In this series, Aspire explores inspiring individuals doing interesting work across the world.
Who: Ana Pompa Alarcón Rawls
What: CEO & founder of findSisterhood, an anonymous social network for everyone identifying as a woman. We provide an alternative and respite to the curated “realities” posted on most social media, a place where women can get and be real. Kindness is our only rule. Imagine a world where no woman has to live in silence anymore. Where we all know that our story and our voice matters, where we are believed. Imagine a place where women can go to discuss their lives without judgement. This has the potential to change the way we view the community and the way we interact with each other online. Social media doesn’t have to affect our mental health in a negative way, we don’t have to always just post the highlights of life and no one has to pretend that our life is just filled with travels, love, and glitter. And if we compare ourselves to others out there, why don’t we compare ourselves to the fact that we are all struggling and no one has it all figured out? How about we do something new and different that no social network has done before? Let’s celebrate the beautiful messiness of life together!
Why: I started findSisterhood because I was convinced there had to be a better way for women to use technology to connect with one another. The current social networks all paint this artificial picture of happiness that is real for absolutely no one. The idea that anyone has it all together is a fallacy and most people post only the good shiny things, not the real messiness of life. I created a safe space for everyone that identifies as a woman to be real and vulnerable and to not have to fake it. No one has it all figured out and we all struggle at times. We also need safe places to celebrate the good things, no matter how small. Basically, if it makes you feel something, good or bad, it’s OK to share it. It’s all OK and normal part of this thing we call life.
Where: Most of the time I am in L.A., where my company is based. We started out in a co-working space but our topics are very intimate and it made more sense to be in private places that allow us to be vulnerable and safe, so currently that means my home. Most days I bake croissants and we all sit together in my sunny living room, listen to Beyonce and work. Whenever I look at my team and the way we work it fills me with so much joy.
When: I start work after dropping off my kids at school. Then I work all morning. Usually I try to spend my lunch break with my daughter and pick her up from school. Then I work all afternoon. In the evening I take 4 hours off to spend time with my kids, cook dinner, prepare lunch boxes and snuggle. I hit it again after they fall asleep, usually working from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. My youngest one gets up very early so I also get 2-3 hours in the morning with him. It’s a very hectic schedule but I also love that I spend 7-8 hours a day with my kids while they are awake even though I work full time.
How: I make magic happen and keep my team happy. As the CEO I am the one that has to travel a lot. I give talks, participate in panels and meet with companies and universities that want to work with us all across the country. I also meet investors, raise money and give updates. I try to meet with my advisers and investors in person at least every other month and get advice and mentorship from them. I am the loud person that shows up each morning with new ideas that I hope are inspirational to the whole team. They are the “real sisterhood.” Every one of them puts in all the love, time and effort to turn my crazy ideas and visions into reality.
Ana Pompa Alarcón Rawls, founder of findSisterhood | Image courtesy of Ana Pompa Alarcón Rawls
Personal motivation: There were so many tipping points leading up to this company. One was me posting in a Brooklyn Mommy Facebook group about how disconnected I felt to the picture of motherhood that I am seeing online and that I needed friends that could be vulnerable and messy together with me. That’s how I made some of my best friends and learned that we are all struggling one way or another. Another milestone was realising that my kids are getting older and more aware of how I feel about myself, my life and my happiness. If I wanted to raise resilient kids that take their happiness into their own hands and while doing so help others, I had to lead by example. Getting out of the clouds of postpartum depression and the early baby days that were extremely isolating and lonely, I knew that I wanted them to see a happy and strong mum growing up, someone that chases her dreams and enjoys time with her kids. It took me lots of strength to rebuild myself and let go of that picture I had about my life and learn to embrace the messiness and imperfection of my new reality and not just being OK with it, but loving it.
Best part about the work: Two things stand out. We constantly check our inbox and it is so gratifying to read the emails from women whose lives have been changed for the better. Women left abusive relationships, reported sexual assault, left hostile work environments and/or entered therapy based on the advice they have received on findSisterhood. That means that we are staying true to our mission to support women. And my team, they are rock stars. I cannot imagine ever not working with them.
Biggest challenge in the work: The days have too few hours. There is always more to be done and unread emails I should be answering. It’s hard to always be on the clock and be a mum. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s harder than I ever imagined a job could be. Doing all of this far away from my native home and family in a different culture makes it all the more challenging.
Worst part about the work: Sometimes it is important to remember that we provide a safe space and that brings up the saddest stories of people. Reading thousands of stories of rape victims and seeing just how hurt many women are can sometimes take a toll on our mental health. It’s difficult at times to stay focused on the good in humanity and concentrate on work after reading particularly devastating stories. We talk about this a lot as a team and practising self-care is integrated into our work model.
What keeps you up at night: My kids 😉 Leila loves to snuggle in the middle of the night and Ezra tells stories in his sleep. And work, of course, always. I worry about each and every woman that comes to us to get support. I hope she gets all the love and kindness she needs and that our community can help her the way I intended it to. I also worry about my team. I take my responsibility as their employer very seriously, and that mental load that is one that I would encourage would-be entrepreneurs not to underestimate.
I am a Trailblazer because…… I imagined a place where women could support each other unconditionally and I made it happen.
If I had unlimited money, time and resources, I would: With endless money I’d make sure every single woman on earth knows about findSistserhood. I’d hire even more rock stars to complete my team. I’d also take my family on a long overdue vacation and spend endless quality time with my kids before getting back in the office and continuing work on the safest space on the internet for women.
Off-work passion: Currently as you might have noticed already, I only have two passions, my kids and my company. But here is the thing: I love being a mum and I love findSisterhood, my team, our mission and all of our users. My life currently combines the two things I enjoy doing most.
I persisted: Being an immigrant female founder [she was raised in both Mexico, where her father is from, and Austria, where her mother is from] without a network was so hard. There were many days I questioned if I had the resources to realise my dream. I was scared and overwhelmed and felt like I was in over my head. Being a solo founder also meant I had to do it by myself. In many ways, it was very similar to becoming a mum in the US. I had my husband, but it’s not the same as having your baby in your own country with your own family and friends next door. Going through the process of pregnancy, giving birth and becoming a mum in a new country, new culture, new language was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I remembered that when it came to my business, I approached it in the same way. I worked relentlessly to build my tribe, personally and professionally. I am still building these networks today.
Vision for the future: I want a world in which every woman knows that her story matters, that she is believed and that she feels safe.
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