Hi #Empowerista! My corner of the internet is a place to celebrate and support powerful women. Things like fear, self-doubt and our inner critic often get in the way of how powerful we truly are. The women I feature experience all these difficult feelings too, but they've learned how to manage them and move forward anyway. My hope is these women inspire and empower you to do the same.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with the amazing Haley Hoffman Smith. Haley is the founder and CEO of Lit Without Limits and She Is Without Limits, and a junior at Brown University. She says her age can make running her brands difficult. But, she practices what she preaches about living without limits; So instead of letting her youth hold her back, she uses it to her advantage. Read on to see how Haley built her female empowering brands, obstacles she faces, and tips for growing your confidence:
What is Lit Without Limits and She Is Without Limits?
Lit Without Limits is the 501(c)3 international nonprofit I began when I was 18 years old. I donate empowering literature to girls in mentoring groups with a curriculum I write to accompany it. She Is Without Limits is its sister company; it expounds upon the principles of women empowerment, connection, and education that Lit provides, with an online hub for women to share their stories and provide resources for one another. We also launched our first lines of clothing: "She is Changing the Game" and "She is Hitting the Books"
What was the inspiration behind them?
I could not get the idea for Lit Without Limits out of my head! I had been worried because I was only 18 and had no experience with nonprofits or businesses! But, my vision for girls around the propelled me onward. From there, I began donating "I Am Malala." Although the girls loved the book, some of them felt a lack of resonance because of the very specific political context of Pakistan. So, I began to write my own book, She Is Without Limits, about my own experiences and emphasizing this idea of living without limits. This spiraled into the idea of the company itself.
Tell us a little about you, your background and any experiences empowering you to build these brands:
I absolutely love school. I am currently a junior at Brown University studying Gender Studies. I've always been an avid book reader and books about strong female protagonists really helped me to shape my self concept, so I wanted to extend the same love to other girls! I also have mentored girls since I was in high school.
What has been the biggest limit you've faced? And how do you overcome it?
Definitely my age and lack of experience. It was really hard to venture into the world of the unknown. I had to learn as I went along and fight to be taken seriously. I relied on my team and took everything in stride, focusing on my confidence. I've also tried to use my young age to my advantage.
What do you think is the biggest limit female millennials in our country face? What's your advice for them?
So many of us are raised to believe we can't be the next CEO or change the world. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who saw that capacity in me and nurtured it. But it is not a matter of "having it" or "not having it", we can all do incredible things. It isn't a matter of luck either. With the right push and the right support system, all girls can make feasible steps to their BIG, BIG goals!
What were the first steps to building this non-profit?
It was all the creation of the brand, refining the mission statement, and making sure that I had the resources in place to raise the money, purchase the books at a lower cost, and then girls around the world that would be receptive to the program! I still remember the excitement of building the website and making the "Feel" of the company.
What are some of the pros and cons to running a non-profit?
It is deeply fulfilling work. When girls tell me how I've changed their lives or their self-concept, the sense of accomplishment is tenfold anything I've experienced. But, non-profits are hard work. A lot of it is "running on a hamster wheel". It's hard to host fundraisers and ask people to donate, especially when you are young.
How do you keep up your confidence and strength as an entrepreneur?
I make time to spend around other entrepreneurs, learning from them. It makes me better when I feel that I'm not working hard enough. When you're around people who really give their companies their all, it inspires you. And there is no better inspiration than other GIRLS / WOMEN who do it! Women lean on one another and share advice. They are also open to collaboration. Ask a female you admire if she has 30 minutes for coffee so you can pick her brain. And make sure your friends represent who you want to become.