Who: Heather Hopkins, Founder, My New Red Shoes & Toddle Flexible Playcare Why: There are so many reasons why I admire Heather – her pure heart, gentle demeanor, and constant drive to make a difference in the world! But most of all, I like her basic philosophy in life - a small action can make a difference. Driven by her mother’s personal story, Heather founded her non-profit, My New Red Shoes that supplies homeless and low-income children with a $50 clothing gift card and a new pair of shoes to start the school year. While the task of starting a non-profit (especially with an 18 month old baby) was intimidating, she applied her philosophy and set a goal of providing shoes to just 20 kids in the year. Before she knew it, they were able to support 354 kids that first year. Seven years later, My New Red Shoes is a well-run organization that supports over 6000 kids with a volunteer network upwards of 2000 people. Talk about a great accomplishment! Heather's story is hugely inspiring to me. After our very first meeting, I raised my hand and said let me know how I can help. That's her power of inspiration and persuasion. She is so appreciative of anyone who volunteers for My New Red Shoes, which makes one want to go above and beyond for her. Being around her, is a reality check in this crazy world. And let's face it, anyone who devotes their time and energy into helping others is a rockstar to begin with (at least in my world!) As if running a successful non-profit isn’t enough, Heather is also in the midst of starting a new venture with her friend called Toddle. Knowing her tenacious nature, I'm sure it will be a roaring success! She lives in Menlo Park, California with her husband of 12 years and their two beautiful kids - Annie (9 years) and Elliott (5 years). Here are some highlights from my interview with Heather! 1. What three things/people/roles have contributed most to your success? My husband. I feel so fortunate to have found Adam. He's incredibly supportive of my harebrained ideas and is a really good listener. He's also relatively selfless and doesn't keep score in our relationship. My parents. I've led an incredibly blessed life and was raised by parents who helped us appreciate our good fortune. My mom and dad are so dedicated to and supportive of their kids and worked really hard to provide for us. I find it a bit overwhelming that I, out of the billions of people on the earth today, won the lottery like I did: great family, awesome opportunities, living in the right place at the right time. I feel a huge responsibility to make the most of what I've been given and that drives me. Big-hearted folks in the community. My New Red Shoes would not be where it is today if I were a one-woman show. The number of people who have dedicated their precious time and resources to supporting the mission is dumbfounding to me. When people say, "You must be so proud of what you've created!" I always feel awkward since I was just one piece of the equation. My New Red Shoes wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the hundreds (thousands?) of other people who have supported it along the way. 2. If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18-year-old self? Spending too much time agonizing about your appearance and body is a HUGE waste of precious time. Imagine how much more women could accomplish and how much wiser we would all be if we put the energy spent berating ourselves for physical features we can't change toward being happy and healthy and loving. 3. What leadership qualities do you most admire? Humility, which isn't too common; it always surprises me when I see it in action, especially in a group setting in which people are feeling defensive and wanting to exert their authority. I think there's great power in admitting you don't know the answer or that you were in the wrong. It takes courage and confidence to lead with humility. 4. How do you get balance in your life? I've recently started taking one day of rest each week. I don't check emails or work or even do errands. Instead, I read a good book, spend time with my family, and put my feet up (and brain to rest). 5. What "rules" do you live by? I try to be really honest and transparent. My natural inclination is to be open about what I'm thinking and feeling and, while I've had to learn to express myself more diplomatically and to "speak the truth in love," I hope my what-you-see-is-what-you-get style makes me a trustworthy and vulnerable person, because I think these are two critical qualities of strong, authentic relationships. 6. For a woman starting their own business/non-profit, what three things are most critical for them to be aware of? I'm a big proponent of asking for advice, especially of people from different industries because their ideas often lead to out-of-the-box solutions and "aha!" moments you wouldn't otherwise have had had you restricted yourself to the same business model or template. I've also learned that personal stories are often the best way to connect people, whether it's to fundraise or market an idea. We all crave and understand personal connection and are much more likely to react to a story about a single human being (perhaps a child who doesn't have what she needs to succeed in life) rather than a statistic or set of data. At the same time, I've learned the hard way the important place of data for those folks who are just wired to be analytical. A piece of advice I received early on at My New Red Shoes was to always appeal to the "heart and the mind." So many of My New Red Shoes' best practices were drawn directly from that wisdom. 7. Why did you choose your career/path? In many ways, My New Red Shoes and Toddle chose me. The ideas for each took hold of my heart and mind and wouldn't let go - I couldn't sleep for weeks after the initial thought. I used to think that people who say, "I just coudn't NOT do it," were full of bologna, but then it happened to me. Twice. [Insert foot into mouth.] 8. What is your secret indulgence? I don't have many secret indulgences (can't even think of one). Perhaps Potato chips? Desperate Housewives? McDonald's Filet O' Fish sandwiches? Maybe I can come up with something more exciting after following your blog for a while longer... If you enjoyed reading about Heather. Don't be shy and let us know. We love encouraging comments!