How Women Can Prosper Together: A Conversation with FemCity Founder Violette De Ayala

FemCity Founder Violette De Ayala

I am so excited about the conversation I had recently with Violette De Ayala, founder of Fem City. I had the privilege of meeting her a few months ago when she visited our FemCity Jacksonville chapter. She is an amazing woman and I know you will feel encouraged and inspired (just as I was) when you listen to our talk.

You may listen to our podcast here:

If you prefer reading, you may check out our transcribed talk below. Thank you Violette!

Debbie DiPietro: Hello, this is Debbie DiPietro. I am a longtime blogger. I created my award-winning blog, The Warm Milk Journal, back in 2010. That blog was all about living the life of our dreams by day, and sleeping restfully at night because I for many years struggled. I struggled with insomnia and anxiety and issues of social anxiety. And so, this brand new show, Courageously Go, is an extension of my work on The Warm Milk Journal. My goal is to have a conversation about courage. A conversation, a global conversation, for women and the world because I truly believe that this is the time for women to step up and step into our greatness, and find our voices, and be courageous, and live the most confident, and joy filled life that we can. The world will be a better place because of it.
And now, I don’t wish to wait any longer. I am so excited about introducing today’s guest, Violette De Ayala. Violette realized her destiny was to enrich both the professional and personal lives of talented women looking to grow their businesses, revenue, and connections. Violette launched her first business at the age of 22 and has not looked back. As a serial entrepreneur with an obsession for business growth she is seasoned in the rocky road of self employment and understands the challenges and obstacles women face when creating their own vision of success. She’s best known for creating one of the fastest growing international business organizations for women, FemCity, and sharing her secrets on achieving her grandest vision in business and life.
As a motivational speaker, small business expert, coach, and writer Violette shares her knowledge and offers others the inspiration to create and pursue their own destiny in business. Violette is a one of a kind, authentic, and inspiring keynote speaker. She is a pragmatic storyteller that weaves her own successes, past fears, and challenges into life lessons through personal anecdotes. Her approach to leading a successful business an enriched lifestyle utilizing humor and mindfulness that inspires women globally. A no excuse demeanor is the foundation for her every word. Violette was selected as one of Isaac Mizrahi’s muses for his Malibu Collection and has been featured in People, In Style, and Real Simple magazines. She’s been quoted in Success, CNBC, Entrepreneur, Mashable, Huff Post, Business News Daily, and Business Insider as business expert. Lastly, she served as part of the White House Women Environmental Leaders Program. She was the keynote speaker for Accenture’s International Women’s Month Event, the SBA Regional Women’s Conference, and Speak Up Women at the U.N. in New York City.
Violette, welcome to Courageously Go.

Violette De Ayala: Thank you so much. Thank you, and you pronounced my name perfectly. So, thank you so much.

Debbie DiPietro: Yay. Oh, you’re welcome. I am just absolutely thrilled to have you today on Courageously Go. I joined our Jacksonville chapter a few months back, and I knew even back then the more I learned about FemCity, and I started looking, watching your webinars and learning a little more about you… I knew that when this podcast started up I was going to reach out to you. I made that decision, and then I met you in person. Right? You came here pretty recently to Jacksonville for a brunch to visit with our local chapter, and when I met you in person I just knew I definitely wanted to connect with you and have you as a guest on our show. So, once again, welcome, and thank you for being here.

Violette De Ayala: Thank you so much. It was great to be there with the Fems of Jacksonville and to meet you face to face. I try to connect with all the members as much as I can through social media, but it’s always a gift to see you guys in person, so thank you.

Debbie DiPietro: Yeah, it was great. Why don’t we just start with FemCity because it’s just such a tremendous organization that you’ve created, Violette.

Violette De Ayala: Sure, I started Fem City in 2009. I was actually craving something that felt more like a family and more like community. And I would go to all the networking events here in South Florida and increasingly grew a little frustrated. You know? It seemed to be really big events, fabulous events with every single detail accounted for, but I felt always like I was missing something. I would leave and I just felt that I was missing that connectivity, I was missing a feeling of sisterhood. And for many years I just continued to float around to all the different events whether it was $500 an event, or $100 a plate, or it was a free event. And after doing that for quite some time, I just decided, “You know what? I’m gonna start something on my own.” And at the time, my vision was only for 20, or 25 women. It was only going to be in Miami, and we would just meet once a month, and really just support each other, and share tips of advice and inspiration and education, and just be there as a support for one another, and so, my first event was that.
We just had 25 women, and it was okay. It wasn’t like the most exciting event, and then it continued to grow and grow. And now, we are in 70 communities around the world. We’re projected to be in about 200, or 300 at the end of 2018. And really, what we do is we host local business workshops for women, we have an online platform for them to take classes. We generally, have a lot of free classes because we understand that some women are just getting started in business and perhaps don’t have the 20, or $30 to invest in themselves just yet. And everything that we do is centered around how do we get more women in business and how do we get them to create the revenue that they need to live the life that they’ve always envisioned?

Debbie DiPietro: And it’s quite a community, and I like how you put it, “It’s a place where women prosper together.”
Violette De Ayala: Yes.

Debbie DiPietro: Right? And so, what are you looking at in 2018. It’s continuing to grow, you say?

Violette De Ayala: Yes. So, we just launched recently our collective community, which means that now we will launch in more cities. It will be confined to only 25 women because we want it to that feeling of family and community. We felt like that was just a really great number. That’s the number that I envisioned back in 2009, and we can actually now launch these in smaller pockets. So we’ll have the bigger cities like Jacksonville, which is our hub, but we recognize that smaller cities, for instance, like Little Rock, Arkansas, or Marietta, Georgia. You know? That they don’t have the accessibility at times to always drive an hour to a Fem City hub that we want to be there and support them at a more hyper local way, and so we’re launching these communities. The response has been amazing.
And so with this new, I guess, series of events, what are really just workshops, so they don’t include lunch, they’re not any kind of dinner, or social. They’re purely just workshops. I’ll create the curriculum for them. We’re all on the same topic. Every single month we’ll have a new topic, and we’re really excited about launching. We launch in January, and with this new format we really feel that we can be there for women around the world that have been asking for us to be there for them. And now, we have a possibility of really being there on the ground to help women, like you said, “come together and prosper.”

Debbie DiPietro: That’s really exciting! Why don’t we, right now, just share with our listeners the website. If they want to learn more about FemCity where should they go?

Violette De Ayala: Sure, it is femcity.com, it’s F-E-M-C-I-T-Y dot com, and membership is free. So again, if you’re just starting out in business, you’re not really sure if you want to be in business you just kinda want to be a part and take our classes you can join as a community member. And for those that are in business for themselves already, and they are looking for platforms, and they’re looking to post articles and events and utilize all the features that we have online, then of course, the business membership is $150 for the year. And for those that are looking at our collective edition that starts in January the $150 will also include the monthly events. And so, it’s kind of an inclusive package, again, because they’re hyper local and the worksheets are already created by me and very easy to launch and lead one if you’re interested.

Debbie DiPietro: That sounds great!T here’s so many helpful resources (in the website), and I’ve been a member now for a few months, and I haven’t even … I need to go in there and even explore more. There’s so many great webinars and interesting articles just to help not just in business but also in life. Right? You have lifestyle posts and just all kinds of things to help women of all ages out there. And what do you find, Violette, what are some challenges that women who say want to go into business right now? What are some of the challenges that you’re finding people are needing help with?

Violette De Ayala: The number one challenge that I see consistently is the belief in themselves. And so, when I do lecture and I speak or I teach a class, it always goes back to the fear that they don’t have what it takes. So they accept these limitations, or when they encounter challenges as we all do it throws off their vision and their focus. And so they then kind of then stay in this state of mediocrity meaning that their not living their life to their fullest potential. You know?
So, all of us have a sense of greatness within us, the power to change the world with our own little piece, our own little take. And when we don’t step into that, and we become fearful, and we become from a mindset of lack, or of poverty it prevents us from moving forward. And then of course, it prevents the world from shifting forward also. Right? Since each of us has a part to play in community. And so, I really think that’s the fundamental issue. I always tell them, “I can teach you all the secrets to creating wealth. I can teach you exactly how to do things. But at the end of the day if you feel that you don’t deserve it, if you feel that you don’t have what it takes, or if you feel like you’re a fraud.” or all these kind of stories that I hear them playing out in their mind then really … I cannot impact you to the fullest potential. Right? And so, that’s the one thing that I see over, and over, and over again is the mindset that I can’t do this.

Once they surpass that, then it’s like the whole world is open to them. They realize, “You know what? If Debbie can be successful and she has a very similar background than I do then I can too.” And so, when we share the stories of our background, the challenges we’ve had, and the times that we’ve failed, the times that we’ve tripped, the times that we’ve lost everything, have really deep hurt, when we share those stories with other women we propel each other to move forward because then we all see the commonalities. So, you know what? “Violette’s life isn’t perfect. You know? She did have some struggles, and I see her now in this life, but it wasn’t always the case. And so, I too, have hopes for myself.” And so, that’s the kind of the second thing that I would say is that if you’re a woman listening and you are dealing with either of those to step forward and not only to surpass that mindset that might be limiting you, but once you pass that to share story with other fems because it inspires them to get through to that next level also. And that’s how we shift community as one rises we all rise together, but it’s important for us to acknowledge that it’s the responsibility of each of us that once we get through that breakthrough that we share it with others.

Debbie DiPietro: Yeah, that’s a really great way of putting it, and it is very powerful. Being vulnerable, being who we are and saying, “This is me world.” And that’s a big driver of why I’m even doing this podcast, Violette, is for many years, I know you don’t know me very well, but for many years, I was challenged with social anxiety and anxiety and really being afraid of putting myself truly out there. And the result was really not going for my dreams. And I’ve always had a lot of … I was always a great student, I have always had a lot of … I have all these degrees. Right? And talents, and abilities, but I never really did a whole lot because I kept myself back, and it was all … it’s me. I did it to myself. Right? And so, I agree with what you’re saying, and I think it is great work you’re doing in supporting women who are holding themselves back.
And also I might add, I mean, you lead by example. I remember when you visited us and you were up there and definitely showing us your vulnerabilities. You’re essentially an open book, you’re a light to our small audience. You’re like, “Okay, ladies, ask me anything, fire away.” And you were just great, and you shared with us your background, and so I thank you for … that’s a great model for us because it’s not always easy. Is it? To be vulnerable, and to perhaps share things that we’re not necessarily proud of, or feel very good about, but that’s a good starting point.

Violette De Ayala: Right. Oh, thank you so much for sharing that, and I really do try. I was a keynote speaker last night at an event here in South Florida, and I shared kind of the three areas of my life with [inaudible 00:14:34] And so, you can see through Instagram, or through Facebook lives that look perfect. Right?

Debbie DiPietro: Right.

Violette De Ayala: Everything’s perfect, the counter tops are perfect, the kids are perfect. And then it creates anxiety for those that are watching because they feel like they don’t stand a chance, that that person is gifted in some way to achieve this life that they’ve envisioned, and so there’s no hope. And so, when you do share the icky moments, when you do share the times that you’ve lost everything. You know? That perhaps you had to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwich for years, or even just peanut butter because you couldn’t afford the jelly. You know? When you share those stories, I think some of us feel like we shouldn’t share those because then it goes against the person that we’ve created, but I always tell women, “Share those stories because we all need to hear.”
And as I shared those stories last night, there were women in the audience that were crying. There were about 80 women in the audience and they were crying because a piece of my story was a piece of their story. And it may not be the exact timeline, or I might be a little bit more brown than they are, or whatever the differences are, but the reality is that we all have these stories embedded in our lives that are very similar and when we start sharing them and remove the embarrassment, remove the allure of having to kind of confess. Right? Like, “Oh, my gosh, things weren’t perfect, and I had to struggle, but there’s beauty in that.”
And it really does inspire others to pick themselves and get back in the game. It really serves them, and I think that’s a huge part of society. We read about these celebrities, and we read about kind of like they just woke up and they were beautiful, and they woke up and they were perfect, and they got the lead part, and everything’s fantastic. And then when you start hearing about how they grew up homeless, and they had to eat out of the garbage can, and how … then all of a sudden we really love them. Why? Because there’s a piece of that within us all, the struggle to rise. And that’s what makes humans at the end of the day. We just want to feel connectivity to other humans.

Debbie DiPietro: We do, we are human. That’s true. We’re social creatures aren’t we?

Violette De Ayala: Yeah.

Debbie DiPietro: And we learn from each other. I think we mirror, Violette. I think we see one another in each other and that is so powerful- storytelling. And maybe while we have … we do have a little bit of time, and with this audience here on Courageously Go if you wouldn’t mind sharing maybe just a little bit back at a time in your life when perhaps you were experiencing fear, or perhaps you, yourself, you were holding yourself back? Maybe you wouldn’t mind sharing something with us.

Violette De Ayala: Sure, I think that one story comes to mind and it’s probably the most encapsulated kind of story, so it helps a variable kind of scenarios is that I grew up with a mother who is a drug addict. She is addicted to opiates, she’s been addicted to something or other my entire life, and she’s also very narcissistic. So I grew up with a mother who enjoyed looking in the mirror, who enjoyed pictures of herself by herself throughout the house. And so, I grew up the opposite. Right? I feel uncomfortable looking in the mirror, I feel uncomfortable being in the limelight, which is ironic. And I had that until a couple of years ago, I would say. And so, in the past, I owned a PR company. I’m really good at pitching other people and getting other people in newspapers and magazine. And when it came to FemCity we would try to hire publicists to help, and it just never seemed to work. And then I thought, “Well, I’ve done it for other clients. I’ll just do it for Fem City, I’ll just do it myself.” And I kept putting it off. Right?
I kept putting it on my to do list. The next week it would kinda go to the week list and then the next week. And then, like a year goes by, and this pitched PR has been on my task list for over a year. And so, I had to have that kind of heart-to-heart internal conversation to see like what really is happening. Why do I keep procrastinating? Because I believe when we procrastinate there’s fear, it’s a fear based … it’s with that we no longer want to do it. It’s no longer a priority anymore, it needs to be thrown out the window, or there is something that, yes, we do need to do, we recognize that, or we’re procrastinating because there is something there that is connecting us to some fear. And so, when I thought about that, my fear, it came out to that I was scared that pitching FemCity would mean that I was pitching myself, and that equated to an egocentric, narcissistic persona.
And I was so scared of being that because, again, you don’t want to be … People that have really put you in through a lot of hurt, you don’t want to kind of repeat that. So, I was avoiding doing PR for FemCity because I felt like it was really promoting myself, which felt uncomfortable, it felt narcissistic. So, once everything kind of like exorcized it was really interesting, and then I was chatting with a friend of mine, one of my closest friends, Nikki Novo, she’s got a great website too, nikkinovo.com. And she said to me, “Violette, you need to look at yourself separately. When you are not pitching FemCity and the work that you guys are doing, you are not helping millions of women. And so, you have to look at it that more PR you do, the more it helps women around, and it’s not narcissistic. You just happen to be the person behind the brand, so you’re pitching the brand you’re not pitching yourself.” She kind of made it so it shifted in my mind, and I was able to realize, “She’s absolutely right. Just because I’m pitching FemCity to newspapers and publications it’s not a narcissistic thing to do, it’s actually helping the world.”
And so, I started doing it, and Debbie within, I would say, a month we got into almost every business magazine, and it was incredible. And so, and then because of that we were able to launch more communities, more women were joining us for our free classes, and our webinars. And so, that’s a great story of kind of … I think that’s another thing that I see with women is that we’re so scared of promoting ourselves, or giving ourselves shout outs, or honoring who are, and we’re kind of scared. We don’t want to be that person that’s taking a million selfies. But at the end of the day, when we do that to ourselves we have to put it into perspective of how are we also then how does that domino effect impact the service that we’re providing for the world? And so connecting with that. So, anyway, that’s one story that I share often because I think a lot of women struggle with that too. When is too much promotion too much? When is it narcissistic, and when is it beneficial to the world?

Debbie DiPietro: I think you’re right, and that’s a really good insight that you had. It seems to be … and I haven’t been doing this podcast for a whole … let’s see, this maybe the 10th episode, but that seems to be a common theme, Violette, is that it is hard for many of us women to promote ourselves. Isn’t it? It is. I know just speaking for myself, I have a successful blog, I have a beautiful book out, I have all these great things. I’m doing really good work in the world, and my, back then she was 19, my 19 year old daughter would come to me and she’d say, “Mom, you know, you don’t promote yourself enough.” And I’m like, “Hmm.” I really had to take a look at that.
My young daughter is saying that, and you know, she was right, and I don’t. And so, part of the goal of this podcast is I’m a bit introverted and I’m definitely out of my comfort zone doing this although it is a blast, it’s a lot of fun. Still, I have to think through, “Okay.” You know? “Debbie, what do you keeping from the world by not promoting yourself? A, you’re doing good work, and no one is going to find out about it. And by promoting myself, and promoting the good work I’m doing I can help others.” And I know … I kept my notes from that brunch we had with you, and on the very top I know one of your fundamental values is always to be of service to others. Right?

Violette De Ayala: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Debbie DiPietro: And if we’re doing good work, and we’re not sharing it with the world then who are we? We’re not helping anyone, are we?

Violette De Ayala: Right.

Debbie DiPietro: So, I have to … I remember that. It’s something that’s-
Violette De Ayala: Yeah, and your podcast. Yeah, so your podcast, every content that you have serves.
Debbie DiPietro: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Violette De Ayala: Right? Because the content is always going to be helping women to step into their greatness. And so, if you can help 10 women that’s fantastic, but what happens when you can help 100,000 women with the same amount of energy? And so, to look at it from that perspective is a beautiful thing, so that it steps away from the narcissistic fears that we have because “Oh, my gosh,” It’s like, “Can I post my podcast and people are gonna think I’m narcissistic and then if I post a picture, and it’s all about Violette, or it’s all about Debbie?” And so, getting to these kind of like conversations, but the reality is the work is good. Does the work help others live life better? If the answer is, yes, which I think it should always be. Every product that we use helps are lives. So, if you’re a yoga instructor, your service is to help people find balance, is to help them find internal and external balance for that matter if you are a hairstylist then your work helps others feel really confident about themselves. So, everything that we do in a service for others …
There’s a disconnect sometimes, I think, that this is not flourishing because they’re in it for the wrong reasons. Right? So, they just do something because it makes a lot of money, or they just want to be in newspapers, and magazines. And that’s generally when we see things not flowing correctly, that’s nonalignment because the service for others is missing. So, if you always bring it back to that the ego goes away, the narcissistic tendencies, or thoughts, or fears go away, and that we recognize, “Yes, for the same amount of energy, this podcast can help 100,000 women have those aha moments, wake up, and say that, that’s it.” You know? “That 30th time I’ve heard that same sentence I’m going to finally do it.” And then that’s the biggest impact you can have. That’s in your own purpose.

Debbie DiPietro: I agree with that. Yeah, so we have about two minutes left. And we’ve established that, yes, we have a tendency to hold ourselves back and we need to take ownership of that, but we’re, all of us, women around the globe, we’re in a position to help one another by sharing. We can share our stories, share vulnerabilities, but with our remaining time we have together maybe you could share with us. How can we go more globally? How can we help our global community?

Violette De Ayala: You mean as women just serving? Like, how do women- ?

Debbie DiPietro: As women, yes.

Violette De Ayala: Yeah, I think that, you know, start … So, I think a lot of times we think globally we have to do things that are really big, really enormous, biggest impact. And really, our work is in the individual, the people that we connect with every day, and do the work that we do. And so, the goal is, yes, you impact the world in a great immense way helping a million people shift into their greatness, or to find their alignment to their purpose, but that might be a little overwhelming. So really to spend your time … I did a podcast recently, like “How do you really help small businesses? What is it?” And at the end of the day, you don’t even have to purchase if you just give them shout outs, if you just show gratitude, if you just honor other people. Clap your hands for them. You will feel great. The energy that you’re sending out to them, they’ll feel it, they’ll feel, like, loved. And so, we have the ability to make these small moments, these small tiny activities mean a lot.
And I find sometimes, I say one little sentence when I’m speaking, or I’m teaching a class, and some students will just totally clue in on that one sentence and it shifts their entire life. I got an email a couple weeks ago from a woman here in Miami who said, “Oh, my gosh, Violette, I remember I took one of your classes and you told me one day to stick it out, to keep my mind on the focus.” And she just sent me an email saying she made $830,000 this year. She’s closing out the year. And so, sometimes it’s the small things. Right? Like, I probably was with her for maybe 30 minutes, but that impact was huge on her life. And so, don’t get caught into having to impact in these grand ways because it’s really the small things in life. It’s the little things that are said, when you applaud someone, when you tag them on something great, when you honor them, when you send them business. Those are the things that really add up into creating big movements.

Debbie DiPietro: Now, that’s a great perspective and something to keep in mind as we often do think big. You know? I want to make big contributions in the world…

Violette De Ayala: Yep.

Debbie DiPietro: Right. That’s great. Yeah. Well, let me ask you one last thing. What is something you’re excited about for 2018?

Violette De Ayala: I am really excited about the collected communities, and I’ll tell you why, Debbie. For the last year or two years, we have had women around the world ask to have a Fem City location in their backyard and we have not been able to do that. And I’m really excited that we’ve taken the feedback from all these women that we’ve chatted with throughout the last one year, two years, and we’ve created this collective program, so that we can launch in all these little pockets around the world. And so, I’m really excited because … the hardest thing is when someone asks of you to serve and you cannot. That is the … really it’s a very difficult thing because they want you so badly to be in their community, and you’re just not able to do it. And so, I’m really excited that we’ve created a program. We have it so that they’re easy for women to launch a Fem City community in their backyard. It is a volunteer position. It’s for 25 women only. We send the curriculum to them, so they all have everything in place. It’s a beautiful format where they have the opportunity to share gratitude to one another, gratitude for other women, for themselves. They have networking and education all for very, very inexpensive price for the entire year, so everyone can afford it.
I’m so excited because finally I feel that we will be able to serve women at those little, little pockets, kind of communities that have been asking for us for so long. So, I’m really to … That’s my biggest passion, is getting it going. And having women … We mentioned it on Monday we’ve already, I don’t know, 20 women reach out to us to say that they want to launch a Fem City collective and that’s fantastic. You know? Like, that’s boom, 25 in 48 hours. Who knows what the end of 2018 will bring?

Debbie DiPietro: Right. Well, that’s awesome.

Violette De Ayala: Thank you.

Debbie DiPietro: And you’re amazing. This conversation has gone by way too fast. I want to stay on and talk with you some more.

Violette De Ayala: I know.

Debbie DiPietro: You’re just so great, and I thank you.

Violette De Ayala: Well, we can do it again.

Debbie DiPietro: Oh, we’ll have to. Thank you so much for being a guest on Courageously Go, Violette. I appreciate you very much, and all the good work that you’re doing.

Violette De Ayala: Thank you, Debbie.

Debbie DiPietro: Thank you!

So ladies, until next time remember this, it’s our time to shine. Let’s make it so, and courageously go!

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