By Lauren Herman
Editor’s Note: This blog post is the fourth of a five-part series profiling women leadership in the Sacramento region. It serves as a prelude to our upcoming event, "This Changes Everything: WOMEN." These women were selected based on their contributions and participation in their community and industry. By means of this series, we hope to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a leader and provide a platform for ideas worth spreading.
Danielle Vincent: Activist, Student, and Entrepreneur
Danielle Vincent may be the youngest woman leader to be featured in this blog series, but she already has a lifetime of experiences that come from her ability to balance her passion for fashion, business, education, and community outreach in her daily life.
While studying at Sacramento State University, Danielle operates Firefly, a midtown Sacramento clothing boutique, that was not only established as a creative outlet for Danielle, but also as a funding source for her community outreach organization, Shoes & Sandwiches (S&S).
To reach out to other entrepreneurs, Danielle recently expanded the walls of Firefly to house an entrepreneurial paradise called the “Midtown Collective.” The Midtown Collective houses four other small, locally owned businesses that give entrepreneurs a support network helping them grow and focus on their business without the financial burden of managing their own building.
Danielle is a millennial, a member of a generation trying to do it all while making a positive impact in their community. Originally from Orange County, Danielle has adopted Sacramento as her home by becoming an active citizen engaging with local politics, local issues and local business. Her goal is to contribute to Sacramento by making it a more creative, aware, kindhearted, and generous city.
She will not slow down any time soon. She has future plans for S&S – a voucher based clothing closet making it easier for low-income families to cloth their families, a mobile “pop-up shop” to reach low income families throughout the Sacramento region, and further street-level outreach for the homeless with community involvement.
Danielle puts it simply: “You can’t learn so much about something and walk away. That’s the trouble with knowledge. The more you know, the more you want, and the more you want to make change.”
Whether working toward a law degree, organizing community outreach for the homeless or low-income families, working within local politics, or collaborating with like-minded entrepreneurs, Danielle has the experiences that allow her a holistic perspective to make the change she wants to see in Sacramento. Just wait and see!
The Interview: Danielle Vincent’s Ideas Worth Spreading
TEDxSacramento: Why did you choose your current career?
Danielle: Originally, I became a small business owner and opened Firefly to fund Shoes and Sandwiches (S&S). S&S is an outlet to materialize change and a way to help people. I wanted to help the most underrepresented groups in our society – the homeless and low-income families that struggle with basic necessities.
While earning my minors in Administration of Justice and Corrections, I found myself more and more interested in local policies impacting the homeless and our community. I wanted to understand how these policies are applied and affect people in their day-to-day lives. I thought, if I have this passion for the law, I should learn as much as possible inside and outside the classroom and apply it to what I do in my community.
There has to be a middle ground between the different approaches to Sacramento homelessness — something between the ten year plan and tent cities; a union between the two. That’s where the community and organizations, like S&S, come in at the street level. Growing both Firefly and S&S will help further that mission.
TEDxSacramento: How has your business and organization changed over the years?
Danielle: My business evolved into the Midtown Collective inviting other entrepreneurs into my space after operating as a clothing exchange for almost three years. In order for Firefly to serve its ultimate purpose, funding S&S, something had to change. The Midtown Collective was the solution to that problem. Bringing other businesses into the space takes part of the burden of heavy operating costs off of Firefly and distributes it among many businesses. Firefly can now re-focus on building up S&S and achieving the goals that I have put in place for it.
At the same time, the Midtown Collective gives local entrepreneurs opportunities to open or expand their businesses that I never had. It eliminates rough experiences that small business owners experience by creating a support network. There is no club or membership that gives you the real life information needed when opening and operating a business. It’s nice to help in that way. The space has an eclectic feel with so much life and potential. It is exciting!
S&S is constantly collecting and planning for future outreach events and mobile units, including the overarching goal of opening a voucher based clothing closet or a “pop-up shop” that moves to different locations enabling low-income individuals to access clothing in a dignified way. These pop-ups will allow me to reach low-income and homeless school aged children, who are otherwise hidden from outreach at the street level.
TEDxSacramento: What motivates you to push forward during difficult moments in your career?
Danielle: The biggest struggle is not being able to progress the way I want in my organization at the rate that I had hoped for. It has been a struggle building Firefly into a foundation that can support S&S in a way that allows me to do as much outreach as I truly want to do.
What motivates me most is the community around me. They want to help, they want to be a part of something, and I want to give that to them. I want to not only make change, but I want to inspire change in others. I also find motivation at the street level in the most basic ways. The ones who need the most help aren’t the ones asking for it; they’re harder to find, and they’re harder to reach. Those are the ones that keep me going.
TEDxSacramento: What advice do you have for others in your field?
Danielle: Embrace change. Sometimes it [your business or organization] doesn’t turn out how you originally envisioned, but that is okay. Even when it comes down to what you love, you have to make changes if your mission calls for it. Be open to something as simple as altering product packaging or sometimes, like in my case, reworking your entire business model. If you can listen to and harness this necessity for evolution in business, there is no stopping you.
TEDxSacramento: Does anyone in your field inspire you? If so, who and why?
Danielle: I worked for Sacramento City Council member Steve Cohn during his final year and half in office handling his constituent affairs. He is one of my biggest inspirations that I can make a difference in my community. I took on a role in his office in order to gain extremely valuable experience in the city and to experience our City Council first hand.
During my time there, I was able to watch Council member Cohn lead his district and this city. He was driven by his ethics while not being afraid to make hard choices that are best for our community. I saw that until he left office. I hope one day I can make as big of an impact that he has for our community.
TEDxSacramento: What do you like most about working in the Sacramento region?
Danielle: There is such a sense of community in Sacramento that I haven’t felt anywhere else. I am originally from Orange County, but I feel at home here. You don’t know what home really feels like until you find it, and I found it in Sacramento. We are a State Capital, and if that is not at least a little bit inspiring, I don’t know what is. The capital represents hope and opportunity. Real change can happen here — the kind of change that resonates beyond the city boundaries. It is an amazing opportunity to be here.
TEDxSacramento: What is your favorite TED talk? How do the ideas of this talk impact your life?
Danielle: I am slightly hesitant about choosing this TED Talk because it may seem out of left field, but it's definitely my favorite. My favorite TED Talk is “How Do You Explain Consciousness?” by David Chalmers.
Experiencing our consciousness is something that many of us don't take the time to do regularly enough. Each human has their own inner movie playing and being cognitive of that is an important part of understanding the human condition — understanding each other, finding compassion for others in their struggles, and embracing each other during difficult times. We're inside our own consciousness viewing the world from behind our own distinct lens. Understanding that we're all viewing the same world distinctly differently is the first step to helping each other.
TEDxSacramento: If you have the opportunity to speak on the TED Stage, what would be your idea worth spreading?
Danielle: You’re going to hear ‘no’ a lot in life, and the bigger you dream, the more ‘no’ answers you’re going to get. Some of them are verbal, most of them aren’t. ‘No’ is never final; it’s just a signal to change what you’re doing, maybe just a little or sometimes a great deal. There’s always a ‘yes’ waiting amidst those ‘no’ responses when you’re willing to accept change.