Saturday, May 27, 2017

Leadership in Bloom: Kristen Soltis Anderson

Meet Kristen Soltis Anderson, a JLW member who founded her research and analysis firm, Echelon Insights, authored “The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials are Leading America and How Republicans Can Keep Up,” and was named as one of TIME Magazine’s “30 Under 30 Changing the World” in 2013, among other national accolades in the last few years. Read on to learn about her challenges, how much she values female mentors, and some clutch advice for any other aspiring business owners.

You’ve had such a successful professional life – even before you started Echelon Insights. Was it hard getting your business started?
The first struggle was the fear of not feeling like I even knew how to get started, like what are the things you need to do to start a company? Get a Tax ID number, pick a name…and then what? I didn't want to jump in until it felt like I had a firm grasp on every little thing involved in running a business.

How did the experience help you grow as a leader?
I had to learn to let go a little – to be diligent and responsible – but be willing to take risks and to venture into territory where I didn't have experience already.

As a mentor to other women who aspire to start their own business, what advice would you give?
Talk to others who have done it before, and find at least one person to whom you can pose questions that you are too embarrassed to ask anywhere else. I had many questions early on that I thought, "Oh, surely, everyone already knows the answer to this, and asking will just make me look dumb," when really, you're not alone.

How has your League involvement benefited you personally or professionally?
Being involved in the League helped me build relationships with women in a variety of different industries and to learn about fields I knew very little about! I also learned a lot about nonprofit board service. Serving on the JLW Board was one of my first experiences learning the ins and outs of the duties of serving on such a board and helped prepare me for roles on other boards.

What does it mean to you to have strong female role models?
It is so helpful to not feel alone, and strong female role models help you see that you're not the only one facing this or that struggle, question, or issue. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Leadership in Bloom: Samantha Brainard

Meet Samantha Brainard, a JLW member whose life changed forever when her sister was diagnosed with Synoval Sarcoma at age 23 in 2013. Ever since, Sam has been involved with the Ulman Cancer Fund as a volunteer. This spring, she took on the near-herculean challenge of participating in the Key to Keys bicycle ride from Baltimore to Key West to support her sister and raise funds and awareness for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, which helps young patients navigate the medical system. Think that sounds hard? Well, Sam only just bought her first bike in January. A serious force of nature, nothing is stopping Sam from rising to this challenge.

Watching your sister battle cancer must be heart-wrenching. What have you done to get involved?
I started volunteering with the Ulman Cancer Fund after my sister was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma in 2013 at age 23. Their staff and volunteers have been by her side throughout her cancer fight, and they have helped to connect her with other young adults facing cancer too. They provide patient navigation services for young adult cancer patients in local hospitals in the DMV, scholarships, cancer to 5K training programs, and so much more.

The bicycle ride sounds difficult to say the least. What impact will it have?
I participated in the Ulman Cancer Fund's Key to Keys bicycle ride from Baltimore to Key West from April 22-29. Over the course of a week, our team covered 1500+ miles to raise awareness of the young adult cancer fight and to support the work of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This amazing organization works to provide support for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer.  

Your dedication to the cause is so admirable. Besides the family connection, what motivates you?
I did this ride in honor of my sister and in honor and memory of all young adults who spend their 20s and 30s fighting cancer instead of living a "normal" life.

Challenges like this are such a tangible symbol of strength and support for the cancer community. Where do you get your strength?
I would not be the woman I am today without strong female role models in my life. I'm blessed to be surrounded by strong women who inspire me to pursue my dreams personally and professionally. My grandmother was a member of the Junior League, and she encouraged me to join so I could find like-minded women in the Washington, DC, area. Through my League membership, I'm able to meet women who continue to inspire me every day.

I've made friendships in JLW that will last throughout my life. In particular, I know that I wouldn't have been able to do this ride if it weren't for my dear friend and fellow League member Kelly Hunter who has helped me to train and been my rock throughout this process! We met through the League, and I'm so thankful to JLW for bringing us together!