Lizzy Okoro: BUNCH Magazine

Lizzy_Okoro_Portrait_Credit_Kelsey_Daly.jpg

Words:
Chelsea Sonksen

Photography:
Kelsey Daly

Lizzy was pursuing her graduate degree at The New School when she first had the idea for BUNCH Magazine. Her school shared facilities with Parsons School of Design, and the more time she spent around these uniquely creative minds, the more enamored she became with them. “My eyes were opened to the big world of creativity,” she told us.

She realized that people often talk about business and creativity as though they are disparate entities: “as if one doesn’t bleed into the other.” Elaborating further, she explained, “There are so many misconceptions about what it means to be a creative. [People think as a creative] you’re either doomed to a life of struggle and insecurity or you’re part of the small percentage of people who make it big, which is not entirely true.

Lizzy became fiercely interested in creating a platform where she could share the stories of creative people. So in 2012, she launched BUNCH Magazine.

These days, BUNCH continues to grow at a rapid rate. In addition to publishing a bi-monthly magazine, soon Lizzy will begin recording a podcast. She also hosts a series of workshops at General Assembly on topics like “Corporate to Creative” and “Financial Literacy for Creatives.” This warm, exuberant, wonderfully creative woman is on a path to greatness, and we’re cheering her on from the sidelines.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a wealthy entrepreneur. I’m not kidding. I was writing business plans in middle school. I think I’m way more child-like now than I ever was growing up. I was about 11 when I decided I wanted to run a magazine. Over the years, I became so consumed with following a secure path that I buried this desire. In fact, I had forgotten that it was a childhood dream of mine until my boyfriend found an old journal where I wrote in detail about how I would one day be Anna Wintour and launch my own magazine.

What advice do you have for young women who want to start their own business?
Find mentors in your field, but don’t rely on them to build your business. I’ve seen so many people spend their time seeking advice and mentorship instead of building their business. And ask for the things you want! Women, myself included, tend to think we’re bothering someone if we ask for something. Men demand things unabashedly. I’m not saying that’s the best way to conduct business, but we need to collectively stop being afraid to ask for what we want (and often deserve).

How do you challenge stereotypes in your work?
I’m a woman, and I’m black, and both come with a lot of assumptions about my tastes, my interests—everything. When I show up to shoots and interviews, the reactions vary. For the most part they’ve been positive, but some people could hardly disguise their surprise. A significant portion of our audience is white and male, and they tend to be the most shocked. The truth is, I find common ground with everyone I meet no matter who they are or where they’re from. So many creatives of color have told me that they feel we’re usually left out of the conversation. They’re excited about their interaction with BUNCH because it’s the first time they’ve been able to see themselves reflected in a positive, inclusive way. It’s a great feeling to know we’re dismantling stereotypes.

What do you look for in a potential employee?
When hiring, the first question I ask is, “What is your dream career?" It’s not a trick question! Of course I want an employee who is here for the long haul, but I also want someone with imagination, heart, and a deep desire to grow. The whole point of BUNCH is to empower people to pursue their dream careers. It would only make sense that I encourage my employees to pursue their dream career even if it’s ultimately not with me.

What nourishes you?
Community. I love connecting with anyone and everyone. The human connection makes life worth living. That’s why I have built my whole business around community.