Women on a MISSION

Meet Soni Pitts of Getting Things Done Blog

soni-pitts2.jpg 1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What a complicated concept bundled up in such a small question!
Business-wise, I’m currently a copywriter and marketing nerd, with several “past lives” that influence and add their own spicy quirks to the present, such as my previous work as a life coach, a business networking trainer and an entertainer.

Personally, I’m a happily married geek, a foodie, a cat lover and a sci-fi nerd, with an unsettling habit of leaping off metaphorical cliffs and chasing after shiny objects in the guise of taking on projects, ideas and jobs that are fun, challenging and (usually) completely foreign to my existing experience. I usually end up scaring the hell out of myself almost as much as I enjoy the process, but so far it’s always worked out great so I plan to keep doing it.

Socially, I’m a shmooze-happy extrovert who can’t pass up a crowd scene.Unless I’m feeling topped off for socialization, in which case I’m a quiet, reclusive cocooner camped out on the couch with a pile of books and a big cup of green tea.

Politically, I’m a passionate believer in the idea that the strongest, happiest and most self-sufficient communities are made up of strong, happy and self-sufficient individuals working together for the greater benefit of everyone. I’m also a big proponent of the “teach a man to fish” philosophy, with the realization that doing so requires both the acceptance of the need for education and self-sufficiency on the part of the student and the necessity of teachers from the community who are willing to give their time and wisdom freely to others for the purpose of achieving that goal. So, to use familiar labels, something in the vicinity of a mild libertarian with a few socialist leanings.

2. What do you enjoy most about your profession? Starting with “meh” copy, or just the germ of an idea, and turning it into a carnival of explosive, expressive and vibrant shininess that rocks the page.Building my business that works for me, on my own terms. And getting to sleep in until I’m actually functional, rather than being yanked out of sleep by an alarm while I’m still in lurching zombie mode.

3. What was your vision for starting your own company? I am temperamentally incapable of being “good corporate material.” Meaning, I don’t play well in an arbitrarily-structured environment taking orders from pointy-haired morons about projects I could care less about. The term “loose cannon” comes to mind, both my own and probably anyone else’s who’s had to work with me before in such settings. My primary goal in becoming a copywriter was to create a career for myself that accommodated my personality while building on my strengths and passions. I’ve always been a writer, starting way back in grade school when I won a savings bond in an essay contest (and was entranced by the idea that people would give you money just to write), and I’ve had a love affair with words and books since before I could even read and write, thanks to my Mom. To this day, bad writing makes me wince and good writing is exhilarating. Put the two together and you have a career as a freelance writer, at this point focusing on copywriting. Since I’m working for myself, the only pointy hair I ever have to worry about is my own. And since I’m more than a bit OCD when it comes to writing, the work is both exciting and soothing. Which makes for a nice day. Speaking longer-term, I plan on niching my work toward helping solopreneurs and small business owners build their own successful businesses. It’s my opportunity to pass on my fishing skills to the next generation of anglers.

4. Tell us about the organizations your company supports? “My company” is just me at the moment, but currently I’m spending a year serving with Americorps (think of it as a domestic version of the Peace Corps, only with shorter tours and less risk of acquiring debilitating parasites). The team I serve on works with a United Way program based in Asheville, NC, called ChildrenFIRST, which serves underprivileged families and kids in the Western North Carolina region. Up until now, I’ve been working in an elementary school in the mornings as a volunteer coordinator (keeping the flow tutors, mentors and other volunteers moving smoothly) and spending my afternoons co-running an after school homework club in a housing development for the children of residents. We keep the kids off the streets, help them with their homework, play games and do crafts, and make sure they get a healthy snack. Once school is out in June, I’ll be assigned to a partner organization that serves as a food bank, community garden and family resource center for a largely Hispanic and Slavic immigrant population for the remainder of my service year.

5. What life event or incident made you choose to support them? I grew up very poor, mostly unsupervised and (for several years) a victim of physical abuse. I spent a lot of my childhood angry, scared, unpopular and broke, with little reason to look forward to anything but a bleak future of poverty and hardship. If it hadn’t been for organizations like the Girl Scouts and a few really good teachers who taught me how to rely on myself and that I could do what I set my mind and attention to, there’s no telling where I’d be today. When we decided to move to Asheville, I knew I needed some sort of temporary but stable bill-paying job to see me through the first year of settling in and getting my business up to speed. I’d previously completed a year of service with Americorps in 2000-2001, with the Durham, NC, chapter of Habitat for Humanity, so when we started planning the move in earnest, I hit the Americorps website to see what was happening out here and found this program. I knew I would be serving a cause I felt strongly about, through an organization that I was familiar with, trusted and believed in. I’d have a position, local connections and a paycheck waiting for me. And I’d have a chance to pay forward the help I had received to another generation, for however short a period of time. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

6. From where do you draw inspiration? Knowing what could have happened to me if no one had cared enough to take the time to see that it didn’t is a powerful motivator to step up to the plate now that I’m in a position to do so. Also, I draw inspiration, energy and ideas from the world’s spiritual leaders, cultural creatives and innovative thinkers, from the Dalai Lama to Ben Franklin to Cory Doctorow.

7. What one thing would you like to learn this year? How to get more involved in a community, how to put down roots and invest myself in something bigger and more important than my own life. I’ve been mostly nomadic up until now, rarely spending more than 4 or 5 years in any one place. But we both love Western North Carolina and have decided to make it our home. So now I’m hoping to learn how to develop the sort of community leadership/active citizenship I’ve always admired, respected and looked up to in others.

8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I have a “vision quest” project that smacked me upside the head fully formed during a local community-building conference and won’t go away, which is still in the fermenting stage right now while I finish my Americorps service. It focuses on creating micro-enterprise/business training centers within local housing developments, where residents who often don’t have the time, transportation or day care to seek training outside of their own neighborhoods can learn how to create their own businesses and become more self-sufficient (or simply become more marketable and better-skilledemployees) for little or no cost. My highest ideal would be for each center to not only serve as a source of training, but also to exist as a micro-enterprise in and of itself (for example, a call center or a crafters’co-op) that would bring in enough money to support itself as well as provide jobs for the housing residents in the process. Whether or not I can pull it off is another issue altogether – I have no idea how to do such a thing or whether it’s even feasible. But it’s worth shooting for, and there’s a lot of excitement and support for my idea among the folks who are in a position to help me make it happen. So, yeah, it’s another cliff to jump off. But what the heck else have I got to do with my life? Wheeeee!

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? My two favorite quotes, which serve as my mantras for living: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker, business guru “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” – Adam Savage, co-host of the tv show Mythbusters For more information visit http://www.sonipitts.com and http://gettingthingsdone.wordpress.com

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: My interview in the WE: Magazine for Women blog « Getting Things Done: A Year of Service

  2. Eileen Bennett says:

    Wow Soni
    Your energy leaps off the page.
    I like the sound of you!
    Well done!!
    Eileen

  3. Soni, I read about your work with children and would like to send you some tools to help make teaching and learning fun. You can visit my web site kleenslate.com and check out my inventions. I was a teacher-now inventor and try and help out when I can. If you drop me a line with an address where to send a donation-I would be happy to give to a school of your choice. I had Americorps folks in my classroom and always valued their work and if I can give back now-would love to.