DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
My name is Stephanie David and I’m the founder and CEO of POPNOD, a marketing strategy studio that champions brands with purpose. In 2013, I took the plunge (DCF: whooooo, sometimes you gotta take the leap) and left corporate life at Microsoft, where I led teams in business development and partnerships. Inspired by a memorable trip to Thailand, where I witnessed the powerful work of a humble family rescuing elephants, I decided that I wanted to help the powerful stories that matter be heard. Our team at POPNOD helps brands grow through marketing strategies and creative campaigns that amplify their stories. We are based in DC, but our clients include fashion and lifestyle brands in DC, Nashville, and LA. This is my dream job, because I’ve always loved storytelling!
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
SD: Being funemployed means living life with purpose and vitality, no matter what everyone else is saying or doing. I’ve often fallen into the trap of comparing myself to others, even more so when I first started my business. I realized that it is my unique journey that defines who I am. My journey to now has not been a straight-forward one: I received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, supervised a manufacturing floor, met with international dignitaries, helped win large Navy contracts, did technology sales, and now running my own marketing business for fashion and lifestyle brands! The one common thread? Everything was done with passion and intention, and that’s how it feels to be funemployed.
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
SD: My parents. They came to the U.S. from the Philippines in search of a better life. My father joined the U.S. Navy because he wanted to see the world. I remember as a young child, looking at his old Polaroid pictures of Rome, Pompeii, Jerusalem, etc. and being so enamored by the exotic places he’s visited. It was because of him that I was inspired to seek out a world that was much bigger than I can ever imagine. My mom had ingrained in me a disciplined, strict work ethic while I was growing up. At the time, I hated it but that discipline and perseverance have stuck with me ever since. They have always been my cheerleaders. My mom still shares articles and photos of me with her friends to this day!
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
SD: Even though my journey seems unconventional on the surface, I bring with me everything that I’ve learned in each of my experiences. Through my work in business development and partnerships, it’s learning the importance of developing meaningful human connections. Through my work supervising people on a factory floor, it’s inspiring people and cultivating a positive culture every day. Through sales, it’s delivering rich experiences and upholding transparency, honesty, and accountability. As a matter of fact, my life experiences have molded our team’s manifesto.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
SD: Traveling and exploring new places inspires me (DCF: Travel is so important!!). Traveling has always opened new perspectives for me, especially through the people we meet and the stories we hear along the way. Our clients, at the end of the day, are also my ultimate inspiration and motivation. I’m truly grateful to have worked with brands that have amazing stories behind what they do. In some cases, they don’t realize how powerful their stories are (DCF: Storytelling is so magical, we learn so much about each other and the world through sharing). It is at the point during our session with them when I see their eyes light up, their A-HA moment, and sometimes emotions building up as if they’ve discovered something they never knew about themselves … those are the moments that motivate me every day.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
SD: To me balance is finding happiness in all parts of my life. It’s easy to get consumed by work, especially when it is something you enjoy. However, it’s important for me to stay healthy – physically, mentally, and in my relationships with friends and family. At the end of the day, those are the things that really matter.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
SD: Having worked in large Fortune 50 corporations for 11 years, I miss being part of a large team, the kitchen and hallway talk, and the closed-door conversations. Especially in the early stages, entrepreneurship is a lonely profession (DCF: So true!!). However, being in a lonely profession forced me to reach out to people and develop new relationships. My former government-centric, Washington, DC-based world became filled with a community of passionate business owners, creative individuals, and other game-changing people from across the country.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
SD: I feel like my entire career has been about breaking the stereotypes about women. From being one of the only women in my Mechanical Engineering classes, to supervising a male-dominated manufacturing environment, and to meeting with international dignitaries from countries where women are treated differently – I’ve embraced every opportunity as a challenge. Yes, gender inequality still exists, but I’ve been meeting more women each day who are breaking barriers and saying f*it. I am inspired by the many female business owners we’ve come across, and am drawn to their anything-is-possible attitudes! (DCF: Amen to that!!)
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
SD: Don’t let what people think about you – positive or negative – shape who you are. My husband was always the voice of reason! (DCF: So important to have that voice helping to guide you! Sometimes we get lost in our own heads).
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
SD: This is a tough one. There have definitely been a lot of struggles, mistakes, and obstacles in my life, but I wouldn’t call them failures. To tell you the truth, they’ve opened new doors and perspectives for me.
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
SD: Within two months of starting POPNOD, I was floored to find out that I was named one of “10 Female Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Us in 2013” by Business News Daily (DCF: A great read and honor, well done!) . I was recognized alongside women that I admire: Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, Mona Bijoor of Joor, and Kathy Savitt of Yahoo. It was at that point I thought, “Hey, I must be on to something good!”
Also, we love our clients like family and friends. When we see them get picked up by an awesome retailer or creating a lot of buzz, we get smitten! Their successes are proud moments for us!
DCF: What’s next?
SD: At POPNOD, we thrive on creating fun and meaningful experiences as we work with our clients. Based on positive feedback, we recently launched new sessions and offerings to help clients cut through the marketing overwhelm.
This fall, we also have some exciting projects in the works. We’ll be partnering with art galleries in DC to host a series of events that marry DC’s most talented designers with artists for an elevated experience. Stay tuned! (DCF: We’ll definitely be watching out for this!!).