Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Today our Executive Director, Michelle Fusco, sat down with Anna Kloots – soon-to-be published author, photographer, and business owner – discovering more about her journey to become a self-made, female entrepreneur living in Paris, France. Sitting down with Anna left Michelle feeling energized, optimistic, and in awe with her grit and determination to overcome inconceivable circumstances. Keep reading below to enjoy a candid conversation with Anna, who proves that with every setback, the best course of action is facing your trials head-on, while embracing an unshakable positive attitude.
“Anna, can you tell me a bit more about what your day-to-day looks like?”
What does my average day look like? Honestly, there isn’t one. It’s mental. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Every day is filled with whatever comes my way that day. It’s always different – but the one consistency is that I’m always writing at some point. Sometimes I write first thing in the morning when I wake up, sometimes I don’t start until midnight. I work across three different time zones. I have clients in Europe where I’m based, New York City and California. I normally work all morning with my Europe based workload, then around 3:00 p.m. I’ll have meetings with our book editor, or my literary agent in NYC, and at 6:00 p.m. LA wakes up. That’s when I call my sister Amanda to start our work-day together. It’s not unusual for me to have calls scheduled at midnight! Thankfully we hired an intern about a month ago. I realized I couldn’t do it all - I couldn’t keep going like this without some extra help.
“Tell us more about how you got to where you are today - what inspired your entrepreneurial journey?”
This time last year I was in a really different place in my life. I had no job. I was an unpaid, private assistant to my now ex-husband. I did everything he needed, when he needed it, which didn’t leave me much time to work on anything I loved. I was creating some of my own content, but it was rarely paid because I didn’t have enough time to really pursue paid opportunities. When my ex-husband told me he wanted a divorce, I didn’t have a clue where I was going to live or what I would do for work.
I had always wanted to work for a non-profit organization, but I had the total wrong degree. I went to school for fashion, hadn’t worked in eight years and had no applicable experience. I knew I would have to go back to school and start from square one – which was scary because I knew I’d have to take out loans to do that.
This time last year, I was completely freaked out. Then I asked myself, “what would I be doing for me, now that I’m not doing things for him?” .. and that’s when everything started to change for me. It felt like I was free to focus on myself for the first time in a really long time.
Fast forward one year, and I’m running four different businesses! From paid content creation and PR gigs, publishing a book with a second one on the way, creating a print shop where I sell my own photographs, to co-founding Hooray For with my sister. I’m finally doing what I want to do - and I’m so happy.
“What is the hardest thing about being a female entrepreneur?”
Freelance is a hustle and there is no guarantee on if you’ll make it or not. One of the hardest things about working for yourself is that you never get a day off. If you aren’t working, no one else is doing it on your behalf. Right now, every project is still in its infancy stages. I don’t feel like anything can run itself yet – I put this immense pressure on myself to always be doing something… there’s a lot of self-imposed pressure that comes along with being an entrepreneur.
“What has been one of the biggest highlights of your journey as a female entrepreneur?”
For me, the freedom of being able to call my own shots is huge. I never liked having a boss that told me what to do, or how much vacation I could take. The freedom of being in control of my own business and life is so amazing. I’ve especially gotten to experience this through Hooray For, because we (Amanda and I), get to control absolutely everything. Like I mentioned before, I had always wanted to work for a non-profit organization, but I didn’t have the relevant education or experience for it. I realized I had the power within me to create the type of life I wanted… and realizing that power, is one of the biggest highlights of this journey for me. I’m so proud anytime I sit down to work on anything related to Hooray For – it’s my dream job, and I created it.
“What inspired you to create Hooray For?”
Hooray For is a beautiful blend of my passion for fashion, female entrepreneurship, and desire to support non-profits like Sundara. During the heat of COVID, I didn’t watch one show on Netflix – I didn’t have a full-time career at the time and I was determined to make something come out of this terribly dark and sad time. These past few months have been particularly hard for Amanda and I, as her late husband was diagnosed with, and lost his life to, COVID. I flew to LA to be by her side during this time and help her cope through the darkest of days. We had this idea for a t-shirt that celebrates the little joys in life back in January, but now it felt more needed than ever. The whole world was feeling down and scared. People needed to be reminded that there was still a lot to be happy about. We also wanted to find a way to give back to communities, the way that people were so generously giving to us. Hence, the creation of Hooray For – it gives back on a larger scale to communities in need across the globe, and it gives people a reason to smile about something they love.
“I’m so impressed with your positive aura. I feel it radiating off you even as we speak. How do you embrace such a positive mindset, especially during difficult times?”
Honestly, I’m not sure, it’s just always been our way (Amanda and I). Sometimes a positive attitude is the only thing I can come up with. We woke up to such an awful reality during the heat of COVID. Nick (Amanda’s late husband), was in the hospital, our world was lighting on fire (literally), there were mass protests and riots – we couldn’t even safely leave the house. I was in the middle of trying to finalize my divorce.
On top of everything, we were both out of work. It was hard – but what would being in a bad mood or crying all the time do? That wouldn’t help anything. The only thing we could control was our mindset and our own actions – everything else around us was completely out of our hands.
Why focus on what you have zero power over? It was in our control to wake up and smile, to count our blessings on beautiful sunny days, to go for walks, and to continue to learn French – that personally brought me a lot of joy. I just kept looking for things to do and for reasons to smile. I dealt with my divorce in a very similar way. When it feels like the whole world is crashing down on me I just think, “okay, what is going to make me happy here?” Sometimes it’s things as small as dancing. My sister and I, together, we just like to find ways to make ourselves laugh at the end of the day. That’s how we got through our worst moments together.. finding ways to laugh at the end of it all.
“What do you think are the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make? How can they avoid making them?”
I think the most common mistake women make is not having enough belief in their own idea, or faith that it will all work out. This is a really hard journey – and it’s really easy for small setbacks to devastate you, making you feel like nothing will ever work out. While Hooray For is seeing a lot of success, at the same time we are still having growing pains and have a lot to figure out. It took a lot of time to really get the business going. There’s always going to be bumps in the road but you have to try to not get too discouraged. If you are really passionate about your work and want to share it with the world, you have to keep pushing along and truly believe it will work out. It’s so hard to keep pouring your heart, soul, and money into something when you can’t guarantee the outcome - but you have to take the leap and believe. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.. you won’t see overnight success. One piece of advice on how to overcome the lack of faith we are often faced with, as women and as entrepreneurs, is to surround yourself with a good network of people who you can rely on throughout the process, and work with people you love and trust. For me, that’s Amanda. She’s an incredible sister and business partner.
“Which other women do you admire and look up to?”
There are so many women I look up to… but definitely my mom. I think every woman becomes their own mother once they grow up, whether that’s a good thing or not. When people tell me I’m like my mom, I say that is the biggest compliment I could ever receive. She raised five children and she did it with grace. My mom was so thoughtful growing up and always did cute little things for us. She taught me the importance of creating a balance between work and fun. She’d pick me up from school in the middle of the day, pretending that I had a doctor appointment when I didn’t, so that we could go shopping! It was every girl's dream.. I didn’t realize that not every mom was as cool as mine. My mom taught me that you have to work hard, but you should always be having fun, too. There has to be that balance. I have insanely busy days but I always manage to have fun at the end of it all.
RISE by Sundara has collaborated with Anna and Amanda Kloots by creating the limited time edition, Hooray for Women t-shirt! Proceeds directly support RISE's female entrepreneurs across the globe, helping them to tackle critical water, sanitation and hygiene issues in their own communities. Shop here to get your very own Hooray for Women t-shirt and support women - local and abroad.