We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy and Nancy Harrington and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy and Nancy, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
We were first inspired to expand our Passionistas’ brands by launching The Passionistas Project at the height of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. We wanted to add to the important conversations that were taking place by telling the positive stories of women who were following their passions to inspire other women to do the same.
We initially started with a podcast where we interview female entrepreneurs, activists, artists and artisans, who talk about the ups and downs of pursuing their dreams and defining success on their own terms.
As we interviewed more women, we started to learn about their amazing products. We were inspired to launch our own subscription box, The Passionistas Project Pack. The quarterly box is filled with products exclusively from women-owned businesses and female artisans to give them another outlet for selling their products and inspire the subscribers to pursue their passions.
We also heard more and more stories of the struggles that women still face in launching their businesses, getting funding and exposure and in society in general. In 2020, we were inspired to host the first annual Passionistas Project Women’s Equality Summit to coincide with the 100th anniversary of some women in the United States getting the right to vote. We wanted to use that date as a jumping off point to discuss the fact that not all women got the right to vote on that day and that we continue to struggle with equality in so many areas. We’ll continue those conversations this August 20-22 at our second annual virtual Women’s Equality Summit.
We are inspired every day by the women who have joined our Passionistas community. They are working to make the world a better, more equal place and are committed to sharing their stories and lending support to each other.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The Passionistas Project is a media company that emboldens women to follow their passions by sharing the stores of women business owners, female artisans, activists and artists through storytelling, outreach and community building. We do this through The Passionistas Project Podcast, The Passionistas Project Pack quarterly subscription box, the annual Passionistas Project Women’s Equality Summit, our online network of women supporting women and Equality Exchange events.
There are a few things that we feel truly set us apart from other media companies. The first is our unique bond as sisters and business partners. Our passion, energy and enthusiasm is equally matched and we can rely on each other without any question. This carries over into another other unique characteristic, the sisterhood we are building through The Passionistas Project. Our community is truly intersectional and inclusive. Since we understand what it means to be unwaveringly supportive to each other, we offer that same compassion and empathy to the women in our circle. Finally, we provide a platform for women to share their stories without interjecting our own opinions or biases into their narratives. We want to simply give each woman we collaborate with the podium to speak authentically about their own experiences and passions.
We were very lucky growing up in the suburban town of Braintree, Massachusetts. Given that our parents met in art school, we were surrounded by the arts and were huge pop culture consumers. Along with our three siblings, we spent our afternoons watching classic TV shows, while the stereo simultaneously blared rock and roll music and we snacked on bowls of Cocoa Puffs. Our parents encouraged us to follow our passions and supported all of our creative endeavors.
After graduating from Boston University, Nancy built a successful graphic design business and theater company in the heart of Boston. Also a BU grad, Amy immediately moved to Los Angeles and got into the world of film and television. She soon became the first woman in the history of the film industry to hold the position of Vice President of Post Production and Visual Effects at a major studio. While she was overseeing this work on over 250 films, like the early “Harry Potter” movies and the “Matrix” franchise, Nancy relocated to LA and did Academy Award campaigns for Miramax and Paramount Classics.
We loved our careers and were enjoying our individual successes but hit a point where we wanted new adventures. We decided that it was time to join forces and strike out on our own — together. Within a few years we discovered a new passion — conducting interviews — a shocking choice for two introverted girls like us.
After a few years focusing on the positive and inspiring side of Pop Culture through our Pop Culture Passionistas website, we decided to expand our brand. In response to the #MeToo and Time’s Up Movements, we launched The Passionistas Project Podcast, interviewing women who are following their passions to inspire others to do the same. This led to the launch of The Passionistas Project Pack subscription box — a quarterly box filled with products exclusively from women-owned businesses and female artisans including written Q&A’s with the women behind the products.
In 2020, we hosted the first annual Passionistas Project Women’s Equality Summit to coincide with the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote — and building on the dialogue that not all women were treated equally then or now. The three-day event featured panels, presentations, workshops, a storyteller event, film festival and awards ceremony that spanned a wide range of topics from racial equality to disability rights to LGBTQIA+ equality to ageism, sizeism and so much more.
We’re really excited to be locking in panelists and speakers for the 2021 Passionistas Project Women’s Equality Summit, which will take place virtually this year from August 20 through August 22. This year’s expanded event will include panels on #StopAsianHate, #StopJewishHate, transgender rights, disability rights, financial equality for women and more. We’ll be hosting a storyteller night and stand-up comedy night, both followed by round table discussions with the panelists. The event will culminate on Sunday, August 22 with a ceremony to present the Passionistas Persist awards to two incredible celebrities that you will not want to miss.
Leaving behind successful careers was not easy. We left financial stability and chose a life-work balance. We were lucky to have each other and the support of loved ones who cheered us on.
Having worked for decades in male-dominated worlds, we had never had the opportunity to be surrounded by a community of powerful and supportive women. Through The Passionistas Project we have created a network of women who share resources, support each other’s businesses and projects and, most importantly, encourage each other to follow their passions.
We hope that when people hear the story behind The Passionistas Project, they’ll see how a life of passion and purpose can be so much more meaningful than a life that is focused on the bottom line. Following this path might not always be easy but it is infinitely rewarding. We hope more women will join our Passionistas Project to reap the benefits of our growing community.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We’re lucky to have a big community of incredibly talented women who own some of the best restaurants, shops and brands around Los Angeles. So when we have a friend visiting from out of town, these are some of our favorite Passionista-owned destinations that we love to take them to:
On day one, we’d keep it local to our Atwater Village neighborhood:
• If we’re treating ourselves, we like to start our day with the best corn muffin on the West Coast followed by some beautifully decorated and delicious pastries at The Village Bakery and Café in Atwater Village. (3119 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039)
• After breakfast, we’ll have a day of fashion poking around the charming women-owned shops in Atwater Village. Our first stop is to K.K. Dodds (3181 Glendale Blvd, Atwater Village, Los Angeles 90039) to check out her latest handcrafted, limited run shoes from Tuscany, Italy. We also love to swing by Wendi Weger’s vintage clothing store The Curatorial Department (3360 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039) where they sell the cutest retro fashions and are “connoisseurs but not snobs.” Finally we’ll swing by MaeMae Jewelry (3125 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039) to get a dose of inspiration along with our trinkets like their This Too Shall Pass Agate Necklace or the Just Breathe bracelet.
• We’ll have worked up an appetite from all that shopping, so we’ll swing by Proof Bakery (3156 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039) for a vegetarian sandwich on their amazing Stecca bread. While we’re there we’ll pick up couple of jars of Laura Ann’s Jams, made locally by punk rock drummer turned artisanal jam-maker extraordinaire Laura Ann Masura.
On day 2 we’ll head to the Westside:
• We love cooking as much as we love eating out and the classes at Clemence Gosset’s The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories in Santa Monica (395 Santa Monica Pl #126, Santa Monica, CA 90401) are the best. The school boasts having the recipe for the “Single Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever” — a bold statement. But trust us, it does not disappoint.
• After class, it’s time to eat again. With all the great restaurants in Los Angeles, there are obviously a lot of well-known chefs. But few are as legendary as Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Miliken. The former stars of the Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales” have built a culinary empire starting with Border Grill. But their new venture, the Santa Monica-based Socalo (1920 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404) is a must visit for anyone who loves Mexican food.
• As we wait for our Susan Feniger-prepared meal, we’ll tune in to filmmaker Liz Lachman’s Instagram account (@LizLachman) to watch hysterical videos of Susan making home cooked dinners while Liz captures it all.
• While we’re on the West Side, we’ll take a brief break from eating to head over to Annette Corsino-Blair’s The Knitting Tree, LA (1031 W Manchester Blvd UNIT 2, Inglewood, CA 90301) to check out her shop filled with an extensive collection of fine yarns. Not only is this the place for fiber artists to find everything they need for their next project, but it’s a thriving community of supportive artisans.
On Day 3, it’s off to Pasadena:
• Part of the secret to The Gourmandise School’s stellar chocolate chip cookie (mentioned above) is the whole grain flour. And while that might sound hard to find, LA locals and online shoppers can get some directly from the only urban flour mill in Los Angeles, Nan Kohler’s Grist + Toll in Pasadena (90 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105). If you got sucked up in the COVID pandemic sour dough craze, this is the place for you.
• Our all-time favorite treat is ice cream and we can never resist the sammies from Natasha Case’s by Coolhaus Shop in Pasadena (59 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA, CA 91105). We especially love the Bananas Foster in between two chocolate cookies. And the good news is you can also find Coolhaus sammies, pints and new cones at grocery stores across the U.S.
On day 4, we’ll focus on a little self-care:
• After all those delicious Passionistas treats, we need to burn off all those calories. So, we like to start every Saturday morning doing Dr. Newman’s Doomsday Bunker Workout Class and Sing-Along! virtually via LA-local turned Palm Springs transplant @Selene_Luna on Instagram.
• Next we’ll visit Nikki Parish at Resting Witch Facials (453 South Spring Street Suite 428,
Los Angeles, CA, 90013) where she offers therapeutic, organic facials, expert brow shapings, makeup artistry, virtual skin consultations and workshops — all meant to enhance your natural glow and empower you to care for your skin, intuitively.
• We’ll hunker down in the afternoon to read a good book from LA-based Passionistas like Gina Fattore’s captivating semi-autobiographical unromantic comedy “The Spinster Diaries: A Novel” or Elle Johnson’s riveting work “The Officer’s Daughter: A Memoir of Family and Forgiveness.”
• We’ll finish up the night a warm cup of Tea Drops Sweet Peppermint Tea while we binge watch some of favorite shows that our Passionistas’ have written, directed and produced. Sashee Chandran’s line of bag-free pressed teas are environmentally friendly, convenient and, most of all, delicious is the perfecting soothing antidote to TV dramas like Elle’s Amazon series “Bosch” or DeMane Davis’ thriller “Clarice.”
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First, we’d like to give a Shoutout to our dear friend and mentor, Karen Herman. In her former role as Vice President of the Archive of American Television at the Television Academy, Karen gave us our first shot at conducting archival interviews with celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ed O’Neill and “Laverne and Shirley” stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. When Karen moved on to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, she entrusted us to produce high-profile interviews with mega-stars like Mick Jagger and Ann Wilson from Heart. Karen helped us discover our passion for telling other people’s stories in a way that would become the basis for The Passionistas Project.
We also would like to give a Shoutout to all of the incredible Passionistas in our community. This includes many local Los Angeles based powerhouses including: entrepreneurs like Tea Drops founder Sashee Chandran and Kaya Essentials founder Sara Ku; award-winning marmalade maker Mae Chandran and artisanal jam entrepreneur Laura Ann Masura of Laura Ann’s Jams; artists like Lin Evola, who sculpts Peace Angeles from melted down nuclear weapons; artisans like Lisa M. Barbosa, who has modernized the once old-fashioned craft of crochet; activists like Madonna Cacciatore and Robin McWilliams, who work tirelessly in the fight for LBGTQIA+ rights; Erin Penner, who is teaching her preschoolers to be activists; filmmakers like Liz Lachman, who brings her talent and passion to projects like the short film “Pin-Ups;” and chefs like cookbook author Katie Chin and the legendary co-owner of Border Grill and Socalo, Susan Feniger. We started this project to inspire other women, but we are the ones who are inspired by them every day. They lift us up and support us in ways we never imagined.
Other: The Passionistas Project Pack Subscription Box: https://www.thepassionistasproject.com/pack The Passionistas Project Podcast: https://www.thepassionistasproject.com/passionistaspodcast The Passionistas Project Women’s Equality Summit: https://www.thepassionistasproject.com/2021summit
Photo Credit — Pupp Etzioni For: Amy and Nancy Harrington The Passionistas Project Sign Photo, Amy and Nancy Harrington The Passionsitas Project Sunglasses and Passionsitas_Teapot_B&W Photo Credit — The_Passionistas_Project For FacebookGroup_Banner_9-17-20_ Photo Credit — Reid Waterer Passionistas_PodcastHero