“My advice is to recognize your fear and embrace the shit out of it. Get REAL comfortable with fear — learn to love it.”
Photo: Mimi Knoop
Wherever you look within women’s action sports, especially on the west coast of America, there’s a pretty good chance Kim Woozy has a footprint on it. Whether it’s through her media company MAHFIA.TV, her community work with Skate Like A Girl or any number of creative projects aimed at boosting inclusivity for girls and women, non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming people within skateboarding and board sports, Kim is an inspirational force, figuring it out as she goes, leaning into discomfort and doing a bloody good job of it.
Yo Kim. Finally, we’re doing this. Let’s start with your TEDxTalk from 5 years ago. What’s the big idea behind If She Can Do it, So Can I?
In 2013, I had spent 6 years working my way through the action sports industry as a graphic designer and eventually team manager + marketing manager for the girls brand at Osiris Shoes. It had become super obvious to me that there was a gap in the way women’s products were being marketed. As someone who snowboarded, surfed and skated and wore all the brands in the culture — seeing images of random models made no sense to me. There was no question that if we were a skate footwear brand, we should be marketing girls who could skate. When I saw or met girls and women who could skate, snowboard or surf, I was super inspired by them — they informed what clothes I wore or what brands I wanted to buy and rep. I grew up playing basketball and soccer and all the major sports brands – Nike, adidas etc were marketing their female pro athletes. As a kid I had posters on my wall of the US women’s soccer team and looked up to pro athletes like Briana Scurry, Mia Hamm and WNBA players like Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. It didn’t make sense that when it came to skate, snow and surf brands that they were using random models to advertise their women’s products – let alone objectifying these women.
During my time at Osiris I created a girls team of skaters, snowboarders, surfers and wakeboarders and to this day it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. My TedxTalk is about the why and how — my goal was for decision-makers in the leading brands in our industry to see the value and start to understand why this is both an important gender equality/equity issue and also valuable for business by creating long-term customers, not just sales trends. Five years later, we are starting to see the leading brands step up and market female skaters and doing it properly; signing contracts, paying them and marketing them authentically as people – basing it on accomplishments, not looks. If my TedxTalk played a role in this somehow – even if it got just one person thinking differently – I’m good with that!
What were the steps that led you to start Mahfia?
Around 2008, I reconnected with a friend Johnny V. We both studied Visual Arts Media at UCSD and we had worked on a lot of group projects and short films together. Johnny was the other kid in class that had a skateboard and we instantly became friends. After working in corporate video production he was ready for more in his career so we got to talking and we started producing web videos for the Osiris Girls team as a side project. Eventually, when I got laid off from Osiris due to budget cuts, we decided that we should do our own thing. We had no idea what we were doing, we just knew we were super passionate about making videos and we were good at it. With our combined connections and skills, we went out there, bright-eyed, naive, hungry and unstoppable. We started out creating our own content, covering events that we thought were fun and interesting (action sports, music festivals, DJ parties, pop-up shops, etc) which also helped us get the word out that we could make rad and high-quality videos for other brands. We ended up travelling the world and getting to shoot everything from Coachella to DJ Summer Camp for kids to F1 in Singapore to NY Fashion Week. After realizing we weren’t going to be 25 forever, we decided to focus back on action sports and empowering girls and women — something we knew would always be fulfilling and make a difference in the world. In 2014, we launched MAHFIA.TV to curate all the amazing content and stories about women in action sports that had grown exponentially.
Now that Mahfia is almost a decade old, tell us about some of the unforeseen surprises you’ve experienced?
There are so many. Where to start? Starting anything of your own will always yield surprises and unexpected wins and losses, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting. A good surprise is that I’ve made lifelong friendships out of this journey and found my real strength and power in meeting like-minded individuals who are in the same boat as me. These friendships have turned into my squad for life – my fam and community. There is something about becoming friends with someone when you are young, naive and just trying to figure life out—sharing your lowest of lows and your most epic moments together along the way. Then over time you eventually find those successes and miraculous moments and you get to share it with your homies and say hell yeah, we’re doing this! Collaborating, partnering and supporting my friends while we all hustle, making the time to pick each other up when we get knocked down and then seeing each other reach our goals really is the best feeling. It feeds my soul and gives me the courage and power to keep working and creating a life that I love.
A more challenging surprise — everyone says “you gotta fail in order to succeed” but the stubborn competitive side of me was like “fail?” hell no I’m not failing! It took me a long time to get that concept, like for real get it. Years later, I finally got that when I embrace failure and I let go of trying to win at everything and let go that things have to be a certain way (aka my way) — I can allow room for the opportunity of real success. For me that real success is to feel fulfilled and empowered and have everyone around me experience that too and sometimes that success actually looks different than me just achieving an individual goal.
What advice would you have for people who want to branch out on their own?
My advice is to recognize your fear and embrace the shit out of it. Get REAL comfortable with fear — learn to love it. That moment when you feel your heart racing, and your face gets hot and your stomach starts to churn because you are anxious about what’s about to happen — is the best thing ever! Transforming that feeling into a GREEN light (aka DO whatever it is that you are afraid of or avoiding) is a game changer. I’ve trained myself to make it mean that if I do the thing I’m scared of greatness will happen. Greatness is not just about winning or getting it right – whether you fail or succeed, it means you are growing and that is the greatest human experience. Not trying, not growing, not succeeding because you avoided failing is the opposite — it’s becoming stagnant which is the worst human experience.
My advice is to ask yourself if are you letting your fear dictate your actions? If so, set aside that fear for a moment and ask yourself what would you do if you weren’t afraid? What if you weren’t afraid of what people thought of you or if you weren’t afraid to talk to anyone and say anything to them? What if you weren’t afraid of not knowing what was going to happen next or how it would work out? What if you weren’t afraid of losing things, possessions, status, money? What if you had no money and nothing to lose? What would you do then?
From that space, think about what creative steps you could take or people you could talk to or where you could create opportunities for money or resources. Help others and ask them to help you in return, be unreasonable when it comes to who you could talk to, who you could reach out to or meet that might have access to resources you need. Don’t let your reasons stop you from what is possible or realistic. Be impractical: there is no right or wrong way to start something of your own. Be openly excited about your dreams: that excitement will be contagious and the right people will catch your excitement and want to join you. Find like-minded people to be part of your vision and your squad. Don’t water down or suppress your stoke. Let go of the idea that just because someone else did it one way, you have to do it the same way. You may be surprised at what you come up with when you aren’t operating from survival mode!
Skate Like a Girl is an amazing community organization founded in Washington 17 years ago by a handful of badass women. Over the years it evolved to a full-fledged 501c3 with 3 chapters – Seattle, Portland and the SF Bay Area, serving 5,000 participants a year. We have a range of programs including free clinics, summer camps, a teen mentorship program and in/after school enrichment programs, serving all gender youth, girls/women of all ages as well as non-binary, gender non-conforming and trans folks. It is essentially a friendly and inviting utopia for those who ever felt intimidated, uninvited or simply didn’t see others that looked like them at the skatepark or on a skateboard. When I first moved back home to the Bay I met the skaters running the SF Bay chapter and I was hyped. It was the first time I felt inspired and invited to skate. Shortly after, the chapter had to go on hiatus due to lack of leadership and funding.
The whole reason why I started working in the action sports industry was that I wanted to keep riding boards and making more friends that did the same. 15 year old me really wanted that access growing up in the Bay and while visibility and social media has broken down a lot of barriers for girls in skateboarding – there still wasn’t a physical place for girls and women living in the Bay to learn to skate and make friends IRL! When I looked around, I realized there wasn’t anyone else that was going to make it happen. About a year a later, I met Ashley Masters who is a super talented skateboarder and has a decade of experience coaching skateboarding, youth sports and fitness. I knew immediately that I wanted her on my team to make the SF Bay Chapter of Skate Like a Girl a reality. Thanks to the guidance of Kristin Ebeling, our ED, our amazing staff in Seattle and Portland and the support from our community and partners in the Bay Area, we served over 500 participants in our first summer. This year we will be hosting over 20 clinics, 5 weeks of summer camps and provide middle and high school programs to all gender youth.
What does community mean to you and how can it be a driver in elevating girls and women?
To me, community is a sense of connection which I believe is a fundamental aspect for all human beings. Connection is the foundation of human relationships and human relationships are the foundation of community. For me, community is what makes me tick. I played team sports from childhood all the way through college so I always had a community; my teammates, my squad — even when I didn’t feel like I belonged or felt different than my teammates, they were still there. I got to become the person I did inside of a space of support, breakdowns and breakthroughs — winning and losing along the way. Every time my fear got the best of me or I told myself that I was a failure and couldn’t do it – I had my community to support me, lift me up and remind me who I was for them. Regardless of what kind of community you are in it’s fundamental to being a human. Community is the key to elevating yourself and all people regardless of gender or age. It’s crucial for everyone to have a sense of community.
Talk us through a regular day.
A regular day is an office day where I spend a lot of time on the phone. I’m on 1 on 1 calls or conference calls and in between calls I’m on the computer navigating between a lot of tabs: email, google drive, slack, dropbox, social media and the interwebs. Fun stuff! While I’m ultimately working an office job, I do my best to stay active. The amount of years I spent playing sports plus the cumulative hours at my desk has my body telling me — yooo take care of yourself or else there will be consequences! This past winter I was training for a triathlon so typically I would get a swim, run, bike or some yoga in throughout the week which is helpful. About once a week we usually have an event for Skate Like a Girl which means I get to be at the skatepark. I try my best to always get at least one run in. My husband Miko and I recently moved and we live a block away from my parents so a few times a week we go to their house for dinner which is awesome. Family is super important to me! It took me a long time to figure out the balance of career and family but and I’ve finally learned when to say “ok I’m done working” and be fully present with the people I love.
How do you keep learning? Do you have any go-to sources, podcasts, mentors etc?
If I am not learning every day, I definitely feel stagnant. I’m constantly learning from our community – whether it’s a new skater at one of our clinics, my volunteer squad, or my friends in our industry, I’m always soaking up what I can from others around me. Yulin Olliver has been one of my most important mentors in the past decade, she has believed in me since day one and has been a huge contribution to the skateboarding industry and women that are in it. I also consider Mimi Knoop and Lisa Whitaker close friends, colleagues and mentors. We all have our own companies and projects but we organically started supporting each other and mentored each other and I am super grateful to have them in my life.
Recently I’ve been watching Complex’s Blueprint series which is really inspiring. Some books I’ve read and are inspired by are: Unlabel: Selling you without selling out, The Power of Habit, Lean In, The Boy Kings, Modern Romance, Fresh Off the Boat, The Tanning of America, Delivering Happiness, Girlboss, Bossy Pants – the list goes on. I especially enjoy books written by other female entrepreneurs and creators — they are possibility-models for me.
Any specific routines or tactics you have for staying on top of your game?
For the past 2 years, I’ve been in a performance training course called the Team, Management and Leadership Program through a company called Landmark Worldwide. This has been an insane game changer for me. It’s an entrepreneurial course that has allowed me to develop myself in ways I could not imagine or foresee. In the program, I have teammates and a coach, other people who are up to big things and passionate about making a difference in the world. I have team members here in California, all over the US and also Canada, Mexico as well as Europe, the Middle East and India. It’s insanely inspiring to be connected to others around the world building companies and non-profits and learning, empowering and coaching each other to be more powerful than we know ourselves to be. As a result, I have been able to grow as a community leader and have created goals and accomplishments way bigger than I ever thought were possible.
What does a down day look like for you? How do you deal with those unwanted emotions or reactions to negative progress or losing a client, or delivering work you know could have been better?
Within the training program, I have a whole new set of tools for getting unstuck when I’m feeling those negative thoughts or self-doubt. Those tools are all rooted in communication. Before I would get stuck in that negativity and wallow in it for a while and disconnect. I’d do things like avoid, procrastinate, escape or blame other people and things. Letting circumstances that were out of my control dictate my life was really exhausting and really just a small way to live my life. Since getting these new tools, I no longer have down days. I may have a down moment where something didn’t go the way I intended but now I can pivot and snap out of that almost immediately. I’m committed to not giving those thoughts more than a few minutes, maybe an hour tops, but never a full day. I’m up to too many things to allow for that kind of blockage to take over a whole day of my life. It all starts with reaching out to my squad, friend, fam and having a conversation instead of entertaining my internal dialogue.
What does 2018 have in store for you?
Skate Like a Girl is hosting our first year of Summer Camps in the Bay Area, which I’m super excited about! We’ve been getting a lot of interest from older girls and women, closer to my age and up which I’m personally hyped on, you’re never too old to learn! Really though, the oldest participant we had was 65 years old and she did great! We are also hosting more social events (shop hangs, film premieres, art shows) plus skate meet-ups, clinics and weekend camps in the Bay. I couldn’t be happier about the community we’ve built for skaters in the Bay.
As for MAHFIA.TV – I am super excited to be working on a film premiere tour of “Timeless Areas” A short film about Elissa Steamer, created by my friends Beth O’Rourke and Jeff den Broeder of SeaLevel.TV. We hosted the first premiere in Seattle and will be continuing on in Long Beach and San Francisco this summer! The film is amazing, I really want to create as many opportunities for our community to see it together and live. There is something really special about gathering to watch it together.
Moving forward, I’m looking at how to turn MAHFIA’s platforms into a more interactive community and I have a few ideas up my sleeve! It’s nice for one outlet to curate rad inspiring content but I believe the real power lies in the community being able to connect directly with each other and make shit happen on their own.
Also, I have a brand new company in the works with my homie Vanessa Torres… you heard it here first! More on that soon…. 🙂