Collaboration Station: The Power of Community

A foreword from our Founder:

Running a business is HARD!! It can challenge you in ways you never imagined. There is no blueprint for running a business. We’re all just making it up as we go…and that can feel unsettling and terrifying at times! Yet, when we are supported by people navigating similar challenges alongside us, we gain the courage to navigate the unknown and carve our own unique path forward.  

During a recent member meeting, we spent a few minutes reveling in the awesomeness of having a place where we can just pop in, and it feels like reconnecting with old friends (even when not everyone knows one another!). I think you know the kind of friend we mean – that friend you haven’t seen in ages, yet you’re able to pick right up where you left off. You’re able to skip the chit-chat and have real conversations. This is what community is – a safe place to shed the demands, expectations and burden of being “who we think we’re supposed to be” and show up as we truly are.

It is only when we shed this burden we carry – the feeling that we are supposed to be someone other than we are – that we can truly connect with others and gain the strength to contribute to the world in a bigger way. When we provide this space for one another – not only in the Alliance or with other women, but for each person in our day-to-day – we invite the magic of collaboration and community into our lives. Then, amazing things can happen, beyond our wildest imagination!

Ellivate member and photographer, Leandra Blei, has beautifully captured the power of community and the Ellivate Alliance – an honest space, where we can just BE – in this Collaboration Station piece. Please take a moment to read Leandra’s words, and allow yourself to be inspired…not only to enjoy the honest spaces in your life, but to create them for others.

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Nicole Linko, Founder of Linko IT & Web Solutions – Photo credit: Leandra Blei Photography

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I met Sarah by accident in March 2018. We were at a women’s conference, each assigned to a mentor for breakaway groups, and mine was nowhere to be found. I went to every table in the crowded space, searching for the mentor whose name was written on the back of my badge. After circling the area, I sat at the table that seemed to have the most inviting vibe and coolest kids in the room.

I felt at ease speaking about who I was and what I was experiencing in my photography business and community work. Afterwards, Sarah, also at the table, gave me her card – it was an invitation to join the Ellivate Alliance. I was curious, but also wondered what kind of woman could listen to me ramble and think, “I want her to be in my group”? Turns out, she was my kind of woman.

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Joyce Brown, Founder of Wellness Within Reach – Photo credit: Leandra Blei Photography

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Photography is very personal to me. Doing it as a business sometimes complicates that. At the end of last year, I was feeling off track in my work and aching to create and do a more personal project.

Through my photography business, I’ve noticed more women shedding the weight of what they were told they should be and stepping into themselves. Photographing women means stopping time – allowing for moments to admire ourselves in the present. There is an urgent need for us to share our stories and hold a benevolence of gratitude and grace towards one another as we continue in this world. We are just beginning to grow into our power and beauty, and I feel a compelling need, right now, to highlight this for all other women who are beginning to shed old notions.

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Christine Lehmann, Founder of Elearning Delta – Photo credit: Leandra Blei Photography

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This inspired a creative project – A New Coming of Age – to celebrate the wisdom, grace, kindness and beauty of women over 40. We are forever growing into ourselves and flourishing. With every experience and lesson, we expand our wisdom. My wish is to capture the magnificence of every woman, in her natural brilliance.

In January 2019 at EVOLVE, Ellivate’s annual member conference, I invited my Ellivate sisters over 40 to be part of A New Coming of Age. I asked them to sit for a photo shoot…without make-up. I was surprised and thrilled when six said yes, and we were able to coordinate an Ellivate photo shoot.

During this photo shoot, I asked our Ellivate sisters to share some of the wisdom they’ve gained over the years. I want to share some of my favorite nuggets with you – some guiding lights for you on your journey.

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Suzanne Daniels, Founder of Brentwood Social House – Photo Credit: Leandra Blei Photography

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What is an idea you grew up with that felt good to let go of?

  • That success is defined outside of me by other people or external measurements.
  • Almost everything!
  • That I need to stay quiet and not bother anyone by expressing my feelings.
  • Adults are always right.

What is a piece of wisdom from your mother or grandmother?

  • Do not “should” on yourself today.
  • Patience and trust.
  • Be proud of what you do.
  • It’s okay to just be pleasant sometimes.
  • Get to know yourself.

What would you tell your teen self about being in your 40s? (my favorite responses!)

  • Age brings wisdom, grace and beauty.
  • Appreciate all the moments as they happen.
  • Cut to the chase.
  • Stop looking to others for joy.
  • You’ll have the most fun and growth of your entire life.
  • The freedom you’ll get from letting go is amazing.

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Sarah Elliott, Founder of Ellivate Alliance – Photo Credit: Leandra Blei Photography

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Listening to one of my favorite podcasts from Deray McKesson (with this blog in mind on what the Ellivate Alliance means to me), I stopped to jot a little bit down. DeRay was elaborating on an Emile Zola quote, “The artist is nothing without the gift, and the gift is nothing without the work.” DeRay says that it is our responsibility to ensure the spaces we oc6cupy are honest…that there is no way to demand honesty from a system we want to change when we don’t model that honesty in the communities we build. Honest spaces have to be part of our work, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Sarah and the Ellivate Alliance have provided me with the space to grow and be honest – a safe space for the uncomfortable lessons. I have overshared, ugly cried, celebrated, smiled, knowingly nodded and felt the ache of growth alongside my Ellivate sisters. Truly, this is what community is.

I want to contribute and interact in the world by providing an honest space through my photography – by giving others room to breathe and a safe space to share a little more of themselves.

— Leandra Blei, Founder of Leandra Blei Photography and Co-Founder of B&L Creative

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Stephanie Loayza, Founder of Exec Wranglers – Photo Credit: Leandra Blei Photography

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2019-10-23T22:09:21+00:00