Family: what does it mean to you? Those of us without a solid relationship with our family of origin struggle with this concept daily. When your life looks nothing like a Hallmark version of the holidays you often feel like you’re alone on an island. Phoebe Assenza and I became fast friends when we discovered we shared this unique experience. Through this deep knowing a sisterhood was formed. We’ve watched each other move through many challenges and it’s truly miraculous to see where we’ve landed today. We both have redefined and recreated our nuclear families (mine of the furry variety) and made big career moves in the past few years. And, interestingly enough, we both share a love for the written word. My soul sister recently re-branded her branding and marketing strategy agency which now features a weekly online magazine. I wanted to learn more about this new venture…and quite honestly, wanted to make time to connect with an old friend.
Why did you decide to launch Rhetorica?
I was a freelance writer and strategist before Rhetorica, so after years of being embedded with different clients and agencies, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t across a lot of disciplines: marketing, branding, content strategy, and product development, mainly. The successes are all unique and the mistakes are all the same, so I help business leaders engineer their unique success and avoid the mistakes.
What does feminism mean to you? Why is it important?
Feminism means everything to me! I’m learning more about intersectionality and constantly trying to reconcile being a functional and profitable business with being inclusive and good for everyone. Because what’s the point of being inclusive if your leadership is shitty and your employees hate working there? I’m working through that intellectually and in practice. Rhetorica is super small by design, but if we ever need to grow, I want to make sure we have the right values and process in place.
When did your writing career begin? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’ve always written, yes. My parents were both writers so the habit came easily to me. The discipline, not so much. I didn’t start getting paid to write until I was about 28, but I wrote a lot for myself and for free for years leading up to that gig.
What’s been a few of the pivotal moments in your career?
My first full-time editorial gig when I was 28 was a big pivot. It was a startup called Grandparents.com (lol & r.i.p.) and once again, I was the only woman at the table when I got there. I was very green and unprofessional and unpolished talent, but the guys in charge saw something in me, or maybe I was convincing enough, that they hired me as an editor to run an entire section of the website. That led me to countless copywriting gigs after that job, which led me to the strategy and consulting work I do now.
You are a full-time boss babe and a full-time working mom. How do you try to balance the two? Do you think fathers face the same challenges?
I have help with the kids and there’s absolutely no way I could work as much as I do without that help. It’s a luxury a lot of working moms don’t have. I know that fathers face similar challenges — I was actually raised by a single dad! But he was a middle-aged white guy who left the office early to pick me up from school, and his colleagues thought it was honorable or adorable. Moms aren’t cut the same slack in the workplace. We’re considered “unserious” or “too distracted” when we need flexible work hours. I’m sure my dad’s career suffered a little; maybe he missed a promotion or two. But he never lost his job or was forced to choose between being a dad and having a career.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to others?
It’s just as easy to fail at something “safe” as it is to fail at something you love. So always go for the option you love the most. The right people will get it eventually, and if it doesn’t work out you can still be proud of yourself for trying.
What is your favorite book? Why? (Or perhaps favorite blog or podcast)
I’m all about podcasts right now because I listen on headphones while I’m loading the dishwasher, which happens way more often than I ever thought possible. One of my favorites is Pivot, which covers business, and politics as it relates to business. I also love deep dives into specific subjects: the Bill Clinton season of Slow Burn blew me away. I’m also not immune to the true crime stuff and completely devoured The Clearing.
How has the global pandemic affected your business? Your family?
I work with a lot of tech clients, so I’ve been lucky not to have been affected by the pandemic too harshly. It’s business as usual for a lot of my clients but we’re all working a lot harder these days to keep it that way. Working from home (or, living at work, however you look at it) has been challenging, but spending more time with my kids throughout the day is a silver lining, too. I think the hardest part has been missing extended family. We’re playing it safe with grandparents and everyone’s staying in their own little pods, so I’m looking forward to Holidays 2021.