Your big idea just… won’t… let go of you. You have been asked over and over “when are you going to… launch that course/create that community/offer your services online / publish your book/offer your classes online / offer online consults”. You know your following wants more from you, and you have ideas on how to make it work… but how to tie it all together successfully is still unclear.
Perhaps you’ve had a few false starts; you’ve had trouble with freelancers over lack of clarity, and you’ve tried launching but it wasn’t as effective as you’d hoped. Bringing a spirited vision into the world can be tough. You are often left wondering if all the hard work is even worth it, wrestling with your doubts.
It doesn’t need to be like this.
I’ve watched this cycle plague so many creators, slowing and discouraging their progress.
There is an easier path, and it doesn’t require sacrificing your vision, authenticity or integrity.
My name is Starlight, and I help thought-leaders & visionaries who are bogged down in the details of taking their project to the next level. I help them trailblaze a path through the confusion, get back to doing what they love, and see their vision become reality.
I inherited my love for entrepreneurship very early in life. My mother and grandmother were small business owners, and my great-grandfather was an entrepreneur and inventor.
As a child, I was designing “applications” on notebook flip pads I would hang over the “monitor” of the “laptop” I made from cereal boxes and typing paper, running a pretend “Computers & Disks” business with my younger sisters. Innovations were pouring out of that play-business so ahead of the time & technology, my sisters and I have often joked how there must have been tech spies outside our bedroom window.
I won “Best Invention Idea” in my 8th grade class for a computer-slash-robot that could clean my bedroom. (I’m still waiting for someone to build it.) When I eventually figured out what entrepreneurship, startups, product design and digital marketing meant, I was already an innovating, problem-solving powerhouse.
I headed off to university, ready to take on the world. My freshmen semester, I was in a terrible car accident that forever changed the trajectory of my life. The trajectory shift meant that I wasn’t able to finish my degree – I was only in college for 2 years, studying Digital Multimedia (at one of only 4 schools in the nation that had such a degree at the time).
After this big change, I was thinking about my professional goals – knowing I wasn’t going to be able to complete my degree, when I realized that the advantage between myself and my peers would come down to who had real expertise versus education and a formal degree.
Ever the trailblazer, it never occurred to me that I would have to pick something else to do. I simply started my own business and began freelancing immediately. With every new client, my goal was that they would want something that I didn’t know how to do.
In those days I had a part-time job at a national bookstore chain – and I would “permanently borrow” the software books, and tutorial magazines I needed to learn the next steps. I built my portfolio and experience doing logos and websites for small businesses, getting a first hand look at the freelancing experience.
With enough of a portfolio to demonstrate some skill, I started out my “employed” career in marketing and multimedia, cranking out logos and magazine ads for a PR agency, quickly finding the value in being able to turn visual designs into web designs.
I was always an early adopter, but because I was learning the finer points of web design during the advent of the “Designing With Web Standards” movement, I didn’t know that I was learning a 1-in-a-thousand skill that would set my career apart. It wasn’t long before I found myself a job as an adjunct professor at a technical college, teaching web design, multimedia and film editing.
With a real resume and a robust portfolio, I moved to the “big city” ready to turn my collection of skills into a “real career”. I quickly got snatched up by the startup scene in San Diego, where I showed web application developers how slim I could trim down their beast style-code and deliver software that was loading 75% faster, and 100% easier to build. I spent a bit more time at other companies crushing the front-end web developer code before I realized that my real powers belonged in a new role. User Experience was starting to become a popular word in software companies, and it described me perfectly.
These early days would prove to be my outlier moments. (If you’re not familiar with Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell – the concept is that people who have an uncommon path with outsized results are often part of outlier moments where the right combination of variables about their life combine in an opportunity that gives them a big leap forward, making them an outlier.)
I spent the next five years working at a multimedia technology company who built software on every platform that exists. I began designing full-scale mobile applications for Verizon and AT&T, before “app stores” even existed. Putting music and video on any device in your house was the goal, and I was the senior UX design lead for project after project. PC, mobile, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Java, Nintendo Wii, Roku, Google TV and the good ol’ internet browser all bent their interfaces to my commands.
Patenting a brilliant idea became par for the course at a company where innovation was rewarded. When I arrived, the company was just starting their integration of User Experience Design into their application development process. By the time I left, UXD was an integral part of the process and involved on all levels of development, I had three patents under my belt and I was ready for the next move.
I started consulting independently, working for companies who wanted more than a minion, they wanted ideas, quality work, and killer solutions. I loved being called in to bring clever, ugly duckling ideas into their swanning glory. I had an eagle eye for improvements and innovations, and I became known as the complex problem solver. Developing clever concepts in exchange for vague requirements, serving up creative solutions while keeping an eye on the big picture, and delivering on deadline are the tenets by which I have built my career.
My expertise caught the eye of a woman who would become a mentor to me. She was responsible for creating an innovation team within a very large corporation that, frankly, was going to die out if they didn’t innovate, and fast.
She brought me onto a small internal team that was made up of a couple product managers, UX designers and data scientists. Our job collectively, was to vet new ideas – based on the existing data and technology available to us – and validate if they were actually a good idea, or a bad one. (The measurement of a good idea in this case meant that it would bring in 5 million dollars in revenue for the parent corporation.)
Using Lean Startup and human centered design thinking, we would run small measured experiments for each idea, validating it along the way with customer research, prototypes and marketing experiments. With a new “startup” to work on nearly weekly, I quickly added growth hacking, innovation thinking, fast-design and using the latest in tools and leading technology in efficient, novel ways.
Some of the members of this innovation think tank were also tasked with turning what we knew about innovation and lean startup thinking into an innovation culture within the corporation at large. I was personally responsible with documenting our process and thinking, then teaching others how to capture lightning in a bottle.
At the same time, cannabis legalization was becoming the norm in California, and I saw the opportunity to position myself as a thought-leader, where nearly EVERY business would be a startup, in an industry ripe for innovation. I became known as The Cannabusiness Oracle, offering my consultancy and mentorship services to the visionaries who had found their way into the cannabis industry.
When my mentor chose to leave the innovation team to focus on her own vision, I chose to leave the company as well – with an eye to finally launch my very own startup. I joined a business accelerator, and began hashing through the process of becoming a startup CEO for myself.
I circled around my business concepts over and over – getting them to the point where I would be confident to ask for funding, diving in fully to the culture of startups and “going public”… and then falling back away from the idea. There was SOMETHING about this whole process that didn’t sit well with me.
I was realizing I couldn’t bring myself to create and commit to something that didn’t help make the world a better place somehow… but those aren’t usually the sort of ideas that create “unicorn companies”. After watching what was going on in the cannabis startup spaces, and watching plenty of Shark Tank, I realized I didn’t want my concepts to be beholden to investors and shareholders. The whole game of “get as big as you can as fast as you can” went against what I considered my moral compass. In fact, the closer I got to launching my startup, the less I identified as a startup founder.
I was already chronically unhireable by this point, but now I was having a crisis of faith that was burning down the grandiose visions I had built for my career. I had two professional choices as I saw it… Either I become a startup founder, or it was time to become Director and VP of some this or that department… but I couldn’t bring myself to commit. Why was I faltering? What was really blocking me?
And then I read, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. (This book shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY. Get the gist of it from his very popular TED talk.)
I knew I wanted to be an inspiring leader. So I sat down and really asked myself, why. What was at the heart of my motivation? What was it that motivated me to bring a vision into reality, and would do so even when the going got tough? Would I ever be able to put my real weight behind a vision I didn’t believe in? What did I really, truly believe in?
After years of working in technology, from coding websites, designing logos, launching marketing campaigns, connecting online services to make a business run, learning human-centered design, growth hacking, business models, launch strategies, innovative problem solving, lean startup and every form of technology between… I figured out how to wield my talents for good.
Rather than start my own big venture, I would use what I had learned to pave the way for as many world-changers as I could. I wanted to be the hired gun in their corner, clearing the path of unnecessary obstacles, serving as a guide for the complicated parts of their journey and helping them manifest their vision.
I could bring all the shortcuts and insights and strategies used by big companies, filter them through the lens of entrepreneurship, leadership and spirit-led business – to do what I loved to do, help others fast-track their big idea.
As a freelancer, I learned firsthand why those relationships can be ineffective. As a PR nerd, I locked in how to communicate something exciting to the world. In the online presence department, I quickly sussed out what is necessary and what is a distraction, and what the internet is really capable of. Building app after app, I learned how customers think, and how underneath every blip and boop, there is a human living a human experience. I have the insights to know if a concept is valuable, or something to put on the maybe list to explore later. With startup culture, I learned how essential a strong community can be. And in my journeys to become a truly legendary leader, I learned how there’s no such thing as going it alone.
Today, I offer those special talents in unique combinations to support people I think are doing wonderful things for the world – whether it’s a local yoga studio looking to stand apart in their neighborhood, or a published author and worldwide thought-leader – building supportive community around their vision.
I offer mentorship and strategic guidance for entrepreneurs and creators who want to stand apart, who are living in bold way, and feel compelled to bring their big idea to the world.
And for the record, yes. Starlight. It’s my real name. My mother-given name. If I was to name myself, I would have ended up “Her Radical Cosmic Star Slinger, the Galaxy”, or something. You can call me Starlight.