Work Life Balance – Says Who?
Navigating your life during your 20s is no easy feat, and media executive, Whitney Mari saw a need for a resource that took the formal process of mentorship into a digital platform with 24/7 access and availability.
And that is how The Life Currency was born as a destination for changemakers, dreamchasers and hustlers who are looking to achieve the skills college doesn’t teach you to create both personal and professional success in their 20s.
Keep reading for Whitney’s story on how she created The Life Currency, why she doesn’t believe a work-life balance exists and her words of wisdom to women entrepreneurs.
How were you able to start a business while maintaining a full time job?
Whitney Mari: Starting a business while maintaining a full time job isn’t easy. It takes a lot of sacrifice meaning sleepless nights, little to no social life, and time management skills.
The Life Currency wasn’t my first entrepreneurial venture. I had a few that didn’t work out and a few I just didn’t have a passion for anymore.
What made this endeavor different was: 1) I had the passion for it — I had been doing the work on a small scale for so long I knew this was something that I could every day and never get bored and 2) I set out to do it right and took all the necessary unglamourous steps instead of just diving in without a plan and 3) the most important difference was that I didn’t try to do everything on my own. Right before TLC was built, I went to a conference in Atlanta and the biggest takeaway for me was that everyone there had prioritized outsourcing what they weren’t good at. It sounds like something that’s so simple but I had never thought about it in that way before.
It’s interesting, I read all these books and articles about how women, particularly black women are building businesses quicker than any other sector but they’re not sustaining.
Through my own entrepreneurial endeavors, I’ve realized that we’re not sustaining because we’re trying to do everything ourselves. We have extreme superwoman complexes and it’s hurting us way more than it’s helping.
The concept of outsourcing in my personal business was really something I had never thought of. In my previous endeavors, I’d lean on friendships or people I already knew to get things done. It didn’t easily work out. You’re expecting people to be as passionate about your business or your ideas as you are and they aren’t.
I realized I had to treat my startup like it was already a million dollar business.
One of the first people I hired was an editor/writer. I like writing but I don’t have the time for it or the passion to do it every single day. I tried before because it seemed like you had to be a writer to have a content based business and it just ended horribly for me.
I actually bought the trademark for The Life Currency over three years ago. The plan was to start a site that was completely different from what it ended up being today. It was going to be a travel and lifestyle site through the lens of personal finance. I paid someone to build the design, the branding, the infrastructure — I had built this whole experience but never launched or told anyone about it because I wasn’t passionate about it. When I finally went to re-launch this year – my friends were like “you had a whole site done and just never told anyone?!” Stuff like that happens all the time in entrepreneurship though, you try out things, people, systems and they don’t always work but eventually something will stick and you’ll know when that happens.
Next, I found a lawyer to help me get my legal paperwork out. That was important to me, I’ve seen so many instances of people getting put into bad situations because they didn’t get their legal and tax information situated. Then, I found a creative agency and they really helped take the pressure of a lot of things for me. The Life Currency literally wouldn’t exist without this team. The crazy thing is I found all of these people on Google or LinkedIn. I just started searching for people who had the skills I was looking for and emailed them. It really opened my eyes to a better and more effective way to work. Outsourcing certain skills helped me manage the workload for my other job and really focus on the long term plan and strategy for The Life Currency. I am so involved in every single portion of the business that it would be impossible for me to also be the executor. My team is literally my everything.
What has helped you in your journey to entrepreneurship?
WM: I am so lucky to have an extremely supportive work family, startup family, and real family.
My manager has really played such a large role in creating The Life Currency, she was one of the first people I told when I was getting started. I’m able to use her as a sounding board and she’s been a cheerleader the whole time. It’s good to know I have that support and it’s not something I have to hide. That’s something a lot of people don’t have so I don’t take it for granted.
I’ve worked in the media industry for over 10 years, and my experience has played a huge role in helping me understand how to build a site, make it grow and create revenue generating opportunities from it. I have a lot of advocates in the media space who have supported me and continue to support me.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
As far as having a work-life balance, I don’t think it exists. We all live very integrated lives. It’s something I preach to the people I mentor and who work for me. Everything is integrated and we no longer have the luxury to separate. There used to be a time where separating work from personal was as simple as blocking your boss on Facebook but it doesn’t work like that anymore. Part of my value as an entrepreneur, as a media executive, and an expert in my field is the life I live and how I can express that across all platforms.
Being able to integrate my life makes it easy for me to balance all of the different moving parts of my life. If I’m going to Los Angeles for work, I’ll invite a friend with me or set up a dinner or an activity with everyone in that city to make it easier. My friends and family will tell you that I try really hard to make sure I don’t miss those key moments in their life. Things come up but as long as you give me enough lead time, I’ll schedule it on my calendar. I may have my phone in my hand or have my laptop with me but I’ll be there.
I also have a really strict personal day policy. I make sure I carve out that time where I don’t do anything, I will not pick up the phone. That’s my downtime and that’s when I disconnect and binge watch reality TV or just lay in bed all day. I may answer an email here and there but overall I’m just sitting and being. I’m one of those people who’s OK doing a million things at once and am also perfectly fine doing absolutely nothing and being OK with it.
You mentioned how The Life Currency wasn’t your first business. What are some of the biggest mistakes you made with your previous businesses?
WM: One of my biggest mistakes in business was relying on friendships in the wrong way. Myleik Teele [founder of curlBox and MyTaughtYou] said it best in one of her podcasts that your friends aren’t required to support you. Your friends are your friends. They are there to be a friend, not your business partner or your client.
When you decide to start a business, your friends aren’t obligated to be in that business with you. It took me maturity to understand that. It took me a long time to realize that just because you’re my friend doesn’t mean you have to be a part of my business simply because you have the skills to do so.
The other thing was always feeling like I needed a cofounder or a partner. It’s difficult to find a real balance in personality, skill, time and finances. In my head, I always assumed you needed a plus one in business and you don’t. With the help of so many amazing people, I’ve been able to get this off the ground but at the root of it, it’s still just me. I’m not opposed to bringing on someone in the future as a partner or cofounder but I didn’t need that to get started.
And thirdly, it was waiting too long to start because I didn’t have it all together. I can have a “but when?” complex. It’s like when I get this, I can do this. When I make X amount of dollars, then I’ll invest in this. Just picking up and starting where I was with the resources I had was the best thing I could have done with TLC. I’m a firm believer in the universe and the things that are controlled by it. I had the overall vision for how I wanted everything to play out in November 2016, we didn’t start working on the site until late December 2016 and we were launched by February 2017. It’s kinda crazy how much growth has happened in such a short period of time. To see a fully thriving and functioning business with people who believe in it and great partnerships like this one coming into fruition is a testament that you can start where you are and move from there.
Any words of wisdom for your fellow female entrepreneurs who are either starting out or already have established businesses?
WM: It’s funny because I just did a talk at SXSW yesterday and it was about the next generation of womenpreneurs and someone asked, “How do we continue to thrive in a male-dominated world?”
I seriously hate this question – I hate that we even still think this way or question ourselves and our abilities. We are in such a unique time period being women, being entrepreneurs, honestly being anything outside of the traditional status quo and I want all of us to stop thinking that we’re at a disadvantage. We’re not. There’s all of these slogans talking about “The future is female” and although I love the saying, it’s not true. The present is female. Nobody in this world would be here without a woman. The first thing we have to do is stop making it seem like we’re lacking something or that we’re entering the room at a disadvantage. We’re at such an advantage that the only thing we owe anybody is to work, get it done and do it well. It starts with us collaborating and partnering. There’s enough for all of us to eat and eat well. We should help each other and create these opportunities and situations so the next generation of women can come in and start asking questions like how do I become the best LEADER instead of feeling the need to add woman in front of it. We have the power to practice what we preach and really change the gender and racial biases that exist with the opportunities we create for ourselves.