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Connected by Beauty with Kelsea Olivia of East Olivia
Channeling hardships a business that champions quiet long-lasting connections.
Storytelling vs. truth-telling
A new tide of brands is embracing storytelling as a linear means of connecting with consumers—both online, and off.
Writing this column has made me recognize just how much the professional landscape has grown in a more communal direction.
While we still have a long way to go, I believe this massive shift is a result of many forward-thinking companies' commitments to providing both exceptional products and using storytelling to address necessary truths about the world we're living in.
The influence these creative companies have on shifting cultural dialogue today is unprecedented, and with the emergence of technology, it has also leveled the playing field so that more voices can continue stewarding these conversations.
Amy Fraser of OKREAL is one of these voices—and as her rallying cry to create a more equitable landscape for women grows stronger, it has become increasingly clear that Amy is in the business of truth-telling just as much as storytelling.
Several of Amy's real-life experiences have driven the evolution of OKREAL, which in its most current state champions women on their path to fulfillment "through panels, workshops, online content, and mentorship." This combination of online and offline offerings has resulted in an integrated experience for modern women to connect with OKREAL in the ways that make the most sense for them. The idea of adaptability has also catalyzed Amy's own influence as both a global business leader and as someone who understands how to keep going when the going gets tough.
While Amy has had a lot to overcome during her entrepreneurial journey, she's never shied away from considering and listening to the needs of others. When we hop on a call to catch up for this piece, she begins by sharing more about this and her early love of telling stories, "I started writing diaries from the age of about four, and stories about my life, the lives of my family, and my friends. I was always very much into writing stories about people. I didn't write about fantasy things or make up stories. It was always about the lives of people."
Later in life, Amy's proclivity for documentation made its way into aspects of her career, which took her from New Zealand (where she's from and currently based) to Toronto and finally to New York. There, she cut her teeth at renowned creative agencies, including Ogilvy and RoAndCo. It was also during this time in her professional life that Amy's entrepreneurial desires inspired the beginning stages of OKREAL. The initial plan was to explore how she could combine her interest in business and writing. But after realizing just how much of an impact the women in her life had made on her identity, OKREAL's core DNA began to take shape. "I had this kind of streak of really great female role models around me," Amy explains when reflecting on what would eventually shape the company's female-focused mission. "I think that whether I was aware of it or not, it definitely shaped my expectation of myself and also gave me a really good representation of what women are able to do."
So far, Amy has managed to do a lot herself by establishing a new (and more inclusive) standard of community-building by addressing the challenges real women face today. Now with OKREAL's recent rebrand, Amy plans to build upon its mission by turning inspiration into long-term action with the introduction of its new e-learning platform. While much of OKREAL's event programming is hosted nationwide, over time, Amy saw the need for continuity (and access) beyond a single event. In response to that, the first educational course on the platform brings OKREAL's beloved Mentor Circle gatherings to the masses. "There are so many different forms that Mentor Circles can take," Amy explains. "And so this is really a blueprint for how to create that program on your own, and it's a onetime cost that you pay for."
Along with this new opportunity to empower people to activate what they learn through Mentor Circles in their own communities, Amy also hopes OKREAL's e-learning program expands our collective outlook on modern mentorship. "What I learned from being in New York and surrounded by a lot of really incredible people is that there's actually a much looser relationship that you have with people who you might not call your friends. Maybe they're kind of somewhere in between—an acquaintance or somebody you worked with once," Amy tells me. "Basically, it's this really rich climate for opportunity through loose ties and these mentor circles that we host. This course teaches you how to host; it's a peer to peer mentoring system. So it's groups of people who mentor one another, and there's not one person at the head of the table. It's not hierarchical. It's a mentorship democracy."
True to form, there have been many peer mentors and connections that have propelled Amy forward as she's built OKREAL. As someone in Amy's professional network, I had become accustomed to watching the power of her collaborative nature from a distance—until one of her connections became my own. While we discuss early meaningful relationships (which ranges from the encouragement of her mother to the women she's connected with at OKREAL's Mentor Circles and events), Amy also tells me about Rachael Yaeger, an entrepreneurial friend who connected her to Jacob Heftmann, a designer who helped build the first iteration of OKREAL. Smiling to myself, I then remind her that Amy connected me with Jacob not long after. "It's really like you end up crossing paths with people who you're meant to keep crossing paths with," Amy says with a small laugh. "Yeah, all the good people go in circles."
The (business) world is often a small place, and as we reminisce about mutual relationships, I think of the individuals who are taking risks to make it a better one for us all. It only takes one connection to change the entire trajectory of someone's life, and Amy's story reinforces the notion that no (wo)man is an island—nor should they have to be. "I want OKREAL to help people make choices that are good for them and help give them the connection and the courage and the resilience to do that because it's really tricky to be completely honest with yourself at times," Amy remarks before ending our call. "That's the whole premise of mentorship and why it's so important to me because I firmly believe that community is a safety net."
At the end of the day, it doesn't get more simple (or more real) than that.