Whitney Mari Headen knows a thing or two about how hard it can be for a driven, twenty-something woman hungry for opportunity and access to find her way and connect with mentors. She used to be one of those women, constantly craving stronger personal and professional life skills she needed post-graduation. The 30-year-old Virginia native and Virginia Commonwealth University alum remembers the challenges she faced and how she found herself unprepared for the many of the realities she faced in the professional world. Though Headen was able to find her way and carve out a career path that landed her in leadership positions at companies like Viacom, iHeart, Defy and even ESSENCE Magazine, she’s always been deeply committed to helping other young women who’ve come behind her to get ahead and grow. Headed wanted to make the journey easier for the next generation of leaders, and with that, her brand The Life Currency (TLC) was born, which is an online community for change-makers, dream-chasers, and hustlers in their twenties.
The website encourages nonstop conversation dedicated to helping students, young professionals, and young entrepreneurs navigate life by educating, empowering, and inspiring women in a way that’s fun and relatable. ESSENCE.com caught up with millennial girl boss Headen, to find out how she turned her passion for mentoring and inspiring other young women into a solid brand she built from the ground up, and what tips she has to help other budding female entrepreneurs level up and give back.
Why did you start The Life Currency?
Whitney Headen: I have been a mentor since my early college days, helping girls who were in middle and high school all the way through their first or second jobs. Once I began to move up in my career I realized that my time was much more limited, but the demand for quality mentorship had grown immensely. At the same time, it became clear that a lot of the conversations I was having with my mentees were revolving around the same topics; how do you apply for jobs, how do I effectively network or find a mentor, how do I establish credit, etc. At that point, I knew I needed to find a way to reach more of these girls at mass and the best way I knew how to do that was to take my day job as a content creator and digital strategist and apply that to my love of mentorship which then created The Life Currency, a digital mentorship platform.
Courtesy Of Whitney Headen
Why was it so important to target young millennials specifically?
The Life Currency doesn’t technically only target millennials, it’s set up to be evolving by targeting women in their late teens through their 20s. It was important for me to target this age group due to the life circumstances that happen during this time. Regardless of where you are in the world, this is the age where you’re entering your first stages of adulthood and have questions that college or your parents may not have the answers for. We cover traditionally “un-sexy” topics in finance, career and personal development in a fun and creative way which has a wide range of appeal for any demographic.
How would TLC have helped 20 -something Whitney?
For me, one of the things I attribute my success to the most is growing up with siblings. I was always able to learn from their mistakes or successes and apply them to my own life. However, The Life Currency was the platform I needed when I was 20-something and the skills learned from them just didn’t apply to the life trajectory I was on. I grew up in a small town in Virginia, but knew that I wanted to pursue a career in media and entertainment, but had no idea what that meant exactly. I moved to New York City literally without a clue; no friends, no family, no place to live, and definitely no money or contacts. I had to figure it out. If I had a resource like The Life Currency, I would have been able to tap into a group of like minded individuals, read articles written by experts in various fields, utilize information to potentially shorten my year long job search and allow me the tools to accelerate quicker in life by avoiding common mistakes that are just not addressed.
For women looking to start their own organizations, what five steps did you take to get started?
1. Defining Vision + Mission – when I first started The Life Currency, I thought I wanted it to be a lifestyle brand that covered everything from travel to finances to food. When I started working towards that I realized that although these were all things I was passionate about, it wasn’t the purpose of the brand. I had the domain and name trademarked for 4 years before I executed the brand in its current capacity.
2. Legal and Accounting – securing proper professionals from the legal and accounting sides are key to creating any new endeavor. I’ve had countless issues with trademark infringement, partnerships, etc that if I hadn’t taken the proper legal precautions upfront could have ended the company before it even began.
3. 1-3 year Strategy – having foresight into what we wanted to do not just at the present moment but 1-3 years from now has been key. Its allowed us to be able to grow steadily and efficiently vs fast and loose. By understanding what our immediate goals are we’re able to assess opportunities and partnerships from a wider lens and align with what’s right for the company.
4. Support Staff – there is literally no way I could have built this company on my own. Identifying the right roles and passions to help support the company’s visions and needs were key.
5. Just do it – whether you’re ready or not.
How did you go about finding funding and partners for TLC?
TLC is 100% self-funded by me. Once we launched, I utilized social media to identify partners, writers and a creative agency to bring my visions to life. And we’ve been able to secure partnerships with amazing organizations and brands like ESSENCE, Pretty Girls Sweat, SocietyGal, Pond’s, Vitacoco and more to bring the TLC vision to life.
Are there any books that you read to help you learn more about the field?
One of my all time favorite books that I recommend to each and every one of my mentees is The Defining Decade by Meg Jay. It gives so much insight into the everyday struggles of the 20-something person trying to navigate life. It really lets it be known that you are not alone.
How do you maintain work/life balance as an entrepreneur?
I have no work/life balance, I don’t believe it exists. I run 2 start ups that require different pieces of me everyday. I like to practice what I call work/life integration – which means there is no separation between the two. I’m extremely blessed to be able to have created a career that allows me to work with friends, collaborate with partners that I love and curate my schedule to make time for friends and family in between. I work A LOT, but I also make sure I have fun, I find joy in everything I do even the daunting tasks like contracts and paperwork. If I’m with friends or family, it’s very likely that I’m also answering emails or taking phone calls, but I make a conscious effort to remain as present as possible in every circumstance.
What mistakes have you made and how would you advise others to avoid the same pitfalls?
One of the biggest mistakes I think I made at first with TLC was trying to run everything by myself. I was trying to be the editor, CEO, graphic artist, lawyer, accountant and everything in between that were so far from my realm of expertise, that I was making it virtually impossible to move forward. I had to realize when it was time to let go and bring in people with specific skillsets.
How important is social media in the success of The Life Currency? How do you manage the various platforms?
Without social media, The Life Currency would not exist. We used social media to find the creative agency that built our website and defined our brand aesthetic. We then used social media to hire our staff. Without Linkedin and Instagram, there is no way TLC would have been able to find the skilled and passionate staff that it has today. Social media has also aided in getting the word out and continuing our vision. We have a Facebook group that we continually have conversations in and an Instagram profile that’s garnered over 21,000 followers, that regularly promotes our content and mission. Social media has existed as a pseudo silent partner in TLC’s early success.
What’s on the horizon for The Life Currency over the next five years?
In the next 5 years, I want The Life Currency to be a fully functioning educational media platform. My goal is to continue to grow the content suite, launch more relevant courses and properties like our Sallie Mafia Student Loan Course and challenge, and grow our live events to be nationwide. In 2019, our biggest focus is to launch our membership platform, networking offerings, and grow our live event franchises to reach all of the top 10 markets.