It Girl | DANAE EDMONDS
Hey girl, hey! I am interviewing myself today! I have been thinking about doing this for a while now and today is the day! I am more of a behind-the-scenes girl but I think it is important for Aspiring Co. to have a face. We are a mini and mighty team of 3 and I am kicking us off with my story. Consider this an autobiography of sorts. I am an open book so if you have any questions or want to know more about this journey, hit me up on twitter or instagram. I would love to talk! So... here we go!
Name: Danae Ayanna Edmonds
Job Title/Company: Founder, Aspiring Co., Director of Social Media for CreativeMornings/Raleigh-Durham, Freelance Designer and Social Media Manager
Education Background: Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Mercer University
1. Tell us a little about who you are.
Hey girl, hey! My name is Danae! I am a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, Beyoncé lover and latte drinker. I spend a lot of my time creating my brand, Aspiring Co. and I am very passionate about uplifting and empowering women. I care a lot about social media, design, women's issues, race issues, equality, empathy, and being a good human. I’m originally from South Jersey but call Raleigh, NC home. I am an introvert but love to meet new people! I love travel and try to visit art museums whenever I am in a new space. In my spare time, I am usually spending quality time with my family, dog, and friends, usually over coffee or drinks, OR I am at home binging some combination of Steven Universe, Golden Girls, and Real Housewives of Atlanta. I recently quit my full-time job of 4 years to work as a freelancer and on all things Aspiring Co..
2. What sparked your interest in starting Aspiring Co. and freelancing?
Looking back over my life, I was always super interested in content creators and tv shows about them. I feel like lots of 90s television shows were centered around women running magazines or writing (Living Single, Rocket Power, Sex and the City, etc). I loved all of shows and specifically the scenes where they were writing or working in the industry, coming up with layouts, designing things, etc.. I originally went to college thinking I would be pursuing a degree in Chemistry so that I could be a pharmacist. I had it all figured out until I took my first semester of Chemistry my freshman year. It wasn’t good. When I picked my new major in Marketing I had no idea what that looked like as a career. At the time it felt like I had forever to figure that out. When I got to my Senior year at Mercer, I felt lost. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what was next. I felt like there needed to be a resource for women to hear these kinds of stories, find community, but also actually see women taking risks with their careers and happy. That was the inspiration behind Aspiring Co.
I graduated in May 2013 and we launched (as Speaking of Everything) in January 2014. Since then we have had several changes… from separating from my co-founder, to losing a small team, to gaining a new and smaller team to a complete rebrand to Aspiring Co. in September of 2017. We are on the up and up and things have never been better.
Freelancing is a little different. I always loved design but never saw examples of what that might look like as a career. When I realized I could make money doing something that felt more or less natural to me, I was shook. Had I realized it sooner, I think my life would be different. Better late than never!
3. Who are you most influenced by?
I would say first and foremost, I am influenced by my family. My parents and my brother have been the biggest influences in my life, but past that, I would say my entire family, especially all of the women. They have each played a part in making me the woman that I am and they have all had meaningful contributions to my story. Coming from black women has seriously taught me so much that it is hard to put into words. My family literally taught me things like feminism without even realizing that was the underlying lesson. My mom, grandmas, aunts, and cousins are the strongest, funniest, most loyal, wisest, most nurturing and god-fearing souls I have ever met and are my biggest inspirations.
In addition to them, my friends and all of the women whose stories I have had, or will have, the pleasure of featuring are also my biggest influences. Their words guide and inspire me when I feel most futile.
4. What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?
My first job was an apprenticeship with the Environmental Protection Agency and Shaw University in Raleigh. I was selected to participate in the program because I got good grades in science and math and was in honors classes in middle school. I started the program the summer after 8th grade and got kicked out during the school year in 10th grade because I got a C+ in Spanish and we weren’t allowed to get Cs. I was devastated but I learned so much from that experience. You can work hard, you can prepare as much as you can, and you can still lose but that doesn’t define who you are. I used to be so ashamed of getting kicked out of that program. It feels silly now.
5. Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?
My proudest achievement so far is betting on myself every day! An example of this was when I quit my full time job of 4 years to work on Aspiring Co. and my freelance stuff full time. It was so scary and to be honest, I am still in awe that I did it. While I do miss the reliable income, I am so much happier. Life is to short to spend the majority of your time unhappy.
I do understand that being able to quit seems unrealistic to most people or something that only rich people do. Let me be the first to tell you, I am far from rich. I just put together an exit strategy about a year in advance and then did it. There isn’t a special skillset needed to pull this off. You just have to believe in yourself and your ability to make it work by any means necessary.
If you feel like you are missing happiness or purpose in what you are doing, figure out a way to incorporate things that add meaning to your day and start from there.
6. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
Initially I wanted to create a space to tell women’s stories. I wasn’t sure what that was going to look like or how I was planning to do it, but that was the goal. Since then, Aspiring Co. has grown so much! Now, my goals are a little different. They are everything from getting out of bed, to making sure I have content and trying to keep my bills paid.
I also think a lot about what the future might look like for Aspiring Co.. While I don't anticipate the core of what we do changing, I do see it expanding. I am interested in podcasting and having some sort of storefront to showcase women makers and the women we have featured. I am not totally sure of what this is going to look like, but I love the idea of expanding this brand in ways that make sense.
7. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned through starting your brand?
I have learned that you can’t expect immediate buy-in when you are starting something new. Often times other people can’t see your vision and that is OKAY! It is YOUR vision for a reason. You have to stick with it, show up, be consistent, patient, focused and do the work. Eventually other people might join you for the ride but you have to be okay even if they don’t.
8. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
The ‘fun’ part about my life now is that I have no idea what it is going to look like 6 months from now, let alone 5 years. I just hope I am happy and have a savings account that I don’t have to pull from.
9. What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up and either meditate or go for a walk with my dog (this is new for me, prayers are appreciated). If I go on a walk, I am back by 7:30 AM because I don’t like to be hot. When I get back in, I make a smoothie and shower. I usually handle social media for Aspiring Co. and think about what I am going to post for the other brands I manage. After that, I check my planner to see if I have any meetings, tasks, or talks to prepare for. I have a notepad that helps me sort out what I need to work on for the day/week so I review that as well. Generally I have coffee and co-working dates or meetings and photoshoots with my clients so I try to fit those in. I also try to manage my inbox and make sure I have my content planned out for Aspiring Co.. If I have orders to fill, I do that. Sometimes I am designing new merch so that usually takes a while. I also record videos and write updates for our Patreon members. I usually fit in something for lunch and dinner and then I spend my nights watching TV and chilling with my dog. Did I mention coffee? That is important because I drink a lot of coffee. There are also days where I spend the majority of it watching TV in my bed and then I do all of my work in the evening. I love having such a flexible schedule that allows me to work when my brain is ready and feels capable.
10. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?
Imposter syndrome sucks. The feeling of being inadequate or unqualified and not good enough or worthy of the opportunities that I get. It happens more than I usually share and it gets the best of me sometimes. I just try to remember that while I might still be learning, I am capable and smart.
Anxiety sucks. I can get in my own way a lot. Anxiety sometimes keeps me from getting started. Even a task as simple as sending an email or opening up my laptop can seem like a huge burden. I usually try to eat my stress gummies or lean on my support system and community to lift me when I feel like this. Sometimes I just need a break.
Not being rich sucks. I have so many ideas and things I want to implement but sometimes that can be hard when you don’t have the resources. (I am resisting the urge to mention Kylie and the whole “Self Made” thing…) *insert eyeroll*
11. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
I once talked to Sabin Lomac (multimillionaire + co-founder of Cousins Maine Lobster Truck from Shark Tank). Right before meeting him, I asked my parents if they would rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond. I was exploring the idea of moving to NYC or staying in Raleigh. When we ran into Sabin, we talked to him for a long time. My dad told me to ask him so I did. He said just be a nice, hard-working fish and it won’t matter. This is something I have kept with me.
12. When do you get your best ideas?
Either when I am reading something by a creative, or when I am in a room full of people who think big. Sometimes someone will say something that sparks and idea for me or I will be in my head thinking and will have a breakthrough. Also in the shower or right before bed!
13. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
I have had plenty of ‘failures’ in my life, but I only consider them failures if I don’t learn from them. Every moment in our lives, good or bad, has led us to where we are right now. True failure is losing sight of that.
14. How do you unwind?
I like to take showers my candlelight with music! It is so relaxing to me. I also like to paint my nails because when you do it at home, you literally can’t do anything else. You just have to sit there and think. Additionally, I love being by water (Pisces/Aries cusp) so I am most relaxed, most happy, and most energized by being in or near water and having time by myself to reflect. Alone time is cherished for me. I love being by myself and going to movies or something or doing nothing at all.
15. What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?
Start small but do it. Hold yourself accountable and if you can’t, find a community to help you. There is no greater feeling than finding your people. You don’t have to do it alone and your work will be better when you have other people to check and challenge you.
16. What do you hope people take away from your story?
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how this ends. I am just trying my best to do work that I love and to hopefully inspire others to do the same. Bet on yourself. Show up for yourself. You are worth it.
17. Anything we missed that you would like to share?
Support people making things you love! I shared some of the visions I have for this brand but I can't do it without your help! Join the Patreon (options starting at just $1/month) if you can afford it and love the content we put out. Check in on your friends who are creating brands, it can be a lot sometimes!
Now get out there and flourish. The world is waiting on you to contribute in a way that only you can. <3 and tell imposter syndrome to suck it.
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