Lemonade for Women Entrepreneurs

Has anyone every told you when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, when someone said that to me, I wanted to punch them in the face and say, “No. I will NOT make any f*cking lemonade.”

As entrepreneurs, we are quite literally making something out of nothing. That is miracle work! It can be draining.

Women entrepreneurs have their own battles to warrior through. We as women are under pressure to keep it together in a male dominated world, in fear that our “femininity” is a sign of weakness.

But women are constantly shattering the glass ceiling, despite the odds.

The universe isn’t always on our side. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop being the badasses we know and love. Here are five steps to help our fellow women warriors, so the next time life gives you lemons you can give them the hand and say, “uh, no thanks. I GOT THIS!”

Have a f*cking meltdown!

Um, what? I thought being a badass is keeping it together, even through the bad? Not exactly. Sometimes the best way to get through those tough times is to CRY. Scream into your pillow. Mope in bed all day. Eat your feelings. Whatever it is, just have your melt down already!

Real talk, you earned it. My meltdowns usually consist of crying obnoxiously while eating popcorn and vegan ice cream, then hitting my Dammit Doll over and over again until I am out of breathe. What do I do after my meltdown? I feel released and ready to put myself back together. Now, it’s time for some self care. 

Make decisions that serve you

Sorry, but binge drinking because you’re sad is not going to serve you. In fact, it is just going to give you a headache the next morning. Do you know what else doesn’t serve you? Not making time for yourself.

You do not have to go straight back to the hustle after you have your meltdown. Ease into it.

Hydrate. Make time to cook yourself a healthy vegan meal. Do some yoga. Yoga With Adriene has some great yoga quickies. Meditate. Take a hot bath and infuse yourself in organic essential oils. Read a book. Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier to do some morning stretches. Make time for yourself. Make time to LOVE yourself. You will be more productive and less high strung. It really makes all the difference.

Set Boundaries

This is a big one. SET SOME F*CKING BOUNDARIES. I have met so many entrepreneurs that say, “I forgot to eat and sleep because I was so warped into my work.” It is truly amazing that you can be SO inspired and dedicated to your hustle, but if it comes at the cost of your health, you WILL burn out. What good will that do for yourself AND your business? You may be able to create for 24 hours straight but how sustainable is that? Set boundaries to be a normal human that eats, sleeps, and breathes. Then, set boundaries to be the badass female hustler you are.

For example: From 8 AM until 12 PM I am dedicating this time to work on my business. Then from 12 PM-2 PM I will take a break and eat lunch. From 2 PM until 6 PM I’m back in the hustle. Then, take the evening off for dinner and spending time with your loved ones. (Oh, and checking your e-mail every 5 minutes counts as working. Be present.)   

Detox, hard!

Take a break. An actual break where you don’t do work. Whether it be a two-week vacation or a one-week breather where you just need a little detox from the entrepreneur lifestyle. Even one day of distance can be enough. Some of us (like me) need a little more time. I take Thanksgiving until January off to be present with my family during the holidays. I need a long detox in order to feel a complete and total reset. Then, once the new year rolls in I’m back on my a-game, recharged and ready as ever.

Sometimes creating a little distance from your work is necessary.

Your heart and mind are still on the prize. You are just a human being trying to live your human life. Can I get an amen?!

Another thing that is important is knowing when to walk away. We have all had those moments where we spend hours and hours on a project but it seems to be going nowhere. We get frustrated, the self-doubt creeps in, and the worst part is that our work isn’t fun anymore. Know when to hit the pause button.

Allow yourself to be your worst self

Fear and suffering are all part of the journey. Don’t shut it down. Embrace the fear. Embrace the discomfort. Suffer. We are not always able to be our best selves, my sisters. But sometimes we need to be our worst selves, to be our best selves.

Show yourself some compassion if you are burnt out. Be kind and gentle. Life can be really shitty sometimes, and it is completely okay to be thrown off. Let go of self-judgement. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that this is where we are today.

Honor that shit.

7 Ways Anyone Can Produce Less Waste

This post was originally published on Darling Magazine.

When you live in New York City, trash is everywhere. Mountains of black garbage bags pile up on the sidewalk, plastic bottles and food scraps are tossed on subway tracks, and household junk overflow into the streets. According to the NYC Department of Environmental Conservation, New York City produces 11,000 tons of household trash on a daily basis. On a global level, nations collectively generate 1.3 billion tons of waste. That number is expected to climb to 4 billion tons by 2100.

But let’s not freak out just yet. There are heroes out there fighting the evils of mass consumption and waste! Cities are banning plastic bags. Farmer’s markets and food cooperatives are eliminating all packaged foods. Eco villages are popping up all over the world. Fashion designers are finding innovative ways to turn waste into apparel. Millennials are finding ways to fit a year’s worth of trash in a mason jar. People are waking up and taking action. It’s awesome.

So how can YOU contribute to this global revolution? The best way to fight the global waste epidemic is to go zero waste. It is nearly impossible to be 100% zero waste, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We should strive for progress, not perfection!

Here are a few tips to kickstart your zero waste journey:

1. Look at your trash.

In college, we did a zero waste challenge where we were asked to bring a week’s worth of our own personal trash. We had to examine our trash, take notes, and then find alternatives for the following week. This was super helpful as we got face-to-face with our trash. We consume and waste so unconsciously because it is such a societal norm. Most of us did not realize half of the trash we were making until we had to examine it. The following week, we cut down our trash by half. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty here, you will be grateful you did!

We consume and waste so unconsciously because it is such a societal norm.

2. Do your research.

Find blogs or books that will inspire your zero waste journey. Trash Is For Tossers is a great place to start. There are also eco-conscious bloggers on Instagram that share their personal zero waste hacks. Here is a list of bloggers, documentaries and other resources you can check out:

 Eco Warrior Princess
 Going Zero Waste
 Be Zero
– Zero Waste Home
 The True Cost
– Zero Waste Vegans

Image via Monica Friese

3. Get rid of disposables.

This should be the easiest transition. All you are doing is replacing what was used previously with a sustainable option! Here is a starter list to make the process even easier:

Mable Toothbrush, a bamboo self-standing toothbrush that supports kids education across the United States.

– Tote bags for grocery shopping (you can find them almost anywhere!).

– Bye bye, plastic water bottles. Get a Klean Kanteen! This one has a bamboo cap instead of the usual silicone caps.

– Instead of paper towels or sponges, use Wet It!, a Swedish based company that makes biodegradable cloths or, try this biodegradable bamboo dishwasher.

– Who needs a Swiffer when you’re new best friend could be the Norwex mop? You won’t have to buy another mop OR cleaning solution again. All it needs is a little water and you are good to go.

– Calling all coffee addicts! Ditch the automatic coffee maker (so terrible for the environment) and use an Aeropress with this reusable stainless steel filter. A non-plastic french press works great, too!

– For soap, I buy naturally made, unpackaged bar soap from Soaps of 7 Flowers. You can also buy unpackaged bar soap at your local health food store.

– Female Hygiene is a big one. The DivaCup is praised in reviews, as it can last up to 12 years if properly taken care of. However, if you have an IUD, a reusable menstrual cup is NOT for you. They’ve been known to accidentally remove IUD’s! Some women are not comfortable with the idea of sticking something up there, so here is a solution: THINX undies. You will never have to buy a tampon or pad again with these period-proof panties.

4. Shop in bulk.

If you have a Food Co-op in your neighborhood, then you are in luck. They make grocery shopping easy because everything is in bulk! Mason jars will be your new best friend. You can fill up your mason jars with granola, quinoa, nuts, liquid dish soap, the list can go on!

Whole Foods has bulk options too, but like most grocery stores, everything is packaged. To avoid packaged produce, hit up your local farmer’s market and buy directly from the farmer. It can cut your costs in half, and you get to see exactly where your food comes from and connect with local farms in the area.

5. Buy second hand or borrow.

We have been told by the fast fashion industry to consume all of these things that we really do not need. Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world, next to oil. No shade to sustainable businesses that are creating eco-friendly, locally-made clothing. But if you can find what you need in a thrift store, why buy new? The less we consume, the less waste we make.

Borrowing seems outdated, but it might just be the solution to our shopping woes. For example, take Berlin’s Leila, a borrowing shop that has brought it back to modern times. We already share cars thanks to apps like as Lyft, and homes with AirBnB. We can share much more. Maybe you’ll make a new friend in the process!

Image via Monica Friese

6. DIY

This is where it gets FUN! There are loads of DIY recipes for almond milk, makeup remover (literally, just use coconut oil), cleaning sprays, and toothpaste on eco blogs. Start with those basic recipes, then you can take it up a notch. Make your own soap and/or coffee body scrub. Learn how to knit your own scarf. Grow your own herbs! Whatever your DIY heart desires.

7. Strive for progress, not perfection.

This is a big one. When I started my zero waste journey, I would get so frustrated when I accidentally made trash. I would forget to tell the bartender to not give me a straw, or I’d forget my reusable shopping bag. I used to beat myself up for it, but I realized it’s a work in progress.

It’s completely ok to forget to bring your own bag. If you forgot your Klean Kanteen and you’re thirsty, get a bottle of water! This is not a competition to see who has the least waste. As long as you are being mindful of your waste, and you’re trying, that’s truly what matters.

Do you strive to be zero waste? 

The Price Behind The Price Tag

Making the cross over to conscious consumerism does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of self-educating with tons of books, documentaries, and articles that are filled with absolutely horrifying truths. These truths will unapologetically slap you in the face with the harsh reality of your spending habits. That $10 H&M shirt is the equivalent of inhumane work practices such as child slavery, animal testing, and global pollution.

Let me throw some of those horrifying truths at you.

Where do you think your clothes are made? It definitely was not in an airy, light-filled warehouse where employees are getting a fully stocked organic kitchen, fair wage, and health coverage. It was made in a place like Rana Plaza, a garment factory that collapsed in Bangladesh in April 2013, killing 1,129 people and injuring 2,500.

The majority of workers in the global fashion industry rarely earn more than two US dollars per day, with many having to work absurdly long hours and struggle daily to meet their basic needs such as food and shelter. But who exactly is making your clothes? The vast majority of garment workers – approximately 80% – are women. According to the International Labour Organisation, an estimated 168 million children are engaged in child labor.

Take a guess on the carbon footprint of that t-shirt you’re wearing. It requires about 2,700 liters of water to produce the cotton needed to make one single t-shirt. 10 percent of the world’s textiles are produced in China, and we all know the smog there ain’t no joke. That’s just China. We’ve still got Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam to factor in.

And let’s not forget the waste fast fashion is responsible for.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the U.S. generates an average of 25 billion pounds of textiles per year. That is about 82 pounds per U.S. resident.

Of that 82 pounds, 85% (70lbs) goes to our landfills. That adds up to 21 BILLION POUNDS of textile waste per YEAR! Only a depressing 15% of this waste are recycled or reused.  

This is the real price behind the price tag.

“But ethical fashion is so unrealistic,” you might say. “ People shop at H&M because it is the only affordable option! Why would I spend more money when I can buy clothes for less there?”

These are compelling arguments. Capitalism makes it close to impossible for a consumer to find affordable AND ethical products. But if you dig a little deeper than the price tag, you’ll come to realize that fast fashion is a trick. It’s manipulative, controlling, and compulsive. This is what fast fashion is telling you:

  • “That polyester black leather jacket is so 5 minutes ago, but don’t worry- we’ve got affordable jean jackets that are so hot right now! Buy it NOW before the jean jacket trend ends! You’ve only got one hour to rock it before the next trend comes out! 
  • “Oh em gee girl, that $20 shirt is made out of really shitty polyester fabric, but have no fear! It’s only supposed to last a few months. Who cares if it breaks when you’re keeping up with trends?!”
  • “Ew, you’re going to go out in that dress with the same shoes, again? You need like three different shoes to keep that dress looking fresh.”
  • “You haven’t bought a new handbag to match your new watch? It’s only $10. I don’t get it. We’ve made it SO easy for you.”

This all might sound harsh, but that is what the industry wants.

Fast fashion treats you like a child, waving shiny things at you: it wants you to stay ignorant with those flashy price tags.

The less you think about your purchase, the more you spend on impulse.

You may not notice at first, but making a gradual change to conscious consumerism- that is to be more mindful of what you buy- will have you in control of the market and YOUR finances. Is that $10 t-shirt really worth it?

Being woke is HARD. But ethical fashion CAN BE affordable, and chic! Here’s how:

THRIFTING (The obvious)

Recycled fashion at its best. Shopping second hand is the ultimate way to being truly sustainable if you cannot afford to invest upfront. You are closing the humongous waste gap when you are buying second hand. It’s a win for your bank account AND a win for the planet.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY (Cheap ain’t always cheap)

Tired of buying clothes that fall apart after a few months? Instead of buying the same cheap basic black shirt from Forever 21, make the investment in a basic, sustainable, ethically made black shirt that you will only have to buy ONCE. The splurge is worth it, especially for your basics. In the end, you will not only be saving money, you will be saving the lives of exploited women and children making the cheap clothes you used to buy from H&M.

GET WITH THE ESSENTIALS (Less is more baby!)

Once you have your high quality, ethically made wardrobe you have everything you need. Focus on “need.”

Fast fashion is built on trends. Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, reports:

The fast-fashion concept was pioneered by Spain’s Zara, which delivers new lines twice a week in its stores. H&M and Forever 21 both get daily shipments of new styles.”

Slow fashion, however, while still creating trendy pieces, is timeless.

Do you need five different pairs of shoes? No. Do you need eight different color dresses? The answer is still no.


Yes, sustainable fashion brands are expensive up front- but in the long run, you will be saving money, time, and well, I don’t know, the earth and human beings in impoverished countries. The quality of your clothes represents the quality of the person. You are what you wear, my friends.

All we can really strive for is a collective effort towards progress being made in the fashion industry. The change is in the progress. We have got to start somewhere, so let us start today. Be more mindful of your purchases, know who made your clothes, and consume less. You owe it not only to the world but to yourself.

10 Charming & Eco-Friendly Airbnb Rentals Around the World

This post was originally published on Breathe Travel.

If you’re anything like me, you travel with a purpose. Whether it be to challenge yourself by breaking your comfort zone, see the many different cultures all over the world, or to go on a much deserved relaxing vacation. Maybe, it’s all three! Being able to see the world is such a privilege, which is why we should do everything in our power to take care of it.

Why not travel consciously to the most amazing, beautiful places? Here are 10 eco-friendly Airbnb rentals around the world to get you started on your conscious travels:

1. Eco-friendly Villa in Natural Park, Fuerteventura, Las Palmas de Gran Canarias, Spain

This beautiful home is located at the foot of an ancient volcano! How cool is that?

The structure of the home is made out of wood with a photovoltaic system (solar power energy ftw!) and water purification for reuse. It doesn’t stop there- the hosts also collect rainwater. You’ll be reducing your carbon footprint AND doing it in style, surrounded by the most amazing beaches and lagoons in this charming villa.

2. Authentic Bedouin Experience, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Ever dream of sleeping under the stars in the Valley of the Moon? I’ve got you covered. This Airbnb is for the more adventurous, as you are completely off the grid. There is NO electricity or running water. Just the laughter and hospitality of a Bedouin family.

If you have any plans on going to Jordan, stay here. You’ll never experience something more authentic than this. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the traditions, culture, and daily life of a Bedouin.

3. Off-Grid itHouse, Pioneertown, California, United States

If you ever visit the Los Angeles area, make the trek to this award winning eco-beauty! The house is 100% completely off-grid. It’s powered by solar panels for energy and hot water, nestled remotely in the beautiful California high desert. You’ll be off the grid, in touch with nature and a simpler way of living.

No need to venture out to Joshua Tree, it’s all here right in your backyard! This is the perfect place to humble yourself and soak up the natural beauty around you.

4. Super Cute Retro Airstream, Wimberley, Texas, United States

Talk about glamping at its finest! You might be wondering, where the hell Wimberley, Texas is! It’s about an hour south of Austin, perfect for a romantic getaway from the city. The owners of this adorable airstream really go out of their way to make this property as green as possible.

You’ll be equipped with fresh organic eggs, local organic coffee, and some zero waste, eco-friendly dish soap and laundry detergent. The airstream is not off the grid, but they do use low-wattage light bulbs! I love how eco-conscious this airstream is. Don’t forget to take a dip in the hot tub and enjoy a private, spacious outdoor shower under the trees!

5. Eco-Friendly, Minimalist, VT B&B, Windham, VT, United States

The Stone Wall Inn is surrounded by 12 acres of gardens, 3 ponds, and tons of beautiful vistas. You can take advantage of Vermont’s outdoor adventures such as hiking and kayaking, or you can cozy up by the fire.

What makes this B&B so great? It’s GREEN CERTIFIED! The b&b is heated entirely by natural sources (wood and solar) and utilizes reclaimed wood and construction materials, earth-friendly cleaning products, natural linens, the list goes on. The Stone Wall Inn really goes above and beyond to make your stay as accommodating and eco-friendly as possible.

6. Explore Rural South France & Coast, Feuilla, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Is your heart singing with wanderlust right now? This beautiful homestay in the countryside of France sits on the edge of the wine making village of Feuilla. Yes. You read it right. WINE! You’ll get the best of both worlds surrounded by breathtaking views of mountains and beaches.

La Rassada is an eco-friendly property built using natural materials such as hemp for insulation, lime render, and eco-paints. There’s solar hot water, indirect solar heating, a biodynamic filtered spring water system, and everything is either recycled or composted. The host is also known for her mouth-watering delicious breakfast made with local and/or organic produce!

You’ll be happy, comfortable, and traveling green! As the host says, “Being “eco” definitely does NOT mean we compromise on comfort!!!”

7. Rainforest Tree House w Hot Springs, Cooper, Alajuela, Costa Rica

This handcrafted treehouse is nestled deep in the jungle, where you’ll be surrounded by monkeys, exotic birds, butterflies, and other types of wildlife. Guests also get 24-hour access to the 12 natural hot and cool spring pools. This Airbnb is definitely off the beaten path, but only 45 minutes away from great tourist activities and destinations like volcano hikes, ziplines, and the La Fortuna Waterfall.

Plan to spend a good amount of time here, as most guests regret not staying long enough. You’ll never want to leave!

8. Friendly & Central Eco-Hostel, Reykjavík, Capital Region, Iceland

Want to see the Northern Lights? Take a dip in the Blue Lagoon? Say no more. This award-winning and eco-certified hostel is where you belong. It’s located in the heart of downtown Reykjavík, walking distance from most of Reykjavík’s bars, clubs, cafes, and restaurants!

The staff here are also known to be super helpful and friendly. Their aim is to encourage “a style of traveling that increases people’s knowledge of their environment, concern for nature and respect for the cultural values of cities and towns in all parts of the world.” Definitely sounds like an eco-winner!

9. Farm View Cottage, Montagu, Western Cape, South Africa

This charming cottage has everything you could ever ask for. Stunning views, hot springs, endless amounts of wine, beautiful hikes, and if you’re after the Big Five, you’ll be nearby some of the finest game farms!

The cottage is situated on an organic farm, where you will be invited to feast on local produce. You’ll also be provided with home-made, natural shower products! Montagu was voted Town of the Year in 2012, not only for its gorgeous views, beautiful architecture and excellent hot springs- but for the kindness and hospitality of the local people.

10. Natural Life At Tiny Cottage, Sakuho, Minamisaku District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan

This minimalist tiny cottage in Japan’s beautiful countryside was handmade by the owner and his friends. It’s completely off the grid- powered by solar energy panels and there is no running water. Have no fear, there’s a public bath nearby!

If you love cooking, this cottage is for you. You can buy and eat organic foods made by local farms! This tiny way of living is such a unique experience. There is no doubt you’ll feel inspired and refreshed by the stunning views of mountains, singing birds, and the smell of fresh, crisp air.

backpacks for adventure seekers

When Your Biggest Fears Come True

This post was originally published on Belong Magazine.

There comes a time in life where your biggest fears come true. Mine happened unexpectedly while I was kayaking on a beautiful blue lagoon nestled in a quaint fishing village in Vietnam. I had been backpacking in Africa for two months and reminisced on the fond memories I had in Uganda and Zambia while I looked at the vibrant green mountains and clouds painted around me. I had met the most incredible people and had a calling to pursue my dream business: creating backpacks that symbolize and support girls education. I never once thought for a second my biggest fear would come true. I was on the last leg of my backpacking trip excited to start the next chapter of my life in South East Asia. I was finally living in the moment. I felt a calmness in me that I can’t quite explain.

I breathed in this stillness and thought, “My life is perfect.”

That stillness was soon interrupted by the buzzing of my phone- it was my mom. My first reaction was, “I’ll just call her later when I’m back on land.” But my phone did not stop ringing. I had this bad feeling inside of me I could not shake off.  I paddled frantically back to shore and ran to my room. I had five missed calls. I called her back. She said in between sobs, “ I need you to come home. Daddy died.”

I was hit by a wave of pain, shock, and sadness. I immediately crashed to the floor. The room was spinning. Gravity took hold of me. “ No. Please. No. No. No. He can’t be dead. Why? He’s alive. He’s fine. He can’t be dead. He was healthy. He’s only 66. This is all a dream. A joke.” He’s alive. I’m going to wake up. WAKE UP, Danielle.

I didn’t wake up. Fast forward to the day I planned my father’s funeral. I was consumed by self-pity and anger. My life was perfect and the universe decided to take that away from me, and give me the biggest fear of my life. Losing my father.

I had the weight of my family, funeral, and the loss of my father on my shoulders. I could not fathom living in a world without him. He was supposed to be there for my wedding, the birth of my children, and when all my dreams came true. He will never walk me down the aisle, and he will never get to hold his grandchild. I will never hear him talk again about one of his greatest loves in life: music. The thought killed me.

But I had two options.

  1. I could go back to my self-destructive coping mechanisms and numb the pain.

  2. Or I could do something even crazier. I could persevere.

I looked up at the Funeral Home Director as he handed me all his paperwork to sign. “Take all the time you need,” he said. I didn’t need time. I knew what I had to do.

This was the day I decided to pursue my calling. ACE.

My heart hurt. But my idea was still flickering a tiny light in my head, and now in my heart. I know that this is exactly what my father would have wanted. This time, I was all in.

It’s Times Like These

Think of your biggest fear. Has it come true? Has fear ruled the path of your life? Or has fear empowered you? I remember the anger I felt holding my father’s death certificate. My hands were trembling as I read the word “deceased.” I walked around the mortuary at my father’s funeral with a blank face wondering, “What next?” I felt that anger again. I was so, so angry. I wasn’t just angry that he died. I was angry with myself. Why didn’t I call him when I got to Vietnam? Why did I move to New York to just be farther away from him? Why did I travel when I could have been home spending the last few months that he had on this earth? I wish I could have held him for one last time, tell him how much I love him, and make sure he knew that he is the most amazing father. But I didn’t have that chance.

When I got back to New York a few months after his death, I became overwhelmed with anxiety and self-doubt about ACE. I wanted to pursue ACE. I had that fire inside of me, but those thoughts always crippled me and that fire became a dim light.

“I want ACE to happen so bad and to honor my father but what if I fail? I have $10,000 from him- what if I use it to make ACE happen and it fails? What “honor” would I be bringing him?” There were so many times I wish he had given me answers.

I went back to working at the coffee shop and decided to completely open up to my coworker and friend, Garrett, about everything that’s happened in my life. “I have been trying so hard to figure out how to honor my father after all of this. But I am terrified of disappointing him. Failing him.”

Garrett said the best thing that I have carried with me till this day. “Honor yourself. If you honor yourself, you are already honoring your father. Because your father would’ve wanted you to be happy. Go after your dreams. Live your life according to you- even if you do fail. That’s how you honor him. Through honoring yourself.”

He was right.

My father never wanted to change me. All he wanted was for me to be happy and healthy. He never pressured me to be anything but myself. But who am I and who do I want to be? I wanted to be someone who lived like an ace.

An ace is someone who has struggles, but despite the struggles, despite the fears, an ace decides to keep going and be the best version of themselves. An ace is someone who perseveres, lives boldly and courageously. Someone who spearheads their dreams with fear, but achieves them with courage.

That is who an ace is. THAT is who I want to be.

We all share struggles, every single day. Most of the time, my struggle is grief. Some days, it’s self-doubt. Other days, it’s depression. Every day is a different struggle. What’s your struggle? Whatever it is, we can all choose to be aces.

You make the choice. Making that decision is scary. Terrifying, actually. It requires you to take risks. Taking risks means being vulnerable. It means the possibility of failing and then deciding to rise up again, and again, and again. When you rise up, there’s only the process, because there are no guarantees when you take a risk. Just you and the beautiful unknown.

The Moment

Everyone has that moment. The moment that they decide to put on the battle armor and fight with all their heart. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to fight.

My story may be the same as yours, or it could be different. The point is, we all go through this moment. The moment where it feels the universe is stacked against you while you wear your silly little wooden armor suit with your silly wooden sword and you go out there to take on the world. “Is that all you got universe?!” I still find myself saying.

But that’s it. That’s the moment. Whether that moment comes after losing someone you love, or losing the house you grew up in, or after going through a traumatic experience. OR, that moment could just come! Out of nowhere. That moment is everything. That moment is where you decide.

Are you going to rise up from the ashes? Dust yourself off? Or are you doing to stay down? This moment…this is where I want to encourage you to rise up.

When you rise up, that’s when the magic happens.

I’ve come so far since that moment. I finished the design of my backpack, created a spec sheet, sourced a bajillion fabrics, published three articles, attended textile conferences and met with fabric suppliers from all over the world, created a website, made business cards, launched social media accounts, hired a sample maker, and I went to an amazing conference specifically for women who live like aces. I’ve made new friends, met the most inspiring people, and the most important thing? Every time I wanted to give up, I didn’t. I never surrendered.  

When Life Happens

Life is full of trial and adversity, but it is at those pivotal moments that we can shape the success we have tomorrow.

When faced with the unknown, most people prefer to stay within the comfort of security. But what if next time you were faced with life’s oppositions, you stood your ground and forged a new path?

I’m not promising it will be easy. In fact, it will be one of the hardest things in your life you’ve ever done. I’ve cried and screamed into my pillow many times. I’ve told myself over and over again, “I can’t do it.” But every single time, I always ask myself, “But what if I can?”

It is only when you’re tested that you can truly discover who you are and who you can be.

Every woman goes through the battlefield to succeed. But what you don’t know is that these ups and downs of daily wins and losses lead the successful women we are today. Success is a movement, not a destination. And in order to create that movement, you have to take action.

I believe that an ace is for truth living individuals who own their story. Through being vulnerable, we find the courage to empower ourselves to reach our full potential. Through that act of bravery, we are able to create an impact greater than ourselves that can send ripples through the universe. I’ve owned my story. Now it’s your turn to own yours.

Every day you have a choice, to live like an ace or not too. That choice we make in the moment can define the rest of our lives. Find your inner ace, she’s in there somewhere. When you do, let her thrive in this magical, chaotic battlefield I call success.

minimalist backpacking zambia

Become A Master Minimalist: 5 Tips

This post was originally published on Eco Warrior Princess.

The moment I realized I had too much stuff was when I went on my first backpacking trip to Africa. I had to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Looking through my closet I discovered I hadn’t worn 75% of my clothes and thought, “Why do I have so much shit?!”

The worst part of it all was that 75% of my closet was worth about $3,000. I spent $3,000 on things I didn’t even end up using.

Backpacking in Africa completely woke me up. The families I spent time with had very little, but they didn’t seek for more. They were content. Happy. They had everything they needed. I wanted to live like that.

When I came back from my travels, I returned to my daunting closet and removed everything I had in it. The only items I put back into my closet were the ones in my backpack. I knew as a traveler minimalism was important to me, but now I wanted to live a simpler, more enriched lifestyle.

Adopting minimalism to my daily life meant realizing all the stuff I currently had did not define me as a human being. It did not reflect what brings me joy or who I am. I wanted to live a lifestyle that is representative of what matters to me. None of this stuff mattered.

I did not need the excess amount of clothes because what was important to me was forming real human connections.

So I asked myself, “If I had less and appreciated what I had more, does that mean I can experience and appreciate my life and relationships more?” The answer was yes.

Becoming a master minimalist isn’t about having less things. It’s about appreciating what you already have.

Here are a few things that helped me during my minimalist journey.

Identify your essentials.

Write what you absolutely need to use every single day. Be as descriptive as possible. For example, instead of writing “clothes” write out “shirt, jeans, socks”. List it all down: your keys, wallet, phone, toothbrush…these are your essentials. The more detailed you are, the easier it will be for you to decide what to let go.

Minimalist backpacking tips

Here is the backpacking list that inspired my minimalist lifestyle:

Four-Month Travel Checklist

  1. 2 pairs of pants
  2. 1 long sleeve shirt
  3. 1 t-shirt
  4. 2 tank top
  5. 1 bra
  6. 1 rain jacket
  7. 5 pairs of underwear
  8. 1 swimsuit
  9. Scarf
  10. Sseko sandals
  11. Slip Ons
  12. Nikes
  13. Toothbrush
  14. Toothpaste
  15. Razor
  16. Hair Brush
  17. Hair ties
  18. Prescriptions: Cipro, Probiotic, Imodium
  19. Towel
  20. Sunscreen
  21. Bug Spray
  22. Hat
  23. Laptop
  24. Headlamp
  25. Camera
  26. Chargers/adapters
  27. Passport and Visas
  28. Kindle
  29. Shampoo/Body Wash
  30. Notebook

Ask yourself what adds value to your life versus what is collecting dust.

This is the hardest part: being honest with yourself. As I was going through my belongings it was really easy for me to decide what stayed and what had to go. I realized I cycle through an essential core group of clothing (and things) that I always came back to. Those were the keepers.

If it was “collecting dust” (things I hadn’t worn in a long time, or couldn’t remember why I had it), they had to go. The process can get tricky with items that hold sentimental, emotional value.

For example, I adore my record collection. While I don’t need to have all these records, I still use them consistently. However, I don’t need the clothes that I didn’t wear in my closet hanging around. I don’t need them because I don’t use them.

If you are having trouble with this process I suggest checking out Courtney Carver’s Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for three months!

Get rid of the fluff.

Begin separating what goes in the donate box vs the sell box. You absolutely should not throw things away as that would be a waste!

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to donate or sell, call your local thrift stores, or even ask any friends/family if they need anything that you may have. Clutter can create such a negative space. You’ll feel refreshed letting go of things and find  peace in your own home.

Consume less.

We are told by the media that we need to buy new clothes to stay up with the trends. What makes it so easy is that it’s not expensive thanks to companies like H&M and Forever21.

When you achieve Step 2 on the list, however, consuming less comes second nature. When you decide to buy, buy what you need. Buy things that are of higher quality, sustainable, and ethically made. Part of consuming less is consuming consciously.

Minimize your waste.

Going zero waste helped me become a minimalist. I had to think about everything I used and make sure it would never end up in a landfill.

Living zero waste meant everything had to serve a purpose. Instead of buying plastic disposable razors, I bought a safety razor. Instead of plastic water bottles, I bought myself a Klean Kanteen. My inspiration? Check out Trash Is For Tossers. By minimizing your waste, you’re already minimizing your consumption of things you don’t need.

Are you ready to become a minimalist?

minimalist backpacking zambia

What is important for you to understand is that you cannot turn into a minimalist overnight. Take your journey toward minimalism one step at a time, and as you develop a conscious understanding of what is truly important to you, you’ll become a better, happier, and more fulfilled individual, surrounded by what you truly value in your life.

ACE Backpacks origin story

ACE’s Origin Story

Let me just start with the fact that I never, ever, thought that I would be designing backpacks. All I knew was that I wanted to dedicate my life doing something that made the world a better place.

I wanted to be a truth seeker. Find the truth. Tell that truth. Then share it with the world. Where does a truth-seeking 18-year-old go? Journalism school! I pursued a degree in Journalism at the University of San Francisco. Storytelling immediately became my biggest passion. It wasn’t until October 9th, 2012 while I sat in my Journalism Ethics class, I knew how important that would be to me.

That day, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for going to school. My professor came in that morning and put on the news. She looked at us with tears streaming down her face and said, “The truth matters.”

To say that Malala’s story impacted me is a downplay. Her story inspired me to dedicate my entire life to storytelling and girls education.

After I graduated college I landed a job at a media company, packed my bags in San Francisco and moved across the country to New York City. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, my big career move wasn’t for me. I was miserable working at a desk 9-5 feeling as if my passions and creativity were drifting away. All I knew was that I was never going to find my dream at a desk job. So I quit.

I spent two years trying to figure out my career path. Was it graduate school for Journalism? A writing job at a reputable news outlet? A freelancing gig? I knew my passions but not what I wanted to do with them.

I needed to do some serious soul searching. How you might ask? I left my office job and became a barista at the coolest coffee shop in the city (s/o Pushcart Coffee) and nanny for the coolest kid I know in the Upper West Side. I saved enough money after a year of work to put my entire life in a backpack and headed to Uganda.

Still unsure of what my career path may be I still knew I wanted to dedicate my life to girls education.

Here I was in a special little town called Mbale. I always dreamed of the red dirt roads and the beautiful green mountains in Uganda. The sound of boda boda drivers and the smell of rolex’s brought me so much excitement to get out of bed and explore.

One morning I walked out of my apartment and saw hundreds of students in uniforms walking proudly to the local primary school, balancing books on their heads.

Of course, my immediate reaction was, “These kids should have backpacks – just like students in America do!”

It was at that moment the idea hit me. I need to make backpacks for these kids! I will sell a backpack in the United States and give a backpack to a child in need.

Excited about my idea, I ran home to tell my housemate who appreciated my enthusiasm but told me the harsh reality:

Roughly 80% of these students will not make it to secondary school.

That was unacceptable to me. These students didn’t need backpacks. What good is a backpack if kids don’t have access to education? The struggle wasn’t carrying books. It is a plethora of issues: child labor, early marriages, lack of sanitary pads, transportation, disability…the list goes on. However, the universal challenge is poverty.

This changed my original idea to give free backpacks to kids to using the backpack as a symbol of education.

Something that will advocate for education, create jobs that lift people out of poverty and empower children across the globe.

A backpack isn’t just a thing to carry stuff in. It means so much more.

Coming back to New York in 2016, I returned to my coffee shop job and continued nannying. Starting ACE has been a constant work in progress, but I’m doing exactly what I’ve felt destined to do. A seed was planted in my heart that day I saw those kids walking to school in Uganda. It’s been a wild journey watering that seed every day. This is where the story of ACE began.