By Maddie Heye
I saw a need, I knew I was the right person for the job, and I knew I could make a difference. All I had to do was believe in myself and make a bold move. So I did. Although, admittedly, it wasn’t that easy. I had to push all of the second-guessing and self-doubt aside and actively challenge myself to be bold.
For too long, I had been sitting on an idea for a women’s discussion group that was different from the rest. I had a clear picture of what I wanted these discussions to result in, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to get there or how I would bring them to life. The goal was, and still is, to provide a forum for women to discuss and uncover challenges, tendencies, and biases, and empower each other to change the script. I wanted it to be digestible and easy, giving women the opportunity to see what small steps they can take in their own lives to reach their goals despite gender biases, and to progress the world around them. I believe that if women understand why we might sometimes hesitate to raise our hands, speak up, negotiate, or leap for opportunities, we’re better prepared to change those habits and reach our goals. And I knew there were a few steps we could take to head in that direction.
So, I took a leap. In 2018, I did something that required me to get out of my own way and challenge myself in ways I’m not used to – to be truly bold. I planned my first Empower Collective meet-up, not quite knowing what it would be or what it would turn into. It’s amazing how sometimes the smallest steps can unexpectedly require so much bravery. I tossed a private Facebook event invitation over to a handful of friends to come to my apartment for 90 minutes on a late Sunday morning for a discussion group, and I waited. The amazing thing was that even without a solid idea of what it would be, or a clearly defined agenda, women accepted my invitation. They didn’t quite know what it was (and neither did I, if we’re being honest), but they knew it was something they wanted to be a part of.
The first meet-up went better than I could’ve hoped, and each one after that exceeded my expectations. What I found was that I left every meet-up feeling energized. Not in a fluffy touchy-feely way, but in a tangible, realistic way. I felt reassured and prepared to take on whatever was next. I felt like I had more control over my ability to reach my goals and actionable steps I could take to get there. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I want to empower women to reach their goals –– whatever those goals are. Whether you’re gunning for a promotion, starting your own business, running a marathon, coaching your kids’ soccer team, saving up for a house, training your dog, breastfeeding, starting a non-profit, switching careers, starting a baking club, or entering a bodybuilding competition, I want for you to recognize the things that are in your way and give you the tools you need to get over the hurdles and achieve it.
Even better than how I felt after every meet-up, though, was hearing that others felt the same way. As the year came to an end, I thought a lot about how far we’d come. I went from sending out my first Facebook invite, not knowing what to expect or if people would show up, to getting into a rhythm of hosting a meet-up every 8 weeks, confident it was something my friends looked forward to. That year, I hosted that very first meet-up along with five more, founded Empower Collective, and began creating discussion guides to enable women everywhere to do exactly what I had done. Since then, I’ve continued to host regular meet-ups with my own crew of women, have driven engagement globally with women looking to join the conversation, and women across the country are downloading Empower Collective discussion guides and starting meet-up groups of their own.
I didn’t know what this whole adventure would turn into, all I knew was that I couldn’t lift the gas pedal. I wanted to create a space for women to make their goals a reality, overcoming expectations society has set for them (or that they’ve set for themselves) and empowering others to do the same and that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do, with no plans of stopping. It’s amazing how one bold move can open up doors for so many more.
In early January, I spent a few days tucked away in a cabin with some friends over New Years. During that time, we celebrated the new year, reflected on the past year, and shared what we were looking forward to in the coming year. Unprompted, a friend who has been attending my meet-ups turned to me and said, “You know, I look back at 2018 and there are so many things I did that I wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t had those discussions.”
I was floored (and nearly brought to tears). It’s amazing what opening up a casual dialogue amongst a group of friends had done for all of us. It uncovered hurdles we didn’t realize were standing between us and our successes and allowed us to share ideas for how to overcome them. Not only was it a great excuse to hangout and drink coffee together, but we were truly becoming better versions of ourselves.
All it took was a bold first step, bringing people together, and prompting a conversation, and that ignited a fire. That fire is full of positivity, change, and action, and best of all, it’s growing and it’s limitless. That first bold move, and the momentum it’s given me is empowering me and the women around me to be bold and reach whatever goal we have our eyes set on next.
Visit www.empowercollective.com to learn more and access resources.