We’re all surrounded by talented women in our lives. It just so happens that we’re super extra fortunate to be a part of a co-operative work community that is chock full of badass female creators, innovators and community builders. They wear many hats. They take on a bunch of responsibilities. And they do amazing work. So this post is for them.
We want to celebrate their spirit, tell their stories and amplify their voices this month. While we are fortunate to have many, many female members in our community…too many to list here. But these are just some of the folks doing big, cool or interesting things worth noting. Our challenge to you…read their stories, connect with them, follow them. They have causes you can support, skills and knowledge you can hire and stories worth sharing. When women thrive…we all thrive.
PS: There are 12 actually…we couldn’t help ourselves. 😂
Amy Johnson Ely
Amy is the Executive Director for The Palmetto Cycling Coalition whose mission is to make South Carolina bicycle and pedestrian friendly, by improving safety through better access and education, to promote healthy lifestyles and livable and economically viable communities. Amy is a huge advocate for bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities and livable communities; activating stakeholders, citizens and evangelists alike.
Bianca is an entrepreneur, wife, mom and a pizza and Prosecco enthusiast. Her favorite meal is brunch (check out her podcast Books, Brunch and Babes), a lover of all books (she still buys actual books), a branding photoshoot pro (check out her company, the Crawford Austin Agency) and a travel snob.
Dawn Dawson House
Dawn is fighting to preserve, celebrate and elevate African American cultural heritage in South Carolina and beyond. As the Executive Director of the WeGOJA Foundation, Dawn leverages her 20+ years as a tourism professional, storyteller and convener to document, preserve and activate African American heritage in South Carolina. Their wildly popular and award-winning GreenBook of SC provided one of the first of its kind travel guide to SC African American cultural sites. (a co-operative project with SOCO members).
Fiona is a competitive triathlete, founder of the worker-owned digital marketing agency FGM Internet Marketing, and an environmental activist. When she’s not designing digital campaigns for companies and causes she believes in, she’s competing at the highest level in triathlons around the world (competing in the ITU World Championships for Team USA). Fiona is a vocal advocate for the environment, sustainable development and equitable access for marginalized persons and cultures.
Founder and creative director of digital powerhouse HLJ Creative, Helen Johnson is passionate about combining eye-catching design with data-driven marketing strategies to create brands and websites that make the right impression, accomplish your goals, and lead to long-term growth. She’s an entrepreneur and a super mom. She’s seeing incredible growth and is evolving her team’s capabilities to serve the needs of a new generation of clients.
A high energy and highly impactful coach, consultant and thought leader in organizational culture, talent attraction & retention and leadership…Jada built and sold her first company in late 2022 and is now working on empowering CEOs to build incredible cultures and companies with several new ventures in the works.
Freelancer turned creative executive. Kaleigh Cox had a successful career as a freelance copywriter before she met fellow SOCO member Robert Gilbert in the early days of DxTEL. The two joined forces a few years ago and haven’t looked back. DxTEL is a fast growing managed services and platform company serving the rural broadband/telecom industry. Kaleigh has built a reputation as a savvy storyteller and influencer in the space. When she’s not evangelizing for access for everyone, she’s all about faith, family and community.
Kassy Alia Ray
After losing her police officer husband in the line of duty, Kassy was moved to take action and founded Serve & Connect with the mission to help police and citizens work together as one community; Serve & Connect works to heal the relationships between police and the communities they serve and by doing so, creating a future where police and citizens work together as one community.
Katherine Swartz and Bre Spaulding
This dynamic duo is transforming entrepreneurial education and building the next generation of student entrepreneurs at USC through the McNair Institute for Entrepreneurialism and Free Enterprise. Katherine has been transforming nonprofits and shaping the next generation for 20+ years. “Bre” is one of Soda City’s most dynamic young leaders. Working with stakeholders from across the university, the McNair team successfully launched USC’s first ever minor in Entrepreneurship.
Shannon is the Cofounder and COO of Consciously, a creative agency serving the needs of conscious brands including Akimbo (altMBA), B Lab, Black Wealth Data Center, and Planned Parenthood. Consciously builds purpose-driven, inclusive marketing platforms that help companies nourish their business ecosystem. In addition to being a mompreneur and a brand builder, Shannon has launched a life coaching business.
Starlitt Miller is blending a creative background with technology and data with her new startup Transity. In 2022, Starlitt graduated from Visible Hands, a high tech accelerator focused on investing in and lifting up underrepresented founders. She’s a vocal and active member of the Cola startup scene and the most recent Entrepreneur in Residence at the Richland Library.
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With the new year comes and endless talk about resolutions, goals, and how to make the most of the next 12 months. At SOCO, we believe in being SMART (Smart, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely) about goal setting. So, for our January conversation, we asked members how they set goals for the year.
Before we dove into 2023, we asked what members are most proud of from 2022
We wanted to know the community’s preferred goal-setting method
Once those goals are set, we asked how to track them
Accountability is important for goals. We asked who holds our members accountable
Sometimes we don’t hit our goals. How should we handle it?
Finally, we asked what the community will take away from this conversation and into the rest of the year
That’s all, folks
If you’re craving conversations like this one, we have them every single month. Find out how you join in on the fun.
Between meetings, emails, and all of the parts of a job, working parents also have to care for, raise, and be there for their kids. They’re basically working two jobs. And each is rewarding in its own way, but finding a way to balance it all is difficult. So, this month, we asked our members how they do it.
First, we asked how parents care for themselves when they spend most of their time caring for their kids.
Next, we asked how they set expectations with colleagues, clients, and bosses about their schedule and availability due to kids.
We wanted to know about the hardest part of being a working parent.
Then, we asked about the best part of being a working parent.
We asked about the things SOCO parents wished others understood about being a working parent.
We asked SOCO parents to give advice to folks who are about to become working parents.
And finally, we asked what their takeaway was from the conversation.
Does this conversation resonate with you? You can join in every month and hang out with these awesome SOCO parents when you become a SOCO member.
We all have so much going on. Work to do, kids to take care of, bills to pay. And it can all be too much sometimes. Things get out of whack. Life feels out of balance. So, for our latest Slack Session, we talked with our members about finding balance and how they handle all the things life throws their way.
After getting some amazing GIF responses to how they viewed balance in their life, our community described times when they achieved a healthy work/life balance.
Next, we wanted to know how our members know when things are out of balance in their life.
So, when priorities are out of order, we asked how the community gets realigned.
Then, we asked what work/life balance looks like in an ideal world.
We have conversations like this one every single month. If you’re a SOCO member, you can add your take in the #slack_sessions channel. And if you’re not, all you have to do is take a tour, sign up, and you’ll receive all the benefits of being part of the community.
Following the April 18th tax filing deadline, we figured it was an ideal time to talk money. We wanted to get our members’ input on how they run their business finances and the challenges they face. And at the end, we all walked away with practical lessons we can apply to our own work.
First, we asked folks to reply with a GIF with the first thing that comes to mind when they think of their business finances.
Seeing that money causes a little angst, we asked about the source of stress for business money management. We also wanted to know the things our folks felt good about.
Next, we asked what our members struggle with the most.
Goals are an important part of financial management. We asked our members about theirs.
There was a lot of talk about getting paid. So what happens when a client doesn’t pay?
As our conversation came to a close, we wanted to know the tools and resources that help our members manage their money.
Want to be surrounded by a bunch of people going through the same stuff as you? Join SOCO. It’s that easy. You’ll find support, community, and good folks waiting for you.
SOCO member Brett Edwards is a freelance photographer and videographer based in Columbia, SC
Brett Edwards noticed something about his roommate.
“It seemed like he did nothing. And he was making more money than I was,” Edwards said with a laugh.
At that time, Brett worked for a dot com company in Chico, California. He’d graduated with a degree in marketing and mass communication. So when he landed on the marketing team at this company, he thought it was “the job.”
“I hated it,” Edwards said. “I was the visual designer, but that meant I basically filled out templates, the Google Ads, the print ads, and all the things that are basically ‘insert picture, insert percentage off.’”
It wasn’t the type of creative work Brett envisioned for his career.
So, Brett talked to his roommate and found out he did tech support for a pellet grill company. It was a small family operation, and when Brett looked them up, he could tell their media and imagery needed some work.
He told his roommate to give him his boss’ number. Brett had an idea.
“I’m gonna cold pitch him on me doing their media.”
And he did it. The company responded and said they wanted to think about it, but asked if he could also do tech support. Brett was game.
He remembered thinking, “that sounds better than continuing in this other job.”
“So then I went on this journey of doing fully remote pellet grill tech support while trying to get them interested in my photos. And they had no interest initially,” Edwards explained.
Brett continually tried to convince his bosses to let him do some photo shoots to improve their website imagery.
His effort paid off because around $2,000 worth of grilling equipment showed up at his house so he could start going to work on capturing great images.
Brett began taking photos, and even after a move to Oregon, he stayed on with the company working in a “hybrid” position. He started social media acounts, fixed things on the website, and did anything else they threw his way.
He didn’t know many people in Oregon, so Brett had more free time on his hands. He asked his roommate if he wanted to make recipe videos. But Brett wasn’t very experienced with video.
So, he watched tutorials on YouTube about creating videos and gave it a go. Once he’d put something together, he sent it to his company.
“And they were like, ‘wow, this is way better than the other videos we’ve tried,’” Edwards said.
Suddenly, Brett got a budget to create more content, buy more equipment, and travel around the country to create recipe videos with sponsored pitmasters and grilling professionals.
Freelancing is the Perfect Fit
Even though Brett was doing more content creation, he was still wearing many hats. He wanted to focus more on photos and videos. An opportunity came knocking when he met folks from a cider company while working on a promo video for a giveaway. He began freelancing with them, and eventually, they asked him to come on full-time.
Brett named his number for what it would take to make a move.
The company said they couldn’t meet the salary requirement but asked if there was anything else they could do to get him on board.
“I was like, you give me total freedom with my scheduling, my timing, and the ability to freelance whenever I want and just laid out all the other stuff I want,” Edwards said.
Overnight, Brett made the transition into the content job he wanted. He worked with an entire marketing team taking photos for billboards, semi-trucks, creating videos, and even working on some ad spaces for Portland Timbers games. His work was reaching thousands of people.
The arrangement worked well because it put Brett in a position to do additional freelance work.
“Since I essentially had this deal with them where I get to keep my schedule free, and I didn’t have to commit to nine-to-five hours, I freelanced all the time. So I way made up for any amount of money they didn’t give me on just my own free time,” Edwards explained.
It was eye-opening.
“That’s when I realized how important it is to keep your schedule built for freelancing. Prior to that, it was trying to find time for projects outside of business hours.”
Pursuing Work that He Loves
Brett’s favorite thing to do is explore. He and his fiancé spent many weekends hiking, camping, and being outdoors in Oregon. Then, he began thinking about how to merge his business with his passion for being outside. He knew some photographers have a niche in the outdoor lifestyle industry.
Brett used a tried and true strategy to begin working with outdoor brands. He started reaching out and pitching his services.
Brett’s first move was to contact companies he saw on Instagram, the ones that targeted him with ads for outdoor equipment. He asked them to send him products, and he’d get shots while on his weekend trips.
And they did.
“So at that point, I was taking pictures of tents, sunglasses, sleeping bags, whatever. But it was in line with what I did in my own time,” Edwards said. “And so then, everything kind of started to merge together.”
It’s been a solo journey for Brett, but he’s hoping to build a small team.
“My ultimate vision was getting a small production house or small creative team together in a physical space and getting my own studio at some point.”
Brett’s move to Columbia was a transition. He’s still getting used to the climate (he moved here in September 2021) and finding new places to explore. But, he’s found community and an opportunity to pursue the work he loves.