“So, the greater part of me understands that joy, beauty, and pleasure are what’s sustainable. And that stress, strain, and toiling, are absolutely not. You will literally burn yourself down like a candle. But nonetheless, there are moments when work gets hard or my travel schedule is punishing that I say to myself, ‘have you done enough?’ Recognizing that’s coming up for me and it’s something that doesn’t belong to me, has been really helpful, said Julia Collins, Entrepreneur, Activist and Sustainable Food Leader.
How do you manage the tension that comes from operating in spaces that weren’t designed for you? We all know that Moms remain underrepresented in senior leadership. And for women of color, the stats are downright bleak. So, the normal friction that comes with growth, can feel more intense. Especially when you’re pursuing systems change in traditional industries. But we can choose differently. And bring our gifts to leadership in ways that are values aligned and energizing.
Find the Welcoming Spaces
Julia knew early that she wanted to center her career around food. “After Business School I even went to live on a Water Buffalo ranch in Southern Italy.” There’s been a slow revolution to restore more sustainable practices to an industry that holds so much power over our health and economy. She explained, “Although at the enterprise level, the industry can feel dominated by the patriarchy and devoid of soul. When you get into places where food is happening, not just the logistics but the growing, creating and serving of food, they’re more inclusive.” She was drawn to the hands-on experiences. Like boot-strapping a food truck with friends before founding the company that later gave her Unicorn status.
And Lead to Disrupt
Food is pretty central to our cultures, celebrations and very survival. It’s also an important lever in the fight to reverse climate change. So, Julia has focused her career on ventures that activate conscious consumerism. And make the food system more sustainable. “Now, at Planet Forward I’m very much in the space of working with large enterprise customers.” Which increases the potential for global impact. But also means leading in spaces that are less diverse. She added, “The way I reconcile that is to play the role of change agent and think about my work as transforming the status quo. From the industry’s current state, which is often not inclusive, male-dominated, and extractive. To the ideal state of being radically inclusive and nature positive.” So, how do you maintain the energy and will to do transformational work?
Resist Narratives that Don’t Belong to You
Many of us strive to have an impact on entrenched challenges. It’s both exhilarating and all consuming. So, we discussed managing that disharmony. “It’s something I’m working on right now. Because no matter how much I evolve and create more space for joy and permission for pleasure, there’s still this nagging voice inside that says, ‘you know Julia you’re going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far.’ And this is the ancestral part of what it means to be a Black woman who was once a little Black girl in America.” Another disheartening side effect of generational trauma. Epigenetic research has unveiled that in addition to what our parents may have told us, we inherit self-limiting stressors. Like proving our worth through overwork. Many of us were handed stories that don’t serve us. Some are cultural, and others are familial. So, how do you break free?
Find Solidarity in Community
Julia manages her mindset to override this conditioning. “Although I’m experiencing those thoughts and emotions, they don’t belong to me. And I can send them away. When I sit in community, with other Black women and underrepresented people, it’s also really nourishing. Because when I talk with many of my Asian American Pacific Islander friends, they also grew up with a similar narrative around performance. So, when you open up about these thoughts, you’ll find so many people who can identify with them. And when we name it and feel it together, it’s a lot less daunting than trying to grapple with it on our own.” Amen!
Build Your Routines for Daily Restoration
As intentional as she is about building a powerful legacy, through climate-friendly food, Julia builds restorative habits into her routine. “I really love playing with my kids, they’re so funny and creative. When I have no distractions and can just be with them, it’s so refreshing and nourishing for me to see the world through the eyes of a child. So, one thing I’ve done with my calendar, is not to take any meetings after 4:00 o’clock, Monday through Friday.” Some days, it can feel impossible to pause at a reasonable time. So, how does the leader of a dynamic organization makes this work?
And Memorialize the Time on Your Calendar
Julia explains, “It doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it gives me enough time to wrap up loose ends and start to transition into Mom mode for when the kids come home. So, when they get here, I’m present.” Even when we’re spending time on our highest priorities, staying present can be hard to do. And as our kids grow, it can feel the most elusive.
She added, “Then I don’t look at my phone or laptop until the boys go down for sleep at 7:30. Now, that means from 7:30 to 9:00 pm I have to do a little work and e-mail. But that’s okay, because I’ve created space and really hold it sacred.”
Share the Beauty of Boundaries With Your Team
Julia explained, “My team knows that time is non-negotiable and that I’m honoring it, by giving myself permission to do it. I don’t know why it seems so subversive to me, to say I stop working at 4:00 and then, come back online as needed. But I’m finding that it also serves other people, and not just the parents. It’s people who benefit from being outside or just want to walk their dogs. It allows them to set up their schedule in a way that is really beneficial and creates the most space for joy. Because I signpost it, as the founder and CEO, I notice other people are now doing that.”
And Champion Self-Care in Your Communities
Julia explained, “I believe in the relationship between self-care and community care. And I’m at a place in my self-care practice where I have so much joy that it can overflow. Which is something I’ve always craved, to be at a place where I can affect more joy for those around me.” Countless studies validate what many of us experience, the people we spend the most time with, have a profound influence on how we live.
She added, “For those of us that are doing a really good job on self-care, remember that others may not be. And we have this power to extend some of that joy, happiness and wellness to others. Like the people who support us in our homes, neighbors, immediate family, and our employees. Or even more broadly, through social media you can always spread little bits of joy and love.”
Many thanks to the talented Julia Collins!
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Julia Collins is the founder and CEO of Planet FWD, the leading climate management platform for consumer companies. Empowering the next generation of sustainable brands through its proprietary data and software, Planet FWD reduces the cost and complexity of creating sustainable products. In anticipation of her son one day asking what she did to fight the climate crisis, Julia created Planet FWD shortly after his birth, wanting a good answer for him. Planet FWD provides consumer companies with the tools to understand and reduce their carbon footprint to align with The Paris Agreement and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
The platform is inspired by Planet FWD’s own snack brand, Moonshot, which launched in 2020 as the first climate-friendly snack brand. Moonshot was recently acquired by Patagonia Provisions, a first for Patagonia in more than 20 years.
A serial entrepreneur, Julia previously co-founded Zume Pizza where she became the first Black woman “unicorn” when she created a venture-backed tech company valued at over a billion dollars. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Harlem Jazz Enterprises, which holds The Cecil, an Afro-Asian Brasserie, and Minton’s, a historic jazz supper club. While there, The Cecil won Best New Restaurant of the Year.
Earlier in her career, she built industry-leading food companies in New York City. Serving as a leader, she grew brands such as Union Square Hospitality Group, Mexicue and Murray’s Cheese.
In addition to leading Planet FWD, Julia sits on the Climate Collaborative board, the Food for Climate League board and the advisory council for Launch with GS. She is also an active angel investor focused on funding female entrepreneurs and BIPOC founders. Julia is also an Ambassador for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Julia holds a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford. She resides in San Francisco with her 2 sons and partner.Tags: Career Development for Moms, Entrepreneurship for Moms, Manage Stress For Moms, mental wellbeing for Moms, Moms Self care, stress management, work life integration for Moms