You Can Sit With Us | A Panel Discussion
Aisle 9 is all about connecting women. Specifically, connecting modern women to essential + affordable products that elevate their daily lives. When we find something that works for us, we share it. In this way, we are always sharing products + tips and having real conversations about life + style, art + culture, beauty, wellness, travel, and motherhood. We try to make it easier on women making it all go. We recently reached out to some of the women in our community who we admire to ask questions about work + balance, career + creativity and how they take up space in their respective fields while also creating space for other women to sit at the table alongside them. This was our first panel discussion at Company Club, a women’s clubhouse in Bentonville, Arkansas, where women can come together to have these kinds of conversations. Our Editor-in-Chief, Anna E. Cottrell, moderated the panel. Let’s hear what they had to say…
Anna Cottrell [Moderator]: Welcome to the Aisle 9 x Company Club Panel Event — we are so thankful to have you here. Aisle 9 is all about connecting women to products, to create a life they can afford to live, while bringing up other women as we go. We coined the event, You Can Sit With Us, because we truly believe that we as women are stronger together. We believe that there is room at the table for everyone– it’s a rising tide. The conversation of diversity, equity, and inclusion is something on all of our minds and is a steady topic around our office. I’m so impressed with the ladies that have assembled before us today to talk about the different industries each of them are taking up space and pushing boundaries in. All of us come from different walks and different professions — but if you start the conversation, an intentional conversation, about where we all want to go, then we start to see we actually have a lot more in common than we once thought. I’m so excited to get started tonight — why don’t we begin with introductions from our panelists. Darcy? Kick us off?
Lauren Haynes [Contemporary Art Curator]: I’m Lauren Haynes. The curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the curator of visual arts at the Momentary, which is our new satellite art space opening in February.
Blake Woolsey [Executive Coach]: Blake Woolsey, I’m a consultant and executive coach.
Stacy Sheid [Interior Designer]: I’m Stacy Sheid-Epps. I’m an interior designer, and more specifically the designer of this space [Company Club]. For me this is where I’ve been for the last six months? I don’t know. Jade [Terminella, co-founder]? Nine months? A year? So, I’m really excited to be a part of it.
Anna: So beautiful. This is a question to you, Stacy. How have you worked to connect the values of Company Club within the club, and how do you want women to feel when they walk into this space? How do you want women to enjoy Company Club?
Stacy: It was so hard. First of all, there are several women’s clubs — you know, women’s workspaces in New York, Chicago, larger cities — and the only thing we really had to base it off of was googling pictures of The Wing. Kind of coming up with our own ideas that fit women of Northwest Arkansas, not New York, and also not copy what they did. It was complicated. I can’t tell you how many different scenarios we went through. We wanted this space to be funkier than your house would be, but where you still want to go inside and feel warm and fuzzy and cozy. The main thing is to come in and meet new friends, and sit in a really fun space and feel home-y, like you can get a coffee, throw a blanket on, learn about the person sitting next to you and leave feeling better about yourself.
Anna: On the note of creating beautiful spaces, Lauren, one of my favorite collections at the museum was the recent Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit where you brilliantly paired her known works with contemporary artists, a lot of them women. How important was it to you to make sure women were represented?
Lauren: When I was younger and didn’t even know what a curator did, I liked being around art and seeing new things. I realized how important it was for me to go into a space and see works made by women and people of color. That is something that has been really consistent for me: “How do I make sure the other generations feel like museums and galleries are spaces that they can make their space in?” It’s always about whose voice gets amplified and how I can do my part in amplifying others’ voices.
Anna: That’s so lovely. So what was your path to become the Contemporary Curator for Crystal Bridges and now the Momentary– a contemporary art space satellite to Crystal Bridges opening February 2020 in downtown Bentonville?
Lauren: I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a curator. I thought I was going to be a lawyer from kindergarten to college. Then I went to school in Richardson, Ohio at a small, liberal arts school. I needed a work-study job, so I was looking around. There was a job at a museum working for the museum director’s assistant, but I had no idea what that meant. I thought it meant filing things or whatever an 18-year-old college student would be doing. I needed to take art history classes, so I was doing both of these things at the same time and sort of fell in love with museums and the behind the scenes with art. Then, I spent the next four years of college studying every type of art imaginable from museum education and gallery and different things so that I could know what I liked and didn’t. After I graduated, I got a job at The Studio Museum in Harlem, which has been around for a little over 50 years and is dedicated to artists of African descent and art inspired by black culture. I was there for 10 years, and then almost three years ago [to the date] I transitioned to my role at Crystal Bridges. I came here and really was excited about that next step — being somewhere that wasn’t New York City or somewhere that we see as more important to talk about art and artists.
Anna: Yes. That’s something women right out of college always tend to say, “I don’t know what path I should take.” My advice is to just say “yes” to something, even if you don’t know what’s out there or what the job’s title is, you’ll figure it out. Just say “yes.”
Darcy, this seems like a natural transition. Darcy is a registered nurse, and now she has a successful storefront in downtown Fayetteville and a newly released clothing line. We as women are all very multidimensional, but some of us can get stuck. Talk us through your experience with that and switching careers.
Darcy: It was a journey and it was a challenge for sure. I went into nursing because I love people. A lot of it had to do with being compassionate for other people. I kind of found my home in nursing and my passion within that but while I was doing that I was really missing the creative side of myself. I started doing whatever I could to get involved creatively. Fashion was kind of the perfect outlet even when I was doing nursing. I volunteered at NWA Fashion Week, and shortly after I started a blog to continue building those relationships and that community. For me, while from the outside it may look like a full on plunge, it was also about taking baby steps along the way. Wherever you are in your life, if there’s something that you’re really passionate about and you’re thinking about it constantly, at some point you just gotta go for it. I was kind of in that space where I would give every reason not to do it. I would try to talk myself out of it everyday. I’d say to myself, “There’s not enough space for you, it’s already taken up. What can you offer?” You know, all those things.
Anna: I’m so glad you were able to push through. I mean, the things we say to ourselves that we would never dare say to another person. We’re so critical of ourselves– my new motto is ‘if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.’
Darcy: Yes, I pushed through and am still doing nursing a couple of times a month, which is what is so awesome about that career. I can keep that skill while also building this business.
Anna: Something we at Aisle 9 love is how you prioritize diversity in your marketing, which is so beautiful, and how your styling promotes an inclusive shopping environment. You walk in and it’s so warm and clearly representative of your brand. It’s all a testament to your heart and what you’ve poured into the business.
Darcy: In the beginning it was creating a space for myself, which I felt was kind of missing. I’m in my 30’s and I wasn’t finding exactly what I wanted. Some of it was that, finding inclusivity for women in their 30’s. It’s also organic because women will walk in the shop, who we think are beautiful, and we just say, “Hey we think you’re beautiful will you model for us?” In that sense it’s organic, but I also think I sort of created this space for myself and now I’m in a position to empower other women. I just want whatever we’re putting out in the world to be representative of the world. I think for such a long time, fashion, movies, art, whatever it is wasn’t representing what the United States looks like. I think that’s something that has always been important and inspiring for me.
Anna: Thank you for that, and thank you for the work you are doing.
Nicole, let’s put you in the hot seat. Everyone should know Nicole was the original hype girl for women before it was in vogue. Before it was a “thing” to lift other women up, she was doing it — it’s just who she is. It’s in her DNA. So, Nicole, I guess I have a two-part question: tell us about Bodd Camp, but also, I want to be more like you and how you put positivity out there. How can we be like you in this regard?
Nicole: Like the other women here, [wellness] was something I was passionate about, but it wasn’t really my background. I wanted to be a teacher, and in college I had an unpaid internship with the Oxford American Magazine. That took me into publication and writing. I was working at an advertising agency in Little Rock, when a friend of mine invited me to a bootcamp class, and it changed my life. I started going to classes with a trainer, who is now one of my mentors. I was going 2-3 times a week for five years, until he was like, ‘Hey, you’re showing up, you’re bringing other women into this space, you’re motivating others. Have you ever thought about being a personal trainer?” So I shadowed him for about six months, and finally he kicked me out of the nest. He told me he would set me up a class, where I could call it what I wanted, do what I want, and just keep bringing people here. So I called it the Bodd Squad — it was mostly women. We would work out for 45 minutes, then we would hang out after class while I was cleaning up, shutting off the lights, and we would head out to the parking lot and just hang out until like 9 p.m. It was the first time that I really felt like I wanted to create a space where women can come to work out and hang out. We weren’t just talking about things like fitness and nutrition, we were talking about divorce, breakups, kids going off to college, parents getting older or parents dying. Real issues that no one was really talking to these women about. I think through fitness and moving our bodies, it really opened people up to being more emotional and vulnerable. That inspired me to find a space to bring women together.
At Bodd Camp, we have pre-workouts, workshops, arts and crafts, hair braiding, s’mores, it’s really the summer camp of my dreams. It affirmed to me that yes, women need to be together, we need to come together. It’s a sisterhood, and something I’m super proud of. It’s really just a place to disconnect from everything else and reconnect with yourself and other women.
Anna: That’s so awesome. I think seeing something missing in a space that you’re in [or you want to be in], and filling a void there is really brave. Another thing I’m hearing is how imperative a support system is and that you need women alongside you to help turn dreaming and planning into fruition.
Nicole: It’s really just a thing of finding other women and letting them show off their talent and what they’re good at.
Anna: I love it. So Blake, you have an incredibly impressive career in Public Relations and Communications including serving as Senior Vice President at Mitchell Communications. Can you please talk about your decision to ultimately go your own way and start something yourself?
Blake: Much like you all, I love working with women and I’ve had a wonderful career working with men too. As for my transition, it was one of those things where when the time came, I kept thinking, “I don’t know what else I have to give here.” I wanted to put my feet on the ground every morning and love what was doing. I loved what I was doing because I think I’m the kind of person that always tries to find the greatest joy. I know my purpose. Whether it’s as a mom or as a professional, my purpose is serving other people. I didn’t feel like I was able to do that in the most profound way in my role. I’m the sole provider for my family, and I thought I needed to be brave. All of a sudden, I was a business consultant.
Anna: As an executive coach, you’ve had a lot of opportunities to coach many leaders, many of them men. What takeaways have you found from those interactions and in depth conversations? Also what is a common difference in leadership between women’s leadership styles and men’s?
Blake: I know you would want me to say there is this profound difference between working with a man and a woman, and there’s not. Men feel just as insecure in many ways because they’re wondering how they’re being judged, no different than women. So really and truly, I don’t see much of a difference. What I will say is that that sitting at boardroom tables, where we’re one of two women and everyone else is a man, we do work differently. We as women have that side to us that can be more influential. We may not be as intuitive in our career at first, but we get there. I do think women have so many more competencies in communication, empathy, and understanding transparencies + values in an organization. Organizations change because of growing and evolving, but the core of them do not change if the values remain the same. If you’re not growing and changing, I would be looking for another job because you’re going to be obsolete. My advice to women: please trust your gut earlier.
Anna: So interesting. Thank you so much, Blake. Okay, anyone have any questions for the panelists?
Guest: How do you work to create a brand without excluding other groups of people?
Darcy: What I do with fashion, I think it has to come from a place of humility first. We can do better. I think I can do better. I’ve learned a lot having worked in this industry for the short amount of time that I have. I think, initially, I could stand on the outside and think, “Why aren’t they doing that or including this?” Now that I’m in it, I do see the barriers. The barriers are unfortunately a lot more institutionalized than people realize, which is not an excuse. Even with Darcy’s new clothing line, I want to expand our sizing. I wanted to do that immediately, and I learned very quickly that I’m a small-batch manufacturer and that’s impossible for me right now. I guess it’s just always learning, always trying to better and getting there and coming from a place where you know you can do better.
Lauren: I saw something on Twitter, and someone was basically asking for advice on how to be more inclusive if you’re in a place that lacks diversity or if you don’t know people from different backgrounds or different experiences. It recommended we follow people who have different experiences [race, gender, etc] and then don’t comment. Just listen and read, and that way you’re at least getting some understanding on other people’s experiences.
Anna: We’re all human, and as women “on the rise,” it’s asking the question “how can we bring other women up with us?” Panelists, do you have ideas of how can better support each of you?
Nicole: I think just showing up for each other as our true selves. Connection doesn’t happen when it looks like you have it all together. If you open up with what you’re struggling with, that’s how we can form genuine connections. It’s a question not only of how can I help, but here is a space for you. Just to show up and be yourself.
Guest: Where do you get inspiration? I’m interested in learning, what was the catalyst to launch you into this career and this journey? Let’s maybe start here with the space and the interior design?
Stacy: We finally found this space, and we were very excited about it, but it was an office and it was very masculine. It was lovely but very heavy. We had the mission of turning it into a women’s club. How will we make this more feminine, but simple? It evolved, and most design is always like that. It just kept evolving. This is totally different than it was three months ago, and probably two weeks ago. The thing is there’s always gonna be a cooler space, a cooler girl. Always something better, but finally we landed on this. It was trying to include little bits and pieces hoping to touch as many people as we could.
Anna: How about you, Blake? Where do you find inspiration?
Blake: I do a lot of self assessment. Brave was my word for 2018, and it changed going into 2019 to courageous. Brave is being able to face your fear, courageous in my opinion is facing a fear because you know what is right and beautiful. There is something about that beauty and seeking that beauty. Thinking about what you want to achieve on this earth. I’m always looking and reflecting.
Nicole: I think it’s finding the women that are inspiring to me and asking the questions. Listening to the women, listening to what they were giving to me and then giving that back. It’s connecting with women that I feel I can admire.
Darcy: I will second that first and foremost it’s women. It’s listening to them when they walk in the door and when they’re trying on things. I try to really listen and think about what they’re thinking and feeling, then as a buyer transcending that into what I buy.
Lauren: For me, I am very lucky to work with a lot of women artists. At The Studio Museum, I was working with a lot of emerging artists, and I’m still following them and looking at who they’re looking at and what they’re watching is something I get a lot of inspiration from. Also I have a nephew and two nieces. My oldest niece is 15 and my youngest is 8, and I get a lot of inspiration from them. Just being inspired by their sense of themselves at such young ages is something I enjoy and am constantly impressed by.
Anna: We have time for one more question.
Guest: I can see how people would get in a routine, and then want to change but realize that there is a real risk in that. My question is for anybody who is out there maybe on the edge of the tipping point who are thinking these women were in a place and they did something really brave, is there anything you would say to make that leap not so scary?
Darcy: One of the things for me was another phrase: “If you can’t stop thinking about it, do it.” That’s all it took for me. I was thinking about it everyday. I had to take the leap. Another thing for me was thinking I shouldn’t start if I don’t have enough money or if I don’t have a space, the list can go on. It’s not going to be perfect when you start. Just start somewhere.
Anna: We can think of so many excuses.
Darcy: It’s not going to be perfect when you first start, but I think people can appreciate the journey they see that you’re on. Just start somewhere.
Nicole: There’s a quote like: “Inspiration finds you, but it has to find you working.” You have to be doing it. A lot of my opportunities have come not from taking the leap but being pushed out. At a certain point, I was plateauing creatively, and now I get to meet new people and tell new stories. Continue to find other people + things to support your passion.
Anna: Surround yourself with positive people who will lift and build you up. Life is way too short for anything else.
Lauren: I sort of feel, when I moved here from New York, I was alone and I didn’t know anyone. It was about being excited for the opportunity and knowing other things will come. No matter what, if it doesn’t end up the way I thought it’s going to work out, it’s going to work out better or at least not life ending. I keep telling myself, it’s okay if it doesn’t turn out the way I thought it was going to– worst case scenario I’d end up on my mom’s couch.
Anna: Haha! And sometimes it’s a blessing when it doesn’t work out the way you expected.
Blake: I think for me it was trust. A trust that there was a reason I was feeling this way, and if I feel so strongly and if people are telling me that this is something I’m good at or that I need to do, then I should go for it. I thought to myself, I’ve got to set aside the worry because it’s not for me to worry about. We doubt ourselves too often as females.
Thank you, Company Club, for creating the space where conversations like this one can take place. To learn more about membership opportunities and special events at Company Club, visit thecompanyclub.com + follow along on Instagram @company.club. Thank you to our panelists for sharing your time and enthusiasm with us. Thank you to the women who attended this event and added your voices to the conversation. We will continue the discussion here + on Instagram @aisle9.