Shellie Willis, winner of The Sponsor award at our 2019 Champion Awards, is the founder of Redefining You Foundation. She’s most passionate about serving and supporting women in transition from military service, addressing the unique challenges they face and providing both a safe space and resources for a clearer path forward.
Tell us about your company. What inspired you to start it?
When I retired in February of 2013 I faced many challenges trying to assimilate into my new civilian lifestyle it was extremely challenging to connect, communicate and even figuring out what to wear was a dramatic challenge. I didn’t know my body or have a sense of who I was after 25 years of military service. I knew that if I had those challenges mentally and emotionally that I was not alone in this journey so I created a safe space to tackle those issues head on and create a culture of accountability.
Who are your cofounders and what makes you a great team?
Evelyn Tuiaana and JoAnn Moravac! They both attended my symposium when I hosted it for the first time in May 2016 and knew that what happened in that moment had the potential to grow and be great. They partnered with me and never looked back. They truly see the vision and are willing to do the work required to make sure that other women veterans and military spouses have the same experience we have.
How is your company making a difference?
We are addressing transition from a woman’s perspective and voice. We serve our country wearing the same uniform as our male counter parts. We show up like them and meet the same standards they have to meet. Women who serve face different challenges and that is what we address. We host a two-day symposium and in those two days we break down and then build up using our blueprint model. We set our participants up for success by connecting them with vetted resources and provide them a clearer path they didn’t have before they attended.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
My personal challenges range from body image, to imposter syndrome. I often felt isolated and challenged to communicate. I often had breakdowns in my car because the military teaches us that “failure is not an option” and I have long since learned that failure should be pursued in order to get from good to great!
What is your biggest win?
My biggest win was actually following my purpose and starting the foundation. I trust the direction that God is taking me and stepping out on faith no lack since the beginning is the biggest win for me. Every step we take towards growth and becoming a national model for transition will only top that.
Who is your role model?
I know it sounds cliché but it is my mom. She is the strongest,most faith-filled woman I know. There have been others but she is and always will be my go-to.
What do you wish you had known before starting your company?
I wish I had known how to pay better attention to people. No one is more invested in your vision than you are. People who are looking for quick results won’t last in your journey and people who do see what it can be will always try to deter your destination. Sadly, even if it is great, everyone doesn’t cheer for you. I also learned to be open to diversification. This means that although I have a core demographic what we do is so good that we need to be open to adding other demographics that may benefit from what we do.
Anything else you want people to know?
This experience is allowing me to grow in so many ways and has given us a platform of which to share our stories, use our voices and hopefully bring other women veterans forward to share as well.