It’s okay to be sensitive. Sensitivity is often seen as a weakness, but in my experience, my sensitivity gave me the ambition I needed to start my company. (After unsuccessfully trying to start charity initiatives at some of my previous jobs, I decided to start my own company where giving back is and will always be a core value.)

For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Friedman.

Growing up in California, Kate Friedman dreamed of moving to New York City and working at a fashion magazine. After graduating from The George Washington University she started a job at Condé Nast, where she worked as a Digital Editor at Glamour Magazine. After almost three years at Glamour, Kate left to get a taste of Brand Marketing, managing Social, Content, and PR at 3×1 and then What Goes Around Comes Around. As COVID-19 put more and more businesses in financial distress, Kate soon found herself without a job. Kate’s passion to give back and help others is what led her to co-found Zazu — a platform designed to help fitness instructors and others who’ve also been impacted by the pandemic.

Zazu hosts live stream workouts while raising money for socially relevant causes. The platform makes it easy for instructors to teach live stream group classes online while offering consumers the opportunity to work out with instructors from top studios across the globe at a fraction of the cost.

Kate co-founded Zazu with her boyfriend Oscar and currently lives in Santa Monica, CA.

Thank you for joining us Kate. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you so much for the opportunity! Funnily enough, my career path was heading in a very different direction before COVID-19. If you took a look at my resume, you’d see only jobs in fashion. In college I studied English and Creative Writing so that I could work at a fashion magazine, and after graduating, I started my career as a Digital Editor at Glamour. After almost three years at Condé Nast I decided to move on and broaden my horizon with traditional brand marketing experience, managing Social, Content, and PR at two major fashion brands. The pandemic severely impacted retail-based fashion brands, and before I knew it I was among the 97% of people at my company who were left without a job. I immediately shifted my focus to figure out how I could best help people who were more heavily impacted — and that’s what led me to this philanthropic at-home fitness idea.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I flew back to California from New York City at the beginning of March to be with my family during quarantine. I had expected to return to NY a few weeks later, but it quickly became clear that I wouldn’t even be going to the grocery store, let alone getting back on a plane. So here I (still!) am. As a result, I ended up starting my company from my childhood bedroom. (I’ll admit, that’s pretty funny to say out loud.)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we first launched, I wanted to take as many classes as possible to support our instructors, but after doing so for a few days, I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to keep that promise for much longer. (We have up to 8 classes a day sometimes!) I spent a couple days after that realization icing my sore muscles.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Zazu stands out because of its dedication to charitable giving. The idea was born during lockdown in an effort to help as many people as possible. Giving back is rooted in our DNA, which is why each instructor we partner with is asked to pick a charity for a portion of their class proceeds to benefit. In our first month, we also matched those donations to support the Black Lives Matter movement. We plan to continue to find new ways to make even more of a difference as Zazu evolves.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Zazu is still a brand new project! We’re only about one month into launch, and we only began developing the idea 2 months prior to that. However, we’re definitely working on some exciting new features to improve the at-home fitness experience. We wanted to get the product out as quickly as we could so that we could make an impact during this great time of need, so we are continuing to learn and adapt as we go.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Confidence plays a huge part in both leadership and partnership, especially for a woman. In a society that has set men up to succeed, women are constantly fighting against adversity to achieve their professional goals. So instead of questioning yourself or seeking validation, know your worth and what you are capable of. You have worked hard to be in the position that you are in. Own that and believe it! If you act from your heart with purpose and conviction, your intention will come across to anyone you work with — and that is something you can feel proud of.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I feel so lucky to be working on this new venture with my boyfriend and Co-Founder, Oscar. Prior to Zazu, Oscar always encouraged me to find a way to combine my passion with my career — knowing that if I wasn’t doing something that helped people, I wasn’t going to feel fulfilled. Now, it seems only fitting for us to be working together on Zazu, something that we are both incredibly proud of and excited about.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Through Zazu, I am able to help provide teaching opportunities to instructors who’ve lost their jobs. Zazu is also helping others who’ve been impacted by the pandemic, as a portion of proceeds from each class is donated to a socially relevant cause. In just our first month, we’ve donated close to $2,000. Another great part about Zazu is that we’ve been able to bring people together through movement and human connection, during a time when it’s pretty easy to feel isolated. We wanted to do our best to imitate the community aspect of in-person workouts, so all of our classes are live streamed where the audience is visible to everyone in class .

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s okay to be sensitive. Sensitivity is often seen as a weakness, but in my experience, my sensitivity gave me the ambition I needed to start my company. (After unsuccessfully trying to start charity initiatives at some of my previous jobs, I decided to start my own company where giving back is and will always be a core value.)
  2. That leads me to my next lesson — stick to your values. It’s important to take feedback, consider diverse opinions, and be adaptable, but never let go of what inspired you to start what you’re doing. As you grow, always be sure to hold onto your morals.
  3. Do it with passion or don’t do it at all. Your heart will shine through if you are excited about what you’re doing, and that passion will help motivate your team.
  4. Be transparent. Keeping an open and honest dialogue with your team is critical for a healthy working relationship.
  5. Patience, patience, patience! (This one’s a given ;))

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Can you imagine if a portion of every dollar you ever spent was donated to a cause in need? If I could inspire a movement, I would hope to encourage more companies to incorporate donations into their financial models. The way I see it, almost every company is in a position to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity, no matter how big or small.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This isn’t exactly a quote, but something I’ve been taught by a special person in my life is the importance of integrity. I strive to act with integrity in everything I do, and always uphold my strong morals and ethics when making decisions. I think this quality has helped me get to where I am today — in my career and in all aspects of my life.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Michelle Obama — though I would probably faint in her presence! She is the greatest role model for young women (and quite honestly, all women) that I have witnessed in my lifetime. Also, her program, “Let’s move!” helped bring movement to kids all across the US, which is a very similar mission to Zazu’s. Zazu actually means movement! (It comes from Hebrew.)

How can our readers connect with you on social media?

They can connect with me on @findyourzazu !