Denise Restauri is a storyteller, speaker, writer and connector.
As the founder and CEO of GirlQuake, a Forbes Media contributor and host of the Forbes podcast Mentoring Moments (which quickly became the #1 podcast in the Forbes network), Restauri amplifies the voices of females from multiple generations and is redefining the notion of power. She is the author of Their Roaring Thirties: Brutally Honest Career Talk From Women Who Beat The Youth Trap and makes it a point to empower the next generation of thought leaders by serving on the board of female-led organizations, like She’s the First and The Empowerment Plan.
What is GirlQuake, and why should our readers know about it?
GirlQuake is a platform built around one simply powerful concept: Amplify the voices of women from multiple generations, women who are shaking things up and redefining the notion of power. Women from all walks of life—from classrooms to boardrooms and everyone in between—all with an entrepreneurial spirit.
My current focus is on democratizing mentoring through Mentoring Moments: Where Women You May Never Meet Will Become Your Mentors. As a Forbes.com contributor and host of the Forbes Mentoring Moment podcast, I share the wow-you-need-to-know-these-never-been-told-before stories that propelled the lives and careers of successful women. Smart, funny, thought-provoking stories from women who are dropping their V-bombs (Vulnerable). Stories that millions of women and men are collecting and sharing.
What inspired you to get started with GirlQuake? How do things differ today from how you imagined them when you were starting out?
Sixteen years ago I stood in front of the window of Barney’s on Madison Avenue in New York City and I had a wow moment. I’ve had many wow moments standing in front of the window of Barney’s, but this one was different—it wasn’t about a pair of fabulous shoes. I was holding my then seven-year-old daughter’s hand and I said to her, “Ally honey you can be anything you want to be. You can be a fashion designer or you can be a designer who created this window or you can design costumes for the opera.” She looked up at me with that “what are you talking about look?” and that’s when I realized I was talking to my younger self. I come from a small town outside of Pittsburgh and I have great parents who said I can be anything I wanted to be, but the problem is that I graduated high school in 1971 way before the internet, and we never left our backyard so I couldn’t see what I could be. I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I couldn’t draw. I wasn’t able to see what else I could be. I didn’t know that I could take my creativity and love of fashion and be a window designer at Barney’s or design clothes for a Broadway show. And it was that day, standing in front of Barney’s that I decided to design a platform for young women to be able to see what they can be.
That’s when the really exciting stuff started to happen. I had an idea, but no business plan. So I got on a train going down a track (now that I think about it, I guess it was going “up”!) and kept my eyes and ears open. As my journey unfolded, I would see problems in the world that needed to be fixed, or I would see a gap in the marketplace that needed to be filled, and I would take action.
I launched with a focus on sharing the stories of Millennial entrepreneurs and today I still share those stories, but as more people have started writing about these young women (that’s a great thing), I stumbled across another gap. That gap is Millennials need and want mentors, but don’t know where or how to find them. So I launched Mentoring Moments. Do I recommend the strategy of getting on a train and going for a ride? It’s like all things in life—there’s no one size fits all answer. I will say that it’s not always the most direct route to get to where you want to go, but had I not gotten on that train, I might have never ended up where I am at today. And I love where I’m at and what I’m doing. For me, it’s the only way to travel.
It’s clear in your history that you’re heavily involved in women support and empowerment. What sparked your commitment to this, and what keeps that fire going in your life?
What sparked my commitment is seeing that things were broken and needed to be fixed. So instead of sitting around talking about them, I took action. There are so many wins in Mentoring Moments. For the women who are sharing their stories, they are excited to have a platform to get their stories out, to help others. For the readers and listeners, they are getting the inside stories, the truths about challenges and successes as opposed to sugarcoated narratives. Stories that are helping them move forward. It’s seeing these wins, the magic that happens, that keeps me going.
What are your hopes for your future and the future of GirlQuake?
To keep listening, asking questions and discovering women who have stories that need to be shared. And sharing them. That may mean a pivot or a new creation – I’m still on that train, going “up the track.”
What do you consider to be one of the most important aspects of your work?
Connecting people. Connecting the dots in life. Sometimes it’s the easiest things that have the greatest impact, the things that are right in front of us. I have a network and platforms that many young women don’t have. So I share my networks and platforms with them.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges, and how did you overcome it?
For many years, I lived with the imposter syndrome. I dropped out of college, started working in sales and was very successful (excellent performance reviews and compensation), joined USA Today a year after launch, worked hard and became Vice President of Sales in my 30s. I was filling entry-level sales manager positions with women who had their master’s degrees. That played with my head. I thought I could never leave USA Today, afraid that I wouldn’t quality for another job because I didn’t have a college degree, although I had taken enough evening classes to quality for a degree, and delivered millions of dollars in revenue to USA Today. Then one day, my therapist said if I didn’t get over it, she would not work with me because I was hopeless because she thought I was one of the most marketable people she ever met. She wasn’t serious about ditching me (or at least I don’t think so!), but what she said was serious. And that’s when I ditched the imposter syndrome. I was in my 40’s – unfortunately, it took me that long.
Do you have any advice for young girls who want to be more involved?
Just take action. When you see something that needs to be fixed, take action. When you see an injustice, take action. If your boss (or anyone) isn’t treating you fairly, take action. When things are going great, celebrate (that’s also a great action). I love this quote from Shonda Rhimes’ Dartmouth Commencement speech:
“A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer, and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.”
You can find Denise Restauri on Twitter here.