We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisen Ydse and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisen, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
Giving up has never been an option for me. Being an entrepreneur and creative is kinda like running a marathon. Being in shape is a great tool, an asset, but in order to get through to the finish line, you need endurance, stamina and the right mindset. You keep pushing through the pain, even when the body feels like giving up. You keep going. It’s not necessarily about how fast you’re going, it’s about how far you are willing to go, both in body and mind. I have experienced many hurdles along the way. Thyroid cancer surgery, a breast tumour and less than $2.00 in my account. But I kept going. I think the important thing is to be able to fully listen to what your inner voice says and trust yourself. And what matters is that if it makes sense to you, people will follow organically when the time is right, if you lead with honesty, grace and heart. Your body is so much more intelligent than what we often give it credit for. It will provide you with the signs if you pay attention. Whenever a challenge arises I always choose to look at it as something that is happening WITH me, not TO me. I try to see it as something to learn from, or that it is a reminder of something. Education comes in many forms and is a lifelong journey. Like when I found out I had to have a breast tumour surgery while in Indonesia. Of course a part of me was scared, but mostly I felt very grateful, inspired and elevated. I witnessed the love and support I had around me in all corners of the world, and I felt like the Universe had just given me a slap in the face to wake up. It was the inspiration and elevation I needed to move forward with my work, to create and be able to support others. Shortly after I had recovered, I started a nonprofit mentoring program for young girls from underprivileged communities, Your Voice Matters International, and my project Power of the Women took the shape that it has evolved to – a global community supporting girls and women.
My advice for anyone that struggles to keep going, it would be this: 1. Just like any plant or seed, we as humans also need the right conditions to grow and thrive, we find it in our community, the habits of what we do everyday, and where. Pay attention to where and when you feel most inspired. 2. Remember to take moments in silence and listen. Those are often the most valuable ones for creative growth. 3. Do not be afraid to adjust yourself. It is part of the process. You’re evolving. Enjoy it!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I was well on my way on the private corporate ladder in waste management. Great career, six figure salary, the car, the apartment in the city and seeing recognition in the media for my work on social inclusion. But there was always this feeling that I still was not where I was supposed to be. One day I realised my body was trying to tell me what I already knew in my heart and soul. I had a thyroid tumour that had to be removed and it was a wake up call in many ways. I realised life is too short not to do what feels right to the core of your bones, no matter how it may seem to the outside world and even if it doesn’t make 100% sense to you yet either. Never be afraid to figure things out along the way. The best education is the one you receive on your journey. I felt a calling and sold all my things, packed a bag and traveled to Bali.
I always used to think I was never good enough, smart enough, worthy enough. I saw the diversity on my resume of experiences as a flaw, a failure. I never graduated from university, I have worked in everything from fashion design to waste management, a devoted yoga teacher with so much to say but never felt my voice mattered. Now I see the creativity and sensitivity behind it all, and see it as my superpowers! It is like the tapestry of life has slowly weaved itself together, and now I can combine them all to be of service to others and do social good and lead a life with purpose. I get to combine my passion for writing, art, visual development, social purpose and strategies, business development – and I get to do it all while helping others. It’s a blessing!
But it has definitely not been easy. It takes hard work and dedication to be able to pick yourself up day after day. You have to be creative. Creativity means you are a survivor. You find solutions even when it seems like there is none. And you learn to trust. Trusting yourself and the process that things work itself out, just not always in the time or way we want. But if you do things for the right reasons and are able to adjust, it will eventually come together just in the way it is supposed to be.
Our society is not built to celebrate and encourage the risk-takers and creatives. Anything that goes outside the box, scares the heck out of most and we are taught that we need to find our path and stick with it. But if I hadn’t tried many different routes and had those experiences I have, I would not have been able to build the business I have today alone and with a $0 budget! Graphic and web design, corporate strategies and processes, writing up legal contracts, developing curriculums, recruitment and onboarding, organising and administering, content writing, and being a teacher, a guide and mentor for others. All while still being able to be creative and practice and incorporate my art, and using my voice for social change and impact. That is what I am most proud of. My most important shareholders are my clients, the women and girls in our community at Power of the Women, and the girls I get to mentor through my nonprofit organisation Your Voice Matters International. My promise to elevate them and support them is my highest priority. My company is called Sumati Concept. Sumati is a feminine Sanskrit word meaning “good mind, good thoughts”. I am honoured, humble and blessed for the opportunity to create impact using all of my life experiences for social good and to help elevate and empower others through creative expression and mentoring.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best girls weekend trip in the city would start by checking into Le Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood. I love staying there and hanging out at the stunning rooftop with views of the city and dipping in their salt water pool. It has such an eclectic, relaxing and artistic vibe there that I find inspiring. Petit Ermitage offers complimentary yoga classes on the rooftop in the morning, such a beautiful way to start any day. Hiking at Griffith Park for nature and movement. Then we would drive down to check out the latest exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) meeting up with my dear friend Elise Beneteu, fellow art enthusiast and graphic designer at Torrid. Shopping on Abbot Kinney and lunch at Superba or Gjusta in Venice is a must, hopefully joined by another amazing artist that I know and admire there, Sophie Kipner, to talk all life and art, and if we’re lucky, to visit her studio and check out what she’s working on. I love great food, wine, conversations and good lighting, so outdoor dining and cocktails at Zinqué WeHo together with other creative and inspiring friends have to be on the list. Then ending our weekend with a glass of wine on the rooftop back at Le Petit Ermitage, overlooking the city lights, grateful and humble for all the beauty, inspiration and life we get to surround ourselves with. And probably talking ideas for existing and new projects, and continue to dream big, bold, and brave!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Support and inspiration comes in many forms and exists everywhere. It’s just important to always stay open to see it. My soul sisters and inspirational entrepreneurs Swaady Martin, Nadine McNeil and Nathalie Banaszak have been pivotal on my journey. I find inspiration in many things and I absolutely love the art of Reyna Noriega, and recently I have had the pleasure to discover the fresh, important and beautiful voice and words of poet and spoken word artist Kismet (Krystle Wilson). The girls and women I mentor. They are my biggest stakeholders and inspirations. They remind me of why I do the work that I do. I believe in the balance of things, and need to also give credit to the men. My friends Russell Simmons and Gary Foster have been the believers in me who have kept saying not to give up. I have learned so much from my ex and best friend Crispin Earl, lead singer of The Veer Union and founder of Rock Shop Entertainment by witnessing his journey as a creative and entrepreneur and how he never gave up.
But my biggest driving force is my Mom who passed away to cancer when I was 27. I still feel her presence in all I do today. Her grace, her compassion and her ability to fully be her quirky, funny self. Her smile that would light up any room she walked into, and her ability to stay grounded, even to her last and most challenging days. In my work I say #Iseeher and I create platforms for girls and women to feel seen, heard and celebrated. It all started with my Mom. So I would like to give a special honour to her.