Founder: Shannon Downey
Company: Pivotal Production
Company Site: http://www.pivotalchicago.com/
Company Description: Pivotal Production is a marketing strategy firm that combines traditional and new media
Date of Interview: January 2015
Shannon Downey is the CEO and founder of Pivotal Production, a marketing strategy firm. She is also the creator of Badass Cross Stitch and the blogger behind Seriously Badass Women. She believes in being badass at everything she does – running her own business, advocating for women and diversity, giving back to the community, living and acting sustainably and in seeking balance between the digital and analog worlds.
On how she got to today:
Shannon didn’t know she would end up running her own business. She has a BA in Anthropology and a MS in Recreation Administration. She worked in e-commerce and later taught middle school with Teach for America. She began freelancing through a larger event planning company after graduate school and realized that she really enjoyed it, but wanted to run events that were less wasteful.
“I wanted to do things more sustainably. I didn’t want to participate in the reckless wasting that I saw in the event industry. So I thought, ‘Let me do what I am doing, but do it on my own in a more sustainable way.’ When I started out, people thought I was mental.”
On balancing life between digital and analog:
When I asked Shannon about how she handles balancing digital versus analog activity in her life, she laughs and points to all the quirky stitched crafts in her office that represent her Badass Cross Stitch brand and community.
“Digital burnout is very real. The struggle is real.”
So she started embroidering and stitching again, something that she used to do as a kid. “The more that I do it, the more I feel like it’s all I want to do – in this really powerful way.”
“The irony is not lost on me that I’m doing this analog to get away from the digital. But then I have to share it on the digital side to create this community that will eventually turn into an actual gathering of folks to create analog work. But I think it’s a beautiful testament to where balance can be found. I’m attempting to help people put down their devices and go make things because it uses such a different part of your spirit and your brain and I feel like we’re losing that a lot.”
“There’s all this talk about work/life balance. But I think we’re more in need of digital/analog balance.”
On women and diversity in business and tech:
“I feel intentionality is what will drive actual change. For people in a place of privilege – if you are not actively thinking about your privilege, then you are just benefiting from your privilege thinking that everyone else is just too lazy to do what you did. So sometimes the first step to privilege-recognition is just thinking, ‘Well, we need a woman.’
“You know what? – That’s fine. I’ll be your woman, I’ll be your gay. But I know that’s what you’re thinking because it’s so obvious. I know going in what it is, and I know coming out of it what it will be – and hopefully it will be a transformation. Trust that along the way I will be educating you in a positive and proactive way.”
On the word ‘Badass’:
“I think it’s so great! People have used that word on me my whole life – sometimes good and sometimes not. But, I always took it as a massive badge of honor. I don’t care if you were trying to insult me! It’s now a sub-brand that I love. Badass everything!”
“Own your badassery and go do something.”
“When you hear people talk about great leaders, especially male ones, they’re using words like ‘dynamo’, ‘change maker’, ‘influencer’ – words that are both powerful and positive. These words should be used on women too. Often, softer adjectives are used to describe women instead. I find myself around powerful women and I think they’re ‘badass’”. (You can check out some of Shannon’s badass women at seriouslybadasswomen.com.)
On taking risks:
“I think we get really comfortable in the types of risks that we’re into. If you’re comfortable starting a business, then you’re comfortable with the risk of starting a business. There are so many different types of risks in this world, and I like to think of my life as an adventure. I like to make sure I’m constantly on an adventure and that equals taking risks in different ways. I want to always be doing something that’s a little bit scary to me. If it’s not a little bit scary then it’s not a risk.”
“The idea of creating art and putting it out there was uncomfortable for me. So I forced myself to do it. And the more I do it, the more I love it.”
“I want everyone to live life as an adventure and that means do crazy shit. What great stories you get and what great experiences! I’ve lived 100 lives already, and I can’t wait to live 100 more.”
What are some of Shannon’s tips for successfully leveraging the digital marketing world? “People want to connect over positive things. You want to be a producer of positivity.” Here are a few of her closing pointers: 1) Stop trying to do everything. 2) Figure out what you actually like doing and be awesome at it. 3) Figure out where your audience is and where they want to connect with you. 4) Get control over your time. 5) Be yourself.
That’s it – now go be a badass.