The very drive that brings many community builders into community work can get us into trouble. Passionate leaders ignite conversations and action in flourishing communities, sometimes at personal cost. The keyword (as you'll hear over and over in this episode) is boundaries.
Espree Devora, our guest today, has been prominent in the Los Angeles tech scene for a while now — she's the founder of WeAreLATech. But her drive to build a vibrant community has also challenged her to find balance, something community leaders are all too familiar with. Heading off community overload before it becomes a problem is the name of the game, and Espree knows how to play it very well.
Today you'll get to hear all sorts of insights from Espree: her advice on creating flow, finding that equilibrium between generosity and not burning out, changing your mindset around transactions as a community builder, and much more.
A prolific podcaster since 2013, Espree Devora aka “the girl who gets it done” is not just a founding member of the Audio Collective, the hybrid live-audio creator community, she’s also a force in the Los Angeles tech scene, founder of WeAreLATech, and championing Women in Tech globally. Host of multiple podcasts and one of the first Clubhouse icon faces, Espree has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Harper’s Bazaar, Inc., and more. She knows the power of audio after producing and publishing over 1000 podcast episodes and speaking at everything from SXSW to USC, Red Bull to CBS. She calls podcasting “painting audio.” Espree cares about heart and integrity, not job titles. Connect with her on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or email her at [email protected].
In This Episode:
- Creating an economically, energetically sustainable world for community builders
- How WeAreLATech came to be
- Moving towards an effortless state of flow
- How to be generous to your community without burning out
- Recognizing “spiritual notifications”
- Making peace with the transactional reality of community building
- Why mindset shifts can be game-changing for community builders
- The secret treasure map to success in any profession (according to Espree)
- How Espree burned out and rebuilt her parameters going forward
- Creating a collaborative environment that's LA-wide
- Podcasting as a community-building tool
- Impromptu honeymoons (it's a heck of a story)
The CX 008: Protecting Yourself with Boundaries and a Healthy Mindset with Espree Devora
Tony: Some people get into community building because they have a deep personal drive to help people, and that drive often leads to success as community members respond to the energy of a passionate leader. On the other hand, this route can be dangerous to someone who fails to set healthy boundaries for themselves.
Our guest today has been there and back again. While many community leaders who burn out in this way tend to eventually leave their groups and never return, Espree Devora powered through her challenges and is now on the path to sustainability. Learn how to head off community overload and what to do if you're in the midst of it now as we talk to Espree Devora of WeAreLATech on The Community Experience.
Jillian: So Tony, you know Espree in a way because she's one of our speakers at Audience Driven and she's a podcasting phenomenon. So how did that all come to be?
Tony: Oh yeah. Well, it's so funny. Espree and I have been internet friends for, I don't know, 13 years now. And she's been a passionate podcaster and educator about podcasting, so that's what she's going to be talking about at Audience Driven summit, but she's also been a community builder and just such a proponent for the Los Angeles tech community and in particular, the women of the LA tech community. And, I just love people who are true leaders for their city and cheerleaders for the ecosystems of their cities. I played a similar role in New York for a while and yeah, she's a very natural community connector.
Jillian: She really is. It was so fun to talk to her. Her energy is infectious, but in a good way. I want to hang out with her and I'm going to be on one of her new podcasts coming soon, so stay tuned for that.
Tony: Yeah, she's got a lot to offer.
Jillian: Yeah. So, if Espree's jam is tech and is tech in LA, women in technology in LA, what do you think ... What was your ... obviously co-working in New York, but was it tech? Was it karaoke?
Tony: It's always karaoke.
Jillian: Always karaoke.
Tony: In truth, I saw tech was a delivery vehicle because people who were working from home at the time tended to be people who worked in tech. Those are the people who had laptops and wifi before most people had laptops and wifi. The first time I ever co-worked, it was the first time I felt like I was in a room of my people. And, we're going to get into this in this conversation, but there's a deep, psychological and emotional component that drives some of us as community organizers. I was so desperate to find that sense of belonging, that once I got a taste of it, that set me off on this journey to become a community leader, but I was also young and had very little knowledge and wisdom about how to manage my own energy and time and resources and attention, and that ended up leading to me having poor boundaries, letting people drain me a lot.
And then, that led to me not wanting to be a community organizer anymore. And I think it's just so important. It's so valuable to be able to recognize if you are putting too much of yourself into a community before it's too late.
Jillian: There's something just so magical about connecting with other people who have been through it, and especially in the community world, which is still relatively new and to realize like, "Oh, it's not just me."
Anybody listening, stay tuned because we talk about all sorts of things related to boundaries and protecting yourself while also delivering just amazing value and just the power of boundaries of mindset. All sorts of things.
Tony: Yeah, and the importance of not trying to do it alone.
Jillian: Let's get into it on this episode of The Community Experience.
Tony: Espree, so great to have you on the program. So great to hang with you again.
Espree: So happy to be here. So excited for today. Thank you for having me.
Tony: Our energy level is up to 11 right now. Right from the start, I expect nothing less. Espree, let's get into a little bit about community building and in particular, your experience with it in LA. You're repping your brand, which I see you do all the time. You got your WeAreLATech teeshirt on as we're doing the recording here. Tell me a little bit about your experience building community in LA, the origin story of WeAreLATech, I think, is a good starting point.
Espree: Sure. I mean, okay, so I think I'm going to kick it off with some vulnerability because there's something even about my WeAreLATech shirt that I'm wearing right now. Being a community builder is the most magical unicorn, dark, stormy, vibrant, chaotic, everything path. Right?
I just had someone on my podcast and we were talking about this new term that's created that I had never heard before called confluence. Have you guys heard of this term? It's literally people who bring community together in order to show others how to also bring community together. I'd never heard of this term before. And so, we were talking about confluence and this person that I was talking to, he has a company called Topia, and so a lot of communities come together in this social experience website called Topia. And he said, "Yeah, and we make sure confluencers are economically sustained." I'm like, "Let's just put it into my language. Do you mean there's a world in which community builders are sustained? Because I've been doing this the majority of my career, and if that is a true statement, sign me up."
So, where I want to go with this, most community builders, our archetype, is we are heart driven. I think we are perceived to be superheros. So, I think the community that we build, they don't see us as needing anything. They see us as the vessel of resource solely to give. It's very one directional in terms of people wanting things from us or the community wanting things from us, but the community builder themselves, the individual, is usually just taxed of all that. So we need to get really, really good at boundary setting. We need to make boundaries setting our super power because what actually depletes us is not necessarily the community, because we're so heart driven. We don't lead with capitalism. Typically, we don't want to charge for things. We'll go into the red not to charge, just to love and protect people. And if we don't prioritize our own wellbeing, and if we don't prioritize boundaries, us community builders end up so depleted that we don't even want to wear a teeshirt anymore because it's so energetically taxing.
And so, I love WeAreLATech. I love the Los Angeles tech community. I love being a community builder. I love that my intent is so pure. I feel so honored that I live a purposeful life, that I have brought people together that they've become co-founders, that they've raised money for their company, that they've gotten married, that they've had babies, all these amazing things, but in my journey of being a community builder, I just did not hear or take, or anything, the memo to make sure I'm okay and to make sure I set boundaries. And, that is the chapter that I'm on now. If my community building world isn't economically sustainable and energetically sustainable, I am not signing myself up, and it's hard because I naturally and innately want to just do all the heart driven things.
That's who I am, that's my default. And so, it's become really hard, but if there's any kind of advice and encouragement that I give to all the aspiring and current community builders, it's you cannot take care and serve a community if you cannot take care of you. You need to come first in order to have the energy. You need to operate from an overflowing abundance, and not your cup is half empty and you're going to give the rest of the cup to everybody else, which is where I've lived in several years of my career.
So getting into the question that you initially asked, I just wanted to share that vulnerability of it looks like, "Oh my gosh, this girl built the LA tech community into the third largest tech city in the world, and has all these podcasts and all these connections and all these high profile associations and blah, blah, blah. How great. How do I be that, too?"
It was never about forming elite connections. That just happened in consequence. It wasn't something I intended to happen. So twice in my career, someone has talked to me as though I don't matter because someone else had higher status than me. And I think that is so gross. And one thing a community builder totally doesn't care about — real community builders, oh, they don't care about your status and they're not trying to get anything from you. They solely want to create connective life experiences for you so that you can have a better life, even if it never benefits them in any way, and they have zero motivation to even benefit them.
It's like this drug of how can I just make all this magic happen for all these other people? You know? And so, I feel really lucky that I was a part of a group of around 20-ish people back in the day in the early Los Angeles tech days. We used to hang out at this investor's house for barbecues, and then LA started to grow. We were all building our companies. I built the first action sports social network, and I noticed as Los Angeles got bigger and bigger, that backyard barbecue feeling started to dissolve. It started to go away because the city was getting bigger and bigger. So in 2012, I created WeAreLATech with the sole purpose of creating that connected feeling for everyone like we had when we were 20-ish of us, and that's what I've been doing.
I've produced over 400 events for the community. I've interviewed hundreds of hundreds of people in the LA tech community on the WeAreLATech podcast. My pinned tweet right now is "No matter your accolades, you matter." No matter your vanity, no matter your metrics, you matter. It shouldn't matter your social status, your vanity, your followership, how much money you have in the bank account, just you as a human matters. That's what I live and die by every day.
Jillian: I feel so seen.
Espree: And, I'm sorry for you because I know the pain in that.
Jillian Benbow It's so true. Boundaries are so big. It's such a thing, and in community ... That's something anytime if I have a junior CM that I'm mentoring, it's always the first thing. I'm like, "You have to have solid boundaries." Sometimes people have to learn through experience. I know I did, but it makes or breaks your experience in all things, really, but especially in community work.
Espree: One-hundred percent. I'm just truly forming a relationship with boundaries now, and I just got to the next level in my life video game where I am enjoying boundary setting. And let me tell you, here's how I thought about it before, which a lot of the community builders listening are probably still there because I was there for the majority of my career, which is like, "No, but I have to help that person because I really care and I don't want them to feel ignored and I want them to achieve their dream. And, I can't not help. I can't not help. I have to help." It's just this thing. What I have realized is setting boundaries actually filters out the people who don't value you.
And why would you want to invest in someone who doesn't value you? So it's important to have the energy in order to serve into those who value you. Because if you just deplete yourself, like I've depleted myself for so much of my career, I am left with nothing to take care of myself nor to take care of the people that truly value me. And so, it's just this really eloquent filtering system so that you're giving your time to the right people. Now, a lot of people ask me ... So, I've been podcasting since 2013, and really proud of my podcast. I have the Women in Tech podcast globally, and the WeAreLATech podcast and other podcasts. So a lot of people ask me how do I podcast? Well, for a long time, I would just message every single Instagram, DM every single Facebook message, every single tweet, sharing everything, never getting paid for any of it.
Right? And then, now, when someone asks me for these same things, I'm like, "Here's my free weekly Community Clubhouse session that I do every week. You can join that. And, here's my consultation if you want to pay and have one-on-one attention." So, here's a free option, here's the one-on-one. You choose. That's my boundary.
Tony: No, you've touched on such a hugely important piece, which is finding graceful ways to define those boundaries in a way that honors your desire to help people while also recognizing that in order to help people, you have to do so in a way that's sustainable.
And so, I think that just what I hear in that is a bit of wisdom that you've picked up from years of being super generous. Maybe overgenerous, burning out from that, feeling some resentment from that, and then not giving up and running away from it, which I think is really admirable and finding sustainable ways to stay engaged. And I think that's awesome.
Espree: 100 percent. Thank you.
Jillian: I also think it's just a good lesson for life. It goes beyond community building, and what you said specifically, that setting boundaries filters out the people who don't value you, that is all encompassing for all of us. It's a aha moment.
Espree: Do you know since I started forming a healthy relationship with boundary setting, I've been paid more, I feel energized and look, I'm wearing my shirt again. I feel more in a state of fluidity, in a state of flow. One of my friends and I were messaging last night and her boyfriend has gotten this tremendous recent success on YouTube, and he took a huge risk to move to Los Angeles with her, and it really just worked out fast. She said something, and it was just such a good moment. She said, "I knew that everything was going to work out when I found us the perfect apartment within two hours." She's like, "It was just a sign that we're in a state of flow."
I was like, "That's such a great reminder." If there's a lot of friction, if there's a lot of frustration, maybe we're not in a state of flow and how do we reassess what's going on. There's this book that I read recently called Effortless. Have you heard of it?
Jillian: I don't think so, no.
Espree: It was a game changer. It's very basic knowledge that we all know, but the way the author positions it, he just presents it in a way that it just clicks. And so, every day I ask myself all day long, every hour since reading this book ... Or, that's cheating. Since listening to the book on audio. I ask myself, especially when I start to get frustrated or overwhelmed, I ask myself how can I make this Effortless? And whenever I ask myself that and I take action on that path, everything's just so much better. It's when I am complicating things, unintentionally of course, that then I start to feel overwhelmed and I don't want to get out of bed and everything feels so heavy and crazy and chaotic.
That's not living in a state of flow, right? And so, I highly recommend reading the book Effortless, but more so just remembering being in the state of flow is an indicator that you're taking care of yourself in a way that's authentic to you and you're investing your time ... Your time is an investment. We have only 24 hours in every day. So how are you investing your time? And do you like how you're investing your time?
I know Jillian and I were talking about this. If someone asks you to go for a coffee and you don't want to go for a coffee, but you say yes because you feel guilty, this is your time. You don't get to have your time back. So now you just gave your time to someone who asked you for a coffee because you felt guilty, and now you're going to probably boil up feelings of frustration and resentment and feel energetically taxed and irritated.
And now that's going to have an impact on your partner that comes home to you, or your friend that you're chatting with later in the day, or your coworker, and you don't know why you're snapping at them, but you're snapping at people around you, or maybe you're not being as friendly to the cashier because you're energetically taxed because you said yes to something you didn't want to authentically say yes to and you didn't set boundaries of what you need for yourself.
Tony: Exactly. And you know, I've said this with somebody else that I was talking with a similar thing where in the context of running a coworking space, what I was dealing with that if I got to the point where somebody new walked in the door and in my moment, I was like, "Ugh, another person," I'm like, "Well, wait a minute. What am I in this for? Somebody's walking in my coworking space that might be a wonderful new community member. They might really need what we have to offer here."
If I get to the point where I'm resenting what I'm doing to that level, then we've got a problem. So you want to avoid ever getting there. And then, it helps also if you recognize, "Wait a minute, I am getting there." Or, I've been there for too long. I need to really step out and reevaluate that.
Espree: Yeah, and I've gotten there and all it is, it doesn't mean you don't like what you're doing anymore ... All it is is it's a notification, but it's a spiritual notification. It's like, ding, ding, ding, you're not setting boundaries. So it's like, "Okay, person walks in your door. There's something about that process that it has become energetically taxing for whatever reason or economically taxing." So, how can you shift this situation? Set better boundaries, set a framework or a process that's more fluid, that's more Effortless so that when a person walks in, you're not triggered to feel absolutely an angst. Instead, you're like, "Oh yeah, there's the process in place and I don't have to think about that because it's done."
So again, if somebody is walking into your coworking space or into my business as it's happened, and we feel energetically taxed and flustered, it's not necessarily that we don't like our business anymore. We just aren't in alignment with how our business is operating. So how do we use that as a mental notification to improve our operations so that our operations are more Effortless?
Tony: Yes. God, yes, exactly this. I always talk about it from a coworking perspective, but I think community management in general, that community management will consume as much of you as you let it. Just flipping that over to a cold business perspective ... If I was running a hamburger joint and I saw that there was a huge line of people out the door, then I would know that I need to improve my checkout process or I need to hire more people at the registers or whatever.
Whereas in community, that analogous overload that tells me I have to change my operations might be going on inside my head and my heart and my body, and so we have to tune into that in order to be able to make those stark clean business adjustments.
Espree: I think I was in a very victim mindset for a while when I got energetically taxed, and I'm like, "Why do people keep taking from me and taking from me and taking. Don't they understand I'm a human too? What gives?" But honestly, who's allowing ... Takers can only take as much as you allow them to take. People can ask you whatever they want to ask you. There's nothing wrong with asking you something. It's up to us as individuals to set our boundaries of what we're comfortable with, and everybody's going to be comfortable with something different.
So do I want to help people when they have their podcasting questions? 100 percent. Do I want to feel energetically vibrant? 100 percent. So, how can I do this in a way where I will maintain being energetically vibrant in order to attract other vibrant opportunities? Because if I don't set the boundaries and I allow myself to get so depleted, then how am I going to attract huge customers, huge clients, great business opportunities when I'm operating from a really funky, gross energy place? It creates such a better world.
Tony: I will tell you, this is a vulnerable share from Tony, but years after closing my coworking space, still have it in my body that attention is pain, that it's bad to get attention because people will want my attention, they'll want my energy. They can drain me and hurt me and that means that when I try to put myself out there, I have a very strong gas and brake at the same time thing going on in my body because there's still some part of me that wants to protect me from that.
A lot of why I think this conversation is so important is because for a community organizer who's not as many years into it as we might be, to try to head that off before you get to that point because it could take a lot of unpacking to repair that.
Espree: Totally. But even the community organizers who are there, man, was I stubborn. I was just so infatuated, committed, addicted to loving people. I was so blind. I love people better now with boundaries than I did without boundaries, because without boundaries, you're almost coming from this perpetual place of resentment, this quiet resentment that just is boiling. But with boundaries, I can authentically love and know I'm okay in tandem.
Tony: I love that.
Espree: Should I drop the mic?
Tony: Yeah, I love that. I think ultimately that's what we want. If we want to serve, if we want to help people, we need to be able to do it sustainably.
Espree: And that's okay.
Espree: It's funny. My teeshirt supplier, he's so dope. I think it's called Groovy Silk. He's so cool. He goes, "Espree ..." I remember somebody wanted to buy a WeAreLATech shirt and I felt so bad.
So, to give context, they had already gone to my events for free throughout the day. It was the end of the day and they were like, "I really want to be a WeAreLATech shirt. I felt guilty of them spending money for the WeAreLATech shirt. So, I think I just gave it to them and I saw Renee at Groovy Silk and he was like, "How are you?" I was like, "I'm just worn out." I was telling him just about my stories and that one came up.
He was like, "Espree, you understand you drive to downtown LA, you pay for these shirts ... I don't give them to you ... and then you bring them and then you put them in the fancy packaging that you bought. You understand you've paid for all of that, right? Next time someone wants to buy a shirt from you, you say thank you so much for supporting the community and believing in the community. Stop being from the mindset that you are taking from someone. You're not taking. Allow people to be a part of the journey in supporting the community along with you."
I was like, "Whoa. Thank you, Renee. You are a legend."
Jillian: It's so interesting, too, because it's almost like a value, a worth system. Listening to you, it's almost like you're like, "Oh, I have to give all these things because I need to make it worthwhile for that person." Or, almost to feel worthy like, "Oh, you shouldn't pay for this," but in reality when people want to support you, you should let them. You know what I mean?
But I also know that feeling where you don't want it to be transactional because that starts feeling dirty, right? And there's this balance between no, this is a business and it's okay to sell teeshirts and I have all these expenses, and if someone comes to a free event wants to buy a shirt, awesome. That should be such a good thing, but there's something, and I think it's prevalent in community building especially, it's just you don't want it to feel like a money grab. And, it's hilarious to even think of anything in community as a money grab because it's just like, "Ooh, big $5 bills." But yeah, it's really interesting, just listening to you talk about that.
Espree: One of my favorite business people, Zack Honarvar, if I'm not butchering his last name, he's a manager to the YouTube team Yes Theory and to Air Rack. He's such a heart driven business leader, but he shared his journal post on Instagram story. I wish I had it in front of me right now, but it said something like we're going to serve and impact so many people around the world in such a huge way, and we're going to make a ton of money in the process. And I really admired that because he authentically wanted and is creating this abundance of positivity for people globally and unification of community and working with channels and creators that are really integrity driven and completely has a healthy relationship being a profitable business. And I'm that, I want. That is what being an amazing community builder looks like, where you have a healthy relationship with both sides.
And Jillian, it's true. For us, we feel that most community builders feel like any kind of financial exchange is like, "Oh no, I swear I'm not transactional. I swear." It's like we're constantly just trying to prove that no, we really are this sincere. There's no trickery. See? See, there's so no trickery that I will go into the depths of darkness just to prove to you that I don't have one morsel of bad in me. You know? Because a lot of society does function in this transactional way, so we're the avengers like, "We are not transactional." But to the point where we totally suffer and then we can't even serve.
Jillian: Personally, this is something I've been going through myself, a shift in thinking. And I think the Instagram story quote that you just said reminds me of it, too. It reinforces it is that with collecting dollars, with collecting money for your work, which one you should do. But two, you can expand who you support and help by doing that. If you have more money, you have more resources and you have the ability to touch more lives, and at the end of the day, that's a good thing, right? All of us that are working in this service mentality, trying to lift other people up, the bigger the reach we have, the better, because the world needs it.
Espree: Totally. There's this girl I met a couple of weeks ago. She's so sweet. Very heart driven. Not necessarily a community builder ... I don't know much about her, but she was negotiating for ... Or, not. She was actually not negotiating the salary for her job. And I was like, "Why are you not negotiating?" She's like, "Well ..." and she gave me all these reasons. And then she's like, "And I really just don't need more money. I can live really low." And I was like, "What if it's not about you? You said you want to do this and this ... " I guess in a way she's philanthropic minded. And so I was like, "You said you want to do this and this and this for the world. What if you got paid more, you didn't need to keep it for yourself and spend it but then you had more resource to give to these different organizations that you're really wanting to give to?"
She's like, "Whoa, I didn't think about it that way." I'm like, "Yeah, you're not just negotiating your value. You don't have to go out and buy a fancy car, but why wouldn't you want to have more resource? You could have more power to do more good." It's like most things in life are as simple but not simple as a mindset shift. It's just sometimes that mindset shift takes several years, if ever, but this entire world, like how Jillian's perceiving and how Tony's perceiving and how I'm perceiving it ... We are all perceiving a different reality. So, in order to achieve the outcome that we want to achieve, it's as simple, yet not simple, as shifting our perception, shifting our mindset and once we get to that clocked in mindset, we could then have the outcome that we would like to have. It's just sometimes really hard to shift our mindset because I know I've been really stubborn. Look, I went the majority of my career with just refusing to have boundaries, refusing to be a transactional person because I saw the world in a very specific way and I was not willing to shift seeing it.
But, now that I've done the work and I'm just at the beginning of being on the other side, I'm like, "Whoa, this is amazing. I could still help people and I get paid more? This is crazy. Why haven't I been doing this all along?"
Tony: It's huge. It's a disservice to your community if you're not thinking about your own needs, right? That you could be setting yourself up to have a community of folks that end up burned because you burned out and went away and then they were left hanging. It's so important to have just a healthy relationship with your own sustainability.
You're making me wonder as we talk about this, and I'm so glad that we are talking about this, if there is even maybe some kind of an underlying commonality between what motivates somebody to build community and this desire to not to take from people and wanting to give to people?
Espree: I think the secret treasure map to success in actually any profession, so be it a community builder or anything else, is three elements; consistency, workflows, and mindset. And, workflows are essentially boundaries. They're in the same family. So as long as you are consistent, as long as you create the right processes that involve boundaries and resources and all this kind of stuff, and as long as you have the right mindset, then it's just a game of patience. Some people will achieve that thing sooner and some people will achieve it later, but eventually, most likely I don't see how you wouldn't achieve that thing. Whatever it is that you're after.
Tony: Well put.
Jillian: Yeah. I want to talk about your community, and just within WeAreLATech, the community, you have an experience that people apply to. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and what that means?
Espree: Yeah, totally. I'm so proud of it, too. It's called the WeAreLATech Experience Club. So in 2012, I created WeAreLATech, which was a video series. In 2013, I started working on the podcast, '14, launched the podcast and then in 2015, I launched the WeAreLATech Experience Club and it was really based on ... I love backpacking and I'm like, "I don't understand why I can't be a driven person in tech and love building, and love living and adventures and life, too." Why do I have to choose the computer or the mountain? Why can't I have both? And I'm like, "I wonder if other people feel this way, too."
I threw out a survey if I did this thing, would you be interested? And, I didn't even know what it would really be in the beginning. I said to everybody that it was a pilot program and I said, "My only guarantee is that in three months you'll look back and you'll say that was worth my time." Speaking of sustainability, I was willing to go all in. I didn't care how in the red I was. I was just really committed to making sure everybody felt it was worth their time. And, I ended up creating these amazing experiences, skydiving together, race car together, game nights at homes, dinners, cooking, escape rooms, clay pigeon shooting. I mean, the list goes on. There's so many. And, what I found was I kept all the experiences small. It was eight to 15 people, primarily eight people was what I aimed for, and people were able to form these relationships with one another because we were creating memories together.
So it was all like-minded people creating memories together. And who do you think you're going to think of when you do business and you need a graphic designer? Are you going to look at the business card or are you going to think about the person you just went skydiving with? And so, I heard it at a conference years ago that more business gets done at the bar than in the boardroom. Now, I don't really like creating experiences around drinking. I actually proactively don't do that, but I do think more business gets done in a time of play than in the boardroom, right? And so, facilitating these opportunities to connect in an offline way was just really, really beautiful way of connecting everybody. Yeah, I'm really proud of the Experience Club.
Definitely not easy, but had an application process. I read somewhere that at 150 people, you start to break the culture so I would never allow more than 150 people. And I did it all myself so it was a problem operationally, but I was energetically taxing myself. So after doing that for a few years, I was run down and that was also the chapters that included when I didn't set boundaries, when I didn't do all the things that I'm now on the other side of. And so, it was such a shame because here's something where I even created so many of my best friends and people became such close friends with one another, and it's a shame that that couldn't continue because I was a shell of a human by the end of it.
So the thing that I love the most, the magical feeling of connecting people, and it was just creating these experiences, I couldn't do what I authentically believed in because I had no energy or spirit or resource to continue doing so. So I rebuilt the entire Experience Club and I'm really excited for what's to come and how I've rebuilt it. My parameters in rebuilding it are am I energetically and economically sustained? It is not running if those two things aren't in place, period. There's no negotiation. There's no compromise. Those need to be in place or it's not happening. Yeah.
Jillian: I also want to just highlight that one of your experiences was going to the Price is Right, which ...
Jillian: Come on down. That sounds amazing.
Espree: Yeah, and actually I learned how to hack The Price is Right, so I was able to have one of the Experience Club members win The Price is Right as well.
Espree: Yeah, I figured out how to win so I told all of them how to do it but one person really ... It's not easy, and one person was like, "No, I got it. I'm doing it." And then he won. It was very exciting. I was like, "I can't believe ..."
Jillian: Oh my gosh.
Espree: I don't know if that holds up.
Jillian: Did he get a dinette set? A jet ski?
Espree: I don't remember what he won. I'm just so excited that he did win.
Jillian: I know. That's amazing. So, outside of the Experience Club, it looks like y'all do a ton of events. I'm looking at your event calendar, and it is just multiple things on the weekends and whatnot. A lot of social get togethers and mixers. You're physically not going to each of these?
Espree: No, and so the calendar you're looking at actually is empowering other community organizers. I think part of the responsibility of being a community organizer and a community builder is to be a collaborative person. It's not about our egos. It's about all of us together tag teaming one another. So, WeAreLATech, the events that we do are all private events and then the events that are public are us making sure that we know all of the community builder events all around the city and putting their events on the calendar so people can have easy access to them. We built a mobile app so people could have all the events in their phone super easy. That's our in spirit of this is a collaboration, we're a collaborative city. This isn't just about what I'm doing or what you're doing. This is let's all celebrate one another.
Jillian: That's great. That is so great. As we've been talking about this whole episode, we are wired to serve and connect people, so that's a very organic thing to do to keep the connections going.
Espree: One of the things that I love is on Twitter. So when someone moves to LA, I love to welcome them to LA on Twitter, and I'll tag all the other community builders. I'm like, "Let's give Tony a high five." Who does that? Who gets to a city and then all these random people on the internet are like, "Hey, Tony! Welcome to Los Angeles." You know what I mean?
Jillian: It's a welcome waterfall.
Espree: It's just so fun. Yeah.
Jillian: That's awesome.
Tony: I feel like I've been witness to some of that happening on the internet and it's always such a magical thing. For me, as an outsider, it gives me such a different perspective on LA as a city.
Espree: One of my priorities and things top of mind for me is I want to make sure in Los Angeles, we have a very inclusive city when it comes to the tech community, meaning I don't want it to just be about Santa Monica, which is a more well-off area versus some of the areas that aren't as well off. It's like, "No, if you're in tech, you're part of the community so what can I do as a facilitator to help unify all the different areas, all the different economic backgrounds, all the different ethnicities so that we come together and we could really be cohesive and collaborate?"
Tony: Yeah, that's huge. LA's a huge city and there's so much diversity across so many different gradations and there's so much resilience and strength to be had in embracing that and finding ways to support the development and growth, nurturing those connections between those folks. So kudos to you on that.
I want to touch on one other major topic before we get into the final round of questions, things like that, which is the podcasting that you do. You teach podcasting. You've done podcasting quite a bit, and you're going to be part of our Audience Driven Summit, and we'll be talking about that.
But as a community building tool, can you just give me just a brief comment on your thoughts about what role podcasting can play as a community building tool?
Espree: My podcast, all my podcasts, are stemmed from a disconnection that really aggravates me in our society or culture. WeAreLATech, it's having been a founder myself and understanding how isolating that experience is, I wanted to create a place for people in Los Angeles tech to come together and connect with one another. With Women in Tech that I launched in 2015, it was I wanted women around the world to be connected and hear stories so that they could feel like if she can do it, so can I. With my new show that's coming out, BRAG, Businesswomen Reaching Awe Inspiring Greatness, I again want women to come together. One because I don't think they brag about themselves enough, so I want them to share about their accomplishments freely, and that's very inspiring for others, right? And so, I utilize podcasting. I don't often use the word social impact because I think that means something else definition wise, but to me, in my way of social impact, I utilize podcasting to serve a community oriented purpose that I think will help heal, solve, and unite.
And so every single one of my podcasts is very, very, very mission driven and the ethos is connecting a community to be empowered and to elevate in their individual experience, collectively together.
Tony: Amazing. I asked you to be brief and you were brief and at the same time so complete. I really appreciate that. We could probably do a whole thing about that, but I will be hearing more from you at the summit about maybe that direction a little bit. And, just such a great acronym, too. I like a good acronym.
So, all right. Let's get into the lightning round. We could talk forever about so many things. Jillian, do you want to lead this or what do you say?
Jillian: Sure. Let's do it. So, Espree, a lot of really difficult math questions coming your way so the first is—
Espree: Okay, I've got it.
Jillian: The first is when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Espree: Oh, it's crazy. I literally wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was four. I was just picturing ... I remember I would walk in Westwood with my father. I would look in empty office buildings and just daydream about what businesses I would put in them. So weird. Yeah.
Jillian: Oh, I do that now.
Jillian: I love it. And then, how do you define community?
Espree: I mean, the words that come to mind, connection, heart driven, integrity.
Jillian: When thinking about your bucket list for life, what is something you have done that was on your bucket list?
Espree: Oh, wow. I feel like I've almost done everything if I had a bucket list. Okay, I have a really unusual answer. I don't know if you're going to like the direction for this, but this is what came up. This was not on my bucket list, but it's on ... so I had my honeymoon without ever being married, and it was one of the best life experiences ever. Is it okay for me to share this little story?
Jillian: Of, course, of course.
Tony: Please do.
Jillian: Yeah, I need to know.
Espree: So I was in my office doing office things as we do as driven people, and New Year's was coming up, and Brittany Spears was having her last concert in Vegas and I'm like, "F it, I'm going to go to Vegas. I'm going to drive myself to Vegas. I'm going to stay in a hostel and I'm going to watch Brittney Spears’ last concert for New Years." The next day, I was going off to a pool all by myself and I was like, "Hey, do you want to go to this pool with me?"
Again, not thinking anything. It was just more my spirit of like, "I'm going on an adventure. Anybody who wants to come, come." And this pool invitation led to a week of hikes and adventure. I feel like I just had my honeymoon. That's something I didn't know I would have on a bucket list that — I'd say that was one of my favorite life experiences.
Tony: Energetic honeymoon is the thing that nobody would think to put on their bucket list. Except now. Maybe somebody listening in is like, "Ahh. I want my energetic honeymoon."
Jillian: Yeah, that was pretty damn amazing. I love it. I'm so glad you shared. So I can't wait to hear this. What's something on your bucket list that you have not done?
Espree: The main thing on my bucket list ... This is a little bit boring of an answer, but the main thing on my bucket list that I haven't done, I haven't won as an entrepreneur how I want to win yet. And, I'd like to win. I've worked really hard and I want to win.
Jillian: Is there a very distinct answer rung on the ladder that to you is like once you pass that, it's like, "Yep, did it." Or, is it gray? I feel like it's always the target keeps moving.
Espree: Okay, the most candid I could get, because I don't have a distinct number, but there's certain things I want to do. I want to retire my mom. I mean, my mom's fine, but I want to be the provider for my mom. My investor in my action sports company, I want to give my first co-founder in my action sports company some sort of monetary thing, which he doesn't need either because he went on to co-found a multi-billion dollar company, but it's just the honor of it.
Tony: No big deal.
Espree: And, I want to look at a menu and not think about the prices. There's just certain things ... I don't want really much in terms of things ... I don't want a car or I don't want these kinds of things. It's more like my mom's a big one and my ... The two biggest ones for me are my action sports investor and my mom. Those are two signs to me like, "Okay." If I'm the provider for my mom and I've given my investor back what he invested in me, I feel like I made it.
Jillian: Just an observation but it's funny how all of those things had a strong financial thing to them but you're giving away shirts.
Espree: Yeah, it’s true. So true.
Jillian: All right. Okay, do you have a book that you've recently read or just love in general? What's a book you love?
Espree: Earlier I shared Effortless, so I highly recommend everybody check that out. The same author wrote a book called Essentialism but I'd definitely do Effortless. The book that absolutely changed my world that I read when I was 14 years old, and I'm sure that you'll both agree is The Alchemist. It's just an amazing book and essentially the message in the book is if you believe in something with all your heart and soul, and you have pure intention behind it, the whole universe will conspire to make your dreams a reality.
Jillian: Yeah, I love that. Okay, we know you're deep in the LA scene, but if you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?
Espree: My first answer that came to mind was on an airplane. I've been to over 100 countries and if I could live anywhere else in the world, I would be living there. But, I love having like a work base in LA. I really do, and my home base really does feel like it's on a plane, on an adventure, just nomadically anywhere. I think if there was any place that I might really love as well, is New Zealand. I traveled to both the north and south island, and New Zealand was just like ...
Jillian: I have yet to go to New Zealand, but it's definitely on the short list. It looks amazing. Okay, and final question. How do you want to be remembered?
Tony: Oh, yeah.
Espree: The first thing that pops up for me is purpose-driven. I actually wrote this ... You know what's funny? This is morbid and funny. I saw a headline. I'm looking something up. I saw a headline where someone was remembered in a headline for their follower count, and I'm like, "That is just heinous." And, I wrote one of my good friends. I was like, "Man, when I pass away, I do not want anything to do with follower count to be mentioned in anything."
So, I wrote to my friend, it was my friend, Schwan. Let's see if I can find it quick enough for a podcast. Let's see. Oh my gosh, he and I write so much ... podcast time being taken up. Let's see. Oh, here it is. Espree Devora, a loyal friend and community builder who used media to champion others.
Jillian: Ooh, that's good. That was worth looking up. Amazing. Espree, where can everybody find you if they want to connect or follow on the social medias?
Espree: Yeah. Well, I just launched a new YouTube channel that I always forget to talk about. So I'll remember that first ... is go to YouTube.com/espree. My YouTube channel is focused on getting Indy podcasters to 10,000 podcasts listeners a month. And so, I'm having a really good time with that and I'm sharing the journey of growing my YouTube channel in the description so every video you can see what my current subscribers are and how many videos I've had come out and my channel views. And I just think it's really fun. Reach out to me on social @EspreeDevora on all social, and my email is a [email protected] So H-E-Y.com.
Jillian: All right, well, thank you so much. I feel like we could talk to you for ever, but this will—
Espree: Oh my gosh, this is awesome.
Jillian: This will do for now. Very excited to see your segment at AudienceDriven.co.
Espree: Me, too. I cannot wait. And thank you so much for having me on the podcast, it's just an honor to be on the show. It's an honor to be included in Audience Driven, and it's so great to meet you, Jillian. I can't wait for us to know each other for years to come so thank you for an amazing opportunity.
Jillian: Awesome. Thank you.
Tony: All right, so that's our conversation with Espree Devora of WeAreLATech, among other things. Such powerful conversation. I really didn't know exactly that we were going to go into that territory before we hit record, but I'm so glad we did.
Jillian: Yeah, same. We started a conversation before we started recording and then we're like, " Wait, let's stop and record this," because it was just a really good conversation and it started off about boundaries and we just kept going with it because it is, it's a really important topic.
Tony: It's tricky because there's I think a really strong segment of community builder that can identify with this phenomenon of really deeply wanting to help people, getting the positive feedback loop of feeling like you are helping people by building community and being that hero that's helping people, but then having that feedback loop become negative when it starts to feel like it's draining you and it's not supporting you.
Jillian: Absolutely. And, I think it's something you have to constantly be reassessing, especially in community work, because community is messy. It's always changing. And it's okay to do that because passion is great, but you have to have boundaries if you want to sustain.
Tony: And Espree gave us a roadmap of some things to try. Consistency being a huge piece, because it helps you manage your resources, and having workflows as well, that if you can batch people together, if you can funnel people in specific directions to say, "Okay, I'm going to be very generous, but I'm going to be very generous on terms that I know I can handle. So on this day, at this time in this location is when I'm giving it all away. When I'm there for you and for everybody in whatever you need. So, come meet me then."
Jillian: And have it out there. Have it in a post. Talk about it. Reinforce it when people try to push your boundaries, because there'll always be someone who does, but it's okay to tell people here's how to participate and here's how you can expect me to participate as well. And then, it's a better experience for everybody because you don't feel guilty if someone's messaging you 15 times on the day you said you weren't going to be online. You told them you're not going to be online and so now you can reinforce that by not responding to them, and then they'll get it eventually, hopefully, but regardless, you'll get that day where you totally turn it all off and you can reset.
Tony: And I think that speaks to another thing Espree talked about towards the end, which is mindset.
I think Espree has resolve to really have a deliberate relationship with her mindset, that ultimately changing your mindset is something you can practice. And when you practice it, you get better at it and then maybe you get to some healthier place where you can be a passionate, generous community builder, and you can be the person who's totally cool with charging for the teeshirt.
Jillian: Yeah. I really liked especially talking about money in that piece of it, because it is something that a lot of us are uncomfortable with, but that mindset shift of it's not just about income and what you could do with that money in your business, how you could expand and help more people ... Just changing how you think about it.
Tony: Yeah, yeah. And, it helps also when you know that you have routes in which you are being generous. I know that I have things that I can give away for free, materials, documents, snippets of my time, things like that. Then that makes it easier for me to be like, "Okay, well, yes, I can charge for this other stuff."
Jillian: Well, and I really thought Espree had come up with a really great idea of the every week at this time for an hour, I'm on Clubhouse. And if you need more than that, here's how you can hire me for your next project. And, I think that's an amazing way to feel like you're providing great things for free, but with parameters. You need, again, boundaries. Word of the day.
Tony: Perfectly reasonable, and anybody who doesn't respect that probably doesn't respect you and value your boundaries and isn't worthy of your time.
Jillian: And, they will burn you out, and then that person who you do want to help, you don't have time for, you're not in a mental place to actually help.
Tony: I'll also say, too, this isn't to cast out into the cold anybody who might be more of a legitimate charity case. There are surely plenty of people out there who lack financial resources who would benefit tremendously from the support of somebody with expertise who can help guide them, but I've found that even in those cases, there is going to be some mutually respectful way of working with folks like that that honors the needs of everybody involved.
Jillian: Absolutely. And it can be as simple as, say the way that someone can hire you is paying for a live course, a cohort based course. Maybe for every 10 paying people, you have a scholarship spot in that course for someone who applies. You have a process, and then you can give some people the free pass in. There's endless ways to find a way that works for all and protect your time.
Tony: So, I'm excited to see where Espree goes from here, and I'm excited to see what she has to offer during the summit.
Jillian: Me too, me too.
Tony: And, I'm excited to hear your story of how you are responding to this and how this resonates for you in your journey. I definitely want to talk to community leaders, although I am going to set my own boundaries, but I still want to hear your stories. So, go ahead and tweet us at @TeamSPI, reach out to us, let us know how this landed for you.
Jillian: Yeah, and let us know how you set boundaries, healthy boundaries. I'd love to get that conversation going.
Tony: That's a great idea, Jillian. I like that. Let us know how you set your boundaries, how you work on your mindset.
Jillian: All right, thanks for listening, everybody. We will see you next Tuesday.
Tony: Thanks for tuning in for this week's episode. You can find Espree Devora on Twitter @EspreeDevora, E-S-P-R-E-E D-E-V-O-R-A and YouTube.com/espree. E-S-P-R-E-E. And, you can also see her community at WeAreLATech.com.
This has been the Community Experience. For more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head to SmartPassiveIncome.com and click on Listen.
Jillian: Your hosts are me, Jillian Benbow, and Tony Bacigalupo. The Community Experience is a production of SPI Media.
Tony: Our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Our series producers are David Grabowski and Senior Producer, Sarah Jane Hess. Editing and sound design by Duncan Brown, music by David Grabowski.
Jillian: See you next time.
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