This world has been run into the ground for too many years. Women are awesome and have unique perspectives that deserve to be seen and explored.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heidi Hutchinson.
Heidi Hutchinson is a romance author who creates clever, funny, slow burn romance for readers who are looking for a guaranteed happily ever after. She lives in the mountains with her alarmingly handsome husband, their fearless child, and overly spoiled dog. She also drinks too much coffee and listens to too much rock and roll.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I come from a family of storytellers. For as long as I can remember I have been surrounded by and enamored with stories of all kinds. Whether it was books, songs, or movies, I was invested in the story — especially if there was a romantic element involved. (Ask my mom how obsessed I was with Neil Diamond). I made up my own stories but never shared them with anyone because they were just for me.
I went to work for my dad when I was sixteen and quickly became a supervisor that transitioned into general manager. I was working forty hours a week in a quick serve restaurant before I graduated from high school.
I was good at it.
Okay, let’s be honest, I was freaking awesome at it. I increased sales, I set records, I hustled like no other.
It was fine.
Then my dad hired this guy. Long story short we became friends, fell in love, got married, lived happily ever after.
I really struggled with believing he loved me.
Not because of anything he said or did, but because somewhere along the way I had decided I wasn’t worthy of being truly loved. He’d tell me something he loved about me and in the back of my mind I’d think, “Yeah, but if you really knew who I was you wouldn’t say that.”
I found out later how common of a thought that is.
And then we had a baby.
This perfect, beautiful child came into our lives and everything inside of me split wide open.
I was confronted with an overwhelming love like I had never known. Something I had been chasing my entire life fell gently into place.
You can be loved without deserving it.
You can be loved without earning it.
And I began to write.
I sat down and wrote my first book. And I just couldn’t stop. It became the most important message for me to share: love isn’t about deserving. All of my books are centered around that key element, tied together with the hearts of all the humans I’ve ever met.
Love is my battle cry, and my pen is my sword. I will spend the rest of my life sharing the message that love is for everyone. And you don’t have to earn it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Oof. “Interesting” is subjective, is it not?
I suppose the hardest thing that happened is also interesting.
A few years ago, I got sick. Went to doctor after doctor and couldn’t get any clear answers. Until I found a brilliant endocrinologist who discovered I had a teeny tiny tumor on my pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is right behind your eyes. It was technically a brain tumor but not imbedded in the brain tissue.
It was benign which was the good news. But it was messing with my hormones like a mad scientist messes with moral ambiguity. I had to take medication for it and that also messed with everything in my body.
So, while undergoing treatment for this invader, I had to relearn how to write books. Thinking was difficult, moving was difficult, constructing coherent sentences was near impossible. I had to slow down on my deadlines, readjust expectations, and give myself some grace.
Tumor free now and writing like crazy again. But those three years helped me hone my skills and really focus on what I wanted to say and where I wanted to devote my energy.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The mistake I made was trusting my ego.
I was in the middle of finishing my fourth novel. Up until that point I had a pretty good system down. My child was three, my husband worked full-time, and I could write to my heart’s content during naptime and after everyone else had gone to bed. I was writing thousands of words a day, hitting deadlines without a problem.
And I decided to get a puppy.
I have no idea what I was thinking.
That’s not true. I know exactly what I was thinking.
“I am amazing. I am unstoppable. I can do all the things!”
I was so, so wrong.
We brought home this adorable puppy and she turned my world upside down. Having a high energy puppy and a three-year old team up against you is the kind of trial I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I learned that I cannot do all the things. I learned to reevaluate my expectations of myself more realistically. And, listen to my mom. She warned me that a puppy at that time would be harder than I realized.
She was right.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
That time I met Penny Reid.
She’s a brilliant scientist turned amazing romance author. I found out she was going to be at an author event several hours away from me and I decided to go. I had self-published 2 books at the time, and they were doing all right, but I didn’t go as a writer. I went as a reader.
I just wanted to meet this woman who had written some of the most hilarious and compelling stories I had ever read.
I met her. I didn’t want her to know I also wrote. That would be like telling George Lucas that I made space movies. In a word: ridiculous.
I quietly fangirled.
My entire body vibrated the whole weekend.
I did NOT tell her I was a writer.
Into hour four of my drive back home I was tagged in a Tweet.
Penny Reid was reading my book.
I almost had to pull over to throw up.
I have no idea how she found out that I wrote books. I still don’t know. Someone told and no one has ever confessed.
The next 48-hours were wild. She began DMing me about my book and how my covers could be better. Then she made me new covers — sending me mockups at one in the morning.
Up until that point I only had a vague idea of what I was doing. I took her advice and rebranded my series and everything changed.
It still doesn’t make sense to me no matter how many times I tell the story.
And now she’s a colleague with whom I get to work with often. Meeting her completely changed my life.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Ooh, yes. Yes Pleaseby Amy Poehler.
I’m not sure I can adequately explain why this book impacted me so much. I go back to it again and again for encouragement when I’m feeling “less than” in a world of brilliant writers. She reminds me that I have my own gifts and I don’t have to be funny, but it’s okay if I am funny.
Also, writing is hard.
It just is.
It’s comforting to know that one of my favorite writers in the world also thinks it’s hard.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“We must be our own before we can be another’s.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think Emerson has influenced my writing more than anyone else. This line especially rings through my mind whenever I sit down to write. A character without ownership is like a ship without a rudder — the wind could blow them in any direction without their input. Before my protagonists can find love with each other they have to be able to love themselves. It’s a tricky line to walk but I enjoy it every time. I love showing how different people can be and still be lovable and important.
It’s also been important in my personal life. It’s up to me to decide who I am and where I’m going. I can’t give myself fully to a new idea or project unless I know who I am and what it is I actually want.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I donate proceeds from special releases to different charities depending on the book. For example, I have a snowboarding novella releasing this winter where 100% of the proceeds will go to the Kelly Clark Foundation (an organization that provides youth with the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their highest potential through snowboarding).
Past donations have included women and children’s shelters and drug rehabilitation programs.
I find it difficult discussing my contributions publicly because it feels like such a private matter.
Whenever I think of making the world a better place a Tolkien quote comes back to me. “I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” I have more opportunity to do the small acts than maybe someone else would. I do what I can, where I can. What can seem small to me can be huge to someone else.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
In my opinion I think a lot of women are held back by expectations.
Expectations from their families, parents, society at large. We’re expected to display certain characteristics in order to be seen as viable — this happens in the business world as often as it does in personal interactions. We (women) tend to internalize a lot of these “expectations” as truth when they’re just not. Also, men seem to have an easier time of separating who they are at work from who they are outside of work while women are expected to be the same in both areas. It’s unrealistic and sets us up for failure early on.
Breaking free from these casual lies that imprison us is the key to finally doing what we are meant to do.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
I write about strong women. I tell their stories and put them into the world in the hopes that someone will read about these incredible women and see themselves.
I look for ways I can encourage. I seek out women owned businesses and try to amplify their voices.
I mentor a handful of women entrepreneurs as they navigate the chaotic waters of dream-chasing. I listen and council and advise in whatever capacity I feel best equipped to help.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Because the world needs it.
That’s the simplest way I can say it.
This world has been run into the ground for too many years. Women are awesome and have unique perspectives that deserve to be seen and explored.
Yes, it’s scary. Yes, you might fail.
But think of who’s watching. Think of who you might inspire to take the next big risk. Be the woman that leads the way.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders?
If you can, please share an example or story for each.
There are several worthy movements already out there affecting change at the structural level of founding businesses. I’m going to focus more on the emotional and social things that I think would be most beneficial. But all of these come from my personal belief that women don’t need to be empowered. They have the power. They just need to take hold of it.
As such, these are my five tips to help women harness their power to be founders.
- Be an encourager. More than once the smallest little cheer from someone I barely knew was enough to push me onto my next step. The world is ready to tear anyone down for trying something. Don’t add to the cacophony of negative opinions. Women need to stop tearing apart other women. It’s not a competition. There is plenty of room for everyone at the table. Cheering for someone else’s success does not take away from your own. Also, I have found that when I encourage someone else, it gives me a boost as well.
- Be a mentor. Teach what you know. My writing mentor, Bria Quinlan, has been one the most important relationships in my life. She had no reason to teach me the things she had learned after her years in publishing but she did. Without her insight and guidance, I would have quit long ago.
- Make your mental and emotional health a priority. We need to unlearn a lot of the expectations we were raised to believe. Many wonderful ideas never see the light of day because of the tiny voice inside that says we can’t. Do the hard work of knowing what your inner obstacles are and solve them if you can. Or at least learn to manage them in healthy ways.
- Never stop learning. Be teachable. Look towards new ideas, don’t ignore them. Never assume you already know it all. I make the biggest mistakes when I think I already know what I’m doing. Or worse, I know I don’t know what I’m doing, so I avoid it, thereby solidifying my ignorance. Gross.
- Know who you are and what you bring to the table. Guess what? You don’t suck. You’re actually really cool and you need to share your abilities with the rest of us. We need you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again.
Love is my battle cry.
You don’t need permission to love or be loved. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to prove it. Love doesn’t require reciprocity. Love exists, and we are changed for the better because of it.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh goodness. I think I would have to say Dave Grohl.
I have long been a fan of his writing and his storytelling. I would love to talk to him about anything but especially what he chooses to share with the world and how he walks that line of vulnerability and rock and roll.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I am on Instagram at @heidi_hutchinson
Or my website heidih.net
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.