By Nadya Okamoto, Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD
This is part three in a three-part series in which Nadya Okamoto provides advice to T-Mobile’s Changemaker Challenge participants. Nadya was recently named to the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 and the Bloomberg 50 “Ones to Watch” list for her work founding PERIOD. Follow #TMOChangemaker on social for more updates on the Changemaker Challenge!
I wake up every day knowing that I am trying to change something that has been the norm for far too long – and this concept of changing the world is what makes me excited to get out of bed every day! However, rejection and pushback are just part of the job. In fact, if I find that I haven’t been running into obstacles, that’s when I know I need to innovate to keep challenging the norm — because if you’re a changemaker, you know your work is never done. Of course, constantly running up against obstacles can also be exhausting. Especially when there is always a never-ending to-do list of emails and phone calls that are super important – but that make work-life balance a real challenge!
Choosing to be a young activist – or entrepreneur – is a very exciting thing because of the impact you are making, but at times it can feel lonely. I remember at the beginning of my journey, I didn’t have many people around me that I could relate to. As a fellow youth changemaker, you might be surprised to realize you probably have more support within arm’s reach than you think.
Here are the three core communities I’ve built that helped me get to where I am today. I thought sharing these might help you identify a community you already have supporting you, or give you a nudge in the right direction to establish one or more to help you continue to succeed going forward.
After all, as activists and entrepreneurs, we’re experts in community-building. We just need to remember to do that for ourselves.
My personal community has been with me since day one – these are the people who know the real Nadya the best: my close friends and family. When I am out on the frontline fighting to making sure PERIOD is successful, looking out for my program – my personal community is there looking out for me, making sure I am taking care of myself during battle. My family is proud of me and my accomplishments, but they’re the ones who worry about me sleeping adequately and having a personal life. My best friends are the ones who take over from there, and force me to actually put my laptop away and have some fun. As I’m balancing work, running multiple ventures and being a student at Harvard, my best friends are the ones who keep me sane through it all.
I learned early on that it is important to build and invest in a strong team (read more about that in my previous blog post), because I am self-aware enough to know that I am not the best at everything. I started PERIOD with a co-founder and Operations Director, Vincent Forand, and we were a dream team for several years because we complemented each other’s skillsets and personalities extremely well. It felt like we could conquer the world! But, as our program started to scale – we needed to build a larger community who were committed to the same goal as us. I know it’s hard, especially with any sort of founder’s syndrome that makes you want to cling onto every last responsibility and do it yourself But part of being a successful entrepreneur is being a good leader. Eventually, Vincent and I started Period Chapters – which are school and community chapters that include passionate members on the ground helping us spread the #MenstrualMovement with the same fighting spirit that we have as founders, and sometimes even more. We now have over 600 registered chapters as part of our PERIOD community who are all striving for the same mission!
Because they are in the weeds with me, when I have doubts about whether the work I have started is actually making a difference, it’s this community that helps keep me and the movement going. They are constantly reminding me to stay grounded in the very personal reasons I started all of this, and to remember how intersectional this reproductive health movement is and how integral it is in the overall fight towards gender equality.
And last but not least, build a strong community of likeminded peers — your fellow changemakers. By networking with other entrepreneurs and founders, you can learn from their failures and successes. In most cases, this community doesn’t come to you naturally, you must prioritize networking, attending events, following other changemakers on social media — take the initiative to seek these people out, and be open when they find you. What worked for me was participating in various incubators and fellowships for entrepreneurs, who have become some of my best friends (hello, Personal Community!) and mentors. With my changemaker community, I can share stories about being a founder that others might not understand.
Building my changemaker community is also one of the main reasons I am so excited to be involved in the second annual T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge! It’s not every day that I find myself in a room packed with so many bright thinkers and leaders who are blazing the path in creating the world of tomorrow.
Welcome to my changemaker community — and thank you for inviting me to be a part of yours. Now let’s have each other’s backs!