“Do not underestimate the power of a group of passionate women coming together to get things done”, With Angelique Velez and Sofia Monroe
Women make things happen! Do not underestimate the power of a group of passionate women coming together to get things done. I am so proud of our team, and the incredible contributions of each of the women working tirelessly make this all happen.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Angelique Velez and Sofia Monroe. Angelique is the creator of the newly formed non-profit, BeRemarkable Foundation which focuses on creating more positive content on social media in efforts to reach the masses of today’s youth generation. She lives in LA and works heavily in the social media tech world. Sofia Monroe is co-creator of BeRemarkable Foundation and founder of Daymaker Productions. She is an entrepreneur and filmmaker that has love for and is inspired by stories, marketing, philanthropy and art. She is on a mission to help create projects and movements that help empower, educate, and positive impact communities.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Angelique: I worked at a social media tech company called Speakr for 4 years, where I analyzed social data for thousands of influencers, and led hundreds of social media campaigns. I am a bit of a data geek and found myself focusing on how many children under the age of 18 were following these influencers. I was struck by how many hours a day they were spending on social media, and how the rise of social media was affecting a child’s development, interests, mental health and decision making. I would look at some of the influencer content, which was shared virally across platforms, and I would immediately check to see the engagement numbers. The percentage of children reached was almost always higher than for adults, and the content was often more negative than positive or inspirational. I remember when influencers would visit the office; I’d try to break down to them how powerful their voice is by showing them the data, and that they should be more responsible with the content/message they were sharing. I would show them numbers of exactly how many kids were following them to drive my concerns home. I would stress the importance of providing positive role models for the youth to aspire to. Some of this information would fall on deaf ears, and occasionally an influencer would change their approach to social media for about a week. After a week, they inevitably returned to business as usual. I realized that lecturing wasn’t going to get me anywhere; that was the beginning of BeRemarkable. I had to create social good projects that aligned with their interests/brands, and invite them to get involved. The hope was that their perspective could be changed if they saw how impactful their efforts were. We would handle all logistics, as long as the influencers showed up and shared the content that we created. We want to shift the way social media is being used, and change the type of content that is going viral.
Sofia: I was a pre-med major turned Mass communications major then filmmaker that always knew, whatever career path I chose, I wanted my work efforts to result in helping people.I created my production company with the intent to be a resource and support especially to people that are wanting to empower, educate, help others, and make a positive impact with their work. One of my friends brought me to Speakr for what turned out was one of Angelique’s events. That night, she was put on the spot by one of the artists to talk about a charity project idea she shared had with him. After listening to her, I knew I had to speak to her! I let her know I was trying to help change the world, too and would love to know how I could support her ideas.After our first meeting, we rolled quickly into brainstorming and production for a concept video for one of the first missions we wanted to do. Along that project journey, we created what has become Be Remarkable foundation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Sofia: I feel fortunate, because my career, to me, is fascinating daily- people, their passion and innovation fascinate me. Because of my work and because one of my favorite things to do is people watch, I have stories for days.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Angelique: When the team first got together and started thinking of what our first project would be centered around — we chose music and arts in Cuba. Our plan was to bring over 100 instruments to schools, and to host a music workshop with children in Cuba. After many months of planning, we assembled an entire team of Grammy Award winning musicians, a host of musical influencers, and instrument donors fully committed. We decided to film a video to start a crowdfunding campaign for the project. After a 14 hour shoot, when we were deliriously celebrating, I checked my phone and received a message that a laws had changed, which effectively meant our project could not go forward. We had to completely pivot direction and create something new. It was hard to find the lesson at first, because so much had gone into the project already, but the experience provided valuable insight into the planning, organization, and execution of projects in foreign countries.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Angelique: Right now, we are working on our very first project as a non profit around mental illness within the youth. It’s called #MIstory (Mental Illness Story) and we are hosting youth workshops in NYC and LA where any child (under 18) who is battling a mental illness (either directly or through a loved one) can join. We work closely with them to develop a relationship of communication and trust, and we provide them with the tools necessary to begin learning how to share their story. We want them to know that they do not need to be silent anymore. Our efforts have turned into a larger social media call to action for people of all ages battling a mental health issue to share their handwritten stories. The aim is to start conversations around mental health issues in order to start breaking down the stigma. It seems to be easier for adults to share their stories, so we want to show young people that the community is supportive, and demonstrate that vulnerability can be empowering. We want them to feel comfortable and confident in sharing their stories at an early age. Even though #MIstory is our very first endeavor as a non-profit, the growth that we are seeing from the children in such a short amount of time has been a phenomenal, and rewarding experience for us. Seeing these young people fighting against the stigma by sharing their stories, has been incredibly inspiring.
Sofia: We are also gearing up for a #MIstory LIVE fundraising event on November 3rd at the Village Recorder Studio in Los Angeles — where we have musicians, influencers, spoken word artists, story-tellers and even some of the kids from our workshops come up on stage to share their #MIstory with a live audience. Story-telling is such a powerful tool and we hope that our event can bond together a community and break the silence around mental health/illness. Because we are fundraising for Be Remarkable as a whole, we are also producing fun and interesting “social events” monthly at different businesses with influencers and supporters.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Angelique: For each of our projects, we align with social media influencers to help raise awareness about our mission. There were over 60 influencers that we identified, who use their platform to talk about mental health/illness, but there was one that stood out to us. Her name is Hart (@ihartbeat). Hart used her Youtube channel to share her mental health story with her fans for the first time last year. She battles schizophrenia, one of the most largely misunderstood illnesses, and openly talks about it. Her stories are inspiring, truthful and when she speaks, she lights up the room. It has been an incredible gift getting to know her, and watch how she uses her powerful voice to give hope to young people who need it the most.
Sofia: She is so positive, open and honest with such an uncanny sense of humor that made all of us including the kids cry from laughter. She creates a safe haven for the kids and even the adults, you can feel positive energy shifts when she walks into a room, you can see kids becoming comfortable — and this is her magic. She defies all stereotypes of schizophrenia or mental illness in general by being this light that most people believe is not possible to be when diagnosed with a mental illness.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Angelique: The most important thing you can ever do for yourself, is to take care of your mental health. Make sure to commit personal time, where work is not the focus. Commit to eating right and keeping positive thoughts and energy around you. We happen to have chosen a path where helping others is our main goal, and when you have so much passion towards being of service to others, you can sometimes forget to check in on yourself.
Sofia: I second what Angelique says! I think some are taught at an early age that not putting others before yourself and prioritizing self care less than others, or saying “no” to a commitment sometimes, then you are being “selfish”. I’m learning differently. For all of you amazingly big hearted always self-less people out there, please don’t forget to love you, too. Identify what brings you happiness and peace and make time for that something everyday.Protect and value your peace of mind.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Angelique: I think we’re on our way, but one of my dream projects is to start an alternative multi-national school for orphaned children.
Sofia: We are definitely on our way- day by day, conversation by conversation, Be Remarkable mission by mission! Also, one of my dreams is to create a community platform for as many communities as possible to join that will include original content, donors, resources, and a “who’s who” of individuals in communities that are helping others and making a positive impact.This platform will help connect and strengthen communities. I’m finding others one by one who believe in this and more to help make it a reality- stay tuned!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Fundraising for a brand new non-profit is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. In the beginning I truly thought “this is going to be a breeze, our mission is so awesome, how could people NOT want to give us money?” I saw it so clearly: I would put up a post telling everyone what I was up to, they would feel inspired and I would reach my fundraising goal within a week. Sufficed to say, it did not quite pan out as expected. Trying to get money out of people for a good cause may seem easy but without having had any projects under our belt, there was a lot of hesitation and a lot of no’s. There has to be a well thought-out, and highly strategic plan towards reaching fundraising goals. Also, give yourself a few months to raise the money; we learned this lesson the hard way!
- There is A LOT of paperwork, legalities, and hidden “must-know” information about creating a 501c3. I would have never been able to properly create a 501c3 if I did not bring my mom on board to help handle all of the paperwork, fees, approvals, and legal action that we needed to take, to run a foundation properly. Sometimes, it feels as if she is speaking a completely different language when explaining about all that goes into creating a 501c3. Definitely make sure you have someone paying attention to what is needed, what sites you need to register with, and which forms are needed to fill out, etc.
- Hire people based on their energy, drive and passion, as opposed to their resume and experience. This is really relevant to running a non-profit but can be applied to any business you create. It is so important to enjoy what you do, so make sure to have people around you that share the same passion, vision, and positive energy. It will make projects so much easier because everyone truly wants the same thing. Even though experience is great, you will find that genuine passion will move a project forward far more effectively than anything else.
- Problem Solving skills need to be second nature and fine-tuned. There WILL be times when things do NOT go according to plan. Often we can stress because we had a preconceived idea of how things were ‘supposed’ to happen. However, there are always other ways you can approach a situation to achieve the same results. Put the stress aside and get creative first! Think of all your options as calmly as possible and watch how things get right back on track!
- Women make things happen! Do not underestimate the power of a group of passionate women coming together to get things done. I am so proud of our team, and the incredible contributions of each of the women working tirelessly make this all happen.
- Be kind and respect others. Treat others the way you want to be treated in your personal professional life. No act or think you are “better” than any other person or work position. Besides the obvious reasons, also, you never know what they work on or who they know outside of the situation you met them. In the entertainment industry especially, people’s lives change daily and tables are often turned. I’ve experienced or been told countless examples of something similar to this situation: PA on set or Intern in the office, is also a writer whose been submitting his/her scripts nonstop. He/she gets one of his/her scripts picked up by a tv network and now his/her employers are the ones now asking him/her for jobs.
- Educate yourself on real life business and finances ASAP! Financial literacy is especially so incredibly important. I didn’t study business and stopped school before I started my MBA to pursue work goals in LA and I wasn’t educated at home about the importance of finances -especially about credit and future planning soon enough. I feel some time was wasted and progress slowed, because I learned in some hard ways. I want to help educate students and future entrepreneurs to better plan ahead and be aware of what they can avoid when they are ready to put their visions to actions.It’s never too late to spend time on self education — self help books, youtube, find mentors, surround yourself with who and what you want to learn, etc. Resources are everywhere- make time to educate yourself.
- “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later!…Opportunity favours the bold”-Richard Branson I live that mantra and believe wholeheartedly you have to be a go getter. Early on when I moved to LA, the President and VP of our new indie production company called me into the office and said they had an almost complete feature script, bought the gear on credit cards, they had about $5k to make the film and asked if I wanted to produce it. I said “Okay !Yes, let’s make a movie!”I was about 24 years old, had never produced before and had little to no idea how to produce a feature film-until starting that very day!I found my teammates to go on that journey with and we made it happen step by step. I had no idea was I was doing at first. That feature film was a first for most of us but we ended up producing 6 micro budget features that were distributed and it was the best real life film school learning experience I could have asked for. It was formative and inspired me to start my own production company.
- Daily, speak your goals and desires out loud to those that will listen and into the universe. Believe that manifestation is real and everything happens “for you” not “to you”. Seek guidance and others who you can join forces with. My life is filled with stories as to why I believe in this wholeheartedly.
- Stay aware, listen and don’t forget how important it is to allow yourself to feel. I’ve learned to significantly value emotional intelligence and what an important role it plays across each area of our lives.The energy you put out will be received and lead you to others like you. I’ve been so blessed to have met and built relationships with amazing people that didn’t just become work partners, but have become close friends.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sofia: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
— Mark Twain
I was a competitive runner for 10 years and attended Adams State University (formerly known as Adams State College) on scholarship for country, indoor, and outdoor track. I loved running so much, that my life plans included using my 5th year of eligibility to train to become a professional runner and try to qualify for the Olympic trials. Although I achieved several of my goals, I was injured throughout a lot of my eligibility including stress fractures so I fell short of some of my running ambitions. The summer I came to LA for my internships,I was on my third stress fracture. By the end of the summer, I had completed several internships and I felt inspired to stay in LA to pursue a career path. I made the hardest decision of my life at the time and chose to give up my scholarship, my running and continued education goals (MBA and major in theater) and stay in Los Angeles to figure everything out. I made my choice for a couple reasons. By the end of that summer I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent in a few weeks, I didn’t know where I was going to live the next month, I didn’t have a job, or what career title in mind yet. But, what I did know, is I wanted to help people and I knew I wanted to create for living so I had faith I was led to the right place to figure out how to make that happen.Letting go of all that was familiar and my original plans was scary, but something kept telling me it was the best thing to do. It’s been an amazing journey with highs and lots of lessons.I will never regret taking that leap of faith. Onward and upward!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I used to call myself a “Number 2” for so many years. It meant that someone else always called the shots, and there was a safety in knowing that if something went wrong, it was on them. It became a crutch, and this way of thinking stopped me from venturing out on my own. I wanted to bring BeRemarkable to life for about five years, always yearning to create massive impact projects for the youth, but never taking the initiative to bring that reality to life.
A little less than a year ago, I was sitting in a meeting with Cedric Rogers, a man who is a mentor and a friend to me. I made some passing comment about being a “Number 2”, and he stopped me. I will never forget the conversation. He told me that this mentality that I had drilled into my head was totally false. Knowing that I was a former professional poker player, he used the analogy of the “aces”. He told me I was an “ace”, and that aces belong at the table together. In that one moment, my entire mentality shifted, and I shed away that self-doubt that had held me back. I am forever grateful to Cedric for seeing in me what I could not see in myself.
Sofia: I’m where I am today because of so many amazing mentors, friends and family. The universe has never brought something to me without leading me to support to help me through it. The earliest impactful experience that led me where to where I am today, is when I first moved out here. Robert Dudelson hired me as his intern at about 22, promoted me to Executive Assistant soon after. One day, he suggested I needed a “bigger title” than Executive Assistant, so he came up with “Director of Acquisitions”- although I had to google what that meant after he left the room, I happily obliged to the title in the moment.
At about 24 years old he made me head of production and let me help brand and launch his new company at the time. He and the VP, Steve Langford, allowed me to be the lead producer on the new company’s first and all feature films and allowed me to help build our core production team- my teammates Doug Bilitch and Paul Rocha (the 3 of us took on about 10 different positions each feature and became work family). Robert knew I had never produced a project before, but both he and Steve believed I was capable. Both Robert and Steve allowed me learn and lead (Steve practically let me direct some parts of our first feature- which left a Creative impression that will last a lifetime) and build my resume and confidence in an inexplicably valuable way. Because of them, I learned distribution, production and some entrepreneur lessons too. Because of those experiences throughout, I became inspired to start my own company.
Also, in college, an incredibly kind human being who I met because he was a supporter of our running program insisted on sponsoring my living expenses for an internship in NY to help further my education and career exploration.That internship changed my life and led me to LA and beyond. Because of this encounter with inexplicable kindness, it’s what also inspired me to start the company and programs in action.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Angelique: Ellen Degeneres, Lin Manuel, and Will Smith would be a dream dinner table.
Sofia: Will Smith, Richard Branson, Ellen Degeneres, Les Brown, Tina Fey
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Just click the follow button on Instagram: @BeRemarkable_Foundation and on Facebook: BeRemarkable Foundation
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!