Girl em[Power]ment – A Series of Short Essays.
Over the next few months Flancake.co will be bringing you the Girl em[Power]ment series, which consists of interviews with several working women of all ages in different stages of their career. These are women I not only find inspiring and interesting, but who I think women of all ages should know about and learn from. These women hold careers in several different industries, from creative design to politics. They’ll give us an inside look into what their job is like, how they got there, share their advice for twenty-somethings, and touch on what Girl em[Power]ment means to them.
[be sure to follow along on insta – @girlempowerment]
Our next influencer is someone I’ve been so honored to get to know through Lola, who really taught me several things not only about the creative world, but in life in general. Natalie Navis has had an unconventional career path, but never the less it’s so inspiring. She is one of the most giving humans I know, always putting others before herself [sometimes when she shouldn’t!]. She is also so positive, her contagious energy is like wildfire. When I started this series, she was on my list of women who really inspired it as a whole.
Q: What is your current job title, and can you please briefly explain your career path?
A: Self-employed style blogger + wardrobe stylist + brand consultant, former attorney, and probably something else [TBD!]
I currently run my style blog and wardrobe styling business, which I’ve been working on in addition to my day jobs for four years now. I’m so excited to say that i’ve recently added freelance brand consultant to the mix! I’ve been assisting small businesses, particularly in the boutique beauty and retail industries, with brand development and an assortment of strategies that go along with that, including social media strategy and management, e-commerce development, creative direction of photoshoots, event production, merchandise planning, and more. It’s been so rewarding to help other girl bosses grow their businesses. My career path to this point has been anything but traditional! Prior to working in the fashion sales industry, I was an attorney. I attended law school right out of college, graduated, passed the bar exam, and worked for about four years as a research attorney for judges at the trial and appellate court levels. While the career was extremely rewarding intellectually, I felt that the introverted nature of my position did not fit my personality. I will always be grateful for my legal education and experience for giving me confidence in all business endeavors— and my strong backbone! When the judge I was working for during my fourth year retired, I knew the time was right to take a leap of faith into the fashion industry— something i’ve always wanted to do. I started working as a key holder/senior sales specialist for standard style [standardstyle.com] in Kansas City. I jumped in head-first, wore as many hats as possible, and learned so much during this first year. The company has had huge success growing their in-house line, Baldwin [baldwin.co], and it’s a privilege to say that I got my start there. Next, I moved to Lola [shoplola.com] in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to be the retail director and flagship manager. Again, I learned so much about the industry and about myself during this time, and I will always be grateful for the experience I gained and relationships I built. While living in Fayetteville, I became a certified Barre3 instructor [barre3.com], and that role remains extremely important to me. Although it was very difficult, I recently relocated back to my hometown so that I could embark on the next phase of my journey. My motto lately has been this quote: “every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.” It takes courage, but I believe that you have to let your path reveal itself to you— even if that means going through some transitional phases in life.
Q: Where did you go to school and what was your major?
A: I graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law with my J.D. in 2009. Prior to that, I attended Creighton University and Graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2006. I was a total literature nerd in college— fitzgerald is still my favorite. Creighton is a liberal arts college and I was exposed to so many different paths while there, but when I graduated I was unsure about what I wanted to do. At my dad’s suggestion, I figured “why not go to law school?” I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the “why not?” attitude for everyone when it comes to law school. Generally, it’s a means to an end [practicing law]. But if you are a lover of learning, then law school is an incomparable education in how to think, read, write and communicate. While I’m not currently practicing law, I use my legal education daily in my approach to communication and all business matters that arise in life— and there are a lot! I feel more confident in my career because of my law degree, and that’s invaluable, particularly when you’re an entrepreneur.
Q: How do you deal with negativity towards women in the work place [if at all]?
A: More often than “negativity” towards women in the work place, I see “inequality” towards women in the work place— and obviously inequality is a negative. I’m a believer that women have a long way to go in our society. The reality that we have never had a female president, that there are very few women CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies, and that females on business panels aren’t being asked the same questions as their male counterparts [see here— posted by flancake on facebook!], makes it clear that we have not achieved equality. inequality towards women in the work place is highly dependent on the industry you work in. for example, I saw much more evidence of inequalities in the legal field [a male dominated profession] than in fashion [a female dominated profession], but that’s part of the problem. In the midwest, law is often seen as a more respectable, high-powered career than fashion, and therefore more suited to women— regardless of the huge amount of capital generated by the fashion and apparel industry in our country. I believe all industries should be gender neutral, and that women and men should be equals in any industry, from law to fashion. Unfortunately, I have dealt with a fair amount of comments from male superiors during my career that I qualify as sexist. My best advice? Stand up for yourself and call out those comments. Don’t ignore them or [ever] laugh.
Q: Who are your mentors or role models, and why?
A: My babcia [“grandmother” in polish]: She’s a WWII labor camp survivor and immigrant to the US, and is still independent at age 90. She made a life for herself in america, learned to speak broken english, and raised three successful children while an uneducated, poor immigrant. Seeing life through her eyes gives immigration a whole new meaning to me. She exemplifies survival, independence, and determination. I know my strength comes from her— and probably my [sometimes] feisty nature too!
My mom: she’s been an educator for 25 years at the college level. She believes in teaching her students how to think, not what to think. The other day, she was commenting that the test given by her department had been “dumbed down” to the point where it would be easy for the students to pass it, just so that the instructors could say they were successful in teaching. My mom wouldn’t give that test, or at the least wouldn’t let it count for much of her students’ grades. She won’t lower the bar for anyone and sees potential in everyone, no matter their race, gender, or background. She has taught me how to approach everyone I meet in life with the same level of respect and that we are all capable of so much more than we think.
Megan hurley: owner of barre3 fayetteville and my former employer. This woman is a champion for all women [and men], has a heart of gold, and is the definition of “real.” She balances owning her successful business with being a full-time mom to two boys, and does it with such grace. no matter what, she makes the time for others. She has created the most nourishing community where all clients come to feel their best, physically and mentally. If you’re in the fayetteville area, you have to attend one of her life-changing classes. She is the one who asked me to become a Barre3 instructor [not once, but twice!], had faith in me when i didn’t have it in myself, and mentored me as a grew. Because of her, I became invested in Barre3, a company that helps its clients lead a balanced life through fitness, nutrition, and mental wellbeing, while fighting for real beauty. You can see Barre3 founder Sadie Lincoln’s words on that topic here.
Q: Have you ever felt unsure of yourself or felt that you weren’t “enough”, and how did you overcome that?
A: All the time, every day at least once. I have battled depression and anxiety for much of my life, and while I’m sure I would experience feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy regardless, these feelings can be even more amplified and often. It does help to know that I’m not alone and that we all, as humans, feel uncertain of ourselves at times. My faith is a large part of me being able to get through times when my feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy are the most severe. My other grandmother, who passed away this past Spring, taught me about the importance of faith, and the peace that can be found in turning my worries, doubts, and fears over to God. I also have extremely supportive family members and friends who encourage me when I doubt myself. My ability to overcome feelings inadequacy is due in part to their unconditional love. The real relationships I’ve built throughout my life mean the world to me, and it’s these relationships that I come back to during times of self-doubt. That and turning off all social media for a while, because “comparison is the thief of joy” and we all need to remember that social media is a place where people create their perfect lives [probably not the best place to go when you’re feeling down about your own].
Q: What are other things you do [hobbies, projects, interest] that you feel passionate about?
A: I have always been passionate about the arts. I grew up playing piano [and later teaching piano lessons at a local arts and music studio] and dancing [classical ballet and modern]. I was a member of a local modern dance company all the way up until moving to KC in 2013. Barre3 has been my substitute for dance since then, and I’ve become very passionate about a living a balanced life through fitness, nutrition, and mental health. It goes without saying that fashion is a major interest of mine— I guess obsession might be a more accurate term. For me, my love for fashion goes beyond an appreciation of it as the main form of creative self-expression. To me, fashion is empowerment. It’s dressing yourself in a way that makes you stand taller, walk more boldly, and take on life with confidence and enthusiasm. Fashion has so much transformative power, it just has to be harnessed. I also have a heart for a serious cause facing our society today: mental healthcare. My legal career opened my eyes to the gravity of this issue, and I’m committed to making a difference and working on behalf of this cause. One thing I think we can all do is be gentle with each other. This quote is so true: “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”— and most of the time, you have no concept of how great that battle may be.
Q: Is there anyone you think that is making a difference in women empowerment that you think we should all know about?
[Natalie is too kind, I tell you.]
A: How about you, miss flannery wilson?! You, my dear, are making a difference in women empowerment by creating this series! I am so inspired when I see young women in your generation who realize the significant platform that you have in being a blogger and woman in the fashion industry, and using this platform to work for a greater cause than self-advancement. Don’t get me wrong, i’m all for girl bosses advancing themselves and showing the world how powerful women can be, but when a woman uses that audience to advance a greater cause, that’s what’s truly inspiring. You’re a perfect example of a woman who has a heart for making a true difference for others. This women empowerment series demonstrates that you are going to do big things in this life that really matter, and I’m so excited to see your future unfold!
Q: What do you do in your free time to relax?
A: Relax? What’s that? [just kidding.] I’m working on getting better at this. I love to go to barre, yoga, and dance classes, go for long walks outside [preferably with my family dog, but I’ll borrow pretty much anyone’s pup as long as he or she walks on a leash], read blogs, read books, and be a social butterfly. Ok fine…. and drink wine and watch netflix and eat nutella out of the jar [there, I said it].
Q: What career and/or life advice would you give to your twenty-year-old self?
A: Well, I have the benefit of having a brother who is 22 years old, so I give him the same advice that I would give myself at his age: it’s ok to have a plan for your life or a roadmap or a path that you think your life is going to take, but you have to recognize that life quite possibly won’t go according to that plan, and that’s going to be fine— you will survive. Don’t try to control everything or you’ll go insane. Embrace the journey and let life take it’s course. Even though it’s really hard, try not to let the detours or barriers dampen your spirit. Keep persevering on, and try to enjoy the moments along the way. Life really is a crazy ride.
Q: What does Girl em[Power]ment mean to you?
A: Girl em[Power]ment means both self-empowerment and helping to empower other women. While I love to read style blogs and I so admire the greats in the fashion industry, the women I truly respect are the ones who are making a difference for other women. I’ll be the first to admit that style and creativity are very admirable traits, but it’s ultimately what you do with those gifts that makes you great. Girl em[Power]ment is about using your talents, gifts, and skills to do something great for yourself AND for other women— working for a cause, standing for a marginalized population, bringing attention to a significant social issue, etc. I say, while you’re building that empire, why not empower other women along the way?