Gaux Girl - Alisha Ramos2019-10-14
Navigating your career throughout your 20s and 30s is hard enough without factoring in the pressures of maintaining a social life. That persistent push-pull ache of feeling like she ought to be out and about—even if she didn't really want to—is what drove Alisha Ramos to create the organization that became her career.
Girls' Night In is a newsletter-based phenomenon that's captivated plenty of millennial women who have realized that while they want to lean into their work, leaning out of the obligation to go out every weekend has a certain appeal. The tagline—"a newsletter for people who'd rather stay in tonight"—is one every over-scheduled, ambitious woman can relate to.
Alisha, as GNI's Founder and "Chief Lounger," built the brand while pulling from previous experiences with product design and brand strategy. While all of her corporate know-how proved invaluable for creating a 360-experience for the community of young women she courts, it's her people skills that made it possible. If startups are about identifying an opening, Alisha and GNI did it with a real heartbeat and soul, recognizing how many women wanted to find more meaningful connections.
Alisha's innate interpersonal skills are complemented by a knack for tuning into her gut and letting it help with the big decisions.
"I know people always say that, but your gut is an aggregation of all your prior experiences and learnings. Sometimes it'll tell you to run in the other direction from where people are pleading with you to go. When it pays off, it's worth the fear."
Read our conversation below to find out how she turned GNI into a full-fledged business and the methods she employs for avoiding burnout.
You started Girls' Night In while you had a full-time job. What was that experience like?
I sent my first newsletter at the end of January 2017 to about 300 people—mostly friends and people who followed me on social media. I immediately received a lot of positive feedback from friends and strangers. I had no idea the domino effect it would create—it was off to the races and grew quickly, [so] balancing it with my full-time job was difficult.
I would work at the office from 10 a.m. to about 6 p.m., come home, eat dinner quickly, then work [on GNI] from about 8 p.m. to sometimes 1 or 2 a.m. It burned me out completely. One of the last straws was my then-boyfriend, now fiancé, taking a photo of me wrapped up in a blanket, asleep on the couch on a Friday morning. I looked completely miserable! Seeing that evidence of just how tired I was was a much-needed shock to my system that something had to give.
I gave my two weeks' notice about five months into trying to juggle both and was scared out of my mind. When I told my manager, he explicitly said he was scared for me: He meant well and was quizzing me on my business model. You know, the fundamentals of how I’d actually earn a living. My parents were also incredibly confused, but ultimately supportive—they've always trusted me as far as my career decisions go, which is often difficult for first-generation immigrant parents to do given the financial trauma and burdens they can carry.
When deciding to take the leap, I made sure I had a financial safety net of personal savings ready to support me. I think that’s important to share and not something many entrepreneurs are transparent about: I had about $20,000 saved up in case I couldn’t earn meaningful revenue in my first year.
You founded a company inspired by fighting burnout—what are some of your best tactics for handling work-related stress?
I have a couple of tactics, the first of which is to be kinder to myself and acknowledge that I’m not the “queen of self-care.” It's okay for me to face burnout too. There's so much guilt around it that causes even more stress.
The second is to protect my time. I’ve gotten more comfortable with saying no and setting boundaries. As a founder of a growing company, I receive dozens of asks per day, and while I want to help everyone, I realistically can’t. It’s helped me to understand that time is a finite resource. When I say yes to something, I'm saying no to another—saying yes to an evening work commitment means saying no to spending quality time at home with my fiancé. It helps to put things into concrete perspective like that.
The third is something I’m still struggling with: to be more aware of my screen time. In busy times I can’t help but stare at my laptop or phone, but I try to set limits and be okay with doing nothing on weekends. It's why I absolutely love books. They force me to get away from a screen, but keep my mind going. It’s lovely to take a deep breath, crack open my book, and fade away into a story.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from the GNI community?
That the challenge of “How the heck do I make new friends?” is something we're all facing. Relationships, friendships, and building community are so important, but not everyone is comfortable with sharing the extent of their loneliness. I’ve been so inspired by how forward the GNI community is in wanting to discuss this topic. Our team is working on a new project (that’s soft-launched in Washington, D.C.) that hopes to address some of these concerns. I’m so excited to see where things go from here.
You’re a self-admitted type-A personality—what are the professional pros and cons?
Ha! The cons are that my mind is constantly “on” and I'm a perfectionist. I'm trying to work on it, especially as the founder and leader of a team that's gone from zero employees to more than five in a year. Being Type A gets in the way sometimes, and I'm thankful to my team who is patient with me as I learn to let go of some control.
The pro is paying attention to detail, which I think is especially important when building relationships. For instance, I personally love responding to our readers’ questions or DMs and remembering certain details about them when we meet IRL or chat again. That attention to detail also extends into the content and discussions we produce through the GNI platform. Our team is incredibly thoughtful about what content to create—we care more about quality than quantity.
The Margaux ethos is all about marrying style and comfort. How does that mix fit into your personal style approach? Do you have a go-to uniform?
I am all about comfort—and it's a bonus if it's stylish, so that resonates with me. My go-to uniform is jeans with a loose button-down or t-shirt. I’ve recently really gotten into wide-leg jeans, which I think are genius because not only do you look stylish, but they feel like pajamas. Any article of clothing that can make me feel like I’m wearing pajamas to work is a win in my book.
What does being a girl on the gaux mean to you?
Being a busy bee with places to go and things to do, but also consistently checking in about whether you’re taking true care of yourself and returning that energy to the others around you that matter the most.
I’m big on doing frequent check-ins with myself about my priorities. At the end of my life, how will I look back on things? Will x, y, or z really have mattered? Did I spend enough quality time with this person? Introspection is one of the most human things we can do, and it always brings me back to solid ground.
Photos by Anna Meyer