Fearless Friday: Katie O'Connor + Shine
Today's Fearless Friday interview is one that warms my heart. Katie turned a passion project into a company with the mission to lift up women in one of life's most trying obstacles...infertility. It's more common than not that today's woman experiences infertility issues with the rate we are all moving at combined with stress levels.
What I love about Katie is that her story is relatable. She is a CEO unlike any other in that she has an innate sense of compassion and empathy for her peers. A rarity. I am proud + pleased to share Katie's story with you reminding us all that you never know what someone else is going through. In other words...be kind to one another. Meet Katie!
Tell us a little about Shine and the mission of your website. How did you come up with the concept and how hard was it to get started?
Shine: a light on fertility’s mission is through support, education, and advocacy; to create a community, empower through knowledge, and be the voice for a proactive approach to fertility and women’s health.
When going through my own infertility journey, I realized there was nothing out there for support! I knew I needed to do something. My first event was a panel event of infertility “survivors” (consisting of all my girlfriends) sharing their stories. I thought worse case I take my friends to dinner if no one shows up. Twenty women came and from there the group began!
1. What was the moment you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur let alone in the fertility industry?
Shine was born from my personal journey through infertility. When I was going through my own struggle, I realized what an island I was on. I wasn’t a part of the pregnancy groups and I also wasn’t a part of the new mom clubs, I was stuck in the middle, alone. I thought there needs to be a group for the “secret sorority” of women struggling through infertility.
2. What one Shine post/project/moment are you the most proud of and why?
Hmm one is tough – I would say our upcoming event: Fertility Fest – girls night out with a purpose is one – it’s been almost a year in the making, I can’t wait for the evening to arrive, and hope that attendees enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed planning it!
What keeps me going are success stories from members.
Here is a Shine testimonial that hits me at the heart strings every time I read it!
“I was at an all-time low...But when I went to my first meeting, I met other women that were at different stages of their journey. This was a place where I found myself finding it easy to finally release and cry, in front of women I didn't know, about my struggles. And, they understood. And cried with me. It was a venue where I could mourn for my past losses and cry for my helplessness in going forward. I wanted to give up, but leaving these meetings, I knew I couldn't. The meetings are casual and welcoming, and they bring in fabulous guest speakers. In fact, I met my fertility doctor who I found success with through Shine. I am thankful I was introduced to Shine, it was exactly what I needed. It made me realize I wasn't alone, and gave me the strength to keep going.” ~ Shine "graduate"
This particular member had endured several failed IVF rounds, you could feel it was wearing her down. But I still remember when she called me to meet for coffee. We sat down, and before we could even say hi, she pulled out TWO ultrasound pictures and showed me her twin baby girls. We both cried, and hugged, and cried some more (in joy). I was one of the FIRST people she told and I was so honored to have been a part of her journey and be trusted with this special news.
3. How would you describe a typical day? What's your morning to evening routine?
A typical day for me is up around 5:30am, COFFEE FIRST, then log into my computer and try to get a head start on the to-do list for the day. I am lucky to have a flexible schedule and get to take my daughter to school in the morning – we usually sing the whole car ride there – it’s a great way to start the day. Next up is a workout – usually a run, or maybe a group class, I am kinda obsessed with running, I am currently training for my 7th Chicago Marathon! Then I am off to either teach a class or work on Shine!!!!! Since Shine is still so new, I wear many hats; some days I work on growing partnerships with other organizations, other days I am updating our website material, and sometimes it’s just getting through all the administrative tasks that need to get done.
4. How do you describe your personal aesthetic?
99% of the time I am in workout clothes (lucky me!)!! I teach fitness classes at a few different boutique gyms, so if I’m not working out, or teaching, I’m working from my home office – all places where workout clothes are the dress code! If I’m heading out for fun, then it’s skinny jeans and a fun top!! I am obsessed with jeans, I won’t tell you how many I own ;)
5. What individuals, tastemakers, celebrities, entrepreneurs, public figures inspire you?
Without sounding cheesy, anyone who has followed a passion and made their dreams happen! I think what Lindsay Avner has created with Bright Pink is amazing!!! I love her mission of empowering women to live proactively at a young age. Also I am inspired by female athletes, especially long distance runners! As a marathoner, I look up to Paula Radcliffe and Deena Kastor for what they have achieved and how they have paved the way for women in their sport.
6. If you weren't in the fertility world...and could be anything else...what would it be?
Probably a meteorologist, if I haven’t mentioned yet, I am a weather geek, I think right now I have 6 weather apps on my phone right now ha ha!! A close second would be a wine sommelier. I think to be an expert in that field would be very interesting!
7. It's creative time...what's on your music playlist? What inspires you?
I love music, I have it on constantly, at home, in the car, all the time! If I’m running, it’s anything that pumps you up – right now my favs are Hymn For The Weekend by Coldplay, My House by Flo Rida, Blame by Calvin Harris, and of course Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake!
If I’m chilling at home, it’s country – my favs are Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, and Cole Swindell.
8. Favorite restaurant on a Friday night + why?
A local little Italian restaurant with my husband and daughter, when it’s nice out we sit outside and just enjoy time to catch up, relax, and enjoy!!!
9. Wine or classic cocktail?
no question – wine – red wine
10. Favorite weekend getaway destination?
Anywhere as long as it’s with my friends – we know how to make fun anywhere!
11. Bonus question - 5 must-have apps that you need in your life to function?
-Sprig – it’s this new healthy food delivery service! It is AMAZING, they have 8 different choices for lunch and dinner, everything from vegetarian to gluten free and dairy free – it’s helped us get out of the rut of what to cook for dinner, and it arrives ready to eat – what could be better!
-FitBit – I love my FitBit, and use it to keep track of my workouts and food log ☺
-Dark Sky – I am admittedly a weather nerd, this app is amazing and crazy accurate!
-Etsy – I use it to find unique gifts, fun stuff for my daughter and even furniture for my home!
-iTunes – back to that love of music – I love that I have my whole collection with me at all times (my daughter loves to make me play DJ on the way to school – there is a lot of Taylor Swift getting sung early in the morning!)
12. What's next for Shine?
I want Shine to continue to grow naturally; it started as a support group, grew to include educational speakers, then we converted to a non-profit and added in one-on-one mentoring and advocacy programming! I would love to grow our mentoring and advocacy programming in the future, but I am a firm believer in not doing something until I know we can do it to the best of our ability!
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