This interview is part of the Chasing Dreams interview series. I’ve interviewed a variety of entrepreneurs and small business owners who have chosen a different path in life in order to go after his or her dream career. Have an entrepreneur in mind you’d like to learn more about? Let me know! Today’s interview is with Dana Barron and Bridget Shannon, founders of Crop Tops & Kale. CT&K helps women enhance their wellness, beauty and style in a simple, minimalist way. Their message and work are completely in-line with my values, and we hit it off right away during our first meeting.
Plus, both Bridget and Dana are graduates of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and Bridget was previously the social media director for IIN. I just love how they approach wellness and life in general from a minimalist, approachable perspective.
I had chills while reading this interview because you can feel the passion and dedication they have to their vision. They're both so honest about the fear and excitement of starting a blog and business that I promise you'll come away feeling inspired for your own path.
Let’s dig in! (and stay tuned, because you'll be hearing from them again on my blog in the future.)
At what point did you know you wanted to follow this career path? How did you know this was the right direction?
It’s been an evolution. We've both always known the nine-to-five lifestyle wasn’t for us, but there wasn’t a single aha moment. It was the culmination of saying yes to ourselves and what we were interested in a thousand times as we went along. In shifting our own limiting beliefs as to what’s possible and committing to trusting ourselves and our intuition. The path really started to roll out when we got clear on what we actually wanted to do and not just what we thought we should be doing. Our initial concept has evolved over the past year, and we’ve pivoted a few times. Adopting a minimalist and essentialist mindset was key to gaining this clarity and direction.
There is so much noise. So much distraction, especially online. We can’t do everything—so what is it that we REALLY want to do? What is the impact we REALLY want to make? We just kept asking ourselves those questions.
What are the biggest struggles you've faced while trying to achieve your dreams?
The voices in my our own heads. A positive mental attitude is the number-one thing that decides what we can do and what we cannot do.
Dana: For me, that means staying out of my own way so I can stop doubting myself and just sit down and do the work that I know deep down is valuable. It’s a daily practice to stay on the right side of it.
Bridget: For me, this means deciding what is most essential in my life, and asking what it would take to achieve my dream (moving out of the city and leaving a comfortable job to do the work that matters most). Removing the ego from the equation has been huge.
Owning your own business can be tough on the body and mind, between long days, instability and really putting yourself out there to reach your goals. How do you stay healthy? Do you have any rituals that help you stay centered?
Dana: Sleep, abstaining from alcohol, and exercise. Sleep is number one. If I’m not sleeping well, everything goes to hell. And I actually quit drinking alcohol entirely for 90 days as a sleep and mood experiment. It’s incredible the positive impact it’s had. I'm sleeping like a champion now. And when I don’t drink at all—as opposed to a glass or two a few nights a week I was having—my mindset, which I mentioned above, is exponentially easier to control. And I’ve also been battling anxiety for most of my adult life, but when I cut alcohol out, it almost entirely evaporates. It’s mind-blowing. And exercise, specifically circuit training, helps me stay clear and energized. So nothing ground-breaking here but, getting good sleep, abstaining from the booze, and working out have been doing the trick for me. Oh, and I’ve recently been really into reading Mike Dooley and Gabby Bernstein as mental exercise—staying in my "trusting the Universe" mindset.
Bridget: I recently moved and am working rough hours, so staying healthy is a work in progress at the moment! But there are a few simple things that when overlooked can totally throw me off. Sleep and exercise are huge. When I’m sleeping seven or eight hours a night and working out regularly I have more clarity, energy and enthusiasm. Another big one for me is unplugging. Lately my tendency is to turn on the computer first thing in the morning, and I have a hard time checking out at night. When I leave zero time for disconnecting, it not only takes away from sleep and exercise, but can lead to more anxiety and frustration. I’ve learned how to say no to things I don’t want to do that may pull me out of balance. A few rituals that help are long walks with my dog, reading a good book at night and cooking healthy meals.
Speaking of putting yourself out there, overcoming rejection is a big part of chasing dreams. How do you bounce back?
Dana: One of the best ideas I’ve extracted from the hundreds of self-help and business books I’ve read is from Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. In it, Ruiz says, "Don’t take anything personally." I try to keep that in mind at all times.
Bridget: Trusting the process has been key for me and knowing that things have a way of working themselves out, regardless of what you expected or thought the outcome might look like. You have to put yourself out there if you’re going to be writing and working online, so learning to let go of other people’s opinions is important. Also, having a solid back-up plan and surrounding myself with people I love and trust has given me the confidence to go for my dream.
What do you do when you're having an off day—maybe feeling down, struggling with self-doubt, or just unmotivated?
Dana: I cry. I take a hot shower. I curl up in bed with a book. I talk it out with my husband. I find that when I’m struggling with self-doubt, the best plan is to just go do something else, take my mind off of it. And come back to the work when it’s passed.
And I always try to remind myself that just because I’m thinking something, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Bridget: A friend once told me that when she was training for a marathon, she constantly repeated to herself “one foot in front of the other.” I apply this logic to anything I struggle with, from a long run to an awful day. I try to keep in mind that everything has an end point, so this day WILL be over and tomorrow I’ll feel a lot better. I allow myself to let it pass and tackle the next day with new energy.
What is one misconception people have about you and/or your profession?
Dana: That blogging is easy or that you just write posts and that’s all there is to it.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Both: It’s so much easier (and more fun) when you have a partner who shares your mission!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a path similar to what you have?
And remember that it’s not about you, it’s about the value you’re creating for other people. That always helps us when we’re scared to ship something.
When do you feel the most inspired, alive and the most like YOU?
Dana: Right after I’ve written something I’m really proud of or read something that really resonates.
Bridget: Helping someone. Whether that’s through writing, a conversation or an action. When I can do work I love and feel passionate AND it helps someone—that’s magic.
What people, books, music, etc. inspire you?
Lately Erin Boyle at Reading My Tea Leaves, Caroline at Un-Fancy, The Minimalists, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, Miracles Now: 108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow, and Finding Your True Purpose by Gabby Bernstein, and Manifesting Change: It Couldn't Be Easier by Mike Dooley.
Describe your favorite moment or accomplishment in your career so far.
Dana: I ran a cleanse a few years ago. I had about 35 women enroll. One of them was a woman in her 60s living in Maine, a friend of my sorority sister’s aunt (I love when stuff like that happens!). When I spoke to her after the cleanse, she said her husband wanted to send me flowers. Because after doing the cleanse for just ten days, the chronic pain she’d been living in since her bout of Lyme Disease—a decade earlier—had totally vanished. She felt like she had her life back and her husband wanted to know who gave him his wife back. She cried. I cried. We all cried. I can’t remember ever feeling so professionally fulfilled. It reminded me that there is always SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE who needs what we have to offer the world. Our job is to do the work, put it out there, try to find them, and give them all we’ve got when we do.
Bridget: A big turning point in my journey was deciding to leave my full-time job to go after what I really want to do. There were a lot of factors involved and a ton of fear, and but I’m really proud of the decision because it was the first time I stood up and declared “This is what I want to do. I know it’s going to be hard and it’s risky, but it’s worth it to me.”
Another favorite moment was when we agreed on our partnership terms at a bar (after about three beers) on a cocktail napkin. Maybe not the most official process, but it meant we were both all in. I still have the napkin.
What’s the most exciting thing going on in your life right now?
Dana: This project with Bridget. It’s basically all I think about these days. There’s so much good we can do and most of the time, it’s super fun. It’s so exciting to do the work and watch something grow.
Bridget: Starting this new chapter. I’ve never been more pumped about work and all the possibilities life has to offer. Change is scary, but it’s incredibly liberating and exciting.
About Crop Tops & Kale
Dana Barron and Bridget Shannon are the Co-Founders of Crop Tops & Kale, a website dedicated to living healthier and happier through the pursuit of less but better. After years of studying personal development, lots of trial & error, complicated diet protocols, and several wardrobe malfunctions, they've figured out a formula to live happier, more fulfilling lives. They write about simple wellness, safer beauty and minimalist style to help readers live their best lives and make the world a better place.