Hillary Strobel, Founder of The Flyways, Los Angeles, California, USA
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was obsessed with literature. She read so much that her kindergarten teacher put her into advanced reading classes. Her book collection began to take over her shelves at home so that she needed new ones all the time.
About the time that this little girl was 9, she witnessed a boy her age being cruel to another little girl. “Why,” the little girl thought, “did this boy have to target this girl? She goes home crying every day and the adults punish him and yet he does not stop.” This haunted the little girl for many years, until she was able to go out into the world on her own and discovered the reasons behind injustice.
In the meantime, the little girl never stopped reading books and writing stories. Her love for them had grown and grown along with her bookshelves and her education. She began to realize that stories can help people to develop empathy and broaden their horizons as they dip into worlds beyond their own. “What if the story itself could actually make the world better? What if the story could help people to heal themselves personally while making it possible to contribute materially to others?” thought the little girl, who was by now a grown up woman.
This is how The Flyways was born.
My name is Hillary Strobel, and I am that little girl. My social impact publishing company is called The Flyways. Over many years, I’ve been driven by a passion for storytelling- for me, there is nothing that quite compares to the smell of a new book or the feeling of being transported into another story world- along with a twin drive for social justice. As a child, I was highly sensitive to others’ problems, like the boy in my class who picked on the girl, because he was white and she was Korean and he believed that made it okay. I found an escape and a solution in stories, as they really do help the consumer develop empathy and understanding, and they really do have the power to change the world.
I always meant to go into publishing, and I am so blessed to live in a day and age where it is possible to run it as a virtual company, as well structure it as a Social Business. I can positively touch the life of someone I’ve never laid eyes on, and they can in turn touch the lives of people they have never seen either. It’s the most exciting kind of Virtuous Cycle I can imagine, and it’s all predicated on telling a good story. On top of that, our stories are collaboratively created through many different mediums, so that they are full and rich with life, making them all the more effective.
Over the years, as I’ve learned to harness the power of virtual communications, I’ve also become deeply aware of Social Businesses and what kind of impact they can have on our world. They are financially viable, of course, and they are also able to operate with the mission of a non-profit agency or NGO, allowing the leaders of these businesses to sustain their product on the market while remaining dyed-in-the-wool “do-gooders.” This is, for me, manna from heaven. It’s being able to put food on the table while feeding my soul too (and the souls of everyone my company touches).
There are many different permutations for Social Businesses in the world today. In the United States, we have a new-ish federal tax designation known as a Benefit Corporation; this is the business structure that The Flyways follows. We operate like any other corporation for tax purposes, but we are also required to report our social impact efforts to a third-party certifying body every year. Doing so allows us to demonstrate our positive work to the world with high transparency. Every Benefit Corporation is allowed to develop its own personal vision of what Social Impact means. For The Flyways, it’s donating 25% of all company profits to social justice efforts around the world. In 2016, we will have financially supported entrepreneurship for formerly abused and trafficked women, prison reform, and positive body image.
The Social Business infrastructure, to my mind, is incredibly valuable as a bridge between those systems that tend to cause social justice problems and those solutions that can’t quite stretch to an effective outcome. On top of that, The Flyways uses stories to make that happen. Stories, by the very virtue of their existence, give us humanity; building and distributing stories in the manner that we do allows us to give humanity a real moral compass for “doing better.”
I am that little girl who grew up to create a new way of telling stories and using the story words within them as a tool for improving the real world around us. I encourage you to join us on this adventure through our hearts and minds by visiting our website, subscribing to our stories, and following us on social media for more information about upcoming projects:
Join The Flyways’ mailing list on our website for our newsletter full of special offers, upcoming story projects, and opportunities for partnership.
Hillary is a content single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and President/CEO of a Social Enterprise, The Flyways, Inc. After a long and varied career in just about every kind of Liberal Arts field imaginable, and in every type of job position- volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, non-profit worker, and freelancer- she decided to put her money where her mouth is and marry her two deepest passions: storytelling and social justice. The results have surpassed her wildest expectations. She also coaches businesses and organizations to meaningfully build their social impact programs from the ground up. Hillary is a graduate of San Francisco State University having obtained a BA and MA in interdisciplinary studies. She also received an MBA from the No-Pay-MBA with a focus on social impact and innovation.