Elaine Zelker and Kristine Ortiz don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. Co-founders of Mission EmpowHer, Zelker and Ortiz are teaching women how to walk past their fear to live their best life.
The pair are putting in the hard work of revolutionizing their careers at midlife. Through Mission EmpowHer the two women design and lead curated experiences for women that nourish the mind, body and soul.
The full-day “missions” are held in unique and serene places such as renovated historic barns set amidst rolling hills. The missions are both meaningful and luxurious, with lessons in self- defense, yoga, gratitude and craft work.
“The missions sound simple,” says Zelker, “but at the end of the day when it all comes together, you are seeing these gifts and talents that you didn’t know you had.”
“People are thirsty for this,” adds Ortiz. “Women are searching for motivation. They will talk about changing their life, but are afraid to start. We can help.”
MissionEmpowHer started soon after Ortiz and Zelker, who were both renting work space at Silk, the renovated silk mill in Easton, decided to move into the same studio to share costs. After spending a lot of time in the same space and talking, they realized they had shared values when it came to careers and what motivates them.
“We came together with our skill sets,” says Ortiz, an award-winning event planner. “With my event planning background and Elaine’s skills as a photographer, brand strategist and speaker, this studio was Mission EmpowHer’s incubator within 10 minutes of us sharing the space.”
That hunger that Ortiz spoke of, that desire women feel to do something more with their lives, had a hold on them as well.
What about us?
With their children growing older and years of putting their family and other careers first, both felt a drive to try something new, something where they could share what they’ve learned along life’s journey.
“You hear so much about women under 20, under 30, even under 40,” Zelker says, ” what happens to us? I want to hear more about women over 40, like us, who are changing their lives.”
“It’s scary,” she says, “but I took the leap. I was a nurse, I enjoyed my work, but I was living other people’s dreams for myself. I jumped ship and now I do what I love. People fear me or love me because of that. You are so much more than what you think you are. Dig deeper.”
Ortiz says women at midlife grow more confident in many ways, yet they can start to question, “Who am I now? What is my purpose?”
“I want to educate younger women to not wait until they are 50,” adds Zelker. “I lost my mom when she was 62. I’m 47. I’m not going to feel like I’m running out of time but there is nothing that I’m not going to try to do now. Live each day like it is your last.”
“It’s two dates and a dash,” adds Ortiz, referring to the birth and death dates on tombstones. “Make the most of that dash.”
Ortiz and Zelker are in a good place to share with others about taking risks in the middle of life. As female entrepreneurs over 40, they have a lot of work behind and ahead of them.
“You have fear on one side and passion on the other,” says Zelker. “You have to make the passion override the fear and you have to jump. And I jumped. By the grace of God every month we made it. How much do you have to work as an entrepreneur? A lot. Because if I don’t, I don’t get paid. It did not happen overnight. Once I figured out what my mission is, and my vision and my values- once I figured that out-everything fell into place. And that’s what I want to teach people.”
It’s a process
So, how does one find their own personal mission?
It’s a process, say Zelker and Ortiz. They recommend starting with who your life effects and how. For example, Zelker mentions that this changes over time. She no longer does photography shoots on the weekend because she wants more time with her family.
Zelker and Ortiz also recommend integrating gratitude into your life on a daily basis.
“It’s routine,” says Ortiz. “When you create that gratitude routine for yourself, it helps you understand yourself. Write down every morning when you wake up what you are grateful for that day. Not everyone wants to be a business owner or a high-powered career woman, but gratitude benefits everyone. You can transform your life, no matter what your goals are.”
Gratitude is an important part of what MIssion EmpowHer teaches. Each attendee leaves with a personal daily gratitude journal designed by Zelker.
The missions are not a once-and-done event. Attendees become part of an alumni group they can continue to interact with. It’s called a CEO group, or “Challenge Each Other” group.
The CEO group can act as a sounding board to inspire and motivate in life and in business. But it’s also important to note that these groups are meant to be fun too.
“Having fun is part of the goal of these missions,” says Zelker, “but it is so much more. As women we take care of everyone else. We are the last ones on our list. This is for us. You are surrounded by like-minded women. It’s not so much the activity-the yoga, the self defense class, but the experience.”
Zelker and Ortiz believe women have a different way of interacting with the world than men, and want women to learn to capitalize on the strengths unique to them.
“Women are multi-taskers,” says Zelker. “We can take on the house, the finances, the kids, AND running our own business, multiple businesses even… Men can be more single minded.”
Women operate more from emotion than men do, Ortiz said, but she doesn’t see that as a negative thing.
“Women share,” she says. “We collaborate. We come at things from an emotional aspect.
We are women, it’s what we know. It allows us to succeed in our own unique way.”
There have been three Mission EmpowHer missions so far, with more planned for the spring of 2020, including destination/travel missions. For now, missions take one day from 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., and include a catered lunch and a minimum of four activities.
While these full day missions cost between $250 and $300, the women sponsor one woman per session with a full scholarship.
“It’s important to give back to our community,” says Ortiz.
The “mission,” they say, is to help women support each other, and surround themselves with others who lift them up. They want every event attendee to leave feeling better about themselves than when they came in.
In the future, Zelker and Ortiz envision events “all over the place,” with Mission EmpowHer having “boots on the ground” throughout the nation and the world. For now, the two are eager to move ahead on this mid-life journey they’re on.
“We could have 30 more years to thrive in our careers,” says Zelker. “There is so much more we can do.”
“I’ve never been in a better place emotionally,” adds Ortiz. “I’m looking ahead and feeling good. I say to women over 40 and over 50, ‘You got where you are today. Keep moving forward. Say ‘Yes.’ See where it takes you.’”