Toyia Tynae Taylor is Fabulous N’ Frugal’s DreamGirl of the Week. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Taylor back in 2004 when we were working together at an educational company. I remember the day that she had to leave the company due to a technicality. She called me and told me that it was a blessing and that she is better off working for herself.
She ain’t a liar.
Actress. Performing Artist. Visionary. and now Founder of we.app. Here is her story.
What is we.app? Why is it needed?
we.app(act.present.perform.) is an organization dedicated to teaching professionals and young scholars the art of communication.
The we.app philosophy is to explore one’s personal beliefs and acknowledge the power of the voice in order to deliver engaging messages. we.app offers two courses: Public Speaking Series (professionals) and the Young Artist Academy (young scholars ages 12-17).
we.app is needed because many of us have forgotten how to have authentic conversations. In the age of technology we underestimate the value of personal interactions. It is unfortunate how many brilliant professionals and talented youth are unaware of the power of their voice. The we.app objective is to acknowledge each participants voice as an instrument that is distinctive, significant and worthy to be heard. As a result, we.app clients walk away empowered and with a new found respect for their voices and ability to interact with others.
Why you and not somebody else to start we.app?
At the age of twelve, my mother courageously stepped away from a mentally and physically abusive marriage. Unfortunately, such relationships take a toll on a child’s psyche. Enduring abuse for over three years engraved internal scars on my heart and self-esteem. After years of being silenced and forced to believe I was stupid and unworthy of being loved, I convinced myself the solution was to shrink. If I was small, I couldn’t be seen or heard. By the time I was fourteen, my solution to my pain was to write. Writing became a confidant, an outlet in which to express my thoughts and search for a way to heal. By chance one day at school, Marvin Johnson, a counselor, asked if he could read my work. His interest in my words felt like the release of a caged bird. I’ll never forget his exact words, you are gifted and your voice deserves to be heard. You have something to say that can inspire others to do the same. Those words changed my life and I started using my voice to heal. When I spoke, I discovered that my voice possessed an energy that resonated with people and their experiences. My mission became to use my voice as an instrument to encourage people to believe in their inner-strength.
When you realized that you had to raise money for we.app, what did you do? What would you have done differently?
To raise money for we.app I connected with friends and family. I reached out to those who recognized how passionate I am about my work. For my birthday which is December 18th I created a campaign entitled the Best Birthday Wish Ever and set out to raise $1218. I explained to friends, family and supporters that I couldn’t think of a better gift than to raise funds which would allow me to enhance the we.app marketing and scholarship opportunities. Within two weeks, I surpassed my goal and raised over $1600. Some may say it is a small contribution to the organization, however it is an unforgettable testament to the goodness of others. It also helps me recognize that I am not walking alone on this journey.
If I could do anything different, I would have started the fundraiser earlier with a goal of $12,180 (which is now my goal for 2013)! In addition, I am applying for grants that will help further the we.app mission. I am also seeking graduate student interns to create a Spring 2013 fundraiser.
What have been some of the growing pains that come with we.app? Which lesson have you been most thankful for?
Uncertainty. Uncertainty that I can do this as a fulltime endeavor. Uncertainty, that I can fill my classes or that others see the value in my product or vision. Uncertainty that ten years from now, we.app will be a household name or better yet, a driving force in helping others speak up and speak out! Throughout this journey I have learned to trust myself. I set expectations and plan accordingly, but once those expectations are in motion I just run full speed. I don’t worry about hitting brick walls or falling and scraping my pride. I just know I am doing the right thing and that’s enough to create the results I want for we.app and those who invest in the courses or the organization. I am thankful that I have learned when God puts something on my heart and gives me a gift, I need to act. Don’t question or hesitate, just move forward. It only took me a few months to establish we.app. we.app was conceptualized in June 2012 and up and running by September 2012. By walking out on faith, we.app in its first quarter served five Public Speaking Series clients and twelve Young Artist Academy Scholars. The fall quarter Public Speaking Series cohort was an amazing collective! My clients ranged from entrepreneurs, founders of nonprofit organizations and Microsoft and Boeing employees. The Young Artist Academy scholars ranged from ages eleven to seventeen years of age and attended schools from all over Seattle. I could not have asked for better clients and the results of each class were life changing for all of us.
toyiatynae taylor, we.app founder