Featured Member: Stephanie Redcross West, founder, Vegan Mainstream

What kind of work do you do/business do you run?

I run a business that supports vegan business owners and entrepreneurs. Through a variety of services I help people learn how to run successful vegan businesses that change the world. I teach clients how to market themselves and their services in impactful ways, or how to build businesses so they are sustainable. But my bigger task and focus is ultimately in helping people to do work that aligns with their values and their dreams.

What do you love about it?

I love that I get to work with a diverse group of people, and also a diverse group of businesses. Because of that I have a really interesting life with the opportunity to see how many different business models tick. I’m very much a detail-oriented person so peeking behind-the-scenes of a business really feeds my imagination. I get to see how people are combining their amazing skills, their networks and the things they’re most passionate about to drive greatness in the world.

What’s your ‘why’ in life? What drives you?

My why is freedom. I want the freedom to be able to choose how I spend my time, how I spend my money, and how I invest in others.  Because this is so important to me I built a business that allows me those freedoms. Now, not only have I created a career and a lifestyle that aligns with that for myself, but I also have the opportunity to teach other people how to tap into those freedoms, too.

Why are you a member of the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network?

I love that this organization not only celebrates being a woman, but also that it celebrates women in leadership roles.  When I was younger I always struggled with what I perceived women were/weren’t allowed to do, as compared to men, in many businesses and careers.

Now that I’m older I want to spend more time and energy supporting organizations that acknowledge women as boundaryless, celebrating all of our glory, intelligence and talent without limitations. Because of this I feel at home with the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network.

What’s been the biggest highlight or ‘wow’ moment of your career/business/professional life?

When I was 5 years old I became interested in Japanese culture. While my interest originated with some of the food I had been eating at restaurants, it slowly transformed into a passion for Japanese photography, literature, arts and more.

As I got older the idea of working and living in Japan became a dream of mine. I got a chance to realize my dream in 1995 when I spent the summer studying in Japan. Then in 2003 I went back to work there, and even flew my family to Tokyo to celebrate Christmas that year.

Those experiences taught me that if I could dream it I could do it, and since then I have made a lifetime habit of choosing a big dream every few years.

Those chosen dreams become guides for me, helping me to make decisions and take actions consistently toward making my dreams become realities.

This practice keeps me focused on how to accomplish amazing things in my life, always moving forward and looking to the next dream.

How do you handle failures, fear and disappointment?

The first step for me — and it’s an important one — is allowing myself to really feel the pain and disappointment of failure. I’ve learned how to be ok with feeling afraid (as I’ve learned to be selective with my vegan deodorant!), and I’ve realized that I don’t have to pretend that I’m emotionless.

Instead I concentrate on developing routines and activities that I can use to recalibrate when I find myself struggling.  Sometimes these are actions I can perform before activities that give me the butterflies, or they are go-to activities I can rely on when something happens to derail my day.

I have a list of things I know can bring me back from a low moment, like watching a YouTube video with my favorite comedian, binging a suspenseful show on Netflix, or dancing to some amazing music.

But most importantly I don’t bury things, and recognize when I need to draw on these tactics to stop myself from going down a rabbit hole.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

That it’s okay to be assertive, okay to be ambitious and okay to dream big. I had to learn over time that these attributes didn’t make me less female, or less compassionate.

And maybe most importantly I would let my young self know that she doesn’t have to pretend to be “less than” to fit in or to prevent people from feeling intimidated by her.

I would teach her that the brighter her star shines the better she will be able to help people, the more people’s lives she can impact, and the more effectively she will be able to use the gift that she’s been given to make this world a better place.

Which women inspire you and why?

I’m inspired by women who not only do great things, but who have the courage to share their personal and intimate struggles with the world. I think one of the hardest things to do is open yourself up to the world’s judgement and ridicule.

I’m in awe of women like Beyoncé, who showed others how she healed herself after getting her heart broken, or like Michelle Obama, who managed her career aspirations while caring for her family and supporting her husband.

I admire artists like Lizzo, who helped me redefine my own body image.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how has it helped mould who you are now?

In my first job out of college I was harassed by a coworker, then bullied by the boys’ network in my department. I was afraid to do anything about it because I was living in the city by myself and supporting myself. I was an independent woman but I was worried that I might be risking my future if I spoke up.

So I asked my family for help  — if they would support me while I looked for a new job, and I was fortunate that they said yes.

I applied for every job I could find and in less than seven days I had secured a new job at a prestigious company and I was making double the money I had been making in my old job. Plus, I absolutely loved my new role.

This taught me that in life bad things can happen, but that good things happen too. I realized that if we don’t look for the good, even when the bad is painful, we might miss out on amazing opportunities.

To this day when something bad, hurtful or unfortunate happens in my life I take a step back so I don’t get consumed by negativity. I think about what good might be coming around the corner, if I’m brave enough to look for it.

What’s your superpower? What are you amazing at?

I have the ability to look at a complex situation or problem and peel back the layers until I can start to see a simplified solution. At that point the solution becomes very visual — almost three-dimensional — to me, so I can turn it into a plan of action and work towards executing it in a timely manner.

I don’t get overwhelmed by a lot of things happening at once; instead I’m able to separate the noise and iron out solutions, and that’s a superpower that comes in handy on an almost daily basis!

What brings you joy?

Smiles. I love being able to see a smile on someone else’s face. I have always found that smiles are contagious — maybe that’s why I’m always smiling! Anything I can do or contribute to put a smile on someone else’s face is the best thing that can happen for me in a day.

How do you define success, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

I don’t define success as one single thing. Instead, to me success is about finding repeatable processes that help me achieve my goals. This is something I really try to teach my clients, actually.

I believe true success is found when you are able to tap into a winning formula, and it often means you’re able to achieve your goals in multiple areas, while being satisfied with the life that you live.

I know I’ve reached a level of success when I experience shared happiness and joy, as opposed to exhaustion and frustration. My realization of success is very much wrapped up in my team, my family or my husband also being able to enjoy the benefits.

What’s your vision for yourself and your business/career for the future?

My ultimate vision for Vegan Mainstream is to develop a business that isn’t centered around me.

When I first started my business, I really wanted to build an extended team of marketers and business coaches to support the vegan business community.

However, I found that I needed to prove this business model would work before it was possible to create the kind of collective powerhouse of marketing and business experts I had in mind, and that’s what I have been working on for the past decade.

Now that I thoroughly understand the types of services, tools and training that many entrepreneurs need, I’m working to expand my team to be that collective powerhouse and I am incredibly excited to be getting closer to the goal of providing that invaluable service to the vegan business world.

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