The Fashion Magpie Annie Warshaw Woman of Substance 1

Woman of Substance: Annie Warshaw of Mission Propelle

Resuming our women of substance series, I’m SO happy to spotlight the beautiful, big-hearted, bright Annie Warshaw.  Annie is a wife, mom, feminist, and co-founder and CEO of Mission Propelle, a yoga-based girls’ empowerment program, that travels to schools to deliver girl power yoga classes that emphasize literacy enrichment, self-acceptance, and friendship.  It has reached over 3,000 girls, distributed over 35,000 books, and currently serves 110+ schools within the Chicagoland area.

The Fashion Magpie Annie Warshaw Woman of Subtance 4

{Annie working with a group of girls in a Mission Propelle session.}

I die over this program and its agenda.  I’ve sat on countless panels and participated in myriad “women in tech” or “women in leadership” events where I’ve been asked what we can do to encourage more women to rise through the ranks or enter traditionally male-dominated industries, and my personal opinion is that the most effective strategies are: 1) start hyper-local and 2) start early.  For the former: I found that anything too abstract or “movement-y” was hard to wrap my head around and of dubious impact.  Instead, I started to  look around my office and my life for bright and promising young women and pulled them under my wing / advocated for them / encouraged them.  I made a point of taking women my junior out for coffee and literally saying the words: “you can do this!  you are smart, you are going places!  keep going!”  I offered to write recommendations.  I made introductions.  I checked in.  I sent texts.  Etc.  I can’t tell you how many women and men (equally important — there have been many helpful men who have opened doors for me!) have helped my career by taking a personal interest in me and where I’m headed.  If everyone with an interest in helping women further their potential were to reach out to one or two women in their own networks, think of the results.  And, for the latter (“start early”): I’m also a firm believer in the notion that shaping how girls feel about themselves and their potential when they are very little can seriously impact their expectations and aspirations.  Programs like Mission Propelle put young women on a positive, self-affirming trajectory and fill their heads with “I think I can” (thanks, Thomas the Train) instead of “can I?”.

Suffice to say, I love and profoundly admire Annie for the work she does, which comes from a place of deep understanding: after experiencing abuse as a child, she set out to make the world a safer, kinder place for girls. She earned her BA in History and Women’s Studies from the University of Central Florida and her MA in Women’s History from Roosevelt University.  She then joined Teach for America and taught on the Southside of Chicago for three years before launching Mission Propelle.  #Badass.

I am also fortunate to consider Annie a dear friend, and I’ve come to love her for so much more than her urgently-needed, mission-driven work.

She and I met a few years ago when both of our organizations (at the time, I was Chief Innovation Officer at Moneythink, a non-profit delivering financial education to low-income youth) were headquartered in a co-working space here in Chicago.  She came to me frankly and earnestly asking for input on the possibility of introducing a technical component to her program, having heard through the grapevine that I had overseen the development of a mobile technology to supplement Moneythink’s in-person mentorship program.  She was smart, curious, and — this stood out to me — entirely guileless and without the know-it-all posturing I had (unfortunately) come to expect out of so many of the founders I have met over time.  (Gosh.  I am this jaded? But it’s true!  So many founders have a “fake it til you make it mentality,” which — to be fair — serves many of them well, but can be extraordinarily frustrating when you’re angling for candid conversation.)  I was immediately drawn to her, this determined firecracker with a big vision and none of the B.S.  Incidentally, her efforts and accomplishments have been recognized and celebrated many times over: Annie was named the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship Teacher of the year in 2013, Jewish United Federation Chicago 30 under 30 in 2014, a participant in the 2015 Points of Light Civic Accelerator, and the winner of the Chicago Foundation for Women Pioneer Award in 2016. Warshaw serves on the Young Women’s Giving Council of Chicago Foundation for Women and as Vice Chair on the Pulaski International School Local School Council.

Over the course of our exchanges, I learned that she was a genius at marketing, and was tirelessly advocating for her program in local media, in female empowerment outlets,  on panels, in events.  Accordingly, I asked her to coffee to get her advice on spreading the word about our work, and, as we wrapped up our conversation, I must have said something borderline obsequious, i.e., “I really have no idea what I’m doing here — thanks for your input!”, because I remember she stopped me mid-sentence and said: “Hey hey!  Shhh.  We’re just two smart women helping each other out.  That’s it.”

I’ll never forget it.

I have many times returned to this moment when having conversations with other women, whether many years my junior or many years my senior: at the end of the day, we’re just two women, helping each other out.  This message keeps me on course, preventing me from feeling nervous or intimidated on the one hand or (far worse) patronizing on the other.

For this egalitarian message of hers, I am forever grateful.  It stands as a testament to just how deeply engrained her beliefs around female empowerment are: here is a women truly living her belief in every thought, word, action.

A year or two later, we grabbed coffee and discovered that we were expecting babies due a month apart from one another.  For both of us, these babies were long in the making.  She had been through several rounds of IVF (which she chronicled with her characteristic humor and candor on her blog, “An Ovary Walks into a Bar“) and was very, very ready for this son.  (P.S. — For those of you reading with a hole the size of a baby in your heart, I also shared some of my feelings around longing for a baby recently.)  She became my pregnancy pen pal: we texted all the time, sharing updates, anxieties, symptoms, encouragements, excitements.  We laughed about swollen ankles, reminded one another to enjoy our pregnancies as much as we could, and traded tips on baby gear and baby-raising philosophies (she was the one who recommended these booties as the only booties that don’t fall off of a newborn’s feet, and she was right!, and encouraged me to get these black and white art cards, which minimagpie reacted to pretty much from the first few weeks of her life).  Once the babes were born, and I was struggling to breastfeed, she showed up on my doorstep with a bag of goodies to help with milk production: homemade lactation cookies, flaxseed, and oatmeal.  She consoled me as I grappled with the emotional roller coaster of the first two weeks of motherhood, sitting with me on the couch of my front living room as I cried my eyes out for no apparent reason and saying: “Let it out, girl.  Let it all out.”

The Fashion Magpie Annie Warshaw Woman of Substance 1


The Fashion Magpie Annie Warshaw Woman of Substance 1

{Annie and her beautiful family.  Have you seen a prettier mama?!?!  Also, #apartmentgoals}

So: cheers to Annie, my deeply kind, empowering, sharp, driven friend, to whom I owe many debts of gratitude, but none more weighty than for her rejoinder to view the many incredible female friendships in my life as “two women, just helping each other out.”

You can support Annie’s work by getting involved with Mission Propelle here.  They are currently enrolling for their Fall RCYT (Registered Children’s Yoga Training), and are always eager to bring Mission Propelle to a new school in the state of Illinois — just email for details.

And, to get to know Annie better, check out her incredible responses to my Proust Questionnaire below:

Your favorite qualities in a woman.
Smart, passionate, takes action.
Your favorite heroine. 
Gloria Steinem
Your main fault. 
Acting on my emotions and not giving myself enough time to process.  I am working on this constantly!  Also, being too intense when its not needed.  I have to remind myself to breath and give myself a minute.
Your greatest strength. 
Making a plan and executing!  I am also incredibly committed to my friendships. When I care about you/like you, I will do anything for you.
Your idea of happiness. 
A long walk with my husband, baby, and dog with a cardamom rose latte from Ipsento on a sunny, crisp day.
Your idea of misery. 
Going through two years of IVF.
Desert island beauty product. 
Mascara. Its the only makeup I consistently wear. I don’t wear any foundation, etc. 
Last thing you bought. 
Salad from whole foods and a ceramic round brush.
I feel most empowered wearing… 
An adorable vintage (or vintage inspired) dress
Favorite Magpie post.
Finally, some Annie-inspired goodness!  Click the items in the collage below to be taken to product details, or see links at bottom:
P.S.  Both books above are SO Annie — she has a giving tree tattoo and said she received about 3409 copies of it when her son was born.  And that Rosie Revere, Engineer book is one of Andrea Beaty’s series focused on depicting women in traditionally male industries/roles.  Love.  (I received two copies of this book for minimagpie and it is MUCH cherished — thank you, K and C!)

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