Jessica Wright and Tracy Hornik: Women on Top
What does it mean to lift as we climb? That is, help one another as women entrepreneurs as we build and scale our businesses … by mentoring each other, promoting each other, buying from each other, and investing in each other.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet two inspiring entrepreneurs and award-winning television, film and video producer-directors who have made it their mission to lift women in business.
Jessica Wright and Tracy Hornik are the co-founders of “Women on Top” – a platform by women for women. Their mission is to celebrate, encourage and connect women entrepreneurs, empowering all of us to reach the top of our game. start music under my voice And I say “brava” to that …so…
Jessica and Tracy both have award-winning backgrounds in the entertainment industry – and both believe as I do that the best content is connection and conversation.
Jessica says she’s been a passionate storyteller for 30 years – and as a former executive producer and Gemini-nominated director, she’s have created, developed, written and produced award-winning factual entertainment, docusoaps, documentaries, comedies, children’s live-action and animated programs, as well as shorts and commercials. Her credits include The Lab, Till Debt Do Us Part, Disaster DIY with Bryan Baeumler, and HGTV’s Family Renovation.
Tracy started her career as a litigation lawyer and caught the entrepreneurial bug to build one of Canada’s most successful wholesale gift companies. Then she translated her childhood passion for photography to build a successful photography business before moving on to make documentary films.
Jessica Wright and Tracy Hornik will be here in a moment – and first …
Now back to the inspiring Jessica Wright and Tracy Hornik.
Both Jessica and Tracy joined together to bring their video storytelling, broadcast media, and entertainment skills together … first with a channel called channel eztvonline … a digital production company creating social media content … and now on a passion project that has become their mission – Women On Top.
“Women on Top” is a digital platform by women for women. Their mission is to celebrate, encourage and connect women entrepreneurs, empowering all of us to reach the top of our game through content, conversation and connection. It’s a cumulation of their combined years of award-winning storytelling in different genres.
Everybody has a story. Whether telling it to a judge or a viewing audience, stories matter. Making that story compelling is what drives them … now telling stories about women entrepreneurs.
Melinda Wittstock: Jessica and Tracy, welcome to Wings.
Jessica Wright: Thank you. We're super excited to be here.
Tracy Hornik: Very excited.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm excited to talk to you too because we share such an important mission. In the Wings terminology, we're all about lifting as we climb. I sense that's so true about She's on Top and why you do what you do in really helping women to achieve great things in their businesses and their lives. What was the spark that brought you together to found She's on Top?
Jessica Wright: It's funny because She's on Top was our second channel or company. We originally came together and launched a channel called EZ TV Online. It's still on YouTube. I have a television background so I had a lot of lifestyle experience. It was cooking and renovating videos and a few other things online. It was an HGTV online mixed in with some humor. We had funny host from Second City TV. We loved doing that. We had a great experience and we learned a lot. We knew nothing about digital beforehand. It's like going to digital school.
Jessica Wright: We decided to switch gears and do She's on Top. It came out of spending some time doing some research. We were surprised to find out that one of the most researched things on YouTube in general for women was business content. Having gone through the experience of having started business and look for mentors, we could really relate to that. We had this idea of starting to talk to women who were successful as an online research. How could we gather the kind of information that we needed to grow our business and at the same time create a community and share that information so we could all rise together?
Melinda Wittstock: How wonderful. How about you, Tracy? What were you thinking around the time that you guys got together and just made that shift to She's on Top?
Tracy Hornik: I have two daughters in their 20s, both in different careers. I really wanted to inspire them. I kept hearing from them how difficult it was to find their passion and to start a business. All their friends felt the same way.
Tracy Hornik: In my previous life, I was a lawyer. I found with that it was hard. It was hard. I felt lonely. I really wanted to do something that would inspire women, especially young women so that they can do it and to give them some help, to inspire, to show them there's no one way to do anything. There's so many different careers out there now. That was my inspiration.
Melinda Wittstock: What do you think the biggest challenges are that you found through She's on Top that women have in business?
Jessica Wright: This is Jessica. I would say the number one thing that's come out and why we are so focused on collaboration is women work really hard. They do really, really well, but they all say they're lonely. It's really hard as a female entrepreneur, especially if you don't have a partner … Tracy and I are lucky to have each other but we still struggle with it. You're working online. You're focused on your business. You may have a family as well. They're lonely. It's not like having a retail store where maybe you know other people on the street, you get to know the neighborhood. There's a huge hunger for women to talk to other women who are like, “I'm going through the same thing. I struggled with this. This is a difficult [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:15:14"].” It surprised us but it also made sense having gone through what we've gone through.
Tracy Hornik: This is Tracy now. We've had a lot of comments of people seeing themselves in stories that we've told. That gives them some comfort. They're like, “Wow, I've really struggled. This woman struggled too and she managed to overcome it. I can do it too.”
Melinda Wittstock: That's been consistent with this podcast as well and the Wings community that we almost need safety in knowing that we're not alone. Yet, I see so many women work in isolation. I wonder what you think about this. My theory is it's tied to our perfectionism. There should be an AA for perfectionists. You have so many women who, heads down making it perfect, making it pretty, just working on it, working on it, working on it in isolation. I think there's a fear there that drives that that it's somehow we're not good enough. We've got to make so, so, so good before we can show it to anybody else. I think this holds women back in business to a huge degree.
Jessica Wright: I think so too. It's funny because Brene Brown, who we all love, talks about this. She said, “Perfectionism is kind of hustle, its own kind of armor. If I can be perfect, look perfect, be perfect then I won't get exposed, I won't get hurt.” I think what she's doing is so important. What's happening, which I love with what we're doing with our stories, is women are being incredibly vulnerable and saying everything from this is where I struggled or this is where I failed.
Jessica Wright: They're even saying things like … We interviewed Kelsey Ramsey, was one of the top entrepreneurs in Canada. She said at the time that she was on the cover of all these magazines being celebrated as entrepreneur of the year. She said if people knew that I was under my desk hoping I wouldn't be found out because she thought I thought success would get rid of all the not enough’s. She said it amplified them.
Melinda Wittstock: Kelsey was on this podcast last year and so, so inspiring. Amazing, amazing woman. This is the thing is we have this outer thing. We post all our highlight reels on social media. We look good in the photos on our websites and we have all this stuff. Meanwhile, there can be a complete … I think of a swan that looks very graceful above the water, but below the water, their legs are going like crazy.
Jessica Wright: There's that theme. I don't know if you've seen it but I've seen it a lot on social media where they show above the water it's this little tip that says success. Then they show below the water the big, huge iceberg with all this stuff going on like the failures, the changing, the anxiety, the whole thing. That's all the stuff below the water, like you're saying, that you don't see.
Melinda Wittstock: What's interesting about the failures though is that you ask anyone who's being honest and they'll say that they learned so much more from the failures, from the icky moments, from where they were challenged or where they had to come back from some horrendous thing, whether it was a health challenge or a business failure or something like that, that's where the gold is. You have to find real value, I don't know, or confidence within to be able to weather those sorts of things and really take the learnings from them. What have been some of the heart-stopping challenges in your lives? We've all had them. If we're talking vulnerability here, what are some of the things that you guys have come back from?
Jessica Wright: You mean personally or professionally?
Melinda Wittstock: It could be either. To me, they're pretty much the same thing, but it could be either. What's something that really just knocked you for six and you came back from that you're, at this point, now with some time and distance, are grateful because you've learned from it?
Jessica Wright: I would say, this is Jessica, mine was really why I started She's on Top which was coming to the end of a very successful TV career. I had spent 20 years in television. I started off in kids' television at YTV, did a lot of lifestyle, the HGTV stuff, did a lot of doc. Then it transitioned into reality TV and then reality competition.
Jessica Wright: Everything went dark in terms of all the joy that I had making TV which I did with the kids and with doing lifestyle was really fun. With reality TV, what you are in one thing is what you are in everything. Reality TV, because I used to have a lot of challenges with it, and it was a challenging environment, and so my most negative experiences were coming, supposedly, at the height of my career and I had to walk away. It's why I left and went into digital because I was miserable. That was a really hard challenge. It was scary. I was 50. I'm 56 now. This was five or six years ago. To say I'm going to walk away and do something completely different and go into digital which I knew nothing about, but I was like, I need to find my joy. That was really hard, and I'm so grateful now that I did it, but it was tough.
Melinda Wittstock: It can be. It's interesting because it's often change that challenges us the most. We get very comfortable in our comfort zones and yet to be an entrepreneur is basically to open your heart, mind, all of it to constant change. Tracy, what's your perspective on that on how we best navigate change?
Tracy Hornik: We were talking about first, you had asked us about things that were very difficult for us, and I think for me, I lost my brother. I was very close with my brother and my brother actually committed suicide seven years ago. It was very devastating. It made me look at my life. I had to change my whole life. It made me look at what I was doing with my life and everybody around me. I actually went back to school. I was 47 and I went back to school with 20-year-olds. I wanted to make a film so I went back to documentary film school.
Tracy Hornik: I think the key is that you're never too old to change. You're never too old to reevaluate. I'm happy that I did. Through going back to documentary film school, I made a film. Jessica saw that film. She contacted me. Now we're working together. Even though it was one of the darkest time of my life, many good things have come out of the changes that I made because of it.
Melinda Wittstock: When you're working with women in your community and they're going through something really difficult, some of the women that I've mentored and just where I've been myself, sometimes when you're in the middle of that storm, it's hard to see your way out of it. How do you counsel women or just remind them that it's just what's coming is going, how to leverage some of these challenges?
Tracy Hornik: I think it's important actually just to listen. I think so many times we want to jump in and give advice. I think all the people really want to do is they want to feel heard. I think if you can let people talk and you can listen, you will give them that comfort that will allow them to eventually rise. Obviously, let them know you're there for them, but just don't give advice. Maybe just listen to them.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, just to listen.
Jessica Wright: Yeah, I would agree. This is Jessica. I think that's brilliant. It's funny, I was going to say the same thing. I think we all have the answers like the Dorothy thing. I think we have the answers within ourselves. Sometimes you just need to listen or reflect people back to themselves. Your opinion is your opinion, and you want them to get to the answer that's right for them rather than what's right for you. I would agree completely with what Tracy just said.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that. I think it's one of the reasons why in our mastermind group for Wings of the Empowered Woman, for instance, the retreats we do for successful female entrepreneurs, is that we specifically don't give advice. We actually ask each other open-ended questions because we all have the answers inside. We can't possibly give advice without knowing all the context. We get to the end of the mastermind and someone's doing a spotlight or whatever and say, “Okay, are you open to advice.” At least people have more of the context. I have so often seen the woman who is asking others for help from the group find the perfect answer just by being questioned in an open-ended way.
Jessica Wright: It's like they have an epiphany in the middle of it.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. It happens every time. It's amazing. If you just go on saying you should do this or you should … I hate that word “should”.
Jessica Wright: Yeah, it's more like you could.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, because who says? We're all different. That's so interesting. I'm curious about how you work together as business partners. What's the secret of having a really good business partnership?
Tracy Hornik: This is Tracy now. I think the secret … First of all, there's total respect, love for each other, appreciation for each other's skills, but also I think key to us is that we have a therapist that we both go to, the same therapist. When we do have issues, rather than get into it, we will go see that therapist and then work through it that way.
Jessica Wright: I totally agree with that. Usually we find out, and it's really tough, but you go to a therapist and really, when you're having an issue, it's because something in you has been triggered that may have nothing to do with the thing that you're arguing about in the moment. It's been really good for us to learn that. It's like, oh, so it's good to go get it out. It's like what we were talking about, reaction, why you have that reaction. It can come from your deep personal history, things that are being brought up that have nothing to do with solving the problem. It's not healthy actually to get into a big conflict. You have to go figure out why you're in the conflict and then you can go back and figure it out and usually it resolves pretty organically, don't you find?
Tracy Hornik: Yeah. This is Tracy again. Another thing that I find really helpful is that sometimes if we have differences of opinion, is we'll sleep on it for 24 hours. We'll say let's just leave it and let's come back. Often the next morning when we talk, we're both on the same page. Sometimes you just need a bit of distance.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that's true. I like how you're using therapy in this sense too. In any company or any co-founding team or executive team or whatever, at the end of the day it's relationship. It's relationship that drives business. There's always this challenge to be aligned on mission and the ultimate results that you want to achieve in your company but then leverage diversity as well, and so how to take different perspectives and align them, that's a major, major issue and tricky for people as they come to scale their companies and they have to hire quickly, say, or just make sure that everybody's in the right seats working to their optimum.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm curious. I almost think being someone who's in a rapid scaling sprint right now, and I have a lot of people to hire this year, do I have an in-house therapist in the company? What are some of the systems and things that you would put in place?
Jessica Wright: With Tracy and I, it's just the two of us working together. Everybody we work with is freelance. It's not like we have an office full of people and stuff. We don't necessarily need systems at this point, would you say, Trace, or what …
Tracy Hornik: Yes. We don't really have systems. All I can say is that we are highly accountable to each other. We have systems as far as we divide and conquer who does what.
Jessica Wright: We have very clear work systems. That's one thing that's taken us a while to work out. We work slightly differently. We've worked that out in terms of how it works for both of us. It's not necessarily a set system, but it's just who's doing what, and like Tracy said, divide and conquer. It's the only way we can be effective and efficient.
Melinda Wittstock: When you think about success, how do you define it? How is it best that women define success?
Tracy Hornik: This is Tracy. It's actually a very interesting question. We did a whole blog on it. For a lot of people, success is when you're making money. This is the first year our business. We're just starting to monetize. We feel successful because, first of all, we absolutely love what we're doing. We love working together. The women we've met have been incredible. We've created an incredible network of amazing women, including yourself, who've now become part of the She's on Top greater picture.
Tracy Hornik: We feel successful for all those reasons. We know the money will come but I'm not sure that's a really … obviously a success as far as we can keep doing what we're doing. Because we just love so much what we're doing and we see value too, all the women we've interviewed, loved the interviews that we've done. They've used them for their websites. They feel that they're getting something back as well. In that way, it feels really successful.
Melinda Wittstock: It's true. I think we talk a lot about success and unlocking abundance or success without trade-off or apology. I think a lot of women I've come to see are actually perhaps subconsciously, but afraid of success. Somehow there's a fear like wow, if I really succeed, other women won't like me, or if I really succeed, I won't find a man or whatever or I will alienate my man, all these sorts of things, or if I really succeed in business, somehow that means I'm going to be short-changing everybody else. There are all these limiting beliefs around success, like a minefield for women. What do you think about that?
Jessica Wright: This is Jessica. It's funny because I thought it's so true. Marianne Williamson has a famous quote about we're not afraid that we're powerless, which we think we are. We're afraid of how powerful we are. Our therapist sometimes will say, I forgot who he's quoting, I think it's Freud or … He's like, “Have you had any terrible successes lately?” When you have a success, then you've got to grow and step into that power and success. It comes with responsibility.
Jessica Wright: I think it's the same way women have imposter syndrome. It's a fear. It's like can I be that? Even though I've been striving to be that, okay, now you grow. It's frightening. As much as you think you want it, it's new. I'm used to this body. I'm used to this level of success. I'm okay here. It's like you were saying, I'm not rocking the boat. Most women would be like, “That's crazy. I'd be thrilled to be successful and be Oprah,” and be this and that, but I don't know if that's necessarily true. I would agree with what you're saying.
Melinda Wittstock: It's true. It's funny though, we had this whole debate last year at the Wings of the Empowered Woman Retreat about the nature of success. It was interesting. Just even in marketing the event where we'd say things like, “It's time that women play bigger.” There was a split second of look of absolute dread in the eyes of even the most successful woman of play bigger. Oh my God. You could almost see the script running, which was like, “Oh my God, that means I have to do more. I'm already doing so much. I'm already burning out. Oh my God, what, do more? Do more?” There's this translation into having more meaning doing or playing bigger means you have to do more.
Melinda Wittstock: We really challenge that whole concept. One of the areas where women can fall down quite easily in business is not operating to find the highest points of leverage, whether it's leveraging our time, doing one thing that's going to have a multiplicity of results or repurposing content or hiring and hiring fast enough and soon enough, all these sorts of things. We talked about how to unlock an abundance of time, freedom, how to succeed, how to have those business play bigger impacts actually with spending less time working. It's counterintuitive but I found that to be true in my own life. I work fewer hours and I make more money.
Jessica Wright: It's funny, I don't know if you saw in the news, but in Finland, all the parties are run by women. The prime minister is 35-years-old. She just introduced a four-day workweek. I've seen a couple of other things where they find … I think they did it at Google. They did a four-day work week and they cut down to six hours a day I think just trying to do that. The productivity went way up. Tracy and I always talk about that. We talk about it, as Tracy said again, in our success blog, that when we sit down, we work hard and we really focused. It might be four or five hours straight and then we're done.
Jessica Wright: There used to be a time of [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:33:56"] or a whole thing about … I just watched a documentary on Bill Gates. He works seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I think people look at those success models and think that's what success is. It circles back to what we were saying, that's not necessarily. That's his jam or his neurosis even. It works for him. If we can be effective and efficient in a way that works for us, that's our success.
Tracy Hornik: This is Tracy now. We'd say that we'll actually create in four to five hours a day is more truly creative. I'm a morning person. I like to get up really early and just get right at it. Sometimes by [spp-timestamp time="1:00"], [spp-timestamp time="2:00"] I'm done. I can then get back into it later on in the day, but I find those four or five intense hours is what I need. I think I can really effectively do that.
Jessica Wright: I would say one more quick thing … which is we're all learning now that some of the best creative thoughts and the breakthroughs, you have to be quiet and you have to be still. Sometimes what we think of as not working is really when we're working.
Melinda Wittstock: It's really, really true. I had this really funny epiphany a couple of weeks ago. For people who have heard me say this on this podcast already, my apologies. I had a priority list of five things. For whatever reason, I was working on priorities two, three, four and five. I wasn't getting anywhere with two, three, four and five. They were just being blocked at every step of the way. I'm finally, like, “Oh my God, why am I not working on number one?” I worked on number one. I'm seemingly instantly, certainly that day, somehow, magically, two, three, four and five all resolved themselves without my effort.
Jessica Wright: Interesting.
Melinda Wittstock: I thought that was really interesting how the universe … I don't know, now is my permission to go woo, woo because I'm like that. Seriously, the universe, when we're in alignment, when we're doing the thing we're meant to do, it just helps us. I find the more I unlock that or step into what one of my guests calls the vortex, all these things resolve themselves. Success seems more like flow and not like grind.
Tracy Hornik: This is Tracy now. I would agree. I think it is flow. I think when you're doing something you enjoy and you get into that flow, you can do it forever and you can be so productive. The key is finding that flow. You can't always find it, unfortunately.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely true. What are some of the things, when you think it being 2020 and we're all in 20/20 vision, I don't know everybody is using that in their marketing, but it's true, so you're visioning the year or the coming decade, where do you see She's on Top, and where do you see your business going?
Jessica Wright: We always say we are storytellers. That's our biggest joy and that's our skill. We think stories are incredibly important. Every time a woman shares her story, some other woman recognizes herself in that story and makes a connection and/or will be inspired or freed to move forward. Tracy and I just want to grow our opportunities to tell stories. We want to expand across North America and around the world and actually travel and be able to bring as many stories about amazing women doing amazing things as possible. We think that that will have a ripple effect. We think that that is our destiny true value. Would you agree, Trace?
Tracy Hornik: I would totally agree. I think too, we want to change the way people look at women entrepreneurs and realize that you can be an entrepreneur in so many different ways, and it's not just one definition.
Jessica Wright: We often say entrepreneurs and/or change-makers. We just want to bring stories of women doing incredible things.
Melinda Wittstock: I could talk to you two forever. I want to make sure that everybody knows a lot about She's on Top though and how they can contribute or benefit or be a part of it. Obviously, we should definitely collaborate with the Wings community and what you're doing. I think collaboration is the word of the day. We should figure that out as well.
Jessica Wright: It would be huge. I meant to say that too is that if we, through this, could really get women to … it's collaboration over competition. Our thing is everybody has a unique value. There's room for everybody. There's a lie that we feel that comes through, whether it's in politics or wherever, that there is scarcity and it's not true. It's designed to make us fearful and make us hold to this tight. If we can unlock that and say actually this is not for everybody and when you collaborate, you'll actually bring more into your life, that's what we would like to get across as well, wouldn't you say?
Tracy Hornik: Absolutely. We believe that together we're stronger. Maybe that can be our hashtag for 2020 is #togetherwerestronger. We really feel that's so important.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Absolutely. You have some really great content out there on YouTube and social media. How can people find you?
Jessica Wright: We have a YouTube channel, which we would love people to subscribe to and leave a comment. We really do want a conversation. We really base our content of what we're doing based on feedback. We want to create a community where people's voices can be heard. That's huge for us.
Jessica Wright: We also have a newsletter. If you go to our website at shesontop.com, right on the front page, you can sign up for the newsletter. You're not getting emails every day. It comes out once every two weeks. In that, we share a lot of stuff from our community and things that are inspiring us. We'll be sharing a podcast. We share books that are inspiring us. We share things that we see on TV, whether they're series that are inspiring us. We share our videos, and we share information from our community. That's a really fun separate thing from our YouTube channel where we're just trying to pass along stuff that's inspiring stuff from anywhere that we find it.
Melinda Wittstock: How wonderful. I want to thank you both for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Jessica Wright: We're so grateful. It's been a total pleasure.