For all of you who over-think and under-act (like me) let me introduce you to Alex Daly. Not only she is fulfilling her own goals, she is also raising money and awareness for creative ideas and helping people realize their dreams. Inaction creates doubt, action creates progress and gives you confidence. Read her tips, get into action today, experiment and have the courage to make your ideas real.
You helped launch 70 Kickstarter campaigns, wrote a book and created two companies before you were 30. That requires a lot of hard work, discipline, and planning. How do you take ideas to action?
I take ideas to action by working incredibly hard. I have always loved working; it motivates me and makes me feel like I’m going toward something. It’s not easy or enjoyable for some people to juggle multiple things or jump from project to project, but for me, that’s the way I function! I can’t do it any other way. Right now, we have 15+ projects with a modest team of 5, and I’m already thinking about my next book.
When I was in college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but I made sure to fill my time and be productive. I picked subjects that were compelling to me—Philosophy, Spanish, Film—and I worked internships in the summer. Because I was managing a ton at once, I had to learn how to multi-task and how to plan. For example, I needed to figure out how to write a 50-page thesis while also adding another minor in my final semester of college. This helped with my work ethic.
Most of all, working has helped my mental health for as long as I can remember. I get anxious when I’m idle so I fill my day up with work that motivates me and gets me excited. When I was a child I used to suffer from terrible panic attacks. When I did, my parents would say, “Go write something. Go do something creative,” and this learned behavior taught me that instead of just sitting in the anxiety and discomfort, I can redirect that energy to something substantial.
You accomplished a lot at a young age. What are the three qualities that got you where you are today?
As you can probably tell, the number one thing is my work ethic. For me, it trumps any talent. Number two is being open to experimentation. I had to experiment with several jobs and opportunities in order to end up where I am today. It wasn’t easy; in fact it was messy and took a lot of trial and error.
The third, and this is not a personal quality, but it is something that I’m very privileged to have, is support from parents. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. That’s an inherently massive privilege to have—parents that are behind what you do and who you are. I’m very lucky.
Was your age ever an obstacle to success?
Ageism was definitely a big challenge, especially when I first started my company. When we became more successful and bigger companies began approaching us to help them raise money, older clients would challenge my credibility and expertise because I was still in my twenties. I have also dealt with “imposter syndrome” and for a very long time I had a hard believing that I was an expert at all. But at one point I had enough and didn’t want to deal with the B.S. anymore. I thought, “People are hiring me because they think that I’m worth it. I am good enough.” I had to say it over and over again, to convince my clients, but mostly myself.
Your company’s mission is to make the world more beautiful and efficient. How does your company accomplish this? What are the criteria and what are some examples?
To me, that equates to products that are beautiful, but also make the world better. Nowadays, people scrape the internet to see what consumers are buying and make cheap versions of that, just to make money. At Vann Alexandra, we’re very anti “throwaway” products. We want to make products that do something for the world, create impact, and have a longevity that outlives a campaign.
Your interests were philosophy, journalism, and film, and now you are in marketing and PR. What do you do when you need to find objectivity and inspiration?
I love listening to podcasts like Radiolab—it’s about science, art, and strange phenomenons. I just started using the Headspace app, which helps me take a quieter, more mindful approach to everything. I have a noisy mind, and both podcasts and meditation open my mind up to think.
I find inspiration in reading articles and books. When I started my company, I was so busy that I stopped reading. I hated that, so last year I read 10 books. I am a slow reader and that was big for me! This year I am trying to read a book a month. My grandfather was the smartest person I knew, and he read all the time. That’s how you build knowledge and awareness.
Inspiration also happens when I’m exercising. I do that everyday. Very short, high-intensity workouts clear my head and get me motivated to go to work and explore new ideas.
And of course, the people in my life keep me going: my parents, my clients, my team. My boyfriend really inspires me, too. We talk a lot about work and get through things together. It’s through these people that I love and care about that I get inspired.
You help people realize their ideas and dreams. What are dreams that you would like to bring to life?
I told myself that I would never write a book ever again, because it was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. But now I want to start writing again. Maybe not a book! But something, and it will probably be much more personal.
Last year, I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. I’ve lived with it undiagnosed for almost two decades, and have a hard time opening up about it. I work to show this very competent side of myself: I run two successful companies, and I have been on the Forbes list. It’s scary to be vulnerable. But, I am starting to break this barrier. I am realizing I can be successful, and also suffer from a disorder. We can be many things. It’s what makes us interesting, complex, and human. My aim is to open up more about this, and hopefully it will help people who are struggling.
You specialize in crowdsourcing, which is about building a community and getting people excited about new products that fit their needs and values. What is the key to connecting people’s personal philosophy with that of a product or brand?
I think that you have to connect with people at their core—through emotion and passion. The right brands and products connect to people in a deeper way.
What would your advice be to young women that are looking to start their careers or bring their unique ideas to life?
Just keep your head down, do what you love, let yourself make mistakes and work hard. Let yourself fail, but pick yourself back up again.