Last May I participated in a leadership summit called the Higher Purpose Project in the mountains of Colorado, en route to an assignment in Australia to capture the spirit of the Whitsundays. As with so many signposts along my pathway, I landed in Colorado through a turn of serendipity, having met HPP co-founder Dan Adams at an event in Manhattan several months earlier, a gathering of young movers and shakers, entrepreneurs, adventurers, and fellow life enthusiasts. We hit it off, he invited me to attend, and I said yes because that's how serendipity works. Immersing myself in that community at that time in my evolution was a powerful experience. Through lectures, activities, and conversations with leaders and fellow participants, the Higher Purpose Project asked me to think bigger, to reflect on the big why—the higher purpose—behind everything that I was doing and creating. Those are questions I continue to ask myself every single day. My primary focus today, the building of Firestarter Interactive, was but the spark of an idea at the time that caught fire and has grown into a community of collaboration and inspiration whose evolution I couldn't have mapped. The process continues, ember by ember, every single day, deliberately crafted and grounded in these deep and important questions.
I was recently interviewed for the Higher Purpose Project blog about the impact of the experience on my pathway and on Firestarter. I am happy to share the interview (quoted below), and honored to be the filmmaker-in-residence for the upcoming summit in Atlanta March 19th-22nd, tasked with capturing story and experience of this powerful community and gathering.
Willa Kammerer is a filmmaker and storyteller who has learned to create value in unique ways within her community. She currently leads a digital agency called Firestarter Interactive based out of New York, NY.
1. HOW DID THE VISION FOR YOUR CURRENT PURSUIT COME ABOUT? WHAT WAS YOUR “WHY” BEHIND COMMITTING TO THIS GOAL?
In the seven months since attending HPP in Colorado, I have been envisioning and building Firestarter Interactive, a collaborative digital agency which grew from the seed of an idea about wanting to create something beyond myself and my solo pursuits as a storyteller and filmmaker. When I arrived at HPP, I knew I wanted to continue to capture beauty and tell authentic, powerful stories in different mediums, but on a wider scale and with fewer boundaries. Initially I didn’t know what the vehicle was, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Firestarter has evolved organically—and is very much continuing to—grounded in my love of collaboration and strong belief that we can do so much more together than we can alone by pooling our diverse strengths and talents.
Firestarter Interactive’s work is tri-part: we are a full-service digital agency specializing in authentic (brand) storytelling, a cross-disciplinary talent agency playing matchmaker between a creatives and clients/projects, and—what I’m most excited about—an inspiration network, sharing our own stories about what it means to construct creative, conscious lives, to be storytellers and beauty-seekers, and to take roads less traveled. Through our blog and a forthcoming video interview series, Firestarter podcast, and events, we create dialog around these core themes. Ultimately through our work, I hope to inspire others to step into their life purpose, with creativity and courage, and remember to pause and appreciate all the beauty in this world, in the little and the big.
2. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE GREATEST LESSONS FROM THE BUILDING OF THIS VISION THUS FAR? WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST HURDLE?
In the early part of building my vision, I didn’t have a name for it, I didn’t know how all the pieces of the puzzle would fit together (and still don’t, but I know a lot more), but instinctively I knew that for my vision to come into being, I needed to start building community around it. The greatest lesson I’ve learned throughout this process is that is sharing your vision and asking for support and collaboration is a critical part of building something bigger than yourself. With that comes its risks, rewards, and challenges. I have been tempted, at various points, to cede to seductive and glittering visions for the model and future of Firestarter from advisors and collaborators whom I respect; I have almost leaped at a couple of fast-growth cash injection opportunities for Firestarter. But instinct, heart, and authenticity have been my most important guides along this journey, and directed me pause before leaping into decisions that aren’t aligned with my purpose and instinctive sense of the right pathway.
Part of what separates Firestarter, I believe, is this deliberately crafted vision and organic, personal network-driven growth process. To grow in a way that is not aligned with my ‘why’ or to grow too quickly without fleshing out the philosophy and framework of my vision would undermine the soul and core of what I set out to do. This need to slow down the horse, reflect inward, and be deliberate about every step can be hard in our fast-paced world, particularly when ideas are met with enthusiasm, but I’ve learned it’s so important to stand in my strength and hold true to my vision. That said, I have learned the complete opposite is equally as true: to grow, one must be open to outside input, collaboration on one’s vision, and learn to delegate responsibilities. This is an art and skill that I’m learning as I go, improving day by day, and am grateful for the patience of my collaborators as we build our now collective vision.
3. WHAT WERE THE KEY INSIGHTS THAT YOU TOOK FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE HIGHER PURPOSE PROJECT? HOW HAVE YOU APPLIED THIS INSIGHTS TO YOUR GOAL?
Participating in the Higher Purpose Project came at just the right moment for me, and really set in motion the building of this vision. I arrived to Colorado, on my way to Australia for a film assignment, with a vision of what I wanted to become—a location flexible media-maker, helping inspire others to see the beauty in the world, engaging with visionaries and thought leaders on questions of how to construct meaningful, empowered, creative, and healthy lives. Through conversations and exercises with fellow participants (like the Power of Eight), HPP reflected a mirror back on me, and made me realize that this vision of me was something I was already actively living, I just needed to step into that conception of myself and go forth with confidence and belief in myself.
HPP gave me the confidence to finally bring all of me into my brand: shortly after attending, I changed my logo and tagline from ‘Multimedia Storyteller’ to ‘Firestarter Storyteller’ to reflect the many extensions of my personal/professional life outside of making media—my passion for travel and nature, self-improvement, wellness and biohacking, creativity, community-building, and connecting-the-dots. From here, I’ve been able to seamlessly build my vision for Firestarter Interactive, an extension of my personal brand. Without deep belief in my vision and confidence in my role as a leader—which was greatly bolstered by participating in the HPP summit—I would not be able to generate excitement for my vision, or get the buy-in I need from collaborators to make it a reality. Fortunately, confidence and belief in a vision is contagious, I’ve learned, and the ongoing support I’ve received from collaborators and other members of my community has only continued to spark and stoke the Firestarter fire.
4. WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS PEOPLE CAN SUPPORT YOUR WORK?
There are many ways to support my work with Firestarter Interactive. Starting with the most simple, you can head to the Firestarter website (www.firestarterinteractive.com) and sign up for our mailing list to keep up with the latest updates, ‘like’ our page on Facebook to see our news in your feed. We’re on Twitter (@firestarterIX) and Instagram (@firestarterinteractive), as well. If you’re a creative entrepreneur—from a cinematographer to a graphic designer, or an e-book expert to a code guru—interested in becoming a Firestarter collaborator, we’d love to hear from you as we actively grow our community of multi-disciplinary creatives.
On the other side of the equation, we’re a full-service digital agency interested in and experienced as a collective in executing a broad and interdisciplinary spectrum of projects. If have a vision that you want help building—from branding and web/mobile design, to video storytelling and podcasting, to developing the creative vision for workshop or event, and beyond—we’d love to collaborate with you to build and execute that vision. Finally—but first and foremost—Firestarter is a culture and a community, inclusive, not exclusive, grounded in our founding Manifesto (www.firestarterinteractive.com/about/). We are passionate about sharing stories about constructing creative, conscious, meaningful, and purpose-driven lives. If you are interested in sharing your story, your philosophy, your passion, your ‘why’ with our community, we’d love to feature you on our blog and spark conversation among our community. (Cross-posting and re-purposing of material that you’ve already written or published elsewhere is fine too, as long as it aligns with the Firestarter vision.) Firestarter Interactive is, in every way, a community, and we look forward to continuing to craft the journey and story together!