Summarize your life in a few sentences
Circuitous. Serendipitous. Dense with adventure, laughter, experience, emotion, introspection. I wouldn’t trade anything that has come before now and feel well-prepared for what’s next. I am a parent, wife, friend, artist, thinker, teacher, student, entrepreneur and very concerned global citizen. I have earned my white hair and wisdom and my life is about contribution.
What’s your background?
“Background” is a broad subject! I grew up with a creative, brave, resourceful, career-super-star mom who told me I could be and do anything I wanted: I believed her (and still do)! My time in college took me through emphases in creative writing, fashion design and fashion journalism and ultimately history with an emphasis on social justice and the environment.
My sense of optimism and maybe entrepreneurialism came together in a post-grad program at UCLA in which I studied creativity and innovation in organizations. I’ve worked in Sourcing and Production at Gap, Inc. Costuming at Walt Disney Corp. and IT at Sony Pictures. In every role I’ve had an opportunity to pull from my varied background. I’ve been designing and sewing clothes and accessories and taking photographs (and developing project plans and perfecting spreadsheet algorithms) since I can remember and these hobbies have certainly contributed to my skill set.
How did you start your business?
So the short answer is, both Wishcraft Workshop and The Yellow Canoe are a result of temper tantrums. I became frustrated with traditional arts education and the culture of criticality that inhibits creativity and robs the process of joy. I opened the Wishcraft Workshop in 2008 with a mission of building creative capability, of growing artists unafraid to experiment, growing thinkers unafraid to approach a challenge and take a risk, growing citizens unafraid to self-advocate and to support one another. 7 years later, while the impact the Wishcraft Workshop adventure had made on the community was clear, I was intrigued with the dichotomy of beautiful gestures of hope and kindness juxtaposed against such injustice and erosion in the world.
I wanted to put the tools to grow curious and confident creative problem-solvers in anyone’s hands, to empower others to identify opportunity and take positive action on the issues they care about, to use the creative activities children naturally enjoy to activate curiosity, character and confidence, to inspire activism while reinforcing integral learning in a joyful way. Really, I was trying to figure out how to make the broadest and deepest impact in our world– we live in a complicated time and I was compelled to do something about it. We need to work together.
We must stop spinning in circles. We are all in the same boat on this planet and need to paddle together with direction. We need to start ripples of change– concentric circles that grow and overlap and multiply and spread with exponential force for good. And so I designed a monthly subscription for kids and families that integrates fun art activities, social-emotional practice and academic learning in a planet-friendly digital package: The Yellow Canoe.
What inspired you as a creative woman?
I suspect I was born with kaleidoscopes for eyes. I am attracted to color and pattern and light like a determined bee. Printed fabric is my weakness. I have always loved seeing my own ideas come to fruition and now I find the most enjoyment in creating an environment in which others can do the same without creative inhibition. I’m inspired by photography, poetry, deep-thinkers, risk-takers and shoes.
What was your first job ever? Any funny or memorable story?
I was lucky to spend time with working women as a young person. I answered phones for my grandmother’s electronics repair company during the summers and helped my mom paint in corrections on the film used to manufacture circuit boards. With such an example I have always been motivated to work and be independent. I started babysitting when I was about 9 years-old. I’ve been a hostess at a restaurant (age 15), a clothing salesperson (age 16), a college bookstore cashier (age 17) a construction secretary (age 18), a stock trader in-training (age 19) and an aesthetician’s assistant (age 20).
At 21, while at university, I applied to work with a temp agency. They asked if I knew Excel and Word and I answered honestly: I didn’t but I could learn fast. I spent the next 4 hours in a closet at the agency with a computer and the tutorials. I was sent to an interview at Gap, Inc. the next day to work for a woman who is still one of my dearest friends and mentors. She hired me away from the agency and my career and commitment to serial mentorship began.
If you can build a million dollar company, what would it be?
I’m a social entrepreneur, sometimes to a fault. If, when, I build a million dollar company it will be for the greater good. Wishcraft Workshop and The Yellow Canoe really are my passion, my mission: these are my million dollar babies.
Walk us through your day as a Chief Experience Officer
“They” say not to do it but I do: I check my phone for email, texts and weather (we’re in Chicago, after all). But first, coffee! After seeing my two teens off to school and walking our rescue-mutt, I have more coffee and jump into work. I have no typical workday and thank goodness for that! I’m usually working behind my laptop but choose different locations around the city to use as my office. When I’m working with the team, meeting with consulting clients or in the workshop with kids there are really just a few words to describe it: playful, spontaneous, colorful and adventurous. I dream big and encourage everyone around me to do the same, whether it be the complexity of an art-project or a life-changing new business.
I have an AMAZING team of artists and thinkers whom I adore and a great extended team including my accountant and attorney. My role is generally strategy and creative direction but I also have my hands in the weeds with activities I enjoy (or enjoy most of the time!) like website development and photography. With two businesses (one brick and mortar and one internet based) it could be an even crazier juggling act but the missions of the companies overlap in such a way that I am able to often think once and act twice. I love running companies that are mission-driven and that resonate with my own values in such a way that I can live authentically every day. Work for me includes day-dreaming new ideas every day (and during yoga as often as possible).
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
Choosing to leave my role as Vice President and Divisional CIO at Sony Pictures behind in 2007 may be my finest career accomplishment. I am proud of the courage I and my family displayed in taking the risk to move to a new city and move toward a life well-designed. I know that I have a lot to be proud of in my career but I am most proud of having raised two generous, insightful, brave, inquisitive, global-citizens alongside my partner of 25 years. (And starting a company during the Recession of 2008 that makes an impact in the community, employs others and continues to thrive– wink.)
Where or what do you think you will be/do in the next 5 years?
[Insert wide-eyed, raised-eyebrow face.] In 5 years both of my kids will be adults so I will likely be texting and calling them multiple times each day until they start declining my calls. My intention is to read more, write more, make more, travel more and grow my companies to include an international scope.
Share a quote/advice that you’d like to tell the 25-year-old you.
STOP. Consider what you are doing and understand WHY. Define your values for yourself, find your spark and align yourself to these things, even if takes multiple steps or multiple years. Living authentically across all facets is golden and probably adds years to one’s life in addition to setting an example that happiness is important and that significance may be more important than a traditional definition of success. And when all else fails, wear interesting accessories that make you smile.