Q and A: Kimberly Clay, Founder and CEO of WhatSheSay.com
There comes a point in everybody’s life, whether you are young or old, where you are forced to make some hard decisions, ones that you instinctively know have to be made, and ones that you’re even scared of making. You could feel caged in a dead-end job, trapped in a dead-end relationship, or surrounded by people or places that are holding you back, and you just know that only by breaking free of such things will you find the personal happiness and contentment you seek.
If that hasn’t happened to you yet, don’t worry – it will. And probably not just the once in your life either. However, even though that unhealthy environment you find yourself in is just that – unhealthy – and affecting, possibly damaging any potential you possess, by breaking free it’s like a reinvention of self (where you’ve even been able to keep the good bits from the “old” you, too).
My name is Andy, I’m a mid-thirties digital marketing entrepreneur, and, even at my tender years, such a thing has happened to me. However, this is not my story.
Through my business, I have encountered many, many different kinds of people, each with their unique take on their life and the world around them. I find all of aspects of human nature presented before me so very interesting, but, once in a while, I meet someone who, in their own way, manages to somehow motivate me, and even reassure me that, yes, I’m doing ok. I’m doing more than ok.
One such person is Kimberly Clay, an internet entrepreneur, founder/CEO and the writer of WhatSheSay.com. She helps people design their own self improvement plans which are tailored to each individual’s lifestyle. Recently, I managed to persuade Kimberly to do an interview with me, so she could share her own experiences and wisdom, and the story behind how one woman took the kind of decision mentioned above, and truly started to realise her own personal dreams. Here’s her remarkable story:
How was WhatSheSay.com developed from an idea into what it is today?
That’s kind of like asking a woman how she gave birth… She knows exactly how it happened, but it’s still kind of hard to explain.
In the beginning, I knew I wanted this blog to be something I hadn’t quite done before. I wanted to be able to reach people (and that idea got distilled down to focusing primarily on women) in a way that I hadn’t even conceived of doing before. I knew I wanted to be able to use my voice or my perspective to help women see things in a different way, because I have learned through my own experience that even the most infinitesimal shifts in an individual’s perspective can make huge differences in the way they live their lives.
It also became a desire to help women to see themselves, or to consider how they present themselves in the world, differently. As time has passed and I’ve had conversations with many different women, one thing has become apparent to me. There are countless women seeking a different or better path. And they’re not necessarily interested in finding someone to solve all their problems. But they want help, they want information they can apply to their situations, and they want to connect with someone with whom they can identify. They want to feel that they’re not alone, but there are others with whom they can share their journey. That’s WhatSheSay.com.
What motivated you to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?
I grew up in a time and place where the expectation was that you went to school, decided on a profession, and spent the rest of your life working for other people. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that scenario, in most cases it offers little, if any, opportunity for an individual to create and perform based on their vision and outlook, or their desire to express individual creativity. That’s what attracts me most about entrepreneurship – the ability to create something of my own.
In what ways does your previous business experience benefit you today?
In the course of my work experience, I’ve had five very distinct careers, with only the last two being somewhat related. I think that experience and background has afforded me three important benefits:
- Because of my wide-ranging experience, I am able to understand business from the unique perspectives of the individual entrepreneur, for-profit corporations, non-profits/grass-roots organizations, as well as entities concerned with the interests and welfare of the community at large.
- I have the ability to easily communicate with and relate to a wide range of people – from wham’s to owners of “mom and pop” stores, to ceo’s and individuals at the helm of national organizations. I have an ability to understand unique challenges and issues, and can relate to the struggles of others without pre-judgement or jumping to conclusions.
- I have failed a bunch of times. And now I understand that failure is not something to be avoided at all costs, but is often a very important part of a successful business process.
What was your vision of how your life would be when you were young?
Oh wow…I’m not sure you have enough time for that. For the most part, I saw myself wearing a hard hat, cowboy or ranger hat, steel-toed boots and a ranger uniform or flannel shirts and khakis. I have always (ALWAYS, ask my mother) been a wildlife/animal nut. I can still remember being about seven or eight years old and spending summer mornings and afternoons sitting alone in the attic waiting to catch a bird or checking on a bird’s nest. My mom has a great story she tells about the time I was nine or ten years old, and she came downstairs into our family room and found it covered in tree frogs. You see, there was a storm outside, and I thought the frogs needed a place to hide out during the storm so they wouldn’t drown…
I studied Forestry in college (and minored in Wildlife Management, of course), and thought my life would be spent at the top of a fire station in the western U.S., out in the middle of nowhere. I even began my professional career in forestry, but, as is often the case, life intervened and my career has taken many twists and turns since then.
You appear very open about wanting to make fundamental changes to your life, and to inspire others to do the same. How achievable is that in the ever more demanding and hectic world we find ourselves in today?
Oh, I think it’s very achievable if that’s what you truly want to do, or if your life has become so uncomfortable it’s what you feel compelled to do. Will it be easy? No. We’re creatures of habit and tend to resist change. In addition to that, oftentimes, the changes we desire are resisted by those closest to us (who may also be impacted by those changes in ways they don’t like or appreciate). But I think the potential benefits make the effort worth it.
We only get one life and I have yet to meet the woman (or man, for that matter) who really wants to spend it being miserable and unhappy. No matter how hectic or demanding are our lives, if we really want the lives we live to be different, we can change them. If we’re not able to immediately change our outward circumstances, we can begin to change our experience of them (the ways in which we think and believe and react), and begin the work of moving toward something different and better. Even that is progress.
I’ll be honest, Kimberly. Yes, I know the website is designed for a certain kind of woman, but I’ve read a few of the blog articles (very informative and entertaining they were too). Do you think a proportion of your readership will actually be men?
The short answer to that question is “yes”. Actually, we’ve had two interesting aspects about our audience reveal themselves since the time we launched WSS. One is that we do indeed have a small, but consistent contingent of male readers that comprise approximately 8% of our total readership over the life of the blog. The second interesting fact is that I initially envisioned that the majority of the blog readership would be mature women; women 40 and over. That’s not the case. We continue to attract the majority of our audience from the range of 25 to 44 year old women. That is something that continues to surprise me…in a good way.
What advice would you give to someone who feels that they are “standing at Ground Zero”?
Breathe: Your first instinct will be panic or fear. You’ve suddenly been thrust into a situation where it feels like the world has been pulled out from beneath you and you’re in freefall. It is very unsettling, very frightening. So the first thing to do is just breathe. Calm yourself. Calm your mind. If it feels like the sky is falling, no matter. When all is said and done, the sun WILL come up tomorrow. Just take a minute (and that minute may be an hour, an afternoon or a day or two) and breathe.
Don’t try to decide everything at once: Because it’s likely to seem that the world is crashing down around you, you’ll want to fix it. Everything. At once. You can’t, and if you try to, it won’t be right. Pace yourself. Take the time you need to decide what you truly want to happen (think endgame, long-term), then work backwards from that outcome to determine what needs to be done. Finally, prioritize those needs so you can begin to define what action you need to take and when (which solves the question screaming in your head “What should I do?“).
Trust what God has put in you: You can do this. I’m a Christian woman. I believe that we were all created for a purpose unique to each of us. And I believe in the course of our lives we’re brought to and through experiences that prepare us for our unique purpose in life and challenges we’ll be required to face.
There are many reasons why our lives can blow up. And we tend to focus too much on the blow up. What we should be doing is realizing that things have to be put back together, and now we have a perfect opportunity (huge, HUGE opportunity) to reconstruct things differently; better than they were before. You have to trust that you have within you what it takes to be successful in doing that. Circumstances may require you to learn new things or acquire new skills, but at your core you already have what you need to succeed because God already put it in you. It just needs to be brought out.
What’s the very best thing about your life today?
For years, I’ve made decisions about my life based on the needs, expectations or wants of other people. Now, it’s my turn. I have an open road in front of me. Yes, I have challenges and hurdles to overcome, but I have the opportunity to decide for myself which paths I want to take, which directions I want to explore, what roads I don’t want to go down. I can choose less stress. I can choose no drama. I can choose to trust my own choices even when I make a mistake or bad decision. Even in situations where my options are limited, I have the power to choose. That’s something. In fact, it’s everything.
I have successfully been in the digital marketing field for several years now, and I’ve seen a googleplex (that’s a seriously large number, by the way) of websites, blogs and internet ventures simply either die on their feet or just slowly fade away.
Take a look at Kimberly’s website WhatSheSay.com, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it has the premise, the impetus, and exactly the right person behind it to make it not only an outstanding success, and a blueprint for the creation of a something exceptionally worthwhile, but also a really valuable resource of positivity to those in need of a guiding hand, whether they are men or women.