How often have you wanted to give back what you have received? Be it in your professional or personal life, the gratitude we feel toward those who help us inevitably motivates us to give back. When we return the deed in kind or through any other means, we are helping not just others but also gaining mental and physical benefits for ourselves. By coming together with other like-minded individuals keen on giving back and working toward a common goal, we realize the change we wish to see in the community.
A strong and cohesive society with an increased quality of life is built with helping hands. This is the vision that our Founder and Chief Vision Officer Tracy Chapital, affectionately known as Lady Chap, had in 2016: Women empowering women to be their best selves. Her Nexx Chapter (HNC) is a celebration of women, giving them a platform to elevate their journey to the next phase or better yet, the next chapter.
In a conversation with Lady Chap, I had the opportunity to talk to her about her vision, how women can join the journey and HNC’s role in building a better future for all women.
Tell us about HNC’s journey over the years. What were the initial few months like?
When I saw the vision, I was feeling a sense of loss. I went into a very deep, dark place. My self-worth was tied to my corporate job, and I had lost my job. It made me realize I had to start over. I needed something to do. I did not know what I wanted to do. I didn’t have a network of women friends nor was I connected to any women’s organizations. I felt alone. I had a lot of time. I am a transparent person, and I needed to be comfortable in the environment for me to be my authentic self. I never considered joining any group or community for this reason.
From a young age, I was always the biggest cheerleader for everyone. I knew that being a cheerleader for others was what I was designed to do. All of us, I believe, are born to do something. Some of us discover our purpose late in life. Some know it, and yet they ignore it or fear it. I wanted to do something with this vision, but I was not able to bring it to life.
I remember sharing the vision with my friend and my biggest cheerleader Michelle Kemp, in December 2010. She told me I had to have three things – passion, purpose and story. The story was supposed to pull at people’s hearts. I had the purpose and passion – being a cheerleader for women and giving them a voice, but I was missing my story. Sadly, in February 2011, Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in August of the same year. I was in great turmoil.
I didn’t do anything till 2015. My passion was inside me, burning deep. The more I started longing, the greater the desire to do something burned within me. One day that year, I heard this voice inside say that my excuses have expired. I shouldn’t worry about not having the right resources; I should just ask for what I want, and the universe will give it to me.
A year later, I was still doing nothing, and I understood that I would be miserable till I brought my passion to life. On my birthday, November 22 in 2016, I launched Her Nexx Chapter. I had nothing in place other than that inner voice telling me to move forward.
I invited eight acquaintances to join me at a bistro, bought eight bouquets of flowers and placed a card with a quote on each woman’s plate. When the ladies saw the quotes, they were surprised and asked me how I knew exactly what message they needed to hear at that moment. I shared the concept of HNC and opened the community to them. All of the ladies felt exactly what I had been feeling – a purpose to help other women. I believe that, in a community, you need to feel safe first, before you open up and share your story with others. Once I shared my story, the others felt safe and shared their own. Just like that, my energy and drive came roaring back.
The women challenged me to think things through about how I would grow the community. After a point, I started feeling that we were no longer in tune with each other. While I was busy networking, meeting women and interviewing them for different roles, I realized in one of my conversations that those eight women were only there to help me give birth to HNC. They were the midwives. To raise HNC into a successful and growing child, I needed another network of women.
Suzanne Ridner was the first to join me, followed by Cheryl Feick, both of whom joined the HNC Board. We were the “Three Musketeers,” laying the foundation for what HNC stands for today. We are now 60 volunteers strong, having grown from 5-8 volunteers in 2018-19. We needed to identify our niche that distinguished us from other such communities or organizations. In January 2019, we launched a virtual platform and went global. We also realized we needed different departments to manage the various functions.
Women were coming to us to enhance their skills. The HNC Academy Pathfinder Program helps global female students learn and focus on vocational training through courses, workshops, job shadowing and internships. Last May, we launched the virtual community. Corporate alignments and partners joined us this year. We are also tying up with an organization that focuses on a flexible job-sharing program for women. This organization approaches corporations and recommends they hire women who will work part-time as buddies. Two women split the job and the salary between them which allows for flexibility around their work hours. They are getting the job done through two women working part-time as a team.
HNC will be celebrating six years of our wonderful and empowering journey this year. Our focus now is on wellness, organizing events and workshops, posting blogs and much more pertaining to women’s health and well-being.
What can I expect from my volunteering experience?
At HNC, we look to add value to the lives of our volunteers. We have set up an environment and a platform that women can use as their playground. We want women to enhance their skills and gain the experience that they may not be getting in a corporate environment or at school. They might be in marketing but want to move into a management role or manage social media and other platforms or they may want to get into writing. We want women to fulfill not just their skills requirement but also their passion.
What if I feel I do not have enough time to volunteer?
We are global. Our team is based in different time zones across the world. Volunteers have the flexibility to plan and implement their work schedules to suit the projects on hand. Deadlines are typically known in advance so the work pace and handling of the workload is up to each individual. We have some criteria for our volunteering schedule, but we are definitely flexible.
What do I need to think about before I (decide to) volunteer?
Time is a key aspect to consider. You must also know the key areas you want to invest your time in and define your goals. You need to figure out what you want out of the volunteering experience. Some women just want to be part of a community with like-minded women or share common interests. Others are looking for professional coaching. You should have a sense of purpose about how you want to help others.
What are the future plans for HNC? Where do you see the community in 5-10 years?
In five years, we see ourselves venturing into broadcasting, where we are producing and programming events. We have an event on mental wellness coming up later this year that will be the first one of its kind streamed on TV. We will also explore opportunities in radio or podcasts on topics aligned to women and our virtual community. We will have a very strong presence globally with HNC being the voice and advocate for well-being. We are exploring a partnership with a medical center that specializes in women’s health. We are keen to share in-depth information and resources on topics that women need.
How do I become a volunteer with HNC?
We have a few ways for volunteers to join us. Our website has a link for volunteers to apply. Currently, we have open positions for a Virtual Community Ambassador, Event Project Manager, Graphic Designer, Certified Google AdWords Specialist, Public Relations Team Leader, Experienced Grant Writers and an Email Campaign Manager. When volunteers complete the application, we like to know their areas of interest or expertise so they can serve where they thrive. If someone wants to switch their volunteering roles or explore other departments, we make it easy to do so. We want women to decide what they want to do and tap into their passion at HNC.
How does the HNC community work?
Membership in our virtual community is free. You can sign up and access content on diverse topics, ranging from healthy lifestyle, parenting and careers to movies, books, arts and other areas of interest. But much more than that, we encourage one another, we share, we bond, we laugh, and we lend support – we are a true community of women for women! I invite you to join us where you will be warmly welcomed, and your voice will be heard. We are the Future of Connection for Women!