I am completely thrilled and honored to be sharing this edition of the Women Who Lead series. Being so committed to conscious leadership, conscious culture and social entrepreneurship, I have felt drawn to this woman’s mission, vision and purpose before I even knew she was the voice behind such a meaningful and impactful business.
Rachael Baxter, co-founder of Conscious Magazine, is one amazing woman. In partnership with her sister, Elena, she took a desire to experience something different in the media and developed it into a thriving company now inspiring a different conversation when it comes to ‘news’.
She’s a passionate entrepreneur who’s committed to keeping her creativity alive, and showing that seeing ALL your dreams and interests have legs to stand on is possible. Her most recent project - Baxter & Co. - is solid proof.
Join me in welcoming Rachael to the SoulPowered community and in celebrating her contribution to living and leading in life with consciousness, passion and soul.
What was your path that defined your early days of entrepreneurship?
Growing up, I was very entrepreneurial, but didn’t know I was or know much about being an entrepreneur. I knew a lot about small business and small business owners because my mom owned a salon, but even in college didn’t really know what it meant.
All I knew was that I wanted was to get a good job out of college to pay down debt: and coming out of college, I had a job lined up perfectly (it transitioned out of an internship into full time work). Sitting at the desk job I remembered in my heart that I wanted to be a part of something very creative. And, after a year and a half in that role and work, I started to wonder if I was going to grow with the company...and at the same time felt stuck.
I had the opportunity to work for a non-profit in program management, and there was something different about working in the non-profit space - about working for a mission. And, while I felt more at home in the industry, I didn’t have a heart for this mission - and I can’t fake passion. I wasn’t passionate about it enough to really expand my entrepreneurial skills and make the job mine.
As I was doing that a girlfriend came to me and we had watched a documentary about sex trafficking that brought light to the industry in the US. It hit home in a way I hadn’t experienced before and I started trying to fight sex trafficking in the US with everything I could do. I built partnerships, created a way for people to share stories, etc/ pivotla I did all I could to spread the message for something so important in the world. We hosted events to raise awareness about sex trafficking and see peoples’ responses to it - some got it and some didn’t.
Eventually, my partner and I had a fall out and went separate ways - and walking away from something I really loved was really hard. But, I had a very strong faith and was trusting God to show me what was coming next. It was then that me and my husband decided to move into my mom’s basement. I was unemployed and wasn’t bringing in any income - so we moved back to New Jersey to save money.
While we were there, my younger sister was living there as well. We were sitting on the couch in the basement chatting about this ‘blogging thing’ people were talking about. We started thinking about it and decided that while we love culture and music, art and beauty, we really loved the idea about spreading awareness about causes that matter. We wanted to share lifestyle and talent and charity can come together and how people are doing it to help others.
My sister still had a full-time job, but in between launching the blog we also launched a social media management business, where our clients got training and experience in social media. After that business took off, we moved from Jersey into NYC where we were still blogging and had a group of friends that got together to write stories. We had little to no direction and were doing it on the fly. But we would host events for different causes and would have people come up to us and offer to help in what we were up to. It was shortly after that when our board came together to get behind the business and launch it as Conscious Magazine. And the dudes took it to another level.
I appreciate each experience I’ve had because it prepared me for where I’m at now; it all prepared me for Conscious Magazine.
One part in the process that I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional journey you go through when trying to launch something on your own. I had anxiety, I was depressed - I sought help after the first year of launching Conscious Magazine so I could find happiness in my heart, know more about myself.
That’s exactly what people want to know - it’s those real experiences of ‘it all prepared me for the future….except there was that one thing’ - this is the stuff that often doesn’t get talked about. It’s not often that people about what it’s actually going to feel like, and what to do when someone hits that block. There’s not a lot of open dialogue about support systems that will help people when they get there.
Well that’s just it. The blog did come from a place of pain; I had walked away from a project we had built over a year and a half just so I could get healthy - and in turn put myself in a place of solitude and pain. But, it also drove me into rekindling a relationship with my sister too. I look back and reflect on our conversations on the couch where I thought things were falling apart...but it was just the beginning.
Did you know or have you felt anywhere along the journey that stepping into Conscious Magazine or starting it was a calling for you or your purpose?
I think at the time, we looked at current media and were so sick of gossip columns etc. and saw an opportunity to deliver something different. We also came from a place where we saw a ton of female driven magazines and everything they talked about creating a negative influence. When we knew we were going to do something more positive and more inspiring, we were really excited about it. From that moment we knew it was our future; we knew it was what we were going to be doing.
Was that the boldest thing that you have ever done - landing on that knowing that you were stepping into what your future was going to be?
I didn’t think about it like that at the time. I just thought ‘Let’s do it...let’s figure out how to do it’. Now being a bit older and looking back, we were starting a media company and that’s pretty bold - a pretty big deal. Everything is a challenge and I am not bored at all. If I need to speak in public...to me that’s bold. But yes - looking back at what I thought was something we would just ‘do’ - I would say it was pretty bold.
When you think about it - perhaps now that you’re in it - has there been a moment of realization that your work is creating impact?
I have a habit of questioning myself and questioning everything - even when people tell me that I’m doing a good job; I have this issue where it’s very hard to believe in what I’m doing. But at the same time, when there are all these people who are supporting this thing we’re doing, it’s disrespectful to even question that we’re making an impact. At the end of the day, this is such a collaborative thing and yes, I fully believe that we are making an impact.
You’ve shared a couple really compelling moments with us so far. So I’m curious: why do you lead?
I know in terms of how much hurt is in the world, I just want to see people overcome it. And I think a magazine like ours can be an encouragement to someone needing support: it can be an encouragement to someone who grew up on welfare or in the projects and thought they had no future. The message is to keep fighting, keep building, don’t let fear get in the way. I do it for the people fighting for the next generation.
I get so frustrated with what media keeps putting out there: another story that keeps distracting us and isn’t educating anyone. I need to talk to some of the writers out there and know why they’re writing some of the things they are. Someone asked me once ‘If you could be in any kind of movie what would it be?’ and I know I would be in an action movie fighting the bad guys.
The more pretty side is that there are so many amazing people out there and we want to be able to share their stories. We want to be able to serve them in the most impactful way possible.
Where do you really shine in your role as a leader? What’s your sweet spot?
Definitely organization - but there’s two sides. There’s my very organized side and then the other side where I want to encourage, lift others up and if they can’t see something in themselves, reveal that for them. We all deal with confidence and courage issues. When someone comes up against something they can’t do, I’m the one to encourage, inspire and lead them to their possibilities.
With everything that is going on right now within Conscious and the other projects that you’re working on, what’s your vision for the future?
Education is something that we are trying so hard to push with Conscious Magazine. It’s a very lifestyle based magazine yet within the past 10 months have been pushing out a lot of stories that are highly educational. Something that we want to do is train the next generation of storytellers so they share stories that can make a difference. Education wise, it could be small where we host panels or larger where we start up a 9 month program where we host students. The other side of my vision is a Conscious Network where there is 24/7 programming of conscious programs and stories. Third, we are able to connect with so many people around the world, we would love to do a global tour and work alongside them as they do their mission work and support them in any way that we can.
We miss out on some of the face to face interaction but conscious film, conscious school.....I want to dedicate my life to that. Even for my future kids and nieces and nephews - I see them getting involved. We want to be this platform to share the stories that are already out there and get involved in any way we can.
I know that you were talking about your newest business endeavor—Baxter+Co.—I would love for you to share a little bit about it. What made you launch into a second business?
With Conscious Magazine, it’s grown into a pretty big and serious business. My sister and I were looking for a creative release, so we designed a few things for our last print issue - and saw how much we loved it. We always said we wanted to start a Baxter + Co company (because we love our last name) and we have so much fun thinking about how it could grow.
Sure, we had feedback from people to not launch too many things at one time. But really, you can’t hold us back; once we have our minds set on something, we just go after it. It’s a purely creative release; we do it together and it’s tons of fun. We also want to be able to support other brands who are looking for custom artwork. But again, we structured it with ‘business structure’ with websites and distribution...I guess it shows that no matter the project, we always come into it with a business focus.
And we know it doesn’t have to be perfect.
What have you learned most about being an entrepreneur?
One: you need to believe in yourself and maybe that sounds corny but it’s really true. Be confident in your decisions.
Two: have a support team. Having close friends and people that are there to encourage you and provide support.
Three: LISTEN and be curious about feedback. if someone says something negative or wants to give you advice - you can choose to take it or not, but just listen to it.
Four: in terms of work life balance, find your own groove. Use the tips that others give you but don’t let anything define your road to success -- be free from that. Find your own groove and the times and schedules that are best for you; find your focus and work it. Mine took forever to figure out.
Five: strive to be a good leader. Be respectful, treat others like they’re royalty, be empathetic, allow others and other things to move you - and use that as motivation. And sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow. Work hard.
One last thing: don’t compare yourself to others; it can ruin everything. Comparison can make you get stuck, and it’s the worst thing you can do for yourself.
Along the same lines, what’s the best piece of advice or mentorship you have received along the way?
My mentor is very business minded and has helped turn around hundreds of small businesses. She taught me to focus, simplify and leverage. In this world we can complicate so much but if we simply stay the course on what you’re supposed to be working on, look around you to see where you can bring others’ skills into your world and work, anything is possible.
How do you continue to develop yourself?
I actually do my best to read an article from the NY Times every day to know what’s going on in the world. I search #socialgood on Twitter and now that I am working out of a co-work space where they host a lot of classes, I make it a goal to attend at least one a week. I also just joined Dale Partridge’s startup camp.
The main thing is that I constantly read and take a lot of notes and see how I can apply what I am learning. In terms of doing more formal education, I was never a great student. I was always more self-taught. I look at other people getting their masters and going back to school and I remind myself to keep doing what I’m doing and when I have more time, maybe do it down the road.
Professional development goes hand in hand with my emotional development: I speak to someone two times a month to work on emotions that I am feeling. Helps me see why I made certain decisions - having a counselor is really important.
I love how specific you are. It shows how committed you are to your ongoing growth and what it really requires to continue to grow and play at the level you are playing at.
Who are some women entrepreneurs that really inspire you?
I guess all of the editorial collaborators that write for Conscious Magazine are leaders in their space. They are hard working, some of them are moms, they’re located around the world. I learn from the because I read their articles and they are so inspirational - Kristin Moses of Design Good, Kelly Kreiss of Global Populace (spent lots of time overseas mentoring youth in under served communities), Leyla Acaroglu of DISRUPT DESIGN - all about using design to help solve social issues. These women are our writers and they are amazing and hard working and I love them. I look up to them. They are constantly educating me.
What’s your take on living and leading with soul?
Leading as who I am with my own personality. I think you always have to lead with soul - and soul to me is kind of like who I am. I am super serious and I am super silly. For a long time I tried to mask some of my personality. When I started coming out of my shell and being who I truly am, people naturally started to gravitate towards that.
Lead as who you are; allow people to fit into your life. We all have our own shortcomings, and with mine and with what I am working on, I want my team to know I am leading from a good place - from good intentions - and working on getting better every day.
Rachael, one of the sister co-founders of Conscious Magazine, serves as Conscious’ Editor-in-Chief and oversees the editorial and aesthetic branding of the magazine. Her curious nature loves to explore the world through stories and causes, as well as, the arts (she loves to design, paint, sing, and dance). Rachael has a passion for justice and fights for many causes: the orphan crisis, sex trafficking, lack of education, and more. Rachael is on a mission to work alongside the next generation of storytellers and journalists who seek to change the world through media.