Tammy Tibbetts & Christen Brandt – Co-founders of She’s the First and Authors of Impact

Episode 109

My guests Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt are the incredible founders of *She's the First*, which is an amazing girls rights organization that has more than 200 chapters. Tammy and Christen recently came out with the new book called *Impact: A Step-by-Step Plan to Create the World You Want to Live In*, which empowers every reader to make a difference in the world with the skills and interests that they already have. Tammy and Christen started She's the First as a simple social media campaign as they were both working as budding magazine editors 10 years ago. As Tammy and Christen have diligently turned She's the First into a thriving organization, their work has been supported by icons like Michelle Obama and Diane Von Furstenberg. On this show, Tammy and Christen talk about their new book Impact, how they started their social entrepreneurship and non-profit journeys, what we can all do to make the world a better place, and much more.

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Transcript

Kara Goldin 00:00
Hi everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m so excited to have my next guest here we have Tammy Tibbets, and Christen Brant, friends and co founders of She’s the First and now authors of Impact. And that is the name of their new book Impact. And it is so, so good. I got a sneak preview of it. And it is super, super great. And I’m so excited to have them here to chat with us about it a little bit more. So welcome you guys. So first of all, let me give some background for those of you who are not familiar with these two amazing social impact entrepreneurs, but they’re both co founders of She’s the First which is this incredible girls rights organization that they’ve built over the past decade. And their work is supported by Michelle Obama, Diane Von Furstenberg with over 200 plus campus chapters and hundreds of 1000s of change-makers worldwide. And they have a brand new book, as I mentioned, Impact that we are going to talk about today. So welcome.

Tammy Tibbetts 01:13
Thanks, Kara. And I will add you have been hydrating our young changemakers. For years, they’re needing to our she’s the first summits over the years for our campus chapters. So you’ve been on this journey for the better part of the decade with us. And we’re really grateful.

Kara Goldin 01:29
So awesome. So tell people in your own words like what I mean, where did the She’s the First idea come from?

Tammy Tibbetts 01:36
Well, let me take a step back and tell you how Kristen and I met went through New York Women in Communications, we received scholarships when we were in college at different places. But through this professional organization, we were the first in our families to go to college. So education has always been a core value of ours. And we wanted to pay it forward to other girls and young women. But I don’t think either of us could have imagined how that would have played out when we were in our early 20s. But then, you know, I at the time it was shortly after graduating from college, I was volunteering in the space of girls education. And, you know, I just realized that at 23 that so many of my friends had no idea that there were 130 million girls out of school around the world. And yet, they wanted to do something to help out. And at the time, social media was just blowing up. And it just all the dots kind of connected for me and I had this light bulb went off in my head of we should be using social media to get the word out and to mobilize young people to support girls education around the world. So She’s the First was born as a YouTube video that I reached out on Facebook looking for a collaborator. And Kristen was the only person who responded to that message when she was still a senior at Syracuse University. So when we set out on this journey, we were just two young women who dreamed of being magazine editors who decided to collaborate on a social media campaign called she’s the first having no idea that when you fast forward 11 years we would be sitting where we are today leading a global nonprofit that is reaching over 12,000 girls around the world and working with local organizations to make sure those girls are educated, respected and heard.

Kara Goldin
That’s so awesome. Did you know like I always feel like looking back. It’s always easier to kind of see signs for sure. But did you? I mean, the term social impact entrepreneur clearly wasn’t out there when you guys were starting college, right? Like it was like there were pieces of it. But you didn’t know that this is what you wanted to do when you grow up, right like this. So this?

Christen Brandt 03:52
Yeah, no. And in fact, Tammy and I both being kind of, you know, type A, we had a lot of ambitions. We both went to school for magazine journalism. We were both pretty sure we were going to run magazines one day, that was the goal. That was a dream. And even after having started, She’s the First, it was a side project. It was something we were passionate about. And it wasn’t until a few years later, in 2012, that we decided to actually, you know, we’re spending more than 50 hours a week on shoes. The first we’re spending 50 hours a week at our day job. Something’s got to give here. There aren’t enough hours in the week for us to do this. And we decided to take the leap.

Kara Goldin 04:34
That’s awesome. Tell me one of the stories that makes you most proud of the impact that you’ve had.

Tammy Tibbetts 04:40
We tell one of those stories in the book. So I don’t know if I want to save that one for you to read on the page. But I would say you know, last year, last October, we celebrated 10 years of She’s the First and thankfully we were able to do so pre pandemic because we were in a room in New York City with so many of our supporters, and for the young women that we had been supporting for years, from Guatemala, India, Tanzania and Kenya. And they were up on stage telling their stories. And it was just, it was a surreal moment, it was the first time that young women that we had supported from different countries had been able to meet each other. And it was in that moment, I think, Kristin, and I could step back and see how she’s the first has just become a community and a force for change. So much bigger than ourselves. And I think when you when you’re an entrepreneur and care, you probably relate to this, you start something and it’s a it’s a, it’s a piece of you. Yeah, but then as you let it go out into the world, your product or your organization starts to make friends of their own, and the network just grows and grows. And to be able to see what whether it’s people who have been donors or fundraising have had fundraisers, or the grassroots organizations we work with, and the girls that we reached, who are now graduates and women in the workforce, to see how all those individuals have gone off in their own unique, separate ways to go out and not only feedback into our mission, but create change where they are in their local communities. It’s, it’s been so rewarding, and where we saw that there was even deeper need, because people kept who weren’t involved. And she’s the first would come up to us and say, you know, how do I get involved in a cause? And how do I make a difference that’s as meaningful as the one that you have made? And you know, the answer is not quit your job and start a nonprofit. I mean, that that is something that Kristen and I did very unexpectedly, you know, it’s not our advice for for anyone else. And because we can’t give you an exact answer to that question, not knowing what your story is, and what your unique gifts and talents are. We thought, well, we could write a book that takes a reader on that personal journey to figure out that path forward for themselves.

Kara Goldin 07:10
I love it. I love it. That’s so awesome. So not only are you creating impact, but you’re also creating people that will create impact as well. Right? Like that’s, I mean, that’s amazing. And that must be like in your heart. I mean, that must be such a powerful thing to know that you instigated that. Right, like it’s that initiated? You know that. So I love it. I love it. I love it. So what do you feel is are like the when people think that they want to go into nonprofit work? I mean, what do you think are the things that ultimately they should know about? nonprofit work? And and sort of the the challenges of that?

Christen Brandt 07:54
I would say the first thing is that often, when you think you need to go into nonprofit work, to create a difference or to make a change, you probably don’t actually need to go into nonprofit work. And I only say that because we in the nonprofit worlds need allies. And we need people who are in either a corporate world and the government space, who are working toward the same vision of a world that we are. And there is so much change that you can make where you are. And so the first step to creating change, whether you decide you do want to work in the nonprofit space, or you’re going to stay where you are and create change, right there is to identify your own Northstar to identify, you know, we use this to talk about the change that you most want to see in the world, your vision for a world. So my North Star is a world where women are safe and loved. And it’s really important to me that the impact work that I do, as part of She’s the First, all of it aligns under this vision that I have for for better worlds for women and girls. And when you think about your own vision for for a future that is better than the one that we’re in today, I’m sure that you can identify, you know, what does that vision look like? Once you have that you can align all of your actions, whether it’s your volunteer actions or your career under that umbrella so that you know what you’re working toward.

Kara Goldin 09:24
That’s awesome. So you have it you’ve had support are supported by Michelle Obama, Diane Von Furstenberg. I mean, how do you get this list of amazing honest like wonderful people to actually know about you and and know the work that you’re doing?

Tammy Tibbetts 09:44
You know, it’s fun to look back on those connections and trace it back to the source because as I mentioned, Christina and I were the first in our families to graduate from college we moved to New York City with you know, not not a single VIP connection. We really used that organization, New York Women in Communications to build a network as a student to find internships in New York City and through our internships, found job opportunities and volunteer opportunities we really started from from scratch. And, you know, we worked our way up to Dvf, and Michelle Obama and others, by building relationships with mentors and women who wanted to lift us up. And through word of mouth. And especially being in New York City, you know, you live here for a decade, and you start to see how, how small it really is. And I think people if you continue to be thoughtful, and follow up with people and tell them how you’re growing and what your needs are, they’ll keep you in mind.

10:47
Mm hmm.

Tammy Tibbetts 10:48
And that’s happened. Time and again, we have truly relied on our network to take kind of She’s the First as their own and share it proudly, one of my favorite stories to tell is, you know, this isn’t a famous person, but I think it proves the point. Back in 2012, Christen mentioned, we were burning the candle at both ends. You know, I was thinking I’m gonna get fired from my day job with at 17 Magazine, like any day now, because I just couldn’t focus I was, my brain was constantly thinking about She’s the First, which I was working on from six in the morning. And then I go to work at 10 come home at seven work until midnight.

Kara Goldin 11:29
I think that’s when I met you.

Tammy Tibbetts 11:30
Yeah. And, you know, it was clear that a choice had to be made was I gonna go all in with She’s the First or keep climbing up the ranks and magazine publishing. Now to work for She’s the First full time, I would need to find funding for a salary, which we did not have. We were putting all of our grassroots funding into supporting girls education. We were doing at the time, these benefit concert fundraisers and I had all produced by volunteers. And so there was a conference called Women In The World that Tina Brown put on. And they offered us some free tickets. But I couldn’t go because I still had to go to the office for my day job. So I asked my volunteers for this benefit concert. Would anyone like to go represent She’s the First. And this one young woman, Stephanie, took me up on that and she attended the conference. And as she was leaving, it was a rainy day. And there was a long line for them to take cabs. And she was ended up sharing a cab with this random woman and they struck up a conversation in the car about She’s the First. And this woman said, who was from New Jersey, she said, You know, I have a client, who he’s this man who’s very philanthropic, he has three daughters, and I think he would really love. She’s the first. And Stephanie said, Well, why don’t we introduce him to Tammy and Christen? So we ended up you know, he, this man, Tom, he took a train into the city and had a meeting with Kristen and I, he was the first person I asked to make a major gift of $25,000. I was terrified to do so. But he said yes, he and his wife said yes. And Tom now serves on the Board of Directors of She’s the First and that gift, that he and his wife made, jumpstarted the operations for she’s the first and the only reason that happened is because this volunteer simply used her passion to talk about why she cared about She’s the First. And it led to this chain reaction that completely changed the trajectory of not only my life, but She’s the First.

Kara Goldin 13:32
Yeah, I think that’s so true. I mean, I think it’s true even for, you know, for profit companies, I mean, I found that word of mouth on hand to me, we can, you know, advertise and do a Superbowl ad and but we hear constantly Oh, I was at my friend’s house, and they introduced me to it or I was at this. I was at a She’s the First event and I had it there first. So again, like people end up it. I just think that the word of mouth side of the world is, you know, sometimes talked about, but I think that the value is just not you. It’s priceless. So it’s, and I think for for networking, and just also just building your company. I think it’s just it’s super huge. So let’s talk about your book Impact. So what made you write this book,

Christen Brandt 14:19
Tammy mentioned that one of the biggest questions people often come up to us and ask is, what can I do to help? Mm hmm. And frankly, our answer to that is often I don’t know, tell me about you. I don’t even know you. But what we can do is we can help you to match what it is that you uniquely have your skills, your talents, your network, your resources, with what the world needs. We just don’t have the time to do it for every single person who comes to us and who asks, and so about 10 years into She’s, the First, we knew that we had a book in us, we knew that we had the stories we knew that we had the experience through this incredible opportunity that She’s the First had given us. And when we really sat down to think about it, this was the question we wanted to help people to answer. Because we really do believe that, you know, no single person can do everything. But everyone can do something. But it is so easy to feel overwhelmed, it’s so easy to be unsure of what to do. And so that’s where this book comes in. And that’s why we wrote this book, it’s to answer that question of what can i as an individual, do to make the world better?

Kara Goldin 15:34
Yeah, definitely. And I feel like also, it’s not just about giving people ideas and trying to, you know, help them figure out exactly how to move forward. But I feel like just through your own stories to that, I mean, so often, and something I talk about in my book is that, you know, people think that you have all the answers, right? Because you guys are running this for the last decade. And you know, and the reality is, is that you guys are doing what you’re doing every single day, because you’re trying, right like the, you know, your one of your volunteers started talking to somebody in a cab. And that’s how you know, and you there’s plenty of these stories along the way. But especially for somebody who’s just kind of trying to enter into something like they think that nonprofit work would be and working with girls would be, you know, super great. And they’d love to wake up every day and do it. But it’s a little daunting, right. And so part of what I talk about is just be undaunted, right, just you just have to go try and take a step forward and see what happens. And, and I think that this book is, is just filled with so many of these, so many of these stories along the way, as well. And I love how, really you talk about defining your skills and matching those with what the world needs to know. That’s, that’s also super, super cool. So where did you feel like that was? I mean, I, when I read that statement, too, I felt like that was maybe obvious, but it’s also something that people don’t really think about it instead, it’s, it’s almost a, what does this organization need? Versus here’s what I can do that I think could be helpful to you guys to once you learn a little bit more about something? Can you name an example of where you’ve seen this? You know, actually play out?

Tammy Tibbetts 17:27
Yeah, well, we talk about everything you have to offer being like a gift, that’s your unique gifts. But it’s so important to unwrap those gifts before you go to try to present them to whether it’s a nonprofit, or political campaign or committee or any place that you want to partner up with. Because as Kristen mentioned, we are usually under resourced, very little bandwidth. It’s a big ask to ask that organization to figure that out for you. So you can take that inventory and ask yourself like really specifically, okay, money, how much money do I have? And what can I commit to give on a monthly basis? throughout the year? Or time? How much time do I specifically have? When can I give it just on the weekends, nights mornings identify that. And, you know, we really pressed you to get creative with with the assets that you have. One of our friends, Michael, he is a passionate runner, he runs so many marathons, ultra marathons. And he years ago, he started he ran his first marathon for she’s the first and every time he runs a race. Sometimes he’s fundraising and he’s raised 1000s of dollars. Other times, you know, he gives his friends a break, doesn’t ask for money, but he wears the she’s the first t shirt. And you know, he strikes up a conversation. People if you’ve ever cheered on friends in a marathon, you know, you’re watching the runners go by you’re looking at their shirts. So he raises awareness that way. When newspapers interview him about his passion, he says he mentioned She’s the First he just takes it with him everywhere, like through through this hobby. So think about even what hobbies do you have that you could turn into a way of either fundraising or raising awareness?

Kara Goldin 19:20
That’s awesome.

Christen Brandt 19:21
I think, Kara, you mentioned that it feels a little obvious to think about the skills and the things that you have. But the truth is that when we think about people who create impact, there’s often kind of two visuals you think about a philanthropist you think about someone who has a ton of money and they’re able to give a ton of money to create a big change. Or you think about your 24 seven activist, right, like the person who’s out there and leading rallies and leading marches. And the truth is that there is so many things that the average person can do without fitting into either of those profiles. And so that’s the big goal of the book is trying to figure out What what are your unique mix of offerings that you can bring to the table that don’t require you to completely upend your life, and also don’t require you to have a ton of extra cash? If that’s not your particular resource that you have to give?

Kara Goldin 20:13
Yeah, definitely, I also felt like something that you talked about in your book about, you should be able to visualize your North Star and you have, there’s a section in the back where you actually give different suggestions on on really, you know, defining what you care about, and the you know, what the ideal world is what I’m just reading this, and the ideal world is one where, and that is your North Star. And I loved that, like I like I almost think that it’s therapeutic to go through your book as well, because it really starts to, you know, force you to kind of think about these things that are, you know, important to you, and might not be as important to other people. And there’s all these different opportunities where you can create impact. So I love that. What do you think are the biggest challenges for people right now? And maybe it’s even coming out of the pandemic for organizations like yourself, but also with these communities? What do you think are the biggest things that you worry about?

Tammy Tibbetts 21:17
I think we could we can both answer this from different angles. I mean, as CEO of She’s the First, I oversee our, our development or communications, and I worried that people are going to get fatigued. And you know, there’s just been one difficult headline after another this year, and so many causes, both nonprofit and political, that have, you know, been asking for our dollars to do very important work. So I think if someone is not anchoring themselves in North Star, and having a plan where they are, like, kind of proactively looking at their resources and deciding where to allocate them, they’re inevitably going to burn out. I mean, I just I don’t know how you wouldn’t. So that’s why, you know, this book couldn’t be coming at a better time, as we’re looking towards the new year, a new administration to like, take a little pause and give yourself the space to not only read the book, but do the exercises. Because, you know, I certainly don’t want you if your north star has anything to do with girls rights, and education globally, I don’t want you burning out because she’s the first we we do need you moving into 2021.

Christen Brandt 22:32
Yeah. And if your Northstar is on girls rights, and women’s rights, you know, the pandemic is a huge, huge issue for girls and women around the world. And we’re not talking about it a lot. So, prior to the pandemic, we had 130 million girls out of school, but they’re predicting now that 20 million more girls won’t return as schools are opening as a result of school closures and these pandemics, and we’re already seeing rates of child marriage increase, we’re seeing early pregnancies increase, girls, you know, we really are risk of seeing the sector as a whole slide back 2025 years where we work 25 years ago, because of a pandemic that’s lasting, you know, nine months a year. So it is it is an area that needs your attention. And it is as Tammy saying an area where, you know, you can’t, we can’t afford to have everyone burning out. So our hope is that, you know, this book isn’t only intended to give you your action plan, it is also intended to help you find balance. And to figure out, how do you fit impact into your life in a way that you can sustain that over the long term. Because if you spend one year really invested in girls and women or even if she’s the first and you, you know, you throw a huge fundraiser, you do a big event, or you really, really dedicate yourself, and then you never come back again. That is that is such a loss to the world, right? So we’d rather give you the skills and the tools that you need to be able to sustain yourself over the long run.

Kara Goldin 24:05
I think there’s also in addition to individuals, there are so many companies that are right now trying to support diversity, support women support and there’s no better place than to start looking at a nonprofit like yours where you could create so much impact so if you are working inside of a company right now and and hearing those messages, I think that Tammy and Christen would would love to speak to you guys about that as well because there’s definitely more room for support for sure. For girls everywhere. So super excited about this book. And if you’re listening right now, you all need to go out and get your hands on it. It’s called Impact and you can get it on Amazon.

Kara Goldin 25:00
Awesome, and it is definitely definitely such a good book. What’s the one thing that you want your readers to walk away with?

Tammy Tibbetts 25:07
I want them to walk away with the one page impact plan to like, get your pen out and paper and do the exercises and give yourself that, that sheet that you can keep looking back at of your goals. And, you know, if you’re willing, we would love to see you tag us on Instagram, and we’re going to be there rooting for you the whole way.

Christen Brandt 25:32
I just want everyone to remember that, that line that you can’t do everything, but you can do something and every time you do something, you should be proud of it. So tag us on those two. So as so as every time you take an action, we want to see

Kara Goldin 25:45
it. I love it. It’s great and best place to find each of you as well on social. Yeah,

Christen Brandt 25:52
I’m at CJ Brandt,

Tammy Tibbetts 25:54
and I’m at Tammy Tibbets, and our website is planyourimpact.com.

Kara Goldin 26:02
I love it. Thank you so much, you guys. And definitely if you’re listening, definitely do a review five stars for Tammy and Christen and definitely subscribe and we’re so excited you spent the last half hour with us because we’re always looking for great interviews and ways to inspire everybody who’s listening. So thanks, everybody. Have a good week.