An Interview with Felicia Sullivan
On starting a female-focused company, the definition of "success" & knowing your boundaries.
Felicia is an award-winning author based in Los Angeles. Over the past two decades, she's built businesses & brands, and recently launched her own company, Phoebe & Kate. Her Twitter feed is one of my favourites. Ever. She also writes beautifully, is refreshingly honest and a total tour de force. This interview originally featured in my newsletter!
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
This is a wonderful question, one which, ironically enough, I’ve given thought to lately. Success for me used to be about the tangibles—the title, the bigger projects, and the zeros at the end of my check and what money could afford me. I’ve come to realize that your title doesn’t earn you respect or purpose, you earn it based on your character, compassion and desire to have real purpose in what you do. Notice I didn’t say love for what you do because that’s a tricky, privileged ideology that doesn’t really account for the dignity in the most mundane tasks. Maybe I’m getting older or perhaps I’m tiring of the constant need for velocity, but I’m viewing success from a different vantage point. I’m realizing that success comes from the things you can’t necessarily count or hold in your hand—how you make people who work for, and with you, feel. How you’re inspired and inspire. How you take the role of a humble student who’s always learning regardless of the tenure or age of the teacher, rather than someone who becomes complacent in their "expertise”. Did I do good work? Was I proud of my contribution? Did I enjoy working with my team? Did I learn from them? Did they learn from me? Was I challenged? Did this project take me to places I hadn’t planned on going but was excited where I landed, nonetheless. Success, for me, is can I sleep at night? Can I turn my phone off and be present, really present, for those whom I love. Success is, did I contribute? Did I learn? Did I move forward?
You recently launched your company, Phoebe and Kate! Can you tell us a little bit more about it? What are your plans and hopes for your first year?
Sure! Most of why I launched it you can read about here, but I wanted to start a diverse (in every sense of the word) woman-focused company that merged the right-brainers and left-brainers to do work that challenged and excited them. I’ve had an interesting career because I love writing dark experimental novels while working on brand marketing projects, and it only occurred to me recently that both can cohabitate peacefully in the sandbox. I also wanted to give women who were freelancers or looking for some extra cash a way to work on projects.
In short, we create brands and marketing and communication strategies for companies large and small, and we also create photography/video and compelling text for their social and digital properties. We’ll build your brand and story, show you how to tell that story to customers & give you the tools to make that story potent.
I really admire your honesty, particularly with pieces like "When You Can't Be the Person the Internet Wants You To Be". Do you have any tips for those who are scared to hit“publish” on their own stories?
It’s simple. Know your boundaries, stick to them and don’t be afraid to share what’s honest. If people are going to admonish you, fuck them. They aren’t on your bus and part of your tribe. Someone once told me that I shouldn’t talk about my struggle with depression openly, to which I responded, why not? If someone doesn’t want to hire me because I’m vulnerable and talk about going through a challenging point in my life, odds are they’re not someone I want to work with. It’s not as if I’m in brand meetings talking about Wellbutrin. When I’m with a client it’s business, but my personal life is my personal life and I’ll share that which I think might help or inspire others.
Your Twitter feed is a constant source of interesting reads. Who are your favourite people and/or publications to follow?
There are so many people to follow!! I’m all over the place because I love reading science news, pop culture, politics, lit news, etc. Here are a few favorites:
@ElecticLit: If you love books, this account is for you.
@s_m_i: Stacy is a truth-teller and I feel educated every time I read her feed.
@lkherman: She just graduated college and I love everything she tweets and her energy is infectious. Always accept cross-generational mentorship. Always learn from and teach those who are younger than you. It keeps you current, grounded and humble.
@suzanbond: Her tweets are spare, but potent. I always enjoy what she shares regarding freelancing, entrepreneurship and marketing.
@meigs: If you are into social media or marketing, get involved with her newsletter. Trust.
And lastly, what keeps you motivated? What keeps you inspired?
Follow Felicia on Twitter @FelSull.