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Why and How Kitty Schur of The Collective Rising Decided To Change Our World

Silence and inaction don’t change the world; however, it most surely changes us. It causes us to shrink and cower, and it drains us of our power and agency. My advice is that if your heart is in the right place and you are committed to making a positive impact on the world, choose to […]

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Silence and inaction don’t change the world; however, it most surely changes us. It causes us to shrink and cower, and it drains us of our power and agency. My advice is that if your heart is in the right place and you are committed to making a positive impact on the world, choose to be courageous and disregard your fears about being inexperienced, or young, or whatever it is you’re worried about, and instead focus on what brings you happiness and on how you can be of the greatest service to others.

As a part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kitty Schur.

Kitty Schur is a creative entrepreneur, graduate student, and founder of The Collective Rising, a digital membership community that provides women with newfound access to opportunities for professional discovery, recognition, and advancement.

As an alumnus from The University of Southern California, Kitty has a thorough background in creative direction, as well as content development and event production, specifically in the fields of social activism, women’s issues and film.

Kitty is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The London School of Economics, while running The Collective Rising between Los Angeles and London.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Hello! Thank you for reaching out — I am looking forward to speaking with you.

On my back story … well, I’m from back east in the states. I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and for as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by different cultures and new perspectives, by stories that transcend time, and by the thought of making something that didn’t previously exist. However, nothing brings me more excitement than the potential to help people and create new opportunities for them to be seen, heard, and celebrated for all that they are.

I grew up in a very supportive family that instilled in me an appreciation for creativity, art and deliberate and intentional idea execution. My dad was an art collector, and many of my favorite family memories are linked to a specific piece of work, film, or song.

My mother is the most thoughtful, intuitive and kind person. A rule she lives by is, “It’s always worthwhile to make others aware of their worth.” I bring that outlook to everything I do in my personal life and with my business, The Collective Rising. I truly believe that everyone and every situation has intrinsic value. I am passionate about championing people who are doing meaningful things and helping them be seen, celebrated, and advance.

You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Early on when I began outlining my vision for The Collective Rising, I coined a new definition of empowerment. Specifically, in the industries I had been working in the word ‘empowerment’ was being used interchangeably with ‘inspirational.” I thought that was wrong as they are two very different things. Both are great — but different. The Collective Rising defines empowerment as “a space when opportunity, visibility and choice intersect.”

The Collective Rising aims to break down the barriers to entry, as it pertains to being discovered and considered for professional advancement opportunities, by supplying members an seo-optimized, meta-tagged and alt-tagged profile. Users first select their objectives (which are hidden from other users and non-users) and from there are prompted to select and answer questions that showcase their expertise and empower them to share what they want the world to know in a comfortable, op-ed like format. We decided on this format for the profile creation because several recent studies have shown that women tend to sell themselves short when asked the general question, “tell me about yourself.” By prompting our members to answer targeted questions that align with their greater objectives, we are able to help our members be seen as they wish to be.

In today’s world there is no such thing as a true first impression. On average, over one billion names are googled every day and over 90 percent of people google someone before they meet them for the first time. Pair that with the statistics that 75 percent of people say they lack notable or positive content on the first page of Google search results, and that over 70 percent of recruiters and HR professionals say they have rejected candidates due to solely a lack of information available about them online, and you start to get a better understanding of why having a visible personal brand is so important in today’s job landscape.

Empowerment cannot exist without visibility. Our platform utilizes SEO technologies to help women doing meaningful things get discovered online! For example, let’s say you are a female entrepreneur who works in media in Los Angeles. All that information is going to be optimized on your TCR profile. Next time someone searches for “top female entrepreneurs in media in Los Angeles,” your name and your profile on The Collective Rising will come up in that Google search. For myself and my team at The Collective Rising, this is something we are truly excited about. We are helping influential women bypass the “rules and regulations” of traditional influencer culture and are facilitating a new way for them to get exposure and advance professionally.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

My background was previously in film and content creation. I did my undergraduate degree at The University of Southern California, where I studied Film and Media as well as Public Relations.

After university, I worked a few jobs in content development and production, before finding myself at a talent agency. This is what eventually led me to getting involved with some of the most notable women’s empowerment movements of 2018 (including TIMES UP and The Women’s March), as well as planning conferences and events in the women’s advocacy space.

I’ve had a range of professional experiences. I’m grateful for all these experiences because there’s always something to be learned and I’m not sure I would have pushed to create The Collective Rising without them.

I started The Collective Rising to address a two-fold issue.

Firstly; despite women being more intelligent and accomplished today than ever before, opportunities for professional discovery, recognition and advancement are few and far between as obstacles stemming from the cluttered digital media landscape act as barriers to entry. I noticed myself and other professional women feeling left out of this new “post or it didn’t happen” culture. Though I was taught that “it’s what you do that matters, not how many people know you did it,” I started to notice in 2018 that things weren’t so black and white anymore. While our focus shouldn’t be solely on creating a digital archive of all we have done, we cannot deny the importance of having a visible personal brand.

The second issue I noticed was a lack of curation. In a world where you can find seemingly everything, it has become increasingly difficult to find the best of anything. Conferences and events looking for speakers and companies looking to hire were having an increasingly difficult time sorting through “candidate clutter” and were seeking a pre-vetted, curated and time-saving solution to accessing and contacting talent.

The Collective Rising was built to address these issues. For our TCR members, we remove the stress, confusion and discomfort often associated with the topic of personal branding. We offer new opportunities for members to get ahead by providing them access to coveted job postings and chances to apply for expertise-sharing opportunities, such as panels and conferences (or these days, a lot of virtual events!) For our company and event members, we provide access to top-tier women, and help facilitate opportunities for them to engage a demographic of influential women that want to partake in meaningful conversations and share their expertise with others. One of the biggest things I’m excited about with our company member offerings, is to create more opportunities for diverse and inclusive voices to be heard. We all need to be working together to help pull up more seats to the table.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

There are several moments that definitely stand out. One in particular came about in 2018 when I was working as a creative director, organizing and producing a prominent women’s conference.

When it came time to select the event’s keynote panelists, I saw again how an individual’s digital presence (or lack thereof) acted as a barrier.

I proposed three great speakers — these women were beyond incredible, either having chaired women’s studies departments at top universities, or having recently been involved with helping pass important legislation that benefited women globally. However, all three of my proposed candidates were shot down. When I inquired as to why these exceptional women were being passed on, I was met with the response “well, when I googled them nothing particularly notable came up.”

This moment was pivotal in my decision to go forth and create what is now The Collective Rising.

I was frustrated with how the term “influence” was being thrown around in the social and digital realm. The response I was met with regarding my candidates for the panel clearly demonstrated to me that the definition of influence had changed. Influence was no longer marked by years of experience, an important job title or even one’s level of education. Today, influence is measured by an individual’s ability to convey who they are, what they stand for, what they have done and where they are going across digital and social media platforms, while also having people care and take note.

I knew that ambitious, successful women today were tired of being overlooked and feeling lost amongst the oversaturation and clutter of the modern digital landscape. I knew that in today’s world someone’s online presence is not just an extension of who they are, but rather who the world perceives them to be. I realized that one’s online presence determines one’s credibility, and a lack of a positive and notable presence raises questions regarding an individual’s experience, level of commitment and expertise. Knowing all of this, I felt compelled to create a platform designed to help the modern working woman increase her online visibility, without having to spend more time online, so that she could have greater access to opportunities for professional discovery, recognition and advancement opportunities

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

The most important step to take when it comes to starting any new organization or business is to focus on the problem you are looking to solve. I started The Collective Rising to address a specific issue that was affecting women like me. Other than that, I’d say research and market analysis are essential first steps any new founder should take.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The stories I love hearing the most are the success stories of our members. It has been so wonderful watching our members evolve towards different career paths or get promoted in their current field during the short time The Collective Rising’s membership platform has been active.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

When I first started The Collective Rising, I wasn’t great at setting boundaries. I would take meetings and calls any time — day or night, sometimes stacking a dozen back to back. I was so focused on wanting to accommodate everyone else, that I wasn’t really taking great care of myself. This September I also began attending graduate school in London, and while my schedule is busier than ever between working on two time-zones and furthering my education on the women’s advocacy and social impact space; I feel more aligned than ever before, because balance is now my main priority.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I had the great pleasure of being surrounded by extraordinary people, specifically extraordinary women, over the last decade. So many of my favorite professors, mentors, and friends I’ve gathered over the years are remarkable, entrepreneurial women that have really championed me throughout all the endeavors I’ve pursued. One of the biggest takeaways I’ve gathered over the course of the last couple years is that just because you can do something all alone, doesn’t mean you should.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by the work that you do?

Quite recently, a woman sent me a direct message on Instagram that reminded me how important visibility is as it pertains to professional advancement. She told me in her message that she had completed a project several months ago without any formal recognition. It wasn’t until she had updated her profile on The Collective Rising and linked it to her LinkedIn and personal Instagram accounts, that her boss acknowledged her efforts and congratulated her on a job well done. Her story is exactly why I created this community — to help women be seen.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Encourage women to speak up.
  2. Promote safe spaces that allow people to share different points of view.
  3. Be aware that people are multidimensional. Don’t take everything at face value. There is more to social media than meets the eye.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Perfect is the enemy of good and the enemy of done.

-I think this is a struggle many founders have. Becoming okay with “really good but not perfect,” has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself and my business.

Be your own biggest advocate. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself.

-So many times in life we look for others to do for us what we really should be doing for ourselves. I was so cautious about not wanting to appear boastful when I first started out that I rarely spoke about my accomplishments. My advice to others on their way up is to not be afraid to let the world know you are!

Resilience is a skill that takes time to cultivate, but one you will be grateful for your whole life.

-I think when people talk about founders, they talk a lot about grit, but not enough about resilience. Grit is about sustained, consistent effort towards a goal even when we struggle, falter, or temporarily fail. Resilience is our ability to bounce back after we have struggled, faltered, or failed. One of the traits I’ve grown to admire most about myself is my resilience — I call it my “return to light” rate.

Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

-There are a number of situations this applies to! Gut instincts are guardian angels. Looking back on my journey of building The Collective Rising, I can say that 95% of the time my intuition has been exactly right. The only mistake I made was not trusting it at the time.

Find your people. Take care of them. Let them take care of you.

-This is a huge lesson. So many times, founders feel like they have to do it all on their own and that no one else could possibly understand what they are going through, but that’s simply not true. You have to find your people. People who understand your values and soul, and even more than that, people who respect you and truly care for you. Once you find them, keep them close, and be there for them as well! For me, community is essential not just to my business but to my happiness as a human being. Our relationships with others are what makes life meaningful.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Silence and inaction don’t change the world; however, it most surely changes us. It causes us to shrink and cower, and it drains us of our power and agency. My advice is that if your heart is in the right place and you are committed to making a positive impact on the world, choose to be courageous and disregard your fears about being inexperienced, or young, or whatever it is you’re worried about, and instead focus on what brings you happiness and on how you can be of the greatest service to others.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many incredible people that I look up to and from which I derive so much inspiration and motivation. Undoubtedly, breakfast with Brené Brown would be my dream. I’ve read all her books countless times. I think that the work she has done, specifically on vulnerability, bravery, and wholehearted living have had a profound impact on how I see the world and the type of life I work to lead each day. Anyone close to me knows that reading Brené’s book ‘Daring Greatly’ is a prerequisite before you are able to enter my inner circle.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow The Collective Rising on Instagram and Facebook at @TheCollectiveRising, on Twitter at @TheCollectiveR_ , and on our website which is thecollectiverising.com. If you want an update on what I’m up to, you can follow me at @KittySchur on Instagram at visit my website kittyschur.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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