driven work. I decided to name my freelance business Lehigh Valley Copywriter because what you choose to support can be anywhere–but it starts where you are.

My mission is to serve the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and the communities my clients are building through their work. I offer brand messaging, SEO website copywriting, and sales writing campaigns to help other entrepreneurs grow their voices, connections, and visibility. The kinds of clients I gravitate toward working with are teachers of all disciplines, musicians, artists, photographers, coaches, and service-based business owners like realtors, financial advisors, event planners, and wellness professionals. Most are women. My work is gratifying because my clients’ work is meaningful and intentional, and makes a difference for others. I’m in my first official year of business and growing quickly. Beyond client projects, I’ve been building partnerships through collaborative work, online learning groups, and local support systems of like-minded female entrepreneurs. Freelancing can be isolating if you don’t step back from the work to build relationships. It’s finding a community that makes all the difference.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: Growing up in upstate New York, I lived in a small suburban town where kids left bikes in the front lawn when visiting friends, swapped Jolly Ranchers for Fun Dip at the open park across from the stony creek and played manhunt across neighbors’ backyards until we were called home by our parents’ silhouettes in windows. It was a genuine community. I’m from the last generation to experience childhood without the internet and also the first generation to grow up fully alongside the internet. My first online writing experience was through the Open Diary website (which I’m stunned is around–go look it up)! AOL chat rooms, AIM profiles, and message boards were all creative outlets for a budding writer. I remember writing “books” and “newspapers” with friends on clunky PCs in the family computer room and the thrill of printing stories at home! The after-school world ignited me as a young person. I attended a public school system rich with diversity, civic engagement, and extracurricular opportunities like Rotary Club, band, writing club workshops, and the school newspaper. I also found meaning in volunteering at nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other service-based agencies with my youth group. Reflecting on those experiences, it makes sense that I found nonprofit work appealing and have taken up freelance copywriting to support community development. I had a healthy support system and the right people as role models.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: At the end of the year, I get sentimental as I reflect on my learnings. I imagine each year as another draft in my life’s story, scrawled with edit notes and suggestions for improvement. In copywriting, my writing tells the passions and stories of other people. It’s a learning process of hearing what other business owners care about, who they serve, why it matters, and how we can help others discover their offer as the solution to a problem. It’s also a learning process on the customer service end. Much like the writing drafts that sit at the bottom of my Google Docs, the experiences and feedback that I earn with each copywriting project serve as reminders for growth. Never stop caring, growing for others, and building connections!

Q: What does feminism mean to you?


A:
Feminism starts with keeping an open heart and leaning into intuition. We live on a spectrum of callings rooted in lived experiences and spiritual identities. We serve ourselves and others best when we pursue what feels right professionally and at home. But our society and economy haven’t made this available to everyone yet. We have to be vocal about barriers and inequities when we see them. Feminist strength comes through knowing other women, understanding their personal and professional desires, being loud about what gets in the way, and supporting each other. I recommend finding a network, tribe, village, community–whatever you want to call it–to build a support system for yourself and others.

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like to work with me, please visit my website katjacksoncopy.com/copywriting-services. You can also follow me on Instagram @copywritingbykat for tips on small business growth, copywriting, brand messaging, and Search Engine Optimization.

Woman Wednesday: Samantha P.


Q and A with Samantha P. from Long Island, New York, living in Northern Israel

“You are never too old to learn something new!”


Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: My passion is helping small to medium businesses and startups (B2B SMBs) find their voice and market themselves correctly to the right audience. Marketing is such an overlooked part of what allows businesses to make money because it can be hard to put a dollar value on the benefit a newsletter or social media post brings to a business. I started my own fractional marketing business to help small businesses understand the value that marketing will bring them, as well as to tie it to their sales so that we are marketing to get them money. My husband does VP sales and business development as a service (VP Sales/7 Biz Dev as a service), and even when we don’t have shared clients, we always consult each other. It’s such a benefit to each other (and our clients) that we each have the other as a resource since sales and marketing really need each other to gain the maximum advantage.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I always loved learning and would read whatever I could get my hands on. I’m glad that that love has stuck with me because as a marketer, I can get clients from any industry and it means I need to learn a lot very quickly about vastly different sectors, from AI robots to desalination.

I didn’t always work in marketing. In fact, for the first 10+ years of my adult life, I spent working in environmental science and politics. I was always very passionate about protecting the planet, even before Al Gore made climate change cool. [Samantha laughs.] When I was 31, I followed my dream and left the USA to move to Israel. I’m very fortunate that my mom and brother also moved to Israel after me. Growing up, it was always just the three of us, so I’m grateful that we have each other here as well. Moving to Israel was definitely hard! I had to learn a new language and get used to a very different culture. I am very happy here though. There is much more emphasis on family than I found in the US. The country is built for kids; there are playgrounds and daycares everywhere. It’s not uncommon for a stranger on the bus to ask you to hold their baby for a second while they pay. I see the struggles my friends in the US go through not having maternity leave or affordable daycare, so I’m especially grateful to be living here.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: When I arrived in Israel at age 31, I saw that there was a very, very limited number of positions that involved environmental protection, and for almost all of them, I needed to be fluent in Hebrew, which I wasn’t yet. I had to reevaluate my goal, asking myself if it was to continue to build my career in environmental issues, or successfully start a new life in Israel? I chose the latter and did a program that helped me identify my skills in order to find a job. It turns out that my years working in politics and organizing and promoting events allowed me a very natural transition into marketing. I’m not almost 10 years into my ‘new’ career and have worked my way up to CMO as a service (also known as a Fractional CMO). I love what I do, and I love seeing how business owners light up at my recommendations and the results of my work. I very much encourage people to consider changing careers if they find themselves stuck. You are never too old to learn something new!

Q: What does feminism mean to you?


A:
Feminism means being able to accomplish what you want professionally, without having to give up what it means to be a woman. I shouldn’t have to be excessively aggressive to be taken seriously or paid equally. Women should be allowed and encouraged to have children and all that comes with it, without being penalized professionally.

Thank you for reading!

Click here for Samantha’s website.

Woman Wednesday: Amara


Q and A with Amara from Yona, Guam, currently living in Jacksonville, Florida

“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.”


Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: These past couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put in time toward myself and all the things I am passionate about. I’ve learned that I’m not perfect, but I am also driven, creative, a good listener, and above all an old lady at heart. In my spare time, I like to make playlists, eat Korean BBQ, and enjoy a cup of tea on a rainy day. Recently, I was presented with the opportunity to become the Outreach Manager for Fanachu! Podcast. Fanachu, which means to rise up or stand up against something, is a podcast and video series based out of Guam that is dedicated to being a safe place for Pacific Islander voices. Right now, I am currently working on a zine called “Voices of the Diaspora,” and its main purpose is to showcase the artwork and short stories of Chamorros (the Natives of Guam) who are displaced from their homeland. As a Chamorro in the diaspora, this is a subject I hold close to my heart. So to be a part of a project like this, that is something larger than myself is an absolute dream come true.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: Moving to the mainland from Guam, I remember having a very confusing childhood. There was always this constant battle between the values that my parents were trying to instill in me and the westernized culture that I was growing up in. For years, I was ashamed of where I came from and how different I looked compared to my peers. But as I got older, I realized how beautiful some of our customs were like respecting our elders, making sure everyone gets a bite to eat, lending a helping hand, and putting family first. I recognized that these were all important qualities that made me proud to be Chamorro.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Learning to be vulnerable doesn’t mean throwing all caution to the wind, but rather not being afraid to be yourself in such a way that you open yourself up to criticism and ultimately, change. Looking back, some of the most rewarding moments and relationships in my life were a result of me taking a chance and being vulnerable. This is one thing that is not easy for me, so I try to work on it every day!

You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?


A:
To me, feminism represents the women in my life that mean the most to me. It makes me think of my mom having me at 18 years old and doing her best. It’s knowing that I’m not related to my stepmom by blood but she still loves me and treats me as if I’m her own. It’s the memory of my Grandma Rose and how she was the strongest person I have ever met. It makes me think of my sisters and how they’re the most compassionate, emotionally intelligent people in my life. Without them, I would be half the woman I am today.

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like updates on my upcoming zine, feel free to follow Fanachu! Podcast on Facebook and on Instagram here.

Woman Wednesday: Jennifer


Q and A with Jennifer from Peoria, Illinois

“Isolation doesn’t support growth.”


Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: For many years, I struggled with confidence, crippling anxiety, sensory sensitivities, problems focusing, and overall not seeming to really fit in anywhere. 

After discovering my love of art and practicing creativity, my friends stated that it was like I suddenly “came alive.” I found something that allowed me to express everything I was going through in a way that I couldn’t with words. This “ah-ha” moment sparked a desire to help others discover how to use their creativity as a means of healing, improving well-being, and using their unique voice through visual language. 

Over the years, so many people have shared their desire to create, but are held back by the assumption that a person must be born with talent in order to practice creativity. They let the fear of failure of a “horrible end result” keep them from even trying. Sometimes they may give creativity a try, but then feel so overwhelmed with no guidance that the supplies just end up collecting dust on shelves. 

To help with overcoming the limiting mindset that they can’t create, I decided to curate craft kits that included supplies and instructions to alleviate not knowing where to start. This is how DIYvinci was born. Today, we also carry individual art supplies, online courses for more in-depth support, and a free online community to connect with creatives of every skill level.

The name for DIYvinci was created with the intention of being a unique business name that would focus on art and creativity. It is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most influential painters in Western art history. The name DIYvinci represents the idea that anyone can be creative and express themselves through various media, just like Leonardo da Vinci did through painting, sculpting, architecture, and science. 

The following quotes by Leonardo da Vinci highlight the embodiment of the vision for DIYvinci in that art and creativity aren’t only skills to be mastered but are a reflection, connection, and understanding of ourselves:

“The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies everything placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.” —Leonardo da Vinci

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.” —Leonardo da Vinci

Our future goals include developing sensory crafting kits for neurodivergent adults, producing courses that are created by artists with different disabilities to teach how art and crafting are still possible using different methods, and developing a therapeutic interactive art journal. 

6/8/22 – Peoria, Illinois: DIYvinci. © Chris McGuire Photography.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I grew up in a small rural town surrounded by corn fields in central Illinois. The house that I lived in with my parents had been in my family for over 150+ years. I am a middle child with an older sister and a younger brother. I was always a very quiet and overall reserved kid who had trouble making and keeping friends on my own and often relied on my older sister or parents to make introductions. The most common question I was asked growing up was, “Why are you so quiet?” My typical answer usually included a nervous giggle paired with a shrug and a simple response of “I don’t know. I just am.” This was usually met with disappointment as if the asker had been expecting an in-depth revelation of past trauma that would explain why I wasn’t like everyone else. How could I answer what I didn’t understand? How could I explain that what seemed so odd to everyone else was what came naturally to me? That it was a defense mechanism used to function in a society not designed for me. My lack of an answer made it all too easy for others to insert answers of their own. “Jennifer is just shy. Jennifer is too nice. Jennifer is a suck-up. Jennifer is controlling. Jennifer is just stuck up. Jennifer is a goody-two-shoes. Jennifer doesn’t care. Jennifer is boring. Jennifer is lazy. Jennifer is awkward. Jennifer is a nobody.”

Between my lack of confidence, learning, and social difficulties, and not fully understand myself, I found myself believing these answers and withdrew further into myself as a means of survival. Over the years, anxiety continued to build leading to full-out panic attacks, but I was still left without words to express what I was truly feeling inside. I believe my faith in God, my family, and my friends kept my head above water in my high school and college years. In college, I studied Web Systems with the intention of becoming a web designer. However, after graduation, I was met with nothing but silence from potential job opportunities. At this point, I was earning only around $500 a month in my part-time library job and was quickly becoming desperate to become more financially stable. I eventually landed a data entry job that I would remain at for the next 8 years. This opportunity taught me so much, opened me up to meet so many awesome people, and helped get me into a much better financial situation. 

About 4 years into this job, I started to hit burnout. I didn’t recognize the signs at first, but they continued to build to a point where it was nearly impossible to function yet I still pushed through, day in and day out. In the last year of my job, I finally began to realize what was going on. I discovered I was autistic and was in a huge autistic burnout. My primary doctor referred me to a psychiatrist and during this appointment, it quickly became apparent that this NP didn’t have a lot of knowledge about autism in females or adults in general. I was told that because I was able to have a conversation and appeared intelligent that it wasn’t worth pursuing a diagnosis. I became frozen. For what felt like the millionth time in my life, I was once again left with more questions than answers. My emotions flooded over me and it was a struggle to even continue with the appointment. I did what I normally do and shut down, hiding everything, and simply went along with the conversation. It’s like being shoved in the backseat of a car that is way too small for an adult while the driver goes where they please, not seeming to notice your discomfort. Afterward, I cried. I had spent so much energy deciding to take this step just to be abruptly shut down and made to feel like I wasn’t even worth someone’s time. I began to wonder why I was putting myself through all this discomfort. Maybe I should just accept the answer that I was just an anxious person and give up.

6/8/22 – Peoria, Illinois: DIYvinci. © Chris McGuire Photography.

However, giving up isn’t in my DNA. Not only am I curious, but I’m also stubborn. I refused to just leave this as it was. I started this year making changes, and I wasn’t about to stop until I had the answers I needed. That is when I discovered Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht from Embrace ASD. Not only did Dr. Engelbrecht offer assessments and diagnoses for adults with autism, but she is autistic herself. It didn’t take me long at all to decide to go forward with the assessment with her. Less than a week later, I got my report back. The first few lines read: Suspected Diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder. While I did cry after reading this report, it wasn’t like before. This time, I was heard. This time, someone took the time to read through my struggles and validate that I’m not weird, crazy, or another forgotten statistic. For the first time, I felt like I could say, “I am autistic and I no longer have to pretend to be anything I’m not.”

I eventually was diagnosed officially as autistic, ADHD, dyspraxic, and dyslexic. These labels finally gave me words for my lifelong struggles and opened the door to begin to accept myself for who I am. At close to 8 years, I left my data entry job in pursuit of being a full-time entrepreneur. I had already been operating DIYvinci for over 4 years by this point and was determined to see it flourish. 

While my business still isn’t earning enough to support me, I was recently given a huge opportunity through Synergies Work with both a business grant and an 8-week entrepreneurship learning program. For the first time in a long time, I felt like someone finally saw value in what I was doing and was willing to go to bat for me. Aarti, Shlok, and the whole Synergies Work team brought back a spark I feared I was losing.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: One thing I have learned over the years is that isolation doesn’t support growth. While I often retreated to isolation as a kid as a means of self-protection, I don’t allow myself to stay in that state for long anymore. I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for help and that I don’t have to do everything on my own. Connection with a community provides support, accountability, and an exchange of ideas that push you outside of your comfort zone. I highly recommend everyone seek out a community they relate with, that is encouraging, and that can help them see things from a new perspective.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?


A:
To me, feminism means opportunity. Many cultures can easily stereotype women into certain categories and when a woman attempts to do something outside those categories she’s often seen as weird. Feminism is when we shift this perspective and view women as valuable, and human, and are celebrated for our differences. As someone who entered the technology field and entrepreneurship – both of which are primarily dominated by men–I’ve witnessed firsthand how women can be overlooked and discriminated against simply because of being a woman. I believe respecting others equally as fellow human beings is the essence of feminism.

Thank you for reading!

Website: DIYvinci