“Be Kind. No Matter What You Want To Be, I Suggest You Be A Kind One” 5 Leadership Lessons With Anna Frances Wood, CEO Of Brains Over Blonde
“I’ve been given many opportunities in my life. Many people helped me along the way; I didn’t get where I am all by myself. I strive to be a person and leader who leads with warmth and pays it forward. The type of person you are really matters.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Frances Wood, founder and CEO of Brains over Blonde, a feminist lifestyle platform for women who refuse to choose between femininity and success. Anna led sales at Google and has a Stanford MBA. She’s worked with major brands including Netflix, J.Crew, Airbnb, and Tyra Banks.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in Silicon Valley, so the entrepreneurial spirit is in my blood. In kindergarten my dream job was simply to be “the boss.” As a kid, I never saw a connection between my gender and what I was capable of.
My passion for empowering women started early. In undergrad at UC Berkeley, I designed my own major called “Organizations and Leadership” and wrote my honors thesis on “Making diversity in the workplace a strategic advantage.” Always one to embrace my feminine side, I was also a devout Delta Gamma sorority girl and a personal stylist.
Next I began my career at Google. I learned, created, hustled and had a lot of success there. When my older male colleagues joked that “maybe if they looked like me they’d perform like me too,” I felt sick. Conscious or not, it took away my power and discredited my performance. In an attempt to make a change for women at Google, I began facilitating Google’s Unconscious Bias course, but was disappointed by outcomes that were ambiguous at best.
I left Google to pursue my MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I took every entrepreneurship class I could. I trained to be a personal and professional coach. I worked on personal branding with Tyra Banks. I traveled the world and made lifelong friends.
Business School was a transformative experience for me. That said, I was struck by how most all of the leadership techniques were taught by and for men, and would often suppress or dismiss characteristically “feminine” qualities. I decided to dedicate my career to empowering and educating women on how our femininity makes women uniquely powerful.
Rather than waiting around for a major societal change, I created my own lane and built Brains over Blonde. I love being a woman, and I believe my female identity is part of what’s made me successful. I designed Brains over Blonde to be the badass power woman mentor I wish that I’d had.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
I’m struck by the outpouring of support that Brains over Blonde has gotten from men. I create content for women, but I’m delighted that so many men say Brains over Blonde has educated and influenced them. In order to redefine femininity and reach gender equality, we need buy-in from all genders. One day, I hope to create a gender equality platform directed towards men.
Yitzi: So how exactly does your company empower women?
Brains over Blonde is a feminist lifestyle platform for women who REFUSE to choose between femininity and success. From free digital content (written and video) to private 1:1 coaching, Brains over Blonde provides inspiration and resources to empower women to do it ALL. Our mission is to change the world into a place where all genders associate femininity with power and success.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I created a fictional character named Hope. Hope represents all the young women I hope to motivate, educate, and inspire. Everything I do, every piece of content I create, is conceived with the goal of empowering Hope. I don’t care if 99% of the world hates what I’m doing. If my work helps one Hope out there in the world, it’s 100% worth it.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
Entrepreneurship chooses you. I started my company, Brains over Blonde, only six months ago, but I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. I think most entrepreneurs would say the same. Entrepreneurship isn’t just a profession; it’s not just a choice. It’s an inner drive and personality type that’s a common thread throughout one’s life. Looking back, I can honestly say I’ve been an entrepreneur since childhood. I love building things, creating, doing something different every day, solving problems, navigating ambiguity. If you’re truly an entrepreneur, I don’t think you can do anything else.
There’s strength in vulnerability. Most people don’t like feeling emotionally exposed or at risk. On Brains over Blonde, I’ve shared my deepest, most personal struggles, from getting a breast reduction to taking antidepressants. It’s never easy baring my soul, but it’s well worth the risk. Sharing vulnerabilities allows people to form a bond with me, and I’m blown away by the number of women I’ve connected with and helped by sharing my stories. Starting a company and putting yourself out there is scary. By being vulnerable and embracing discomfort, I am able to grow in meaningful ways.
Not everyone is going to like you. I’m speaking to a specific breed of woman, and not everyone likes what I’m saying. I’ve gotten backlash, and it hurts. Over time though, I’ve grown a thicker skin. I’ve realized that it’s ok to be polarizing, and it’s ok to alienate certain people. It’s much more important to be to be authentic and true to myself and my mission. The people I’m trying to reach immediately recognize that I’m speaking directly to them, and that’s what matters.
Feedback is a gift. I love feedback. Especially the “constructive” kind. It may be hard to hear, but what people often don’t appreciate is how hard it was for the other person to give that constructive feedback to you. Giving constructive feedback is risky and there are possible repercussions, so people often opt not to give the feedback at all. Whenever I receive constructive feedback, I’m immensely grateful. I don’t overreact. I just take it for what it is: one data point from one person. I file that data point away, and sometimes it ends up being helpful later on.
Be kind. No matter what you want to be, I suggest you be a kind one. I’ve been given many opportunities in my life. Many people helped me along the way; I didn’t get where I am all by myself. I strive to be a person and leader who leads with warmth and pays it forward. The type of person you are really matters.
Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. 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, or I might be able to introduce you.
Michelle Obama. Obviously she was a phenomenal first lady and led incredible initiatives like Let Girls Learn and Let’s Move. But she’s also living proof that women can do it all. Not only is Michelle a political powerhouse and minority advocate, but she’s also an incredible mom. She’s feminine, stylish, funny, she can dance, and is insanely fit (have you seen her arms?!). She’s vocal about what it’s like to be black, and what it’s like to be a woman. Her femininity makes her even more powerful and impactful as a leader.