Founder and CEO of InHerShoes
What I love most about developing this Women of Commerce series is by speaking with inspiring women who work for their wins and have grown in many different ways throughout their personal and professional development.
Judith Martinez is certainly one of those women, and she has built her brand off of spreading inspiration through “catalyzing courage” to young girls and women everywhere. Judith is the founder and CEO of InHerShoes, a non-profit organization that organizes chapters, events, workshops, and programs for women to foster their full potential through conversation and experience while ultimately making a positive social impact.
InHerShoes is dedicated to many impactful causes, one of which is actualizing some of the Sustainable Development Goals articulated by the United Nations, including gender equality, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, as well as peace, justice, and strong institutions.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Judith about the roots of her organization, as well as her own motivators, pivot points, and her 1% of courage:
“I'm personally more of a Jane-of-all-trades. I think any founder is essentially everything; you're the janitor, HR, legal, content, copywriter, accounting; you're all of it. By virtue of choosing this pathway, I've really morphed into a Jane-of-all-trades because you have to, but I also think there’s an internal tendency you can have to help foster that for sure. My wheelhouse is having ideas and sticking to what it takes to actually actualize them. In that sense, I can also be very focused and linear.”
And sticking to it she has. As a young founder, Judith demonstrates an impressive awareness of carving out a fulfilling career path with her nonprofit, InHerShoes.
“InHerShoes started after getting the “yes” that I felt like I was chasing my whole life, and then it kind of hitting me smack dab between the eyes and realizing: what do you do when you get the “yes,” but you want to actually say “no” to it now?”
“For me, the yellow brick road to success always looked like law school and that was the “yes” that I was chasing. Long story short, I got the big envelope that I felt like I was really waiting for. I remember ripping it open in my apartment, seeing the words, “Congratulations!” and my heart completely sunk. It wasn't exactly the response that I think we're told we should feel when you accomplish the thing that you're supposed to accomplish.
It was a terrifying moment: “As a first-generation student growing up in a Filipino family, I don't think my story is unique in the sense of having cultural, societal, and familial expectations placed on me.”
“That was at the beginning of InHerShoes. I declined my law school acceptance, told no one about it, completely lied to my family and lied to my professors, and I just thought, I can't do it. The thought of continuing down that path that I knew authentically wasn't for me seemed scarier than the thought of actually saying no.”
The thought of continuing down that path that I knew authentically wasn't for me seemed scarier than the thought of actually saying no.
With her path to success superseded by an unexpected feeling of self-doubt and dread, Judith decided to take a little time to muster the courage to pursue what she wanted to do deep down, which was to dive into the world of social entrepreneurship and begin a nonprofit that empowers women.
“I tried to buy myself time by lying and saying I was deferring for a year. I don't recommend that– but to each their own! Everyone has their own courageous path and that was mine. What I ended up doing was actually creating a Kickstarter campaign. My formal background at that point was pre-law and philosophy, and it wasn't exactly ‘how to bootstrap your way on a shoestring budget.’ So I did a Kickstarter campaign thinking, it'll just be a ‘small project.’ Here we are now six years later after that Kickstarter, and I'm definitely in a very different place, just like InHerShoes is.”
“Our mantra we like to say, which is really a call to action and battle cry for young girls, women, and our allies is: catalyze courage. What would you do if you're 1% more courageous?”
Judith maintains that a little, even 1%, can truly go a long way:
“What had me gravitate towards that was becoming so painfully aware of how much fear really ruled my life. It impacted whether I would do something or not do something, whether I'd raise my hand in class or not raise my hand, whether I'd apply for that law school or not. So much of my life was based on fear versus actually going for what I want. I don't really think that's an ideal way to live– where everything is based on fear.
Our mantra we like to say, which is really a call to action and battle cry for young girls, women, and our allies is: catalyze courage. What would you do if you're 1% more courageous?
“I think it really hit home for me in a very deep way when I finally got what ironically I was chasing because of fear. I was afraid to let people down, which is why I really wanted to keep doing what I was doing.
“ Emphasizing that 1% more courage is the DNA and the heart of InHerShoes, because courage for us is really like a muscle. The only way that it works is if you practice on a daily basis, hence why we emphasize the 1%, and 1% can look different every single day.
“For a lot of students that just graduated, 1% could just look like getting out of bed and finishing whatever work that looks possible. Then for some people, 1% could look like having a really tough conversation at the dinner table. For others, it could look like leaving that cushy job and finally making that side hustle a reality.
“there's a universality to fear. It doesn't matter how you identify racially, through your gender, through your education. I don't think fear sees color, sees race, sees circumstance, frankly. I think fear definitely is an equal opportunity. At the same time, I think since everyone knows what it's like to be afraid of something, it means that everyone also has the capacity to overcome that fear and be courageous. How can fear unite us to be courageous versus divide us?”
I think we just need to be honest here and express that there's a heightened expectation for transparency, especially from brands, but also about a brand’s social impact.
“I think we just need to be honest here and express that there's a heightened expectation for transparency, especially from brands, but also about a brand’s social impact. At InHerShoes a lot of the people we work with are young people that are particularly in the Gen Z, Gen Alpha age range. And you cannot fool the Gen Z digital native, nor do I think you want to, frankly. It's not enough to just do well in the world and make a profit, you have to do good.”
“For some brands, hopefully, that's not just a fad or some kind of slogan or hashtag that you can slap onto your branding, but it's a genuine desire to push themselves, and to push the world forward in a better way. I think that's what we're slowly starting to see from different brands.
“At the same time, I think with that there's also a heightened level of accountability that's getting placed at the same time, and rightfully so. There is an importance of having an authentic brand, which is more than just colors and a pretty website, it’s your mission and what you’re really doing.”
“My favorite part of what I get to do is connect with so many different people from so many different walks of life and get to hear about an intimate part of someone’s journey that they don't really share. This job is really about having the privilege to hear about people's hopes and fears.
“The only reason why it's a fear of theirs is because it really matters to them. Getting to hear about people's stories of coming out to their parents for the first time, or parents going through empty nesting and not knowing who they are once their kids are gone; these are very intimate stories that I feel very privileged we get to hear as an organization.”
“That's my favorite part: the impact that we get to make helps people overcome those fears and ultimately live a life that they love, even if it is 1% more at a time.
Perhaps one of the most emphasized topics as of late, self-care in and out of the workplace is becoming a primary focus for people and businesses everywhere. Especially with remote work taking over the majority of 2020, finding a balance of working and living at home became a goal for many people in order to attain “2020 work/life nirvana.” However, Judith goes about her balance from a realistic and uplifting approach:
“Self-care to me really looks like honoring where I'm at in the moment. I think that's been really challenging for me this year, being a founder. But, I think the majority of us are just so used to the rat race, right? Just pumping out whatever needs to get done. For me, self-care has looked like allowing myself space and allowing myself to take up space, whether it's mental space, emotional space, physical space, (like going outside for a walk), and managing my energy in that way.
“As a founder, it's so easy to live in the cliche of burning the midnight oil from both ends; I've definitely learned through so many different experiences that's just not sustainable for anyone really, but especially for those who hold space for other people. InHerShoes, is a community built on holding space for people so that they can be courageous.
Likewise, Judith’s approach to management takes a holistic approach, honoring where her geographically scattered team is in their career development, and supporting them to reach their goals as individuals and professionals.
“My approach to management overall, but especially during this time is really focusing on the whole individual. As a young founder, one of my goals as being a woman of color in this position is trying to truly change the nonprofit space and what it's historically been like. My goal is to constantly work toward creating the company that I wish I had an opportunity to intern for, or work with when I was younger and still in school.
“Part of that looks like not just being an employee or a team member, but also being a person that's thriving, not just in work, but in life. My management practice is emphasizing what it looks like to create leaders as part of my team, and not just these folks that I know are brilliant and can get the job done.”
Judith asks the big questions, not only with the InHerShoes mantra, but especially with her internal team. Cultivating career development paths for her employees is integral to Judith’s mission behind InHerShoes:
“What does growing in your career look like? How is your mental health doing today? And by the way, where do you see yourself three years from now? I'd like to think that my management style is holistic in not just what we foster as a culture, but also what we attract to contribute to that culture. Making sure that there's emotional intelligence, the intelligence to actually fulfill the actual role, but also an emphasis on your growth as an individual.”
From the inception of InHerShoes, Judith’s focus has been on the future. With her “no” to law school, she learned to say “yes” to what her heart was telling her to pursue; granted, she had no idea the impact she would come to have on so many young women in the country and around the world.
The work of InHerShoes inspires the same empowerment that this Women of Commerce series aims to accomplish: creating a space for women to grow and cultivate their potential through meaningful and impactful experiences, and in our case, through reading about a variety of different women with unique career developments.
With her “no” to law school, she learned to say “yes” to what her heart was telling her to pursue; granted, she had no idea the impact she would come to have on so many young women in the country and around the world.
“What motivates me is the thought of being able to leave a legacy behind of people that not only make the world a better place through their courage, but they themselves get to meet their best future self today. At InHerShoes, we always say ‘it's a journey, not a destination,’ which is very philosophical I realize, but our whole point of why we're even called InHerShoes is to think about your best future self. Where is she, how does she feel? What brings her joy? When she's her most courageous self, what are the things she's accomplished in her life?
“The whole point is to be that future self today through your acts of courage one day at a time. What really motivates me is thinking, ‘wow, that can really be possible for people.’ I like to believe ‘someday, one day and maybe’ don’t have to be delayed. It can be here and now, 1% of courage at a time.”