All posts by Sock Robot

Jill Kuehler

Name: Jill Kuehler
Age: 40
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: CEO, Freeland Spirits

Freeland Spirits is a female-founded, owned and operated craft distillery in Portland, Oregon. Part of its success comes from the childhood friendship between founder Jill Kuehler and sales manager Jesse Brantley. Some of it comes from Molly Troupe, Freeland’s Master Distiller and a lifelong chemist who earned a Master’s degree in Distillation in Scotland–the home of malted barley liquor. But maybe the real source of their mojo is the name Freeland, which comes from Jill’s meemaw (Texan for grandmother). No matter where the magic comes from, Freeland Spirits celebrates the bounty of Pacific Northwest and the friendships that are forged between women.

In 2017 Freeland began making Freeland Gin.  Born in a traditional copper pot that combines juniper and other botanicals, the small-batch spirit tastes as nuanced as the natural ingredients that comprise it. One year later, they started making Freeland Bourbon.

“It all started over a fateful night of drinking whiskey with my friend, Cory Carman,” Jill recalls. “I said, ‘Who grows this grain? What’s their story?’ She said, ‘I’ll grow the grain if you make it’ and here we are.”

That’s not to say that the journey from idea to actual alcohol wasn’t fraught with the typical struggles of a small business–let alone one with women at the helm. 

“Women receive less than 5% of small business loans and less than 2% of venture capital money,” Jill explains. “Needless to say, raising capital was a massive challenge.”

Jill wasn’t alone, at least; her family, her daughter, her co-founders, and her advisors always had her back. But there were more hurdles to clear than just finances. There was location scouting and acquiring all of the equipment–not to mention all of the legal hoops you have to jump through when you intend to start manufacturing booze. And, of course, hiring the right people.

“I heard about this mythical distiller in Bend, Oregon, who had a Master’s in Distilling from Scotland. I went out there and threw Molly over my shoulder and brought her to Portland,” Jill jokes. “And Jesse Brantley, our Director of Sales, and I grew up down the street from each other in Irving. Our first babysitting business was a failure so now we’re trying to correct past mistakes.”

Since assembling the Freeland team of genius grog goddesses, Jill and her company have taken Portland and the Pacific Northwest craft spirits scene by storm. To celebrate their first year anniversary, Freeland released their first canned cocktail. They’re still currently in the process of perfecting their future Freeland whiskeys. But she’s not stopping there.

“I want to support other women on their entrepreneurial journeys,” Jill says. “So many women have supported me and I can’t wait to pay it forward. All the lessons I’m learning I hope to share and help pave the way for more women in leadership.”

Beyond putting in the hard work, what advice does Jill Kuehler have for young women who have an idea that seems so crazy that they just can’t quit?

“Fear is not a bad thing. It often means you’re on the right track. Embrace the fear,” she says. “And build up your troop of gals around you,” Jill adds. “Support each other. Lift each other up.”

For her spirited spirits, entrepreneurial enthusiasm, and intoxicating intensity, we think Jill Kuehler and her Freeland Spirits team are very Cool Girls!

Stay in touch with Freeland Spirits by visiting their website, following on Instagram, or liking on Facebook!

Lauren Smith

Name: Lauren Smith
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Global Operations Manager CS Payments at a vacation rental company

Some people say there aren’t enough hours in the day. Lauren Smith, the Global Operations Manager CS Payments for a popular vacation rental site that we can’t identify by name, is a master of getting the most out of hers. “Because my role supports the entire global team, it can be a twenty-four/seven job. Someone on my team is always working and often in a single day I have to balance meetings and challenges that happen in Asia, Europe and the U.S.” As if having a high-powered job that pulls you across latitude and longitude to every corner of the world isn’t enough to keep busy, Lauren manages to do it all while balancing family life with two young children at home.

How could anyone possibly keep up?

“You often hear people say, ‘Work hard now, play hard later.’ But in my life, with two small children, I feel like I would miss out on too much. I believe in working hard and working smartly. That includes planning as much in advance with my work schedule so I have a clear dedicated time to the “life” part of “work-life balance” that I cherish so much.”

Lauren is a manager for one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the world, but she didn’t always envision her career going this direction. In fact, she had a hard time seeing herself doing anything with math or dollar amounts, which her current job very much does. “I absolutely hated math in school. I always preferred studying history or literature. I would rather theorize a situation rather than be faced with a black and white answer. I always wanted to be a teacher or a fashion designer. I still have sketches of dresses I would have Susan Sarandon wear to the Oscars.”

Lauren began down her current career path when she took a high school job at, of all places, Wells Fargo. “I still remember the look on my math teacher’s face when he walked in and saw that I was working at a bank.” She worked primarily in the risk management and fraud services department and it proved to be a great fit. So great, in fact, that she decided to pursue a management track. She started interviewing for supervisory roles at Wells Fargo.

But it didn’t work out at first. “I interviewed for supervisor position after supervisor position and was always told the same thing, ‘you have no supervisor experience and we need people with supervisor experience.’” Dismayed that Wells Fargo wouldn’t give her the opportunity she felt she deserved, Lauren took a risk and accepted a supervisory role with a different company to gain valuable experience that would bolster her resume. A year and a half later, she returned to Wells Fargo in a management role. All told, she spent seventeen years there before interviewing with the vacation rental company where she currently works.

Given the long road to get here, we asked Lauren if she has any advice for young women just getting started with an entry-level job at a large tech company. “No one cares more about your career than you. Do what you have to do to get the role you want. And BE BEYONCE. Or Lady Gaga or Oprah or Ru Paul or whatever Queen inspires you. Women notoriously talk themselves down or out of going for the next level or new roles. We can be very self critical. Be confident and then multiply by ten. I truly credit channeling Beyonce with getting my current job.”

It takes a superstar, or at least someone exceptionally skilled at the art of time management, to balance the job that means so much to her with the family she loves more than anything. Lauren’s secret is a combination of technology and a willingness to set boundaries. “I draw lines firmly in the sand. There is power in saying no. I wish I had discovered that earlier. People respect that you have your priorities and when they still see you working hard and delivering, you will earn that next no in the future.”

“I am gone for almost two weeks at a time when I’m gone. It’s not easy to be away from my children or my husband. My husband and I discussed openly how taking this global role would impact our family and relationship and made very clear promises to each other after weighing all the pros and cons. When I decided to take the job, I made it very clear to my boss that all of my travel would have to be planned in advance, and that to any additional travel requested, I would say no. I also decided that it would be easier to do longer trips versus more frequent shorter trips and found ways to rotate my working hours to support the other time zones instead of actually going there.”

“And without modern technology, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do it. For example, when I’m in Asia, I Facetime with my children to wake them up in the morning and I put them to bed each night through Facetime. I block those times out on my work calendar when I travel, so they’re reserved for my children. I can even wake up early to attend my daughter’s dance class. My awesome partner stands there with his phone for the entirety of the class while I watch her in real-time. She knows I am there watching.”

Despite her careful planning, any women with both a career and family inevitably comes across misplaced negativity. Lauren calls it “Mom Shaming” and says it ranges from passive-aggressive to just-plain aggressive. 

“Most of the time I get it from moms, which is disappointing because we should be supporting each other. It’s often a comment like, ‘Oh I could never do that, leave my children.’ Or they will commend my husband for doing so much ‘more’ of the parenting. I had one person actually tell me family is more important to them than money, assuming that that was what it was about for me.”

The Smith Family (photo credit: Lindsey Wiatt)

“Shortly after I returned from maternity leave after having my first child, I was given some poor but well-meaning advice from someone in a high-ranking leadership position who was also a mother. This woman told me point blank to never talk about being a mother, never talk about your children or your family. To make up reasons why you have to leave to take children to doctor appointments or dance recitals, because people will see it as a weakness. I took her advice and was miserable. I was working twice as hard to try and prove something and was hiding a HUGE part of myself.”

“I finally woke up, embraced it with both arms and made it a part of my work identity. I knew I could do both and do them both well. That’s when I drew the lines about my schedule, started working smarter and made sure my work delivered. I gained trust and had the support of my boss. I was very transparent with how I planned to balance that life and made sure in turn to offer the same trust to my team for their work/life balance needs.”

“I love my job, I love to travel and I love my family. I don’t always respond to Mom Shamers because life is good and my family is good and I don’t care if they don’t understand how that is possible.”

And that’s really what it comes down to: striking a life-work balance that works for you and your family. That’s why, for not compromising her dreams and being extremely successful in a career she loves while being a mom to two awesome kids she loves, we think Lauren Smith is a very Cool Girl!

We made a $200 donation to The Q Center on behalf of Lauren. We encourage you to make a donation too!

Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle

Name: Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Ages: 44 and 46
Location: San Francisco and Aix-en-Provence
Occupation: Co-Founders, Hello!Lucky

Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle, sisters and co-founders of Hello!Lucky, united their passion for art with a knack for business in order to start their award-winning letterpress greeting card and design studio. Hello!Lucky partners with many artists to create products from books, to ceramics, to stationary and beyond.

The sisters have settled in San Francisco after growing up in Burma, Libya, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, and United States as a result of their father’s Foreign Service Officer career. Although their father had the job that brought them around the globe, it was their mother who Eunice remembers as being an aesthetic influence on her.

“I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember! I also loved playing with office supplies and setting up shop with my mom’s costume jewelry and make-up samples,” she says.

“By the time I was in eighth grade, I wanted to be one of three things: a museum educator, an interior designer, or an advertising creative director,” Sabrina says. “I also loved writing, acting and singing. I’m finding that I have been able to incorporate all of these into my career at Hello!Lucky, between writing children’s books, creative directing our product designs, and even thinking about how to adapt our characters and stories for the screen!”

The two embarked on their endeavor after Sabrina had graduated from business school, and after Eunice had designed some dog and cat-themed cards for a pet store where she was working at the time.

“I had extras and sent samples to a major stationery retailer in New York City. They placed a big order. Then I called Sabrina!” Eunice remembers.

“Eunice is the most talented artist I know, so I jumped in to help get Hello!Lucky off the ground. In the process, I discovered my own creative voice and discovered that through Hello!Lucky, I could explore both business and creativity,” Sabrina adds.

Although Hello!Lucky has been around since 2003, their road to a successful small business wasn’t always smooth, between making payroll, managing a staff of up to 20 employees, and adapting to changing technology.

“The biggest difficulty was when we were worried that social media would kill greeting cards, so we pivoted our business to focus on selling wedding invitations online,” they recall. “We realized in the process that we are not a tech company, and that what we love doing most – and are therefore best at – is developing creative designs and content. Plus, social media has led to people having more connections, not fewer, so greeting cards are still a thing; our fear that they would go away was unfounded.”

These challenges have taught the two a lot, like how to be adaptable in a business environment and how to capitalize on their strengths.

“We’ve gotten very good about changing course in response to signs we get from the market, listening to our gut instincts, and not getting too attached to any particular outcome,” Sabrina says.

Both sisters work from home in order to balance being mothers with being business women. “We do our best creative work when we make time and space for ourselves,” she adds.

By free-styling the collaborative process with their clients, and by never taking themselves too seriously, they have found a way to truly establish a unique company that is driven as much by creativity as it is by product.

The two have some sage advice for young women learning how to navigate the world.

“Take the time to become aware of the subconscious emotional and mental programming you have received from your parents, teachers, and friends — which manifest in stories you tell yourself about how you should or shouldn’t be, whether you can or can’t do something, how you respond to conflict and failure, and the extent to which you are in touch with your own voice, path and purpose,” they say.

“Try to clear away any emotional or mental blocks by getting curious about the origins of, and then turning around, any negative thoughts patterns. Just because you don’t know what you’re good at yet, doesn’t mean you’re not good at something so stay open to trying new things and actively welcome failure as an opportunity to grow. You have a unique role to play in the world, and your life is about discovering your purpose through a combination of inner reflection and inquiry, and gaining wisdom from your experiences and education in the outer world.”

For these very wise words, and for the beautiful and dynamic products and partnerships Hello!Lucky helps to create, we think Sabrina and Eunice Moyle are very Cool Girls!

Stay up-to-date on Hello!Lucky by visiting their website or Instagram. And treat yourself to a pair of their beautiful socks from our Fall 2019 Artist Collaboration!

We made a $200 donation to The Mosaic Project on behalf of Hello!Lucky. We encourage you to make a donation too and help spread education!

Leah Stanley

Name: Leah Stanley
Age: 30
Location: Upstate New York
Occupation: Social Media Specialist

Leah Stanley is a small-town girl from Vermont who has conquered the Internet with her message of self-love and fierce fashion. As a child, she was taunted for being “fat,” but took the body-shaming bullies to task by maturing into a gorgeous, bubbly, contagiously confident influencer for people of all shapes and sizes.

“I knew that growing up I didn’t really have any role models like myself to look up to,” she says. “I didn’t really know that much about plus-size fashion and where to find it, or that fashion rules don’t exist! A larger space means a louder and bigger voice, creating a bigger impact. I really just want to reach as many people as I can. I love being able to spread a positive message.”

Back in 2014, a friend mentioned to her that she might have fun on Instagram. Although it took her two years to start her personal blogging and photographic adventure, she remembers how it began.

“She was always on Insta, and mentioned something about how I would most likely also enjoy the app,” Leah recalls. “I eventually created a personal Insta, which I loved. My friend was totally right. It was through my personal Insta, years later, that I had discovered a plus-size fashionista, and I said to myself, ‘Hey, that could be me.’ Shortly after I started up @Voluptuousleah and here we are!”

With her fashion advice and inspiration, she quickly found an audience.

“I started just by starting my Instagram and sharing my daily outfits. It’s always helpful to see another person’s outfits on the daily, to see how they style pieces differently than you or I,” she says.

One of the seminal moments occurred during winter storm Stella in 2017, when Leah boldly flaunted a bikini…in a blizzard. With her tenacious, visually stunning, and often hilarious posts, Leah blended beauty and brains with a keen knack for what to wear, regardless of size. That’s not to say that she didn’t encounter online trolls, or perplexed family members who didn’t understand what the point was of an online presence. That said, nothing is stopping her.

Leah continues to challenge herself to step outside of her style comfort zone, and to dream big. One day she hopes to possibly design Voluptuousleah swimwear, or simply to manage social media for a business. “That’s currently part of my day job, so we’ll see where it leads me!” she says.

And what message does this motivated model and inspiring Instagram influencer have for other fledgling fashionistas and fierce females out there?

“Always be yourself, let your personality shine and to love yourself. Most importantly, I also like to remind that there are so many people in the world working against us, that’s okay. Turn their negativity into energy you can use to fuel your growth and strength,” Leah says. “We cannot ever control what people say to us, but we can control the way we react.”

For her message of body positivity, self-love, and for being a role-model of motivation, we think that Leah Stanley is a very Cool Girl!

Keep in touch with Leah by following her on Instagram @Voluptuousleah.

We made a $200 donation to Planned Parenthood on behalf of Leah. We encourage you to make a donation too!

Jackie Brenner

Name: Jackie Brenner
Age: 29
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Environmental Scientist

Jackie Brenner thirsts to improve life for her community and beyond by working for a Portland-based environmental consulting group and volunteering to teach life skills and outdoor education to underserved girls.

Jackie’s day job is to evaluate the environmental impact of industrial waste and development on aquatic ecosystems. When she’s not taking samples, writing reports, or completing fieldwork, she’s doing public outreach, or volunteering with Betties360, a non-profit that provides underserved young women active in rock-climbing, mountain biking, and STEM programs.

“I always excelled in labs and hands-on projects, but struggled with the memorization biology required, or understanding the complexities of chemistry. I felt environmental science was more accessible because it’s more creative and relatable: it’s understanding broad scientific concepts and thinking abstractly about how to explain and solve problems in a regulatory framework with that knowledge,” she explains.

After graduating college with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Jackie struggled to make ends meet. It was the recession, she had a low-paying internship without benefits, and she still had student loans to pay. After three months of commuting over 90 minutes each way, Jackie was starting to work enough regular overtime that she was able to move out of her parents’ house.

“Within a few more months I was hired full time salary and could start paying off my student loans. The work was hard because it was a lot of fieldwork in manufacturing facilities, homes, and businesses, and on construction sites, so I was constantly traveling, and it was a lot of climbing ladders and crawling underneath structures looking for water damage or determining air quality in dusty work environments. It was also challenging to be taken seriously,” she says. “My coworkers were great, but I grew a thick skin working with some of our clients who were wary of my ability being both young and a woman.”

After two years, Jackie was laid off as a result of the company’s struggles, so she applied to graduate school.

“When I was laid off, I accepted my admission to Oregon State University to study Environmental Science and complete a degree that was blended with their Water Science program, so I could pursue doing something I really loved,” Jackie says.

Following grad school, Jackie began working at a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data processing firm modeling watersheds and floodplains for municipalities to inventory their water resources and plan for flood events. These days, her task mastery has expanded.

“My team at my company helps municipalities and governmental coalitions write and manage EPA Brownfield Grants to fund assessment of contaminated and potentially contaminated properties so they can be cleaned up if need be, and redeveloped,” she says. “My clients are all Colorado and west…including Alaska! I continue to do GIS work and fieldwork including groundwater sampling, but we really look at addressing environmental health on a community scale.”

Beyond funding endeavors and water safety, Jackie’s pet project is the after-school women-empowerment program Betties360 that works to get underrepresented and underserved middle school girls involved in action sports and outdoor activities.

“It’s women-led, and focuses on leadership, trust, teamwork, and risk-taking themes in the classroom and in a safe and encouraging environment with our community partners,” Jackie explains. “We want to remove all barriers to participate in these activities, so the program is always 100% free.”

After learning about Betties360 through a friend who was the former Program Coordinator, she volunteered to lend her grant writing skills and community outreach passion to the organization.

“I’ve been the Grant Committee Chair since shortly after I started with Betties360 in 2017 and was recently elected Vice Chair of the organization,” Jackie says. “I’m more tired than I’ve ever been, and hustling harder than I ever have, but it’s incredibly rewarding.”

So what message does this aquatic safety ace and outdoor enthusiast have for young women who might be struggling to find their place on the planet?

“Pining after boys and maintaining superficial friendships is a waste of time. Focus on developing your interests, your hobbies, and pursuing what you care about in any way you can. When you’re an interesting person the right people will be interested in being around you,” she says. “Also, lift each other up. Being friends is way more fun than being competitors; you will also go farther with each other than stepping on each other.”

Excellent advice from an environmental advocate. For her work keeping water clean and young girls excited about getting outside, we think Jackie Brenner is one Cool Girl!