In partnership with Dolce Vita, we’re bringing you a new series that takes a deeper look into some of the women we admire who embody the OKREAL and Dolce Vita spirit. We are proud to share the stories of those we feel are making a difference in the world, shaping our communities, and following their passion. We ask them what it means to #holdyourown in a competitive world, and they show us what it looks like to #walkthisway.
Chelsea Sonksen is the Editor-in-Chief of Bossladies: a magazine and community dedicated to women who are striving to be better bosses in life and business. Chelsea found that building a business at home was a rather lonely experience, so she started Bossladies as a way to recreate the community and companionship found in corporate work environments, without the corporate vibe. Bossladies came to life through a Kickstarter campaign in April 2016, with the first magazine being published that May. In just over a year, Chelsea has grown the Bossladies community to over 70K supporters on Instagram, with co-working pop ups in multiple U.S. cities. Chelsea shared with us how she defines Hold Your Own: knowing your values and never sacrificing integrity.
“Before Bossladies, I was an in-house editor for a novelist. It was a part-time role which meant that I had a lot of time to work from home on other editing projects. I found myself really lonely and missing the community that came with being in a corporate environment. That was the impetus for Bossladies. Initially, I wanted to open a small studio in Santa Monica with a bunch of friends. But after running numbers for how much the studio was actually going to cost, we realized that it might not be sustainable. We didn’t think that the kind of companies and women we wanted to attract would be able to afford the cost of studio space on the Westside of LA. The magazine was initially meant to be a Kickstarter prize as we raised money for the studio, but we made an early pivot to prioritize the magazine as the main focus, and build out a more fluid physical component.
In November 2016, we started hosting our Work Sesh events, which ended up being more about relationship and community-building than actual work. I think people often jump into business on a wish instead of grounding it in data and numbers. I’m grateful that I learned early on what I thought our community could support and sustain, and I was able to build our business model accordingly. In September and October, we’re launching work sessions in three new cities: NYC, Chicago, and Dallas. We would have never been able to have that kind of growth geographically if we had tied all of our capital into one physical space in LA.
Hold Your Own, for me, has meant building a business that is in line with my values, and never sacrificing integrity. We’ve had a number of opportunities to work with advertisers, who for one reason or another have not aligned with our core values. Even in the early days, I was adamant about turning down partnership opportunities that didn’t feel right. This means that we’ve turned down a lot of business, but for me it’s important to protect the integrity of the community, and for the money to be secondary. Those decisions can be hard to make, but I can feel it in my body if it’s not right. The times when I try to push that away and do it anyway, for the sake of finances, I literally can’t sleep at night. I think women in particular have really strong intuition, and I’m always trying to listen to mine.
One of my early bosses asked me to do research on stocks that she was interested in investing in. I would learn about the key players at those companies: what they believed politically, and what their values and morals were personally and professionally. She never invested if the company’s leaders didn’t have values that aligned with hers. I thought it was beautiful that she used her dollars to back up her values, and witnessing that has influenced the choices I make with my own business now.
My relationship with money, in terms of how it relates to the business, is something that I’m working on right now. I have always had trouble spending money—which in your personal life can be a blessing, but in business can hold you back. You have invest a certain amount of capital for the business to grow. My boyfriend Pete always tells me: ‘Be careful of the stories that you tell yourself about yourself.’ I did some work with a coach who is part of the Bossladies community, and she helped me see that investing money increases your earning potential later. That, for me, has been the trickiest self-narrative to edit.
I believe that before you can do something significant on your own, you need to learn from people who have come before you. I sometimes worry that as the economy changes and small business proliferates, we will spend less time in positions where we have bosses and mentors that we’re able to learn from. I guess that just means that we need to seek out mentors in different ways that we did in the past.
For women who want to embody a Hold Your Own attitude, I’d suggest taking some time to list out your values and non-negotiables—then use that as a measure for every choice you make. I think you have to get really clear about what it is that you believe and what you hold close, so that you can make those meaningful decisions when the time comes.”