Emily Greener, I Am That Girl, Entrepreneur

imgresSometimes worlds are meant to collide.  More than a handful of people wanted to introduce me to Emily.  I politely declined because I really limit my intro’s to people in the non-profit world.  It is purely about bandwidth.  Ends up my sister-in-law and my niece have been involved with Emily and put on a small dinner to meet, greet and hear about I Am That Girl.   Who knew?

The dinner party was a bit of a showcase on what Emily has built.  She is empowering young women to become the best they can be by getting rid of the noise in their head early on.  At the dinner everyone goes around the table and says a positive thing about themselves.  Not always easy.  Then each of us are supposed to talk about something in our lives that was hard and really molded us into who we are today.  Perhaps something that took us awhile to come to terms with.  Not that this was on the invitation but after the dinner I knew exactly why people wanted me to meet with Emily.  She is giving young girls the ability to rise to the top of their personal goals.  It is something that I care about in the way that I am a supporter of women entrepreneurs.

Emily was born in Boise Idaho.  Her parents had met in LA and wanted to go somewhere else but weren’t sure where.  They first went to Seattle and nixed that.  Her Mom had landed a job at Hewlett Packer and moved her to Boise.  After two years they saw a some anti-semitic behavior and her Mom said “we are outta here” and they moved to Coral Gables, Florida.  Her Mom sold computer software and her Dad was a hippie who had 50 careers.  One thing he did was help kids in foster homes.  He would take Emily to buy gifts for the holidays and then deliver them to impoverished neighborhoods.  She clearly remembers seeing kids get excited about opening up gifts of toothpaste or toilet paper and realizing that life was not fair.

Emily always worked.  At 14 she got a job at Dan’s pizza starting with answering the phones and got paid under the table.  Not long after they let her run the place.  She was really into student council.  Always more interested in the extra curricular vs the classroom.  Emily says she might not have been the prettiest or the skinniest but she was the most popular.  She had a confidence that people were attracted to.  In her head there was no room for insecurity if you are confident. Subconsciously she took note of all these things over time.

In 8th grade the entire family moved to England for a year for her Mom’s job.  It was dramatic and upsetting but in the end probably life changing to see the world at large.  They returned to Florida where Emily finished high school although almost got kicked out because she was always debunking the system.  After high school Emily went to Florida State where she studied communications and theater.  In her junior year she went abroad to Florence.  She graduated in 06, stayed home for 6 months working to put money in her pocket before going to LA to seek her fame and fortune.

Emily moved to LA, found a crazy roommate on Craigslist who cut herself, drank lots of alcohol and had a rifle.  Welcome to Los Angles.  She began waitressing in Century City across from CAA while going to acting classes and auditions in between.  She learned very quickly that talent plus hard work do not always equate success.  She began to get antsy and didn’t trust that her destiny was in other peoples hands.

She gets invited to a random party in downtown LA and meets Alexis Jones.  Alexis and her hit it off and Alexis begins to tell Emily about herself in a way that she had never experienced.  Alexis tells her about her life and inner thoughts in a very honest way and Emily is wowed.  The conversation is about passion and self-thinking.  They talk about what if girls lived in a world where they collaborated instead of competed.  That perhaps their generation is about addressing equal rights in a different way.  At 24 Emily did not feel unequal but she did see that girls could be mean to others and themselves and because of that they are not reaching their potential.  Alexis had this idea called I Am That Girl addressing these concerns.

The next day they meet again.  Alexis is ready to launch this in 3 weeks.  Emily jumps in and the game changes.  The first concept around this mission was an interactive magazine.  They put an add on Craigslist describing the concept and have 300 people in a few hours who want to be part of this.  They narrow it down to 23 women to start producing content on what it means to be a woman from fashion to their feelings.

They have the same type of dinner I went to with these 23 women.  First you intro yourself and then you celebrate yourself and then you share things with the group where you take all the walls down.  You can hear a pin drop in the room when you are opening up yourself to be vulnerable in front of strangers.  Each girl begins and the stories that are being told are amazing from bullying to abuse.  Each girl became more and more honest as they went around the room. It was one of those moments where they all realize that all the ads on TV, all the content that is being pushed to us in the media isn’t true. It was a wake up call that they were on to something. They thought we have to have this conversation with every girl we know.

Emily starts calling college campuses to pitch Alexis to come and speak on this topic.  The schools ask how much will it cost and they say $3K and the schools say yes they will pay that and put her and her manager (supposedly Emily) on a plane to get there.  At the end of three and a half years they have talked to 100,000 girls. and done the same thing with them in a larger scale.  After each event the girls would line up to talk to them.  It was an incredible success.  Everyone wanted to meet their ultimate potential.

These women were talking about their own fears, their struggles, their need to belong and it all fell under their own mental and physical well being.  Did you know that girls scan themselves every 30 seconds almost 7 times.  Where is the capacity to learn if you are constantly checking yourself?

The girls they spoke to said now what?  You can’t come here and just send us online afterward.  So Emily told each girl to run their own events, build a local chapter and do their own group therapies with the premise that when all the walls come down that we are not who we think we should be.  We all struggle and everything is possible with a support of other girls.

They end up launching a campaign with Summer’s Eve to donate $1 to their cause for every quiz that they want women to take.  Emily gets them to pony up $50k towards the organization and they launch a campaign around healthy media called Girls Rock.  Then the White House calls.  They go to the Roosevelt room and meet influential people who want to support what they are building.  Years in and I Am That Girl is now a real organization.

During those 3 years of talking to colleges Emily is still waitressing to pay for her life.  She is pitching CAA on I Am That Girl and then waitressing across the street.  It was a strange double life.  It was once she locked in that first $50k she knew she could do this and focus all her energies on this organization.

Fast forward I Am That Girl has a digital community of almost one million, 175 chapters in 18 countries (90% of them are in the US) and a team of 7.  They are starting to work on the financial piece to grow bigger.

I left the dinner at my sister-in-laws and sent a check the next day.   The dinner alone was pretty powerful.  Sitting down with Emily and hearing her story and just seeing her spirit and passion around this topic is infectious.  She has hit on a nerve that young women of her generation and the next need.  Women need a support system from other women.  To feel that we have each others backs and applaud all of our successes.  That camaraderie needs to start early on.  If it becomes part of a young women’s life at 8 or 15 vs 40 the impact will be huge.

I am beyond happy that I finally met Emily.  She has empowered me to think differently and she is changing the world one girl at a time.  Consider sponsoring a girl.  The reality is I Am That Girl and so is every woman I know.