Brenna Smith: Founder & CEO, SheNOW: Marriage, What's The Rush?!
Brenna Smith, Founder & CEO of SheNOW says, “Marriage? What’s the Rush?!”TM
In SheNOW, Brenna has created a community of women who believe in pursuing their careers and dreams, having adventures, and living their own lives before getting married.
Brenna encourages women to use their twenties to help create better, more successful, and healthier future version of themselves, whether or not they choose to marry in later life.
As an entrepreneur, writer, public speaker and communications coach, Brenna has been a guest host on several radio shows, a guest blogger on a variety of women focused websites, a consultant for start-up companies in differing fields, and she is the author of a forthcoming book.
Brenna has been featured in Forbes.com, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Voices, BusinessNewsDaily.com, Western North Carolina Woman, The Best People We Know Show, Amazing Women Rock, The Career Effect, My Girlfriends, Self-Aid Success Stories and many more...
She says: “I believe women should provide themselves with the time to explore their own strengths, possibilities, feelings, motivations, wants, and needs. Women should have the freedom to choose to marry, and they should do so from a powerful, informed, and free place void of any pressure from society and family.”
In her free time, Brenna is an avid philanthropist, spending much of her energy on Habitat for Humanity and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
We spoke to Brenna about the five things she would like to see women do before they get married; what she sees as the main barriers between young women and their dreams; and what she thinks about the rise in young female entrepreneurs.
TNW: How did you first come up with the idea for SheNow and then decide to make your vision a reality?
BS: Nine years ago, at the age of 22, I was having a conversation with a friend as she drew out her wedding plans, i.e. the food she wants, the location, the dress, the colors, the whole-shebang. The kick is…she wasn’t even dating anyone! That was a real turning point for me, and I realized that we, as women, are often focusing on everything but the most important one…Ourselves.
What we should have been talking about was the future plans for ourselves. Places we wanted to travel, things we wanted to accomplish, bucket lists, adventures, etc.
After that conversation, I found myself in a very successful career where I spent my days climbing the corporate ladder and my nights and weekends living the young professional lifestyle. Going out, traveling, girl’s nights, seeing shows, living it up, etc.
I found that no matter how much money I made for the company and no matter where I went in the world, the “stigma” of being unmarried followed me.
It almost seemed more important to some people than the work I could do for them. And, what people couldn’t fathom was that I was unmarried by choice! You see, I did have a long-term boyfriend, and this CHOICE just blew their minds!
During those years, I did research, looked for books and online support forums, but there was nothing that truly covered what I was living and looking for. Marriage? What’s The Rush?
So I created it!
TNW: Tell our community a little about SheNow. What is your mission and how do you achieve it?
The SheNOW wish for ALL women…Have the guts to live the life you dream of, to pursue the career you were made for and to know that you are worth...everything.
I created the site, which readers can find at www.shenow.org, because I really want to empower and strengthen women. We want all women to be emotionally, physically, psychologically, and financially whole and independent…able to stand on their own two feet given any circumstance, no matter their age or marital status.
So, at SheNOW, we encourage women to delay marriage in order to have their own adventures, start businesses, see the world, chase their dreams, accomplish some bucket list items and live their own lives first.
I provide a support community, guidance, advice, ‘tips and tricks’ and highlight women who are living, or have lived, the SheNOW message. And, we have a lot of great things planned for the future like mentorship programs, conferences, girl’s trips, etc. Stay tuned!!
TNW: Your mission strikes a huge personal chord with me. I spent my twenties travelling the world, studying art and becoming an Executive Assistant, so that I could save up for a round-the-world surf trip, which I embarked on to celebrate my 30th birthday. All these experiences led to me following my dream and living on a beach in Ecuador, working remotely as an Editor. How did you spend your twenties and how did these experiences lead to what you are doing today?
BS: LOVE that you did all that, and I want all women to do the same. I answer a bit of this above….but just a tad more for you!
My twenties were such a wonderful journey. I traveled all over the world and really took the time to figure out who I am and what I want as just ME, instead of me in relation to a partner.
If I wanted to go somewhere, I went….even if it was by myself. Seeing the world as a young person in their 20’s is something that can’t be duplicated, imitated or taken away from you.
Those experiences will shape not only the person you are but the future “you” as well. Young women today need to be PRO-ACTIVE in their life decisions rather than REACTIVE.
TNW: If you could advise women in their twenties to do five things before think about getting married, what would they be?
BS: One: Be Financially Stable: I want all women to be able to land on their feet if “something” should happen. You never know, be it death, divorce or even illness.
So, get an education or trade, know how to handle money and make financial decisions, be prepared for the unexpected and be able to depend on YOU.
Two: Find Yourself: Really take the time to figure out who you are…and I’m talking about the who you are as a person, separate from your partner. Too many women end up taking on their partner’s hobbies and likes because they haven’t really discovered their own.
So, go on a pilgrimage and make sure there are political, physical and psychological obstacles along the way. Write in a journal, make a bucket list, go on solo vacations and learn how to be alone.
Three: Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone and Do Things By Yourself: Ideally, I’m talking about moving to a different city…maybe one that has always made you think “what if.” Get out of your bubble, meet new people, and experience a new side of life and yourself.
Now, if moving is not an option for whatever reason, throw back the security blanket in other ways. Travel to unfamiliar towns near you, choose a different restaurant or bar to try, visit museums you’ve never been to and make new friends.
Ultimately, you will begin to develop more as a person than you ever thought, or even knew, was possible.
What may be uncomfortable for you today will become easier with practice, and all of these actions will expose you to new parts of yourself, helping you uncover hidden wants and desires within.
Four: Travel and Have Adventures: I’m talking girls' trips and solo trips. Try new things like scuba diving, sky diving, eat strange foods, mingle and make out with locals. (wink-wink)
You might say, “Oh, I can go on girl/solo trips while married.” Yes, but it IS different…I promise.
Five: Make a Pre-Wedding Bucket: Write down the things you really want to accomplish and make a promise to yourself, and the person you hope to become, that you will not to walk down the aisle until you check them all off.
Again, we’re not saying don’t date, just don’t tie the knot….yet!
I recently wrote a personal piece for The NextWomen about defining and realising one's own vision of success, rather than following the traditional route by default. My article was inspired by a piece we published from our partner site 85 Broads. How do these articles fit with your own personal views?
Some people look for answers, happiness, success and love…never realizing that the best source for those actually comes from within.
Beth, you ARE the SheNOW woman, as shown by this quote from your article: “By the traditional metrics, I would by no means be considered successful (no university education, husband or mortgage in sight and a humble salary to boot), but in my mind, I've ‘made it.’”
We live in such a “marriage equals success” society, but it is women like us that are changing it.
It definitely takes a strong woman to defy the “norm” and walk her own path, and if you want to truly be happy in life, sometimes, that is just what you have to do. No matter what society or your parents say, finding the man of your dreams doesn’t guarantee a happiness or success...Only YOU have the power guarantee that.
To all the women out there, I say, defy convention……and make your own happy ending.
TNW: In the article I mention above, I reported that entrepreneurialism is climbing steadily amongst the 20-somethings. In a recent survey of 500 Millenials by Buzz Marketing Group, 33% were planning to start their own business in the next year. In addition, 44% described themselves as single, showing that many Millenials are opting out of marriage and serious relationships, as well as traditional career paths. Do statistics like this give you hope for the future?
BS: We believe that everything you should be doing in your 20’s is to prepare for a more successful YOU, whether you get married down the road or not. We are not anti-marriage or anti-man, but we don’t believe either is necessary for true happiness.
So, yes we are excited to see the growing numbers of women choosing to take time for themselves, to figure out who they are, and to live their own lives. It’s also fabulous to see women pushing back on what is “normal” in society (marriage/career) and doing what THEY want to do.
TNW: From talking to your community, what do you find are the main barriers which prevent young women from following their dreams?
BS: Pressure and expectations!
It makes me sad when I receive emails from women asking for advice on how to deal with their family and friends. And, sadly, most of the pressure and expectations come from other women!
- “When are you going to marry him?”
- “Don’t you want children?”
- “You’re not going to be young forever!”
It breaks my heart that instead of helping to build our fellow females up; some of us are hoisting up roadblocks.
Women/Parents/Family, who should be supportive of their life goals and dreams, are instead pressuring their child into their own definition of “success” and “happiness.”
It is tough for many young women to battle what has been bred into them from very young age by movies, media, toys, and society. These are the pressures and expectations that cause many women to make decisions based on other people.
- “My mom really wants to see me married.”
- “My dad wants grandchildren….”
- “My mom wants…”
- “My Aunt….”
- “My grandmother wants….”
I’m sorry; I didn’t realize that they get to live two lives, theirs and yours? What about what YOU want?
TNW: I live in Ecuador, where for many women, their only option to leave the family home is to get married. If they don't get married, society dictates that they must live with their parents. To move in with a boyfriend would mean estrangement from both families. What would you say to women in this situation?
BS: The reason you and I are able to do what we want and live the life that we want is because women before us stuck their necks out in defense of themselves…therefore creating a new path for our generations.
To the women in Ecuador, I would say that you have to do what’s right for you. And, if you continue to let society and family dictate your life, you’re not changing the situation for your future daughters…nieces and the other women of your country. Do you want to be a follower or a game changer? Someone has to be the one to say…enough is enough.
TNW: Is there anything you would like to share with our community which we haven't asked you?
BS: That 5% is not enough. We’ve discovered an interesting statistic among women that no one is talking about right now, and it’s one of the over-arching messages of our site. See the PowerPoint below for an explanation!!
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