It's time for another Small Business Spotlight feature! If you are new here, I've been interviewing and photographing small business owners for the past several months and featuring them right here on my blog! Today, I would like to introduce Shasta Nelson, founder of GirlFriendCircles.com! I met Shasta years ago at one of her small group workshops at a client's home. I loved her energy and passion about the topic of friendship. After I contacted Shasta about being interviewed, she invited me to stop in to one of her workshop events a couple of weekends ago in San Francisco to photograph her and the participants of her class. Read on to find out about Shasta and what GirlFriendCircles is all about!
Your past experience as a Life Coach, as well as a move to a new city prompted you to start a new business. What was your motivation behind bringing GirlFriendCircles to life?
Realizing that it is even more normal for women to need to meet new friends (i.e. nearly every time we move, change job, shift relationships, and enter new life stage!) than it is for us to need to find spouses, and yet we had hundreds of online dating websites and no friendship-matching sites! I personally know the feeling of seeing a group of women laughing in a cafe, and remembering the times I've had that in my life, but feeling unsure if I had the time, energy, or capability of making it happen again! When a life coaching client said to me, "I can line up 3 dates this weekend on match.com but I can't figure out which other women in this city are looking for friends," I knew there had to be a better way!
What are some of the challenges women face when it comes to meeting new friends? How can GirlFriendCircles help this process, and who will benefit from joining a local community group?
The biggest challenge we'll face is our own limiting beliefs-- believing myths that best friends just happen automatically to us instead of admitting they're developed by us, listening to our doubts that there must be something wrong with us if we need friends as though that's not normal, or letting our fear of possible rejection prevent us from reaching out a second time. GirlFriendCircles.com helps because right off the bat you know everyone else you meet through our community values making new friends so you needn't worry about whether they have all the friends they need or if they'll think you're silly for inviting them to hang out with you! I always say that GFC is like a health club-- you don't need to join a health club to stay in shape-- but it makes it easier for many of us to have a process we feel accountable to and a place where we can dip into when we want to connect with others. With that said, I think everyone can benefit from joining GirlFriendCircles-- from the shy to the outgoing, from the young 20-something to the new retiree-- we welcome women who value meeting new friends!
Congratulations on publishing your recent book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends. You are currently touring the country meeting women all over the world. What is that experience like for you to be come in contact with so many women who have found friendship either through reading this book, or through the community you’ve created?
Those events were an unexpected blessing! I was overwhelmed meeting amazing women coming up to me and saying things like "It's because of you that the two of us are best friends" or "I just want you to know that I went though a divorce this year and it was the friends I made 2 years ago on GirlFriendCircles.com who supported me through the whole thing!" I was humbled, awed, blessed, and encouraged! And I think it illustrates that few of us have actually ever been taught about our female friendships-- women are reading this book and saying, "This would have been helpful 20 years ago!"
You were recently featured on the Katie Couric show and discussed the value of friendships in terms of personal health. Tell us about this research and why our friendships with other women are actually just as important as exercise.
Super compelling research! In fact they say if you are smoking 15 cigarettes a day and feel disconnected-- you're better off health-wise making friends than you are giving up smoking! Crazy! To feel lonely on an ongoing basis is more damaging on our bodies than being lifelong alcoholic and twice as harmful as being obese! Only our genetics will play a bigger role in our longevity than our friendships…. And, in a study done tracking women with breast cancer they have concluded that the number one factor between those who survived the diagnosis and those who didn't was whether they had a circle of friends. I'm all for exercising and being as holistic as possible with our health, but far too many women are acting as though their friendships are just a fun-to-have-if-they-have-time and are neglecting to realize that it's those friendships that can add quality years to their lives, help them recover from surgeries faster, give them more hope, and decrease their stress!
Establishing meaningful, healthy friendships is an important subject because sometimes we find ourselves in relationships that may feel toxic or unsupportive for various reasons. How can we protectourselves from those kinds of negative friendships?
I have an entire chapter devoted to responding to the five friendship threats-- neglect, non-reciprocation, judgment, jealousy, and blame-- but in short, the answer is to take good care of yourself and be as emotionally healthy as possible! The healthier we are, the more we're able to respond with compassion instead of criticism, strong boundaries instead of resentment, and joy instead of angst.
I’m ready to join a local community – what’s my next step?
Go to GirlFriendCircles.com and enter your birthdate and zip code-- we'll let you know if we can match you to women nearby! If so then join us and for the next 6 months you'll receive invitations to ConnectingCircles-- small groups of 3-6 women meeting together in a a local cafe. You can also add events to our calendar, search our database, and put out classifieds specifying an activity partner for something specific! And then I'd recommend the book so that you have healthy expectations, an awareness of the steps of friendship, and clarity around what types of friends you most need!
Thanks for speaking with us today, Shasta!
You are so very welcome! Thanks for helping spread the word to women everywhere that they are normal if they need some new friends. IN fact, research shows that we're replacing half our close friends every 7 years… so it reminds us that we best be open to continually connecting with new people.
More about Shasta.
Shasta Nelson, M.Div., is the Founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a women’s friendship matching site in 35 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Her spirited and soulful voice for strong female relationships can be found in her book Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends. She also writes at ShastasFriendshipBlog.com and in the Huffington Post, speaks across the country, and is a friendship expert in the media appearing on such shows as Katie Couric and the Today Show.