How She Got There: Stevie Benanty, Founder of 'a conversation'

Name: Stevie Benanty
Age: 26
Job Title and Description: Founder of a conversation, a global community that showcases the lifestyles and tastes of creatives and professionals through storytelling
College Name/Major: The George Washington University 2011, BA in Psychology/Minor in Writing
Twitter Handle: @aconversationxo
Instagram Handle: @aconversationxo / @sbenanty 

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Stevie Benanty: Because I just launched this new lifestyle platform, I wear all hats around the company. I do work with a web developer to keep my website looking great as well as with a designer who illustrates all of the avatars and icons you see around the site. I handle all outreach to prospective features (people we want to interview for the site); I am the content creator as I comb through the interviews for tidbits that we can create posts about (this ranges from researching and choosing hotels, restaurants, shops, and more); I am also the editor-in-chief as I write and rewrite content for the site. I also handle all of the digital marketing and social media for the website.

There is no typical day for me—yet! But my goal every day is to be as organized as possible and always stay ahead of my deadlines—that way I am never rushed and always prepared for any surprises or issues that might arise. On any given day, I am writing and scheduling content posts on the website, I am filling out content calendars or social media calendars. I might be reading all of the fun interviews and spend hours finding the best hotel that fits with the feature. I get to learn about things I would be learning about in my free time!

My job is very creative and I am fully on my own schedule. I purposely set up the website with all of the newest technologies so I can be organized about my time and schedule content and social media ahead of time—this allows me to take a few hours off for personal time or to work at night if I want to. I have found that it creates an environment where there’s rarely a fire drill. I can always concentrate on what’s next instead of catching up on what needs to happen now.

Why did you start a conversation?

SB: I started a conversation for a few reasons. The first reason is that I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and work for myself. My father always worked for himself, and I came to appreciate a strong work-life balance and being in charge of my own schedule. I am at my most creative and effective when I can take breaks to concentrate on other things or work on other projects. I knew having my business be all digital would allow me to have control of my life. I’ve always liked to travel and running a business that allows me to work from anywhere—as long as I have internet—was important. I don’t have to give up one passion for another passion. This all works in harmony.

My inspiration for a conversation came from me wanting a place to combine everything I personally enjoy: travel, food, fashion, music, business, etc. I wanted a place where I could write and recommend all of the wonderful things I’ve been able to experience. I also wanted to add in the component of featuring interviews (or “conversations”) with people so that the site would have a lot of different opinions and contexts. My goal was to feature people who I find really interesting—and who are building or working for really cool businesses—so we can all get a deeper look at how we shape our lives. Learning about the world is so much more interesting when you’re hearing it through a personal story or anecdote. Learning why someone really loves a specific restaurant—maybe someone got engaged at this particular place—gives us better insight.

What is the best part of your job?

SB: Talking to and connecting with people from all over the world. I’m able to get into the minds of really passionate people, and it inspires me all the time. It makes me happy to see and hear how hard people work at what they love to do. It makes me work harder.

The other best part is seeing everything that I have in my head come to life—from the people we feature to the designs on the website. Translating it from idea to reality makes me super excited and feel very accomplished.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?  

SB: I’m still learning all the time but the biggest one is that things take time. Success is not overnight. You have to plan out the best route to get to where you want to be so you can hit each milestone thoroughly.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

SB: I worked for a few really bad bosses out of college—even though I loved the jobs I was doing, it’s not worth it to work for people who don’t have good morals. You never want bad behavior to rub off on you.

What do you look for when hiring people?

SB: Passion, passion, passion. People who want to learn more and be better speaks miles to me. If someone is constantly striving to be more knowledgeable and be a better worker, that’s so impressive. And on a basic level, trust. Especially if you’re launching a new company or start up, trusting employees and co-workers is a top priority. I want to create a team, where we all work together.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

SB: If you’re going to do it right, do it right the first time. My grandmother always told me that, even if it was about doing chores or homework. It’s so true, to this day. Take the time to figure it out and do it as well as possible, and you won’t waste time fixing mistakes.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

SB: Opportunities are everywhere, and learn to trust your gut. You can learn something from every situation—good or bad, you just must be open to it. Being an entrepreneur is about always coming up with a solution. There are so many times when Plan A doesn’t work, so just come up with Plan B and keep going. If you can move your project forward a little bit at a time, that’s called progress. And also that learning what you like in your career—working with solid people, flexible hours, new technologies, whatever—is just as important as learning what you don’t like. It’s the same as in a relationship—we learn the traits we like in people and also need to learn the traits we won’t put up with in order to find a good match. People should treat their lives and careers with that principle.


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