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.
Sophie Kruijsdijk Founder of Life Coach Sophie, Florence, Italy
Why did I start my business? Because I could not not start it. Just like I could not not move to Italy. Just like I could not not leave my relationships of respectively six and five years.
When I set my mind on something and my gut tells me it’s right, I go for it. And it always turns out fine – much better than I expected actually. And that is exactly what I want to help other women with as well. To follow their intuition, to find what sets their soul on fire and then take the leap towards making their dreams happen.
I have experienced that when you really do what you desire, you can actually heal yourself. I have overcome anxiety disorder by following my dream of moving to Italy. I felt so fulfilled by it, that I could stop taking anti-depressants and haven’t had any mind-crippling anxiety ever since. I have gone from being a highly sensitive person to being a thrill-seeker when I finally let go of what was weighing me down. And so by listening to myself, by being true to myself, I cured myself. Now, that is pretty powerful.
I truly believe that when you do what you were meant to do, when you step into your power, you contribute to the world in an extremely meaningful way. And I believe that my purpose is to guide women towards finding their own strength, letting their light shine and blowing the bloody roof off in their own, unique way.
When I sat down on the couch with my mum at Christmas about one and a half years ago, I was telling her about how I wasn’t satisfied with my job of that time. How I felt that it wasn’t fulfilling and that it was actually draining me. I had only switched careers a little over a year earlier and so I felt a bit embarrassed by how this whole adventure had turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. But looking back, this moment of crisis allowed for the real questions to come to the surface again: what is it that you really want to do? What do you care about most? What lights you up even in the darkest moments? Personal development.
Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated by life and why we are here. I remember writing deep poetry at primary school, wandering around the playground by myself wondering about the purpose of life and feeling the need for a deep soul connection with the people around me. I always felt like the odd one out, as if I was the only one who would question things that went beyond whose turn it was to hide or seek.
I was seeking answers to questions that were constantly circling around in my head. I was continuously daydreaming, floating off to different worlds, being touched deeply by the music that my parents would play while driving us around. I felt so connected to the world in spirit and in sense that working with people was the logical thing to do.
At secondary school I discovered that I wanted to teach. I was fascinated by my own age group and I always felt that my natural leadership could be a way to guide them in their development towards becoming themselves. I became an English teacher and worked at a secondary school for three years. Then I came to a point where I felt an itch, a need for change. A break up led to a point in which anything was possible and I decided to follow my heart’s desire to move to Italy and teach English there.
After some years of living my dream and enjoying my new Italian life, the itch came up again. The teaching had become monotonous, predictable and boring. And once I get bored my innate need for fireworks comes back to life. So, I chased another dream of mine: becoming a writer.
I wrote for the biggest Dutch blog on Italy, which was fun, exciting and provided me with a new challenge. I dove in completely and went for it for a 100%, but then, after a while, I realised that the soul connection that I always needed so much was missing. Most of the time it would just be my PC and me, with no interaction whatsoever and I felt like a flower without sunshine. I was literally wilting away. That’s how I came to that point where I found myself sitting on my mum’s couch at Christmas one and a half years ago.
She asked me: ’Why don’t you do something with your passion for personal development? I mean, you’ve been practising mindfulness for ages, you’re always reading about how to improve your life and you have a natural gift for guiding people. Why not become a life coach?’
It was as if my body had caught fire; I was burning all over. I had never felt anything like it before and I knew it was a sign. A sign that my soul had just been set on fire. Since my mum is a coach as well, she guided me through a visualisation exercise and I saw myself sitting in a circle of women on a stretch of grass, talking with them about life. I was leading a retreat, I was inspiring and empowering these women and I saw that this was my purpose. And so I decided that I was going to become a life coach.
I did a course of Acceptance and Commitment Training in Holland and followed an ICF accredited coaching course in Rome. I chose to focus on women because I realised that we as women are so powerful, but very often feel held back by fear and self-doubt. I thought: just imagine what would happen if those limiting factors weren’t an issue anymore. Imagine that all women regained their power and stepped into their true purpose. Imagine that all women let their beautiful, natural lights shine and lit up the world.
Now that would mean real fireworks.
I feel I’m here to help ignite those fireworks by leading by example and coaching women towards becoming real power babes. Being able to do this feels like a true honour and I often feel moved after yet another ground-breaking session. Thanks to my unique six-step coaching programme Take the Leap I help women choose themselves and chase their dreams. I help them deal with fear and negative thoughts effectively and give them tools to tap into their strengths. Thanks to my coaching, my clients feel confident, empowered and finally free to step up their game and take the leap towards their personal dreams. And, as you can imagine, they create mind-blowing fireworks in the process.
About Sophie Kruijsdijk
Sophie Kruijsdijk has a global, online coaching business in which she helps women choose themselves and chase their dreams with her six-step coaching programme Take the Leap. Go to her website to get her free mini guide Move from Fear to Freedom and to book your first free consult: http://lifecoachsophie.com