Yulia Denisyuk, award-winning travel journalist and photographer, weighs in on finding your voice, challenges facing females, and her unique company for writers.
SheFari: You’ve traveled the world as an award-winning photographer and journalist. What is the one place that most stirred your soul and why?
Yulia: Every destination I visit leaves a mark on me, because everywhere I go, I’m fortunate to meet incredible people that, in one way or another, expand my definition of what’s possible in the world. But if I had to choose, I’d say that the places that have impacted me the most are India, Turkey, and Jordan. Each of these countries has a culture of strong communities, and after living in the very individualistic western world for many years, I find myself drawn to community-driven cultures more than ever before.
SheFari: Absolutely, community lies at the heart of both our businesses. Tell us what Genius Womxn is all about and why you founded it.
Yulia: Genius Womxn is about empowering other womxn to go after their creative dreams. Too often, we’re held back – by our own beliefs, fears, doubts, insecurities, lack of support from others – and I want to live in the world where every womxn feels like she can do anything she puts her mind to. For the most part of my travel journalism career, I’ve been looking for a community of other brilliant womxn where we could uplift and support one another. I couldn’t find one, and so I created Genius Womxn as my answer to this void. We offer a travel journalism course, a membership for on-going support, a podcast where we interview amazing womxn creators in travel media and beyond, and a community that supports and celebrates womxn everywhere!
SheFari: What are the challenges and pitfalls that you think hold females back, and what do you think is important to teach them, specifically?
Yulia: For centuries now, womxn have been socialized to hold back. We’re being held to an impossible standard and at the same time, we’re never enough. We’ve also been taught to compete with other womxn and buy into the scarcity mindset. In our Genius Womxn community, we’re actively working on dismantling all the stereotypes and prejudices that many womxn have to deal with throughout their lives. Every single one of us is brilliant, and we all have a unique voice that deserves to be shared with the world. This is the main message of Genius Womxn that we aim to deliver through our platform and all of our efforts.
SheFari: What’s your advice to aspiring writers, journalists, and creatives?
Yulia: Take action. That is the most important thing. Many of us have dreams of becoming travel storytellers, of creative work, of pursuing something that lights up our fire. But for various reasons I mentioned above, many of us stop short of actually taking action. And yet, taking action is the only thing that will bridge the gap between where you currently are and where you want to be. It’s how we get better, it’s how we develop knowledge, it’s how we advance in this – and any – careers.
SheFari: We’re super excited to co-create a trip with you. Give us a preview; where will the trip participants be heading and what amazing things can we expect?
Yulia: We’ll be going to Jordan, one of the places that I now call home and that will for sure make you fall in love with this region. We’ll spend time floating in the Dead Sea, discovering the ancient city of Petra through lesser-known trails, and taking in the majesty of the incredible, star-filled Wadi Rum desert. It’s an unforgettable journey on which we’ll also grow as humans which is what travel, at its best, allows us to do.
Have that one friend who can’t stop spilling about their magical trip to Mykonos this summer? Or the sister who has a picture of Santorini’s cliffs on their vision board next to their travel fund jar? It’s not surprising that Greece is currently one the world’s hottest destinations. It’s been named the world’s safest destination, best beach, and overall best destination by various global authorities in 2019 alone.
In addition to its breathtaking landscape, part of the destination’s allure are the modern products popping up in hip boutiques in the local “agora”, crafted by incredible artisans. From the fashion scene to one-of-a-kind treasures to take home, Hellenic brands are making their mark.
Left: Hope Kauffman Photography, Right: Ames Bags
Ames, meaning “labyrinth” in ancient Minoan dialect, is the passion project of rising Athens-based designer Lia Manjorou. Much like some of the world’s most iconic signature patterned bags, Ames by Lia Manjorou has reinvented a classic Greek symbol into beautiful and high-quality fabrics in her cutting-edge line of accessories. With this unique Hellenic pattern translated into a chic textile, take a subtle piece of Greece everywhere you go. Each gorgeous bag is a designer piece to add to your collection. We’re especially fond of the Deos, the perfect bag for our travels.
How to wear it: With an airy blouse and denim shorts while boarding the ferry to an island, shopping the boutiques in Naoussa, Paros, or strolling chic Ermou Street in downtown Athens.
Photos: Sea You Soon
Greece is synonymous with stretches of pure sand and turquoise waters. For the sun-worshipper who can’t get enough of Vitamin Sea, look no further than Sea You Soon’s premium beach towels – created by two Greek brothers and inspired by cosmopolitan travelers and boho beach-goers. With natural textiles woven in Greece and Turkey, the bold-patterned towels double as a sand-resistant beach mat, sarong, or cover-up. Sea You Soon’s cool designs echo a Mediterranean aesthetic, a must-have accessory for those hot summers of island-hopping. We love the multi-functionality of the towels and their stylish design which are so on-point with the Greek aesthetic.
Where to take it: To the hip beach bars of Mykonos like Kahlua, Scorpion, or Ammos. Or, be adventures and bare it all on a private rocky beach on a remote island like Sifnos or Serifos.
Have you ever wondered what Greece smells like? Helessence Candles handcrafts candles with soy wax, essential oils, and fragrance inspired by the timeless beauty of the Greek natural landscape and influenced by scents of the Mediterranean. Forget overpowering flowery and musky perfumes – Helessence is all about unique blends with local scents that evoke emotion. We love the minimal elegance and sophistication of the Graecia Fuga, named for some of its hidden gems. Our personal favorite is Naxos, inspired by the island’s “wild landscapes, imposing waterfalls, magnificent sandy beaches, lush forests and famous Venetian monuments.” This is a fresh, seaweed candle with top notes of grapefruit and melon, a heart of hyacinth and figs sipping on a base of vetiver and musk. Yes please!
Where to Burn it: Did you know that smell may be the scent most closely linked to memory? This candle is perfect for the office when you’re scrolling through your pics of the vacation of a lifetime and reliving the memories. Inhale the aroma and it will take you right back!
When to Sip it: We can’t think of anything better than cozying up with a great novel, a freshly-brewed mug of Relax Gold Edition tea, and of course a Helessence candle burning. Why not try Nicholas Gage’s Eleni or his daughter, Eleni Gage’s incredible account.
Photo: Hope Kauffman photography
Swedish founder of globally-renowned brand DockATot, Lisa Furuland Kotsianis, has made the Athenian Riviera her forever home, and we can’t blame her. The creative designer behind the world’s leading baby lounger (which has amassed an international following) has recently launched her newest creative endeavor – Aristot, luxury furniture of elevated versatility that double as bassinets. DockATot has created a fashionable and useful sleeping mask, perfect for the weary or jet lagged traveler. When Kotsianis isn’t dreaming up new frontiers in the juvenile market, you can find her in her favorite getaway destination, Spetses. Needless to say, the country offers her endless inspiration, and we totally see why.
When to Wear it: If you’re hoping to arrive in Athens fresh and rested, the DockATot sleeping mask will help you get shut eye and land ready to enjoy the kefi. Opa!
Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, Hippocrates of Kos – the “Father of Medicine” – began to discover ways of improving one’s health. Wellness has long been a cornerstone of life for Greeks. Before the healthy benefits of honey and royal jelly were widely known as they are today, two pharmacists in Greece turned their passion for honeybees and herb extracts into a line of natural cosmetics. In 1972, the founders of Apivita, Nikos and Niki Koutsianas, were inspired by Hippocrates’ holistic approach to health, beauty and well-being, and knew they could bring incredible products from beekeepers to fruition. With an immense respect for the unique biodiversity of Greek nature, and especially the bee, they crafted a company to embody their values. They even named it in honor of the bee; derived from the Latin words Apis (bee) and Vita (life).
Many Greeks consider Apivita an essential beauty brand, and a best-kept secret. But the secret is out and the brand is growing its international reach as more and more people are experiencing it, from hair to skin products. We love this incredible face mask that restores and rejuvenates with all-natural ingredients.
When to Use it: Whenever you’re needing that fresh Greek glow!
Language is wine upon the lips. – Virginia Woolf
Much of our writing in the digital age is made to be read in a flash. People’s attention spans are shorter than ever, and as such, our writing must swiftly grab attention! I personally am not a fan of the immense speed with which most people consume content in our era. It lends itself to shallow consumption, no time to digest, and impulsive “reactions” via social media and divisive comment threads. And yet, we cannot resist the times. As writers, we have to strike a balance between writing for today and writing with integrity. Whether you’re writing website content, a blog post to be used for attraction marketing, or pure creativity, your writing must stand out! Having written for editorial outlets, brands, and social media copy galore, I have come across a few formulas that help make the process of writing for a digital audience less daunting. Most people who want to write typically face blocks that keep them from pursuing it long-term or even starting in the first place. (Who can relate?) As a writer, you want to break past those barriers and write compelling content that stands out.
Whether you’re a new writer or would like to refresh your craft, below are a few tips on how to break past that sneaky barrier. I’ll expand upon these at Shefari’s upcoming She Succeeds retreat Retreat for entrepreneurs.
Perfect is the enemy of good (aphorism attributed to Voltaire), at least in your first draft. When starting out, the best thing you can do is begin – with literally anything! Writers’ block is often resistance to getting started rather than to the process of writing itself. Let your first draft be a messy “brain-dump” if necessary. All that matters is that you get something down on paper (or screen). Your draft will give you a roadmap. You may scrap most or all of it, but I guarantee that getting something from your head to the page will produce some magic, even if it’s just a line or idea of where you’re taking the piece.
Want to write but feel embarrassed that all of your grammatical knowledge is long forgotten? Enter Grammarly. This is available as a free tool or a paid-for plugin. It auto-checks your work for basic errors, but also offers suggestions for style and syntax. Not sure precisely where that comma should go? Let Grammarly catch it for you! When you remove some of the obstacles to writing well, you’re likely to want to write more.
Things don’t have to be so serious! As Maya Angelou once said, people remember how you make them feel, not what you said. Make people laugh and they’ll want to read your writing! Don’t be afraid to make that quip, but at all costs, avoid cliches. Which leads us into…
This one couldn’t be more important in an era when anyone and everyone fancies themselves a wordsmith. Avoid overused phrases and cliches. It’s ok if they slip into your drafts – more than ok, in fact. As you edit, replace those with your own original thoughts and analysis. If something reads like a cliche, kill it. The phrase “kill your darlings” exists as part of the writers’ unspoken “Holy Book” for a reason.
The subject line is your hook – both for eyes and SEO! Take the time to research whether your subject is “competitive” and try, for the sake of balancing SEO and the needs of readers, to find something that falls under the category of moderately competitive. You don’t want your keyword to register at highest levels or you’ll be buried in search engines. There are many tools available in 2019, but you can use Google’s Keyword tool for free! It provides you all the info you need to know on whether your keywords and potential subject lines are low, moderate, or highly competitive. How will you choose? More on that in a future post, or on Shefari’s upcoming She Succeeds Retreat, where we’ll discuss how to write compelling content.
To whom are you writing? This is the perfect opportunity to bring to life your ICA, aka ideal customer avatar. Writing to a screen is not always fun or inspiring. Imagine you’re writing to a person, instead. Having a target avatar can mean a fictional character or an actual human. This tool also helps if you’re feeling the writers’ block or are low on motivation. Imagine the friend who you share the juiciest, most thought-provoking conversations with. You might even call to mind someone you flirt with! If it’s marketing content, envision your ideal customer: his/her lifestyle, frustrations, questions, and needs from your product or service. It helps to imagine that you’re engaged in witty banter or a thoughtful conversation rather than typing on your work machine… you may be amazed at what you produce! When creating your avatar, you can even write about her/him/them. What do they like to wear? Where do they go on the weekends? What’s their favorite band or book? The more specific, the more you’ll feel it when you write to them – and your audience will relate.
I couldn’t emphasize this more. You may be familiar with a scenario that looks like: “Wow, I felt so inspired two hours ago at the park. Now that I’m home, I’ve completely forgotten what I wanted to write!” Carry a notebook to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes. You can also take notes on your phone, but writing by hand is more relaxing and has been proven beneficial to your health. Writing notes on your phone can also easily lead to getting lost in the world of social media, a time suck that is an enemy of the written word. Get into the habit of writing more often, even when it may seem trivial. This simple journaling trick will improve your creativity, and you may end up with a running list of blog ideas or topics to have on hand should that dreaded writers’ block strike.
Want to learn more tools and tips of the trade from content pro Kristina Headrick? Curious about how to write compelling content that stands out in the digital era? Want to do all of this… while on a Greek island? We’ve got you covered! Click here for more info on Shefari’s upcoming She Succeeds retreat. We’ll enjoy workshops from several boss-women, including a daily writing workshop.
When you scrolling through Instagram you may encounter one of those dreamy, post-card perfect retreats. From your workspace, you practically feel the sun warm your face and hear the lulling tide. You may even imagine the inspiration and renewal you’ll feel, not to mention the lifelong friends and business besties you’ll make. A women’s entrepreneurial retreat sounds like the perfect way to add momentum to your personal and professional life. Then, the inevitable happens. You cringe and brace for the price tag, adding up just how many clients you’d have to nail to really afford it.
Before your dream fizzles, consider mapping out the value a retreat delivers, and how it’s really an investment in your future. How can a women’s entrepreneurial retreat affect your business? Could a retreat actually be the key to making MORE money and creating the lifestyle on your vision board?
Read on for 5 ways you can use a women’s entrepreneurial retreat to your financial advantage.
Invest in your company’s most valuable asset: YOU.
Sure, this may be one you’ve heard before. But there’s a reason for it. It’s been proven that a vacation – at the very least a change of scenery – improves productivity. And creativity. Energy. Health. Ambition. Relationships. Fill in the blank. A mindful, intentional vacation such as a retreat is a great way to refocus and recharge, then come back better equipped to pilot your business. After all, who will refill your tank, if not you?
Learn best practices from a focus group of your professional peers.
A retreat packs a multi-punch. In addition to amazing workshops and sessions, it’s essentially a round table of like-minded people exchanging ideas, including invaluable ones you may have never thought of. You can easily adapt these into your business and boost your bottom line exponentially. Ever wondered: How did she get that many leads from a simple social media campaign? Where did she build that unique niche audience no one else thought of? Take part in a retreat to have these secrets shared with you directly. Genius!
It’s the perfect team-building meet-up if you work on a virtual team.
When you’re connected with VAs, content creators, marketers, and bookkeepers remotely – why not meet in an amazing place where you each can also (a) grow your network (b) develop professionally and (c) touch base on your shared business interest? Many retreats offer “bring a friend” discounts, so it pays to show up in numbers. Bring your team and grow together!
It’s a bona fide business expense.
For true professional retreats, if you incorporate work daily, it is 100%. Tax. Deductible. Vacations can’t boast that. Note that not all retreats are created equal – check with your accountant ahead of time to be sure it meets the requirements.
The whole is more than the sum of its parts – but less expensive.
This is, perhaps, the biggest benefit. If you paid for online business courses, coaching, mentorship, networking events, yoga classes, meditation training, professional workshops, and an all-inclusive vacation separately – it would cost far more than a retreat. It would also be a series of one-offs in your busy daily life instead of an incredibly immersive experience. For all of the above reasons – plus that it’s an ideal way to visit a new place – there’s no question as to the value of a retreat. Straight up, it’s a worthwhile investment!
If this all sounds like something you need, we have you covered! If you’re looking for an upcoming women’s entrepreneurial retreat to jumpstart your business, check out our She Succeeds Women’s Entrepreneurial Retreat this October. Held on the storied island of Corfu, this retreat will be the perfect way to improve your bottom line – personally and professionally!
Did we mention you can WIN the entire retreat via a full scholarship by sharing your story? Click here for more information.