Known as the co-founder and COO of scrappy start-up-turned-pioneering-global-women’s-media-company BlogHer, Inc., Elisa is now focused on writing, speaking, and consulting with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and organizations at the inflection points when they are contemplating pivots, diversifying and scaling their revenue streams, and looking for better ways to get their narrative out into the world.
Her debut book, Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All, was published by Ten Speed Press on September 18 and was an Amazon #1 New Release. A hands-on resource guide to activating around the causes you care most about, #RoadMap4Revs features contributions and/or endorsements from such diverse activists and advocates as Gloria Steinem, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Patrisse Cullors, Soledad O'Brien, Ricki Lake, Guy Kawasaki, Bobby Jones, and Carla Hall.
Elisa's mission is to help make visions reality. Her mantra is that Innovation + Empathy > Innovation + Efficiency.
Find her at: https://elisacp.com
Sophie: You’ve done so much over your life! Please tell us about your journey and career. How did you come to found several companies and be on the board for Hack the Hood?
ECP: I originally went to college and moved to New York City in order to pursue a performing artist’s life, but I realized after a few years that I was not necessarily cut out for it. I like to say it was actually a huge benefit to me to decide so early on that the thing I’d spent my life thinking was my goal, my calling, and my path wasn’t going to be. That left me, really, able to do anything. I came back to California and was in the commodities industry for about 7 years before looking around and realizing that, living in Silicon Valley, I should probably find out if I had any interest or aptitude for working in tech. I started my career all over at the age of 33 in order to get into tech and discovered that I did indeed have both interest and aptitude. Luckily, this was just in time for the dot com boom times in the Valley. Of course, I also experienced the dot com bust times. During the toughest time of that bust, I started blogging. It was really just for fun, but I had a brainstorm that blogging had great potential as a marketing and communications tool for organizations. I became one of the earliest consultants in the space before founding BlogHer. So BlogHer was really the start of my 4th “career!”
Sophie: We’d also love to hear about your experience founding and growing BlogHer. What were some of the challenges? What did you learn?
ECP: BlogHer really started as a labor of love. My two co-founders, Lisa Stone and Jory DesJardins, and I produced the first BlogHer conference in 2005 as a side project. It was only after the first conference that we re-convened and decided there was an opportunity there, and a company. Over time, we launched a web community, more conferences, a publishing network for content creators, a back-end CMS technology, and a research arm. We raised 4 rounds of venture funding before being acquired in 2014. BlogHer and its all-female founding team was one of the mere 3% of start-ups getting VC funding with such leadership. The challenges were many… we operated in the digital media landscape, which was incredibly dynamic… volatile, really… You can see media companies struggling to this day, from well-established long standing brands to the new companies that were the darlings of the moment for a while but find it hard to sustain.
The lessons learned are innumerable but, perhaps more than any lesson, I learned that you can indeed be a mission-based, for-profit business. Your principles are not a barrier to success; they light the way to your success.
Sophie: What inspired you to write your book, Roadmap for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All?
ECP: In the wake of the 2016 election, I saw so many people I knew who were never really particularly activated or activist-y getting all fired up and getting super involved. I was worried about burn-out and flame-out… I could easily imagine they could keep their fire burning as high for a couple of years until, for example, this year’s midterm elections, but what then? The midterms weren’t going to address everything they were fired up about, and I wanted to give my friends the tools to stay activated… for life.
Sophie: What’s your advice for women who want to integrate activism into their lives in a healthy, sustainable way?
ECP: The most important aspect of integrating anything into your life in a healthy, sustainable way is to customize your approach to work with your life, your learning style, your skills, and your personality. When we try to fit ourselves into a box where we don’t really fit, it’s very hard to do it long-term. Specifically, I recommend people do the following when they’re thinking about becoming a more effective and healthy everyday activist:
TRIAGE: Prioritize your interests and passions to identify your top issues and areas of focus
JOIN: Identify who is already doing great work on your top issues and what the best informational resources are around those issues.
CONTRIBUTE: Assess the assets and skills you bring to the table, and how to apply the right skill or asset to the right job at hand.
PLAN: Set both short- and long-term goals to balance between urgency and strategy in your approach.
TRACK: Acknowledge results and outcomes in order to constantly reinvigorate your ongoing efforts.
That last point is super important… never miss a chance to take a win. You’re going to feel like there are a lot of setbacks when you’re trying to change the world, so celebrate whenever you can.
Sophie: Which skills and traits helped you to accomplish so much?
ECP: Really, the best skill I have is that I consider myself a learner and I believe in my ability to learn. I can roll with whatever comes my way — the changes in my career or industries — without getting too freaked out because I believe I can learn new things. I’m also pretty good at being forthright without being alienating. That’s a pretty tough balance sometimes, especially when consulting, but if you can articulate how people can do more, do better, do different without them shutting down to your feedback, it’s a win.
Sophie: Can you talk to us about why owning our expertise and being able to tell our story is so important both in work and in our personal lives?
ECP: Oh, there are so many reasons it’s important, but it all starts with the fact that if you don’t value your own story and your own expertise, it’s hard to expect other people to. I can guarantee that others in your space are over-valuing their own expertise. Understanding, owning, and being able to articulate your expertise opens the door to so many other great opportunities and clears the way for your to apply the same exercise to articulating the value of projects you want to work on, people you want to hire, companies you want to build... you name it.
Sophie: Last, but not least, what does wellness mean to you and how do you care for yourself?
ECP: I like to think of the 360 degrees of wellness, like my friend, Gianne Doherty from WELL Summit, says. If I’m not feeling well mentally, it’s going to affect my wellness. Also, if I’m feeling that my finances are not in good order, it’s going to affect my wellness. If my home is a mess, it’s going to affect my wellness. If I’m not dealing with toxic relationships, it’s going to affect my wellness.
One of the most powerful things I ever did for my overall wellness was to go first vegetarian, then vegan. This is not *just* because of the physical benefits of eating that way. It is also because I am most happy, I am most well, when my actions align with my values. Being vegan means that every single day I make choices that align with my values, which I think is very powerful for my overall sense of wellness.
Sophie: Any last parting words of advice?
ECP: My parting words of advice are to not let fear hold you back from making a leap and trying something you feel a pull to do. I alway recommend being very specific about your fear. Make it concrete, not abstract. Answer the question “What’s the worst that could happen?” Doing that will, in all likelihood, make you realize the potential negative outcomes are not tragic, and that you can handle, even prepare for, those outcomes should they come to be.
About the author:
Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.