The F-Word: Chloe Popove
Meet Chloe Popove. She’s a community connector at her core. She’s one of those people who always has a hand in five pots at once. She’s outspoken, a voracious learner, and one of the raddest chicks I know. Recently she and her best friend founded Girls Who Say Fuck, a Multi-media Consultancy which is unapologetic, loud and all things wonderful.
But let’s take a quick step back, to April of 2017. A year and a half after dropping everything to start up My Modern Closet, her first entrepreneurial venture (which even nabbed her a coveted spot on the BC Business Top 30 under 30 roundup), Chloe made the decision to close up shop when she realized her personal and professional goals no longer aligned with the direction her business was taking her. Chloe chose to share this decision through a heartfelt, honest letter she shared with her community, a deeply courageous act that ensured she was one of the first names to spring to mind when it came time to decide who we wanted to chat about the wonderfully complexities of the word ‘failure’ with. Here’s my conversation with Chloe.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE FAILURE?
“I have such an interesting relationship with failure because I’ve tried and started and moved on from so many things. To me, failure is just learning, and growth, and that this didn’t work. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a no forever, it just means that that’s not meant to be in your life right now. For me, failure has always just been, kind of a check in of how much I gave to it, where I was, and learning what I actually wanted out of it.”
AND HOW DOES FAILURE FEEL FOR YOU?
“It feels terrifying. You feel vulnerable, and you feel exposed, and you feel raw. And it kind of sends you into this internal primal state where you’re questioning everything. In general, failure feels really internal, and that I’ve disappointed myself. This piece of self-worth and value comes up, and that ‘I put how much effort, time, money, xyz into whatever this project was, why didn’t it go? Is it me? What about me? I don’t have enough skills?’ and so on and so forth.”
WAS IT DIFFERENT FOR MY MODERN CLOSET?
“Absolutely, because with My Modern Closet, the experience I had gone through was quite public. And so because MMC was so immersed in the community, I felt like I owed it to the community to explain what had happened and why it wasn’t going to be what it was anymore. So yeah, it was super terrifying to be like, ‘What are people going to think about me?’ and ‘Does this mean I’m giving up and is this failure?’ But I will say that the experience that I had, after I wrote that letter, is quite possibly one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. I’ve never ever felt so supported, by the community, ever.”
AND HOW DID IT FEEL WRITING THAT AND SENDING THAT? WAS IT TERRIFYING OR WAS IT ACTUALLY SURPRISINGLY EASY AND STRAIGHTFORWARD?
“Very cathartic. I sat down probably six different times and wrote six different versions, so I kept adding and taking away and adding and taking away because it just didn’t feel right yet. I knew exactly what it was, but it was like I was building a puzzle, and I had to figure out where the pieces were going to go. Because it was such a large thing and I wanted to be able to say it eloquently and with power. I wanted to go into it knowing that I was going to feel open and not exposed.”
SINCE YOU SHUT DOWN MMC BACK IN APRIL, HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT IT NOW THAT YOU’VE HAD SOME TIME TO PROCESS?
“Oh man, I feel like I’ve been turned inside out. I had an identity change and there were so many parts of me that, through that experience, I realized that I didn’t want to hold onto anymore. And what I’ve realized is that if I can get through that, I’m capable and I have all the tools that I need. And that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of extreme strength, of speaking your own truth. It feels freeing.
After that failure and that crash and burn and the three months of absolutely insanity, I can truly say that I have never felt more like myself than I do sitting here talking to you now.”
WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT CAME FROM? WHAT WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD LIKE?
“I went to a lot of different daycares as a kid since both of my parents were working full time, so I spent a lot of my time observing social groups and how people interact with each other. I kept getting braver and braver and braver by saying ‘Hello!” or by injecting myself into certain situations and certain friend groups and not being afraid. So it's this constant learning of being a little bit afraid and then being at ease. You realize that these are the ebbs and flows of doing everything. Truthfully, I’ve never been shy.”
AND WHAT WERE YOUR PARENTS LIKE? WHAT DO THEY DO FOR WORK?
“My dad was heavily involved in the community out in Chilliwack and always stuck to one job. Everyone told him he couldn't do it. He had to take out a second mortgage on the house. He committed to doing his tire shop even though every person was advising against it, whereas my mum has had many different jobs. She worked at a flooring company, and worked at Pioneer, and now she's an Activities Coordinator at a Senior’s Home.
So for me, there was no real pressure that I had to be this, I had to be that. So growing up in daycare that all kind of trickled down, seeing how other people's parents worked and do things. I got to be so immersed into so many different types of families and people and upbringings that I think it made me realizing that I can kind of do anything, or try anything, at least.”
WOULD YOU SAY THAT COMMUNITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN AT THE CORE OF WHAT YOU DO, WANTING TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER?
“Absolutely. I’ve been like that since I was little. Even in elementary school I was always the one organizing the assemblies, and doing things like that. I lived on a street with all boys and I would be the one organizing playing cops and robbers. Community has always been such a huge part of my life, and I think that’s part of growing up in a small town and then moving to Vancouver. When I told my parents, they were like ‘You’re going to be a little fish in a really big pond,” because growing up in Chilliwack, there were only 50,000 people. So it was very easy for everyone to know who you were and what you were doing. Whereas when I moved to Vancouver I didn’t know anyone. It’s hard, but it’s not scary.”
AND NOW YOU’RE PREPARING FOR A MOVE TO TORONTO WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND AND NEWLY-MINTED BUSINESS PARTNER NICOLLE. HOW’D THAT COME ABOUT?
“Nicolle and I were there for 72 hours and decided to move there. That’s actually the only time I’ve spent in Toronto, but it feels so right. Actually, part of this whole ‘failure’ thing turned on my intuition in a way that I didn’t know was possible. Going through all of this made me realize that for so long, I hadn’t lived in my own body. So now I feel like, honestly, I go where I’m being pulled. And I know that that sounds kind of like cosmic and universal, or however it’s going to sound, but I’ve really truly been paying attention to how I feel. When I’m in a situation and something doesn’t feel right, then I pivot. With Toronto, Nicolle and I went there, and we came home, and within 48 hours had decided that we were going to move.”
HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT IT, GETTING READY TO TAKE ON THIS NEXT CHALLENGE?
“Now that I’m sitting here and thinking about these things, I’ve realized that it seems like there has always been someone who has come into my life at a pivotal moment, which helps me make a decision. My Graphic Design teacher Susan is a perfect example. When I was graduating from school for PR, she left on my desk the book The Gift of Imperfections by Brene Brown, and she hand wrote in the cover - “The only mode of transformation is a leap of faith.” And that has stuck with me forever. And with this move--well, we could totally fuck everything up. We know nobody in Toronto, we know nobody. We don’t know what we’re doing, but I don’t know, this is what life is, and it just depends on how alive you want to feel."
Stay tuned next month, when we’ll blow through some more truth bombs with Katie Buemann, creator of the Real Rebel Podcast!