Banding Together / 03

Updated July 21, 2020

"Storytelling is how we build
connections and community
as human beings."

Shira Atkins and Jenny Kaplan are amplifying underrepresented voices. Though the pandemic has created obstacles far wider than they could have imagined, they have lead with grace and grit.

SHIRA WEARING TUMBLED LINEN / SOLIDS

We’re so pleased to share your stories! To start, tell us a little about yourselves, fill in the blanks:

Shira: 

  • I am … the co-founder of WMN. I spend my days dreaming big, strategizing, speaking, writing … and selling!
  • I work ... with an awesome team of all women. It's not something I ever specifically imagined would happen for me, but is a delight in so many ways, particularly in an industry most dominated by men. 
  • What I hope to contribute through my work ... I've always been most excited about building a sustainable business that breaks boundaries and punches high above what others perceive to be possible for women-led media companies. I love collaborating with smart people who are mission-driven and bring dreamlike energy to content and media that can really change the world. 

Jenny:

  • I am … the co-founder and CEO of Wonder Media Network (WMN). WMN is an audio-first media company that works to amplify underrepresented voices, to inspire action, and to introduce empathy into politics, business, and culture. 
  • I work with … Our team of 10 is typically based in New York City and is currently spread across the country. We work on WMN shows and we also create podcasts for other organizations to help boost their internal and/or external communications. 
  • What I hope to contribute through my work ... I believe that storytelling is how we build connections and community as human beings. The power of stories is supercharged in an audio-only medium as listeners are committed to a story without visual distractions. By telling stories that are often otherwise missing from society's general narrative, I hope we are creating opportunities for people to think differently and connect to the material and to the people around them. 

We love the idea of connecting to powerful stories without visual distractions. What kinds of challenges have you navigated through in order to keep telling these stories?

Shira: Leading a young company through a global pandemic is no easy task, but leading a young company at all—is riddled with constant obstacles. The obstacles are both internal and external, and sometimes they're real and sometimes they're invented. I turn to my yoga practice which teaches to be the witness, and not the judge, whenever obstacles arise. I plan for the future and address obstacles by understanding the root of the problem, and looking straight at it, without attachment to external narratives about what success should look like. 

How is your work evolving at the moment?

Jenny: Since starting WMN I've found that almost every 3 months, it's time to take a quick step back and re-strategize. The pace of growth is so fast that starting a company means getting really, really comfortable with a lot of change, even in "normal" times. As we've navigated working through the global pandemic, we've had to double our focus on business development and brainstorm new and interesting ways to push forward our mission. 

What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Jenny: I've learned that it's necessary to embrace uncertainty. If we expect total certainty, control, or perfection, we're setting ourselves up for failure.

Shira: Relationships are everything. I don't just say this as someone whose work is primarily in sales—it is true that sales is about relationships—what I mean here is that without relationships, why build something? I love being in an industry where I've met lifelong friends, where I look forward to industry gatherings because building this wild world of podcasting is creative, generative, and joyous. If you're in an industry you don't love, or doing work that doesn't inspire you...get out fast. We deserve to live in flow. Doesn't mean we also won't work our asses off, just means that when we do, we're working towards something.

What are your silver linings / what are you thankful for?

Jenny: I'm very, very thankful for my co-founder, Shira, and for our team. Every day I am in awe of the work that they do. 

We believe all women have innate superpowers, what would you say your superpower is?

Shira: I find tremendous joy in connecting with people, and have a big open heart. Loving easily means that it's easy for me to see beauty in everyone and see possibility everywhere. This superpower has opened doors for me in building something from nothing.

To learn more and hear powerful stories on Wonder Media Network, you can visit:



 

What are the stories you’d like us to tell over the coming months? What advice do you need? Which topics and industries are of interest to you? If you have any thoughts on this, please email us at sayhello@grayson.com and make sure the subject line reads “Banding Together”. We will use your suggestions to inform our series going forward. Please email kimber@grayson.com if you would like to be featured on Banding Together.