How I Thrive: “I thrive by having structure in my life and doing things that I love to do”, With Ming Zhao & Stephanie Carter

…I attribute this to having structure in my life and doing things that I love to do. Being in nature hiking or running and getting my endorphins flowing is one way that I cultivate these sensations. Yoga is also a big part of this joy and I love the community of people I surround myself […]

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…I attribute this to having structure in my life and doing things that I love to do. Being in nature hiking or running and getting my endorphins flowing is one way that I cultivate these sensations. Yoga is also a big part of this joy and I love the community of people I surround myself with which also makes life enjoyable.

As a part of my series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Carter. Stephanie Carter is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, activist and visionary. In 1999, Carter became one of the early pioneers of the sun protection apparel movement when she launched Boulder, Colorado based Wallaroo Hat Company. Since Wallaroo Hat Company’s debut over two decades ago, Carter has grown the company into a leading global brand and certified B Corporation. Prior to founding Wallaroo, Carter practiced law for ten years. She is one of the Co-founders of the Hanuman Yoga Festival in Boulder, Colorado, serves on the Board of Advisors for GlobeIn, a brand dedicated to supporting ethically made artisan products from around the world as well as serving on the Board of Directors for the Headwear Association.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Stephanie! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

During a trip to Australia in 1999, I noticed my mother-in-law gardening in a colorful, wide brimmed fabric hat. I had never seen anything like it before and I purchased several and brought them back to the States. I contacted the designer of the hats and asked if he would be willing to design hats and collaborate with me. I founded Wallaroo Hat Company in April of 1999 and became a pioneer of the sun protective clothing and accessories industry. Wallaroo focuses on manufacturing UPF 50+ hats that provide a 97.5% UV block and includes styles for women, men and children.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Over the course of the last few years we have had a lot of contact with customers who discovered Wallaroo hats after being diagnosed with melanoma. One of those customers is Tracy Callahan of the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. Tracy has had multiple surgeries for melanoma on her face. She is a strong supporter of Wallaroo hats and created an organization that promotes skin cancer screenings and awareness about the dangers of the sun. Tracy is a Wallaroo Ambassador and a huge advocate for our brand. She recently held the largest skin cancer screening on record in South Carolina and beat the Guinness Book of World Records previous record.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

At the very first trade show I ever attended we had a lot of customers referring to “keystone” pricing. (The only Keystone we were familiar with at that time was the ski resort in Colorado.) People would make a reference to that expression and we would stare blankly back at them not really knowing how to respond. We quickly learned that keystone pricing is an industry term referring to doubling a wholesale price for retail purposes. Having never worked in the retail industry previously there were a lot of firsts,” but that was one that has always stuck with me.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

Never take yourself too seriously and always be open to feedback. Running a company requires a lot of patience and open mindedness. I have found that some of the most creative ideas and opportunities have come from my internal staff and being open to new ideas has helped Wallaroo grow and thrive over the last 20 years.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I take my self-care routine very seriously and have been a practitioner of yoga and meditation for the last 25 years as well as an avid athlete.

I usually get up at 5 a.m. and meditate for at least 20 minutes. I then meet friends and do a vigorous hike up Mt. Sanitas here in Boulder to watch the sun rise. I love being active before the sun comes up and starting my day with a consistent routine. On the days that I am not hiking I go to yoga at 6:30 a.m. I like having a balance in my life that alternates between active aerobic exercise and mind calming movement. Yoga has been a large part of my life as it allows me the space to slow down and cultivate awareness of the things that really matter in my life.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

Mediation is critical to my daily life. It gives the mind a chance to reset and rest while nourishing the soul at the same time. Many people do not understand the benefits of meditation but once you establish a daily practice it becomes something you cannot live without.

I also spend a lot of time reading and listening to books about leadership, community building and life evolution. I think that we can all benefit from continuing to learn about ourselves and others and find ways to engage that are positive and affirming. I work hard to create a culture of compassion and understanding with my staff and I am constantly seeking ways to improve how we engage with each other and the world around us.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive?

Travel is one of the most important aspects of my life as it gives me an opportunity to see the world through a different lens. I have spent a lot of time in India over the last 10 years and it has become one of my favorite places to visit. There is so much hardship in India and the things that we take for granted are often unavailable or very difficult to come by in these places. When you spend time in environments that are challenging, or poverty stricken you get an opportunity to see how you can make a difference. I have befriended someone in India who comes from a very low caste and I have been helping to support him financially for the last 5 years so that he can take care of his elderly parents and his 4 sisters and their children who all live together in a small shanty with a tin roof and dirt floors. It is encouraging to know that small acts of kindness can make a large difference in places where the most basic necessities are hard to come by.

I have also been attending yoga and meditation trainings in India for the last 7 years and this has also helped me stay on the path of self awareness and evolution. I enjoy spending time in environments where I can slow down and appreciate all of the goodness in my life. I have a strong gratitude practice and I think this keeps my mind in a positive place and gives me energy to help others.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

Meditation and exercise are not optional for me. I have come to learn over the course of many years that even when I am extremely busy, I cannot forego these practices as they are what keep me centered and balanced. There is always time to meditate even if it is for 10 minutes- that kind of a re-set can be life changing when you are feeling stressed out or busy.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a Rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

There are very few days that I don’t feel awesome. I attribute this to having structure in my life and doing things that I love to do. Being in nature hiking or running and getting my endorphins flowing is one way that I cultivate these sensations. Yoga is also a big part of this joy and I love the community of people I surround myself with which also makes life enjoyable.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

Take a NAP! I think naps are great and also afford us an opportunity to re-set. Usually when I feel down it is because I am tired and did not get enough sleep.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

Fortunately, my job is not high stress and it is something I really love. I feel that I can easily transition from being at work to being at home with no issues. My kids are all adults now, so I have more freedom and space to pursue the activities that I want to before and after work.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

I love Brenee Brown and her book “Daring Greatly.” I cannot get enough of that book and I listen to it on Audible frequently. I feel there are so many lessons we can learn from her teachings that are common sense and compassionate. My other favorite book currently is “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. These are very simple principles to follow and can alter your life many ways.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to live in a world where everyone is given equal opportunity to education. Communities thrive when people are given access to education. I have seen first-hand the difference an education can make in the poorest corners of the world. The fears and biases that persist in our world are largely based on ignorance. When we are given the chance to see the world through educated eyes, we have a greater ability to understand and have compassion for our fellow humanity. It starts with one person at a time, but the ripple effect is real, and it can spread and create change.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“It’s none of my business what other people think about me.”

I love this quote because I believe it demonstrates that if we are sure of our purpose and we know we are living our lives in the right way — other people’s opinions of us should not matter. I believe and have taught my children that we cannot change other people or control their actions, but we can control ourselves and our actions. We must always strive to live our lives to our highest purpose and make the most of the time we have on this planet. Too many people get caught up worrying about what other people think about them and make decisions based on those opinions. If we were free to make decisions based on what was best for the planet, fellow humanity and ourselves the world would be markedly different.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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