8 Planning Tips To Help You Walk Into 2024 On Fire 🔥

8 Planning Tips To Help You Walk Into 2024 On Fire 🔥

Get Ready to Have Your Best Year Yet With Some Simple Planning Guidance

So, How’d Your Year Go?

“Dumpster fire”. “Lucky I Just Survived”. “I crushed it like a tin can:, Or simply “meh…”. These are all acceptable answers, but we should endeavor to dig a little deeper. And with the holidays upon us our annual “get out of jail free” card is back. We get to wipe the slate clean.

Every year, around this time, I try to slow things down just a bit and take some time to think about the year that was: What I accomplished. What didn’t go so well. How the journey felt along the way (that matters a lot). I also ask myself some easy and hard questions around what my hopes, dreams and goals are for the next year. We like to think about the future around SOCO. We like to lay out some “destinations” we’d like to get to in that future. I don’t care so much about how we get there because there are a bunch of different ways.

Ready To Have a Better Next Year Than This Year?

Me too. I really think that life is just a series of experiments. Little baby experiments where we learn things and make incremental progress. I fully subscribe to the “1% Every Day” concept. I think it’s a fundamental part of our existence as human beings….to evolve.

So, let’s talk about how we can take stock, hit reset and position ourselves to have our best year yet. Have some ideas to add? Drop them in the comment below. So, here’s to your evolution in the new year my friends. We can do this (together). So, let’s go!

8 Planning Tips To Start Next Year On Fire 🔥

  1. Take time to reflect on the year that was, really – Make sure you celebrate your hard fought wins, but don’t forget to also acknowledge areas where you struggled.  This is the growth mindset…get you some (and write them down).  I bet if you’re intentional about exploring all you’ve accomplished this year….your cup will runneth over. 🥂

  2. Refill Your Cup – Speaking of cups. No one can run hard 24/7.  Take time to nourish your mind, body, spirit and relationships.  Rest.  Sleep. Laugh.  Do something to really take care of yourself over the break.  Be intentional about rewarding yourself.  😴

  3. Commit To Kicking Imposter Syndrome – Here’s are some facts that I’ve uncovered through 20 years in business. Everyone is full of shit. Everyone has ridden the struggle bus at one point. And everyone has something they are truly wonderful at. And lastly…you and me both deserve the success the we have worked so hard to achieve (however you define that). So, stop thinking you can’t do it. Kick that fear to the curb. 😔

  4. Set Some Reasonable Goals – Focus on growth.  On getting better.  On improving.  Set some goals that you can achieve, given your resources and situation.  Write them down and share them.  And while you’re at it, do personal and professional goals.  Because we are whole people.  🎯

  5. Create a Bias Towards Action – It’s amazing how the first 3 months of the year set the tone for the rest.  Position yourself to take action early in the year.  🏃🏿

  6. Get An “Accountabili-buddy” – We’re way more likely to get the work done when we’re not the only ones we’re “reporting to”.  Find a friend or colleague that you can share your goals with and commit to regular check-ins with each other.  Accountability is crucial.  👐🏼

  7. Send something big out into the universe – Challenge yourself to think and act bigger by writing down and sharing an audacious goal.  Something that’s not very safe.  You have permission to dream a little (and fail).  What’s most likely is that your big crazy goal will push you farther (even if you miss the mark) and you’ll grow.  💥

  8. Just Don’t Give Up – Here’s something else we’ve learned. Success can be about outthinking, out hustling or out maneuvering the competition. But, normally…it’s just about outlasting them. If you believe in what you are doing, then make a commitment to not stop. Regardless of what life throws at you in the new year…don’t stop. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to fear. Be bold.. Be audacious.. Be true to yourself. Don’t stop until you’ve reached your destination. 💪🏽

Need a Little More Inspiration?

Looking for a little more inspo as you roll into the New Year? Check out this great episode on the Communal podcast as Greg and Gene expose a fundamental truth: failure is not the end, but a critical step of personal and professional evolution. We open up about fear, resilience and personal growth.  If you need a reset for 2024, this might just be your medicine.  

About The Author:

Greg Hilton is the cofounder and managing partner for SOCO, SOCO is a thriving platform and community focused on supporting creators, indie workers and entrepreneurs just like you. He’s an avid outdoorsman, creator and storyteller. He’s also been self-employed and a business owner for nearly two decades and has worked with hundreds of solos, creators and entrepreneurs to help them lead better and more meaningful lives.

Like what you’re reading here? Share it with someone else!

#GetaLife: 10 Productivity Approaches To Own Your Week

#GetaLife: 10 Productivity Approaches To Own Your Week

10 Productivity approaches to explore to get the work done and make time for life.

You Ain’t Gotta Go To Work, Work, Work, Work

But, as the song goes, you gotta put in the work. I love the idea of work, intellectually. It’s really interesting. We all have to do it. We (almost) all assign a lot of value in our lives to our “work product” or how we contribute to the world. Some of us “go to work” to feed our families. Some of us go to work because we’re driven to make a difference. Most of us, are striving to a little bit of both. We have crazy busy lives AND a lot of stuff (hopefully) that fills our cup outside of work. But, most weeks it feels like there is WAY (LIKE WAY) too much to get done and many of us find ourselves sitting there on Friday frustrated that our efforts fell short of our ambitions.

How In The World Do We Get It All Done?

Good. Me too. I know my purpose. I know why I work. It’s to provide for my family, make the world a better place and move us all forward. I’m working towards a goal of being financially independent, of having the ability to do what I want, when I want and with people that have meaning to me. But, man…some weeks just feel like I’m riding in a literally dumpster as it careens down the hill on fire. Does this sounds like you? If so, this question is for you. How can we do both? Do big, meaningful work AND live a rich full lives outside of work; filled with friends, family, community.

Ever Heard of Parkinson’s Law?

It’s this theory penned by a humorist named Cyril Northcote Parkinson, which essentially says “Hey dummy. There’s a reason that you get to the end of your day/week/month feeling like a failure. The work will just expand to fill up your life if you don’t have a system in place.” Parkinson’s Law was first used to explain why bureacracies get bigger, But, it’s also super helpful as a way of thinking about loads of different types of work, including PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY.

So, if you find yourself on the struggle bus, In part, you have this asshole’s theory to thank for it. But, you also need to take a hard look in the mirror and realize that it’s on you too and not some dude from the 50’s.

Ready To Make Some Productivity Changes?

You and me both friend. A few months ago, I started a journey to casually investigate some of the things that others are doing to get more productivity out of their weeks AND I started experimenting with some of these same approaches myself.
So, let’s commit to some things.

  1. We can and will take control of our work weeks.
  2. We WILL prioritize our lives outside of work more
  3. We SHALL commit to understanding the difference between busy work and meaningful work.
  4. We are committed and open to loving/respecting ourselves enough to figure out what works best for us.
  5. And yes….we will be open to trying new shit. That chid mind is the only way to embrace these new approaches (because some will be hard).

10 Approaches to Productivity That Might Save Your Week

Okay! With the above commitments in hand, here are some solid approaches that you can use in our company, with. your team and in your personal life to end more weeks better than you started them. I’ve learned some productivity lessons the hard way from being self-employed and a business owner for nearly 20 years.

  1. Really Understand Your Week: David Baker of Punctuation.com said it best. “There are three kinds of days in your week. “Get Shit Off Your Plate” days, “Create High Value” days and “Live in Context” Days. Know that each of these will need regular attention, but know which ones help you create the kind of momentum you need. 🙄

  2. Set Reasonable Expectations/Goals: Just trust me on this one. There is mental and emotional momentum you generate when you finish things. And the opposite occurs when you end the week with a massive to do list still intact. Remember, part of this game is getting good at work so you don’t take it home and into your personal time (which is vitally important). 🎯

  3. Prioritize “Crucial” Stuff: Remember those “Create High Value” days? Know what’s important to get done and what’s not and make the priorities just that. In our shop, we call them “crucial results”. Simply put, they are the things that fall into one of two categories: Getting them done either generates big results and momentum (ex: “If we can ship this proposal, we’ll be in the running for that major account.”) OR prevents bad things from happening (ex: “If I don’t get this product launched by Wednesday, we’re going to miss the big announcement date.”). 💥

  4. Time Block or Else: Listen. If you’re not protecting creative time, strategic time or deep work time, then that’s on you. Some stuff just simply requires you to unplug and stay laser focused. I practice time blocking regularly for important stuff, but I also time block banks of “nothing on the calendar” time to batch the things that roll into my view that I do need to deal with just not in the moment. Here’s a great article on time blocking for you from our friends at todoist. ⏲️

  5. Try Monk Mode: Have trouble with focus? Try to be like a monk. Monk mode is a period of enhanced focus, discipline, and productivity where you eliminate as many distractions as you can and commit yourself to completing a goal. It’s good for task management, but it’s an even better life practice that can be applied to lots of things. But, you have to create the right environment. I enjoyed this productivity read from Jeroen V on Medium. It helped me better understand what monk mode is and how it’s an approach to life (and not just a productivity hack). 🧘🏼

  6. Eliminate Distractions: Need to do some deep work or some focused work? Why the hell do you bring all the distractions of modern day work and life with you? That’s simply cray cray. Turn off the phone (or at least put it in do not disturb). Put do not disturb setting on you laptop. Find a distraction free place to get that work done (remember those workspaces? Way better than your home office or a coffee shop for deep work). Silence the chimes, pushes, pings, etc. Every time you pause to look, read, listen etc you throw yourself off your game and get nothing done. 🦗

  7. Explore The Pomodoro Technique: If you are looking for a smart way to bang out a bunch of smaller tasks within a timeframe and normally have a lot of open ended tasks that could take forever if you let them, try the Pomodoro Technique. It’s an approach where you break tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks with dedicated short timeframes. Think of it like a “mini-sprint” with breaks. Here’s a good read on how to implement this. Promodor = Productivity 🏃🏾‍♀️

  8. Take Breaks: Yes. Take breaks. Pomodoro says so. 😊 Take a 10 minute break for every hour of focused work you put in. Change your scenery when you find yourself being unfocused or stuck (walk anyone?). Breaks also serve up a bonus…build in an automatic water bottle chugging 30-second session into your break to make sure you stay hydrated all day. For me, every time I use the bathroom, I take a 30-second pit stop at the water fountain. Non-negotiable. #HydrateorDie

  9. Wrangle Your Meetings: Listen. I’m collaborative. I love meetings with others. I think they are super valuable for creativity/innovation. At the same time, I know people who literally don’t ever get out of their chairs b/c they are in an endless stream of meetings (that’s not right or healthy). If meetings make your list of “things that I think get in the way of me doing great work”, then do something about it. Can you cut a meeting time in half with a more focused agenda? Are there meetings that aren’t 100% critical that you be there for? Delete. Can you restructure how your team meets overall to tap into some extra “productivity” time? I bet you can. It is 100% worth examining.. Here’s a good resource on the topic (with some sobering stats). 🛑

  10. Reward Yourself: When you accomplish something big, reward yourself in some small way. Maybe share a win with colleagues (we have a #winning channel in our work cooperative for people to do just that). Treat yourself to a bevvy or that break I was talking about before is a proper reward for productivity. 🎁

  11. BONUS (We just couldn’t resist)!
    Delegate (Responsibly): In our design firm, Period Three, we used to get these awful referrals from one of our “partners”. They’d send over work to us that they had already passed on. It wasn’t a good client or a good fit for them and those referrals ended up (surprise surprise) being trash for us too. Don’t be them. If you’re going to delegate tasks (and you 100%, absolutely have to to get anything done), be a responsible delegator. This could be a whole other blog post, but here are some quick tips. 🏎️
    • Don’t be a “drive-by delegator”: Deliver clearly communicated tasks, with specific deadlines and understood expectations for success. Don’t just “drive by” and drop some shit on a team member.
    • Delegate Strategically: If there are things on your plate that you’re not good at? Give them to people who are? Don’t just hand out trash to someone else. Leverage your teams skills to get more done together.
    • Delegate For The Right Reasons: Don’t give someone something because you don’t want to do it. Put on your big boy/girl pants and do the hard stuff too.

If you’ve made it to the bottom of this list…you have now “invested” 15 minutes of your precious time into bettering yourself and your work week. Now….go put one or more of these ideas into practice to start generating an ROI.

Want Some More Productivity Convo?

Looking for a little more? Check out this great episode on the Communal podcast where Greg and Gene dig into how we structure our weeks to avoid going insane. It’s a really good (and candid) conversation.

About The Author:

Greg Hilton is the cofounder and managing partner for SOCO, SOCO is a thriving platform and community focused on supporting creators, indie workers and entrepreneurs just like you. He’s an avid outdoorsman, creator and storyteller. He’s also been self-employed and a business owner for nearly two decades and has worked with hundreds of solos, creators and entrepreneurs to help them lead better and more meaningful lives.

Like what you’re reading here? Share it with someone else!

Washing The Dishes – The Art of Finding Balance

Washing The Dishes – The Art of Finding Balance

A Commentary On Time Management, Productivity and Work/Life Balance

Let’s Talk About Dishes

How do you load the dishwasher?  No really?  Are you a “let it pile up and I’ll tackle it all at once” kinda human or a “that dish just landed and I’m coming in hot” kinda person?  Or maybe you’re the “Just what I need, when I need it” weirdo. I’m sort of obsessed with ways to get more out of myself, my day and (of course) my work.  I think it’s a healthy reverence.  My friends and family use “obsession” (whatevs). 

If you hang around SOCO long enough, you’ll inevitably see me hovering over the dishwasher rearranging mugs and glasses and bowls in the eternal search for the “optimized wash”

ps: In case you were wondering, there’s a scientifically-backed approach to doing it well – thank you American Cleaning Institute. 😎

pss: Yes.  Hannah Lee and I are working on a team member handbook on how to optimize dishwashing as one of our core values. 🙌🏾

What The Hell Are You Talking About, Greg?

Well friend.  Washing dishes is a corollary for your work (or your life or both):

  1. It’s a daily routine (for most of us)
  2. It can feel never ending (you run it and 10 minutes later they’re baaaaack!)
  3. If you don’t tend to them, they pile up and can create a lot of stress and not just for you (don’t believe me?  Read this). 
  4. They suck!  Like, who raises their hand for dishes??? But, you just have to do it (kind of like work for most of us).  
  5. And finally…there are a like hundred different ways to getting them done!

So, Why Are You Creating Dishwasher Distress?

Here goes. The actual dishes are ALL THE THINGS IN YOUR LIFE.  💥

Your work commitments. Your social relationships.  Your family needs.  Your personal time.  Your mom (that you haven’t called back in weeks).  If you need to spend time on it, then it’s a “dish”.  And you need to take care of each one (eventually).  But every bloody week, the dishes pile up and you can never seem to get around to all of them. 

What needs to go in right now?  What can wait?  Are the plates more important than the mugs?  Do some need to be washed by hand because they are delicate or breakable? How many minutes should I spend standing over this sink before I go postal (I can’t be the only one)?  

My point is this.  It’s all gotta get done.  So, the real question is what’s important to you and how do you handle things when when the “shit” piles up? 

  

6 Things We Can Learn About “Balance” From Dishes

  • There’s Always Dirty Work: We all want to do the high value work that’s strategic and high value. But, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can avoid the dirty work all the time. In fact, sometimes leadership is more about showing than telling. So, lead by example and get your hands dirty. 🧼
  • Take Pleasure In Small Wins/Steps/Efforts: Struggling with an overwhelming task? Start small. Wash a dish. And then another. And then another. Small wins can have a profound impact on your well-being. Take baby steps towards your goal and before you know it…”the dishes are done man…”. 😂
  • Find Purpose In All Things: Washing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning out your inbox, decluttering your workspace, reviewing your spending…whatever the mundane task…it does serve a purpose. Assign value to the outcome and transcend the monotony of the task. For me (at home), washing the dishes is one way that I say “I love you” to my partner. I wash the dishes (at night mostly) so that when she wakes up, she’ll come into a clean(er) kitchen. That reduces her stress and that’s a good thing. 💪🏽
  • Know Your Priorities: Know When Something Is A Priority (And When It Isn’t). We can’t get it all done. Stop trying. Really. So, life is really about choosing where to invest your time and in what. Take a hard look at where you spend your time and what efforts will help you create the most momentum. Those small tasks can consume your day, but ask yourself if they’re moving the needle or not. If they aren’t, maybe the dishes can wait another day. 🎯
  • Reward Yourself: Listen. Carrots always work better than sticks. So, if you have to get through some hard stuff (or a hard day/week), know it’s going to suck and set aside some time to reward yourself with something related to emotional, mental or physical wellness. Hard = A Reward. Listen…there’s a reason people plan their vacations in advance. 🏖️
  • Ask For Help: Sometimes, life can get overwhelming. Being entrepreneurial sometimes feels like you’re the “capitan”, the first mate and everyone else on the deck of the ship. Know when to ask for help and Surround yourself with people who can offer emotional support, practical help, and guidance when needed. 🆘

Looking for a little more?

Check out this great episode on the Communal podcast where Greg and Gene answer listener questions on work/life balance, leadership and remaining your authentic self. It’s a good one.

About The Author:

Greg Hilton is the cofounder and managing partner for SOCO, SOCO is a thriving platform and community focused on supporting creators, indie workers and entrepreneurs just like you. He’s an avid outdoorsman, creator and storyteller.

Like what you’re reading here? Share it with someone else!

The Path to Becoming a Founder: Josh Snead and Rainwalk

The Path to Becoming a Founder: Josh Snead and Rainwalk

During his senior year of college, Josh Snead was feeling pretty good. 

He was preparing to graduate with a degree in International Business and Supply Chain Management from the University of South Carolina. And he’d already knocked out the number one priority of (most) college seniors: land a job. 

During the fall of his senior semester, Josh accepted a job to work for Amazon and planned to move to Tampa, Florida. 

“So I thought I was done at that point. You know, I got that job December, and so senior year is basically a victory lap for me,” Snead said.  

With everything lined up, Josh felt a little bored but, he needed to fill some time since he wasn’t scrambling to submit job applications. So, he went on the hunt for an internship to make a little extra money. 

While he was searching, Josh participated in a startup weekend. He pitched an idea and was one of eight participants selected to build out their product, which he did with a small team over the weekend. 

Josh’s idea and work left an impression. One of the platinum sponsors asked him to stop by their office the following week. 

Josh’s conversation with Sam McGuckin, of then TCube Solutions, set him on an unexpected path that has led to the founding of pet insurtech startup Rainwalk. 

After interning at TCube, Josh turned down the offer from the company with everything from A to Z and joined Sam and his team full-time. 

Where the Journey Begins

While Josh was working at TCube the company was acquired by Capgemini. The startup experience had been great and taught Josh a lot about building a business. 

“I stuck around there for a couple of years. And then I left Capgemini to go work at the largest publicly traded insurance technology software company in the United States, Guidewire.”

Josh’s new gig required a move to Minneapolis. But, he stayed in touch with a former co-worker and friend, Tong Wu, who continued working at Capgemini. They spent time kicking around business ideas, and Josh was stuffing money into savings with the hope of launching his own venture. 

Going back to high school, Josh always wanted to start a business. But, he didn’t know when or how it would happen. 

The time came about two years after Josh left Columbia. Tong felt the need for a change, so he told Josh that he was heading back to China unless they started a company together. 

Josh decided to leave Guidewire and move back to Columbia in 2018 to take a chance and found a company with Tong. 

Finding Opportunity in an Underserved Market

They had a concept for what would become Rainwalk. 

“Rainwalk was initially going to be a peer-to-peer auto insurance company with renters and pet insurance bundled in, and it was going to be all on a blockchain,” Snead said. 

But as they spoke with investors and regulators, they realized that the market for auto insurance was saturated. And renters insurance doesn’t have margins that motivate insurance agents to push the product to customers. 

After about 6-months of brainstorming, Josh and Tong pivoted Rainwalk to be a pet insurance company in 2018.  It’s a line of business gaining momentum and attention. Josh saw an opportunity because the US market is underserved, with only 2% of pets insured. 

Americans are spending more money on pet healthcare, which Snead said has increased from $10 billion per year to $33 billion in less than a decade. The costs create more interest in an insurance product that can help offset those out-of-pocket expenses for consumers.

But, launching an insurance business is a long game. 

“It took probably about 18 months really to get our pet insurance company up and running after that full regulatory approval and actually able to sell that first policy, which turns out is almost exactly average,” Snead said. 

The inspiration for naming the company Rainwalk established that the founders were ready to weather the storm. The “rain walk” in Chinese lore is a tale about a well-dressed member of the royal family who, instead of waiting on a rain shower to end, was determined to begin his procession regardless of the weather. 

Rainwalk wants to have the same spirit as they work to disrupt a traditional industry. 

How Rainwalk does business 

Many large, traditional carriers have explored the possibility of adding pet insurance. However, Josh and the Rainwalk team saw the opportunity to go direct to consumers. 

“What Rainwalk does, there are a lot of pet insurance companies out there, but the thing that makes us unique from those other pet insurance companies is the way that we sell the product.” 

According to Josh, Rainwalk partners with existing insurers and pet brands to plug their health insurance coverage into existing platforms. So, it’s easy for potential customers to access Rainwalk’s insurance through the workplace or with a company with which they already do business. 

“So our goal with this strategy is to just make it as wildly convenient as possible for individual people and for companies to get access to a pet health insurance product,” Snead said. 

Rainwalk makes it easy for partners as well. They handle the integration, claims processing, pricing, and regulatory compliance. 

Rainwalk plans to make integration so easy that anyone who purchases home insurance or car insurance can access pet health insurance. 

The Future of Rainwalk and Pet Health Insurance 

Three years after launching, Rainwalk has seven employees and is working towards being a leading insurer of pets. 

 “We want to build a market leader in pet health insurance,” Snead said. 

Snead noted that they do that by doing one thing: getting uninsured pets insured. 

Rainwalk sees millennials as a key target market. According to Josh, even though millennials earn less than their baby boomers counterparts, they spend more on pets. 

As someone who grew up with dogs (and now the owner of two miniature dachshunds), Josh knows how important pets are to families. For many people, they are part of the family. And it’s Rainwalk’s mission to make sure they’re protected. 

You can check out Rainwalk and apply for your pet coverage right here

Starlitt Miller’s new hustle: building a tech company from the ground up

Starlitt Miller’s new hustle: building a tech company from the ground up

Starlitt Miller knows what it’s like to hustle. She’s a serial entrepreneur who built an accounting and bookkeeping business. She’s been a valuable member of the SOCO community for many years. Now, Starlitt is changing things up in her career and life. She’s participating in an entrepreneurial fellowship program through Visible Hands, which seeks to empower founders of color. In the first round alone, Visible Hands received more than 900 applications. 

Recently, Starlitt went to Tulsa, OK for an in-person meeting with other founders and members of the fellowship. When she came back to Soda City, we asked her a few questions. Here’s her response and why she’s pursuing this new hustle. 

Give us the elevator pitch of what you were doing prior to joining the fellowship? And give a little background on how you got there. 

I was providing operational accounting and workflow strategy services to small businesses. This was being done through a variety of methods and touch-points. Setting up an accounting system, fixing/cleaning accounting system, training and supporting the support personnel and owners. 

I started off by solving my own problem of needing to have agency of my time. I knew that I was overqualified to bookkeep and could leverage those skills because they are needed by many. 

I learned many hard lessons around how to start and grow a business as a solopreneur that makes sense for you. 

I started a bookkeeping business (Star Accounting and Business Solutions, or SAABS, which is still operating). I quickly learned that the value that I needed to provide and was best fit to provide was broader than that [bookkeeping]. It’s in the overall operational accounting structure and how it impacts the operations of the small business that added a lot of value.

I witnessed what the lack of automation and technology systems on the backend could look like and the negative impact it had, and was really drawn to solving that problem. 

SAABS evolved into assisting on the backend with more financial and workflow strategies and developing accurate records and best practices. 

What’s been driving you for the last few years? 

Such a great question. Prior to the fall of 2020, my goal was to build a profitable, self-sustaining business that would eventually not need me. 

There was a lot to learn and establish foundationally to make that happen, and since I just got started and made the leap, I had to navigate the evolution of the business to get it close to that point while running it. My driver is my personal goal to have ownership and agency over what I am doing, to become financially free, and show my daughter that you can create something from nothing without relying on the permission of others or for them to say “yes,” and assign a dollar value to your time and work. While I knew that SAABS might not be the business to get me to financial freedom, it has been the vehicle to growing as an entrepreneur while financially caring for my daughter and me. 

After the fall of 2020, my drive is similar but a little more assertive in not questioning whether or not being an entrepreneur is the right path. 

The additional motivation is finding a way to create the passive income necessary to free time to live and spend time with family, friends and contribute to impactful causes. So the value that the company provides is not resting on the shoulders of one person, and the customers will be serviced no matter what. 

Okay, let’s talk a little about the Fellowship. First, how did you find out about it? 

I learned about the fellowship during its early stages of development from my good friend. I started following the firm on social media and subscribed to their communications to stay up-to-date. 

Tell us about the Fellowship. Who is supporting it? What’s the purpose? 

The fellowship is created and facilitated by VisibleHands (VH). VH has a pre-seed fund and the 14-week program to help support overlooked talent of color and women in the venture-backed tech startup space. VH has received the support of many leaders from all of the country that have provided their time through advising, workshops, funds, and assisting in organizing within their first year. 

The funding is in the millions, and VH has grown pretty quickly in its first year. Notable names [of supporters] are Liberty Mutual, Goldman Sachs Launch with GS, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and Bombas. 

Atento Capital out of Tulsa, OK was also a great supporter and hosted and financially covered aspects of the in-person orientation that kicked off the fellowship program. 

Atento is interested in bringing people of color and their businesses back to Tulsa and revitalizing the Black Wall street area. They are offering investments in early-stage companies and incentivizing a relation to Tulsa. 

What was your thought process behind applying? Was it a no-brainer decision, or did you have to think about it a bit? 

I was hesitant at first for a few reasons; I do not have a tech background, I wasn’t sure what it would mean for my service-based business that was paying my bills, and I never imagined building something that I would raise funding for. 

The decision became a no-brainer after I had a call with one of the General Partners (GP) and understood more about what the program may look like and considering the $25,000 pre-seed investment they would provide during the fellowship. After speaking with the GP, I realized that even if I leave the fellowship without a clear direction on a tech solution (in my mind the worst case), I knew that I would learn a lot as an entrepreneur, and I was already feeling the need to learn and grow. 

Running my business had caused me to be stagnant in learning, and I was already feeling the urge to expand my knowledge. I knew that it would be challenging because I had no clue about the world of venture-backed startups, let alone how to build a tech solution. 

The other piece would be learning from other people that are in the community. I knew enough about the GP’s to know that their network is rich and has quality people in it, so I assumed the cohort would reflect that, and I was correct!

Tell us how it’s felt to be surrounded by other people building something? 

Being in the community with other fellows has been the best part. Each time we get to connect through Zoom calls (individually and in a group), it’s refreshing. The orientation week was awesome and the best way to transform from being on-screen to connections with real people. 

I realized that we all have similar fears and insecurities even with the varying stages of the companies/ideas and experiences. I believe the true power and magic is with the people within the cohort. The experts are great, but it’s not the same as building connections, helping, and sharing with other fellows. 

After the week of in-person, we all went home and back to some semblance of isolation. It’s there where the challenge seems to grow. I am constantly encouraged when I connect with a fellow in a real and vulnerable way and vice versa. 

You’ve changed your hustle a bit to make this new path happen. Why are you doing this and what are you hoping to accomplish? 

I decided to pursue this venture because I believe the best thing that I can do is solve a tool problem with a better tool and I am only one person, so I would like to scale the impact of my services by converting into a tech tool. The other side of this is the desire to build a profitable business. 

While I am not saying that this is the only way to do so, it’s an opportunity that I have so I plan to leverage and activate in this space to work towards building something that will add value to a world that is bigger than myself. 

You can learn more about Starlitt’s journey and Visible Hands right here and subscribe to her newsletter so you can stay up to date on all that’s going on.

Pursuing Work that Matters: Why Dawn Dawson-House Changed Her Career to Tell the Story of African American History

Pursuing Work that Matters: Why Dawn Dawson-House Changed Her Career to Tell the Story of African American History

While sitting at home during the early months of the pandemic, Dawn Dawson-House started thinking. 

Dawn was working in a job she loved as the Director of Corporate Communications at the South Carolina Parks & Recreation Tourism (SCPRT) department. But, Dawn’s schedule was turned upside down. No more lunches with her boss or coffee meetings with colleagues. 

So she found herself doing a lot of self-reflection and considering a deeper meaning in her life. 

It was during these moments that Dawn began planning a change. She had spent her entire career (31 years) at SCPRT. Now, she knew it was time for something different. 

Inspired by her new outlook on time and the cry for social justice by thousands across the country, Dawn embarked on a new path. 

A Career Built on Service 

Dawn’s entire career has focused on helping the state of South Carolina. She promoted the state’s parks system and tourism attractions all over the world. Her goal was to get people here so they couldn’t experience what the Palmetto State offers.  

Despite being in a job she loved, Dawn felt like she could do more. 

The pandemic created a restlessness in Dawn. Like there was a different way for her to contribute. And during those long months at home, she spent time reading and researching African Americans and how they’ve shaped South Carolina history. 

The pandemic changed things for Dawn. She started seeing her skill set through a different lens. 

Dawn was involved with the South Carolina African American History Foundation, which rebranded as the WeGOJA Foundation

It was around August 2020 when she put plans into motion to lead WeGOJA as the Executive Director. 

“I felt like my talents could be put towards this effort [WeGOJA] better than PRT,” said Dawson-House. 

So Dawn left the job she spent her entire career doing. The one that had “raised her” so she could pursue work that will elevate African American history. 

“The pandemic pushed me into a different mindset of worth and time and contribution before I die.”

Dawn developed a passion for historic preservation early in life. Growing up in Beaufort, she was taught about the rich African American history in the area. 

When she started her professional career, Dawn served on the African American Heritage Commission. She knew that more work must be done to highlight the role of African Americans in South Carolina’s history. She wanted to lift the stories of African Americans and help people today have richer conversations and experiences about history. 

“My passion now is historic preservation because I do believe it’s the first step towards social justice.” 

How the Pandemic Changed Dawn’s Mindset 

Coupled with Dawn’s passion, the shift to remote work sparked her life change. 

Instead of spending two hours commuting every day, she connected with family, contributed to her community, and thought about ways to utilize her talents. 

It wasn’t easy for her to make the change. 

After a long career with SCPRT, she was nervous about doing something completely different. 

“I was too afraid to tell my boss that I was going to retire,” said Dawson-House. 

The social justice marches and outcry, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, also made an impression on Dawn and created a desire to do more. 

“I was so inspired by the multitude of people who go out in the streets and stood up for victims of police brutality.” 

Living Life to Make a Difference 

In December 2020, Dawn retired from Parks & Recreation Tourism. Now, she spends her days leveraging WeGOJA’s resources. She works on moving projects forward, fundraising, and making sure operations run smoothly. 

Dawn feels like she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be, and in her words, “it’s fun as hell!” 

She has a vision for WeGOJA over the next decade. She wants to grow the endowment so they can hire staff and take on even more projects. She’s hoping to get industries involved. 

And ultimately, she wants to educate people on African American history, so they become advocates. And then those advocates become champions for the cause. 

Dawn wants people to have enthusiasm for historic preservation and see how it connects to their present lives. She wants people to ask hard questions so they can learn. 

“When I look back, I want to say I made a difference, and we’re a better state because of it.” 

Since Dawn has taken on her role as Executive Director, WeGOJA has a brand new board. She’s found talented people to help amplify her efforts. 

Dawn re-shifted her focus. She’s pursuing her passion and redefining the why behind her work. So her hustle hasn’t stopped.

In fact, if you ask Dawn, she’ll tell you she’s just getting started. 
You can learn more about WeGOJA by visiting their website.