Happy May!

"Taking financial risks in the hope of profit" is the way Google characterizes entrepreneurship, but I think you could substitute "friendship" in for "financial" as well. Developing a friendship is about taking risks! It's about putting yourself out there and seeing if you vibe with someone else, in a way that (ideally) doesn't really waste either of your time. And the ultimate hope is some kind of profit: a connection with someone else, a deeper relationship, a friendship that gives back to both of you.

I've also been thinking more about how to be more intentional in who I try to befriend. It's about quality over quantity, right? Sure, I can have a short list of people I tangentially know enough to message to see if one of them wants to get brunch, but is brunch just going to be awkward? Would I leave feeling just as unfulfilled as if I had made breakfast at home by myself? How can I deepen that relationship and work on making it more powerful for both of us?

Thinking about friendship as a form of entrepreneurship made me think of Karen Spears. Karen has an amazing Instagram of hand-lettered inspirational quotes for her graphic design business, but she also co-founded a network of women of color and allies across industries to brainstorm and take risks together. As the face of her brand and an entrepreneur, she has to be extremely intentional in how she spends her time and, as she puts it, "who I share my energy with." We had an intriguing conversation about building connections and friendships in an entrepreneurial and intentional way, and I hope you guys enjoy it. 

Your friend,

P.S. Did anyone else see that NSYNC got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Did anyone else have an NSYNC lunchbox from third grade onward?? 

Can you talk about your evolution with friendships in college and beyond? You didn't mesh with a ton of people at your college, so you turned to building this network instead.

I was a person that didn’t like the school I went to. It was more of a small town, and I wanted to go to more of a liberal arts college. Going to a big university landed in my lap and I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m super introverted, and I’m so anti-small talk. I hate networking but ironically I’m really good at it when I’m super confident and when I’m talking about a topic that interests me and really gives me life. I noticed that those conversations are much easier than trying to make a friend out of the blue. I’ve been very intentional about who I share my energy with and that’s okay. That’s something I learned about myself early on, that my relationships have to be really intentional and fill me in a way that fuels my passions and what I’m interested in. To be able to do that for the other person, I wanted someone to find conversations that we have really beneficial. That, for me, is about making friendships based on what my interests are — entrepreneurship and talking about business and stuff. That was the foot in the door for making really cool relationships, outside of the randomness of networking and making friends.

How would you define what friendships mean to you today?

In the past it was about those people in close proximity to you that you just kind of grew up with. While I have those people still in my network, they’ve grown to have different interests. While some people are able to really grow and change and transform their relationships with their childhood friends, for me it’s been more about shedding. It can be very negative, but I’ve learned as you get older you don’t necessarily have to stick with the same people you grew up with. It’s being very intentional about who you share your energy with. Sometimes relationships can grow toxic and then others — sometimes people have a hard time with your personal growth and growing with you. 
For me it’s been a mixture of shedding and also understanding who I am as a person and who I really want to grow with and who really wants to support me in this journey. You want to make sure friendships are supporting you and helping you develop into the person that you’re becoming.
For how my relationships have transformed from high school to college to here, it’s been very intentional. In college there were those people I was drawn to because of the same interests. Those will be the kind of people I will have for business advice, or people I know I can schedule a creative session with. They’re also friends you can go out with and talk about pop culture with. It became not even categorizing what kind of friend — it’s so weird talking about it, but you have different friends for different things and sometimes you want to go out with some people and other people you want to strictly talk business with and those other friends who can propel your vision to the next level. Those types of relationships dictate the time and effort I put into them. It’s a healthy balance of your colleagues that you can talk about your career with and also those in your inner circle where you can talk about business and friendship and life with, and those that you can have that romantic relationship with but help you develop as a person, those are the key areas of friendship I have around. 

What's an example of how you intentionally made a friend? 

I always wanted to just connect with someone on a deeper level about interests and what it is I wanted to pursue. Being an entrepreneur, you need that energy of valdiation and that you’re doing something right and that pressure to excel. I looked around in my network and I had very little on campus in my network — I knew I wanted more people who are more entrepreneurial. I always saw this girl Bri walking around, and she was such a mysterious figure. She always had shades on but I knew she ran a popular blog on campus. One day I was like 'I want to reach out to her and see if I can be featured on her blog or do a partnership or something,' so I sent her an email.

So you're contacting somebody out of the blue. How do you phrase that?

I wanted to be really intentional in why I wanted to start a relationship with her. Going into it, I didn’t think we were going to be best friends. In the email it was basically along the lines of 'hey, I love what you’re doing, I admire your work,’ — I had read through her entire blog — 'and I’m so inspired about what you do, and I would love to be part of it.' She had a whole platform about women empowerment and fashion. Being in undergrad, seeing someone start something and be known for it, that was really inspiring for me. I gave her a give: if I get featured on your blog, I would love to have some type of mutually beneficial component to be on your blog. She was really down: that was the foot in the door. That kind of kicked it off. The most important part of that was being genuine. I was genuinely interested in this person. I wasn’t all in just for myself. I wanted to support her in a way that propelled her career and her passion, and I wanted the same.

That transpired into having coffee and the meeting took off from there. Meeting her was very transformational in my pursuit of being an entrepreneur. I met her friends, she had a little meetup for her blog-aversary, and from there it was organic relationships. She was like my broker. If you have a broker in your network, that’s a person that can introduce you to someone else and expand your network. Those introductions have been major because it keeps that genuine nature of a relationship but in a way that propels you both.

What else have you learned about friendship in adulthood through your different ventures and brands?

My Let’s Vibe cofounder and I were on the same page: even though we grew up with these friends and while we’re on different paths, there’s no space for us to bounce ideas off of each other. For the longest time we were the people for our network. People came to us for advice. We were like, okay who do WE go to? We knew there was a void that needed to be filled for how do we help each other get to the next level. My cofounder and I were always anti-network. We hated going into spaces without some type of fulfillment. That’s what a lot of networking events do. They’re so transactional — you ask for a business card, you follow up, it’s about what that person can do for you. It was missing that interpersonal relationship-building outside of 'what do you do.' 

We wanted to create a space for women who had ideas and wanted to grow and voice what they wanted to do and get that real support but in a way that didn’t seem that transactional. We created a space where we essentially vibed with each other. We ask questions that aren’t normally asked. We get to know each other on a deeper level. We find that having that foundation allows you to open up and help you share ideas and grow your business and your side hustle and grow into your passion. At our events you don’t say 'what do you do', because we don’t know what we’re doing but we’re trying to figure it out together. We’re focusing more on getting to know the person. For Let’s Vibe, we tried to start off our organization’s mission with that goal. If you have those five core people that will always give you life, try asking them to introducing you to someone else that would fit within that support and friendship.

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

"Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" – Mary Anne Radmacher

Think of who you could share some ideas with — is there a friend of a friend you want to meet? Then, invite them to coffee. 
Use this sheet to guide your conversation. 

(Courtesy of Karen!)
Write back and let me know how it goes! And add these to your friendship toolkit:
  • Are you a woman in a digital industry and you'd like some guidance? 🙌  Find a broker/mentor/general sage of wisdom in this newly-launched portal for connecting experienced female leaders with those rising in the field. I love this very much and am excited to schedule some calls. 
  • "You are the sum of the five people closest to you, make it count": I'm sure you've heard this quote before, but the Q&A this week brought it back to the forefront of my mind (and maybe yours?). Here's how to figure out who those five people can be.
  • The Guardian breaks down making friends as an adult in a guide with examples and tips for going forward: "Usually the basis of making a friend is a shared experience. These are often in abundance in our earlier years, but once those easy opportunities are gone, you can forget that the initial basis for a friendship is to have a similar passion or interest."
  • Remember the hygge-your-home bit from last week's newsletter? This conveniently-timed series from Curbed is all about making your home, homier in a set of four weekly challenges.
  • Why are men "so shit at friendship"? This is actually fascinating: "This male-female friendship divide isn’t about biology—it’s the result of what we teach young men about masculinity. When NYU psychologist Niobe Way began researching friendship among male teenagers, she found that boys and girls are equally likely to talk about personal feelings with their same-sex friends. The change comes at around age 15, when boys start reporting that they don’t have or need many friends. That’s the same age that boys’ suicide rate increases to four times the rate of girls."
  • What happened when this writer took a year off from her personal life: "When an acquaintance dropped into town and invited me to dinner, I said yes, and the floodgates opened. 'Oh,' she said, shaking her head over our shared bread basket when I told her about my lost year. 'Picking who you want to share your life with — not just dudes, but friends — is the most powerful thing you’ll ever do.'"

Grow the Sow.

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