#SWAAYthenarrative

How To Cultivate A Community And Embrace Positivity In Times Of Crisis

5 Min Read
Business

Our brand all started because of our community. Each and every product and formula has been created alongside our co-creators. They help guide us to figure out what is missing from the market and help outline what people actually use. That's why our relationship with our community is so important to us at Alleyoop, they helped build our company in more ways than they may realize.


When all of this craziness started, all of us had anxiety, uncertainty, and some level of fear. Many of us started to dive into content like Tiger King as a way to disassociate from this stressful news. However, after getting through three episodes, I realized this content was also deeply unsettling. That's when I came to a major realization, I can control what I take in, and I need to change it.

At that point, I started putting my effort into focusing on the good that was happening. Even just the little things — like the extra time I got to spend with my toddler. Because of all this chaos, I got to watch her say her first full sentences. Something I would have never experienced if I was working my 12 hour days away from home.

I also started to practice gratitude two times a day instead of just one. As I continued to consider the positive changes that have come about in this time of crisis, I continued to find things to be thankful for. I realized I was connecting to my parents, friends, and siblings deeper because when we video chat now a cell phone or social media couldn't distract us. Our conversations became deeper, our engagement was authentic, and our time was more well spent. We may not be able to see each other in person, but somehow we've been able to be just, if not more, close.

I started chatting with our co-creators Slack channel and our team and realized they also fell into the negative trap I had found myself stuck in. That's when I started sharing how I was taking control of what I was taking in.

As they began taking this advice, they also shared how much it resonated with them and helped them through their own struggles. We decided our larger community needed this same insight. We realized how deep our conversations were getting with each other — as far as talking about emotions instead of the products. So we decided to view this as a larger opportunity to connect with our community on a deeper level.

No, we didn't talk about the products. We just talked about things that brought us joy. We decided to focus on the beauty of this time, instead of on beauty alone. We decided to be a source of good news, positive energy, and good, old-fashioned fun.

We played bingo with our fans and did a team scavenger hunt. Yes, we played a virtual scavenger hunt. To play, one person picks a thing to hunt, for example, "Find sunscreen." Everyone runs about to find it in their hours, and the first person back gets three points, second person two points, and everyone else gets one point. The person with the most points at the end wins!

We even shared funny memes and videos because we had promised to share anything that made us feel good. We now end each week with "This week's wins!" so that we have something positive to hold in our heads and think about sharing at the end of the week. This week we even played So True Or So False! To play, we ask personal questions and everyone holds up a sign with one side reading true and the other false. You just flip your sign to answer each question and start getting to know your teammates!

This experience has taught us all that we can always come back to selling products, but the root of what we stand for is to sell you what you need and nothing more. And with what was going on, what we all need is (free) positive content, not things.

We also all took on journaling two times a day and discussed what a great impact it had on us. It had such a positive impact that we decided to make our gratitude journal digital and give it away for free to all our followers. Just another way to bring some free and open positivity out into the world.

The question we start our days with now is: "What can we do today to help our community?" In line with that question, we repurposed our marketing budget to give away $10,000 worth of free products to frontline workers to help bring them some joy with a fun package to look forward to when they get their time back. We also changed our whole marketing plan around Mother's Day. Instead of making a video about products perfect for mothers, we scrapped that entire plan and made a fun and funny video that had nothing to do with our products. (It was just released, so check it out for a good laugh!)

What we are doing is definitely risky, and it's without-a-doubt costing us money. But we are determined to focus on the beauty of this time instead of on beauty. But someone once told me, you can always work to make money, you won't always have an opportunity to make an impact. When the opportunity comes, take it, always. Now is the time to really stand behind our mission: "To help women thrive by making rule-breaking tools [both mental and physical] that move her forward, not just by bringing her closer to what she values, but by breaking down the social constructs that are holding her back." A big part of this, now and always, is building meaningful relationships with our customers since really they are the reason we exist.
5 Min Read
People

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top


You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.