Cindy Abel is an intuitive entrepreneur determined to make a difference in the lives of young women. As a co-founder she has created liv2Bme a positive, supportive social app for teen girls that inspires healthy self-images through kind interactions and meaningful connections. She has seen first-hand how social media interactions can affect girls.
liv2Bme is being created as a positive place online where girls can connect with peers who have common interests, goals, and concerns. liv2Bme strives to be safe space for girls as they share the ideas, thoughts, and images that define them. And the liv2Bme dream is to build an online community that understands how to express honest feelings in a way that respects other.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Welcome to Spark Stories, where entrepreneurs and experts share their brand story and how they found their spark, the spark that started it all.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:00:13] Welcome to Spark stories like business radio brought to you by the Atlanta Business Radio Network. Every week, entrepreneurs and experts share the stories behind the brand who they are, what they do, and why their brands matter. I’m your host, Clarissa Jaye Sparks. In our own series, we dive into the everyday operations of inspiring business owners in our community. You can listen live on Saturdays at 10:00 PM or the rebroadcast at WW dot Business RadioX dot com. Today we’re going to talk about social media and women entrepreneurs. How can we leverage social media? Please allow me to introduce one of our amazing community leaders who owns it, Cindy Abel. She is an intuitive entrepreneur determined to make a difference in the lives of young women. As a co-founder, she has created Live to Be Me, a positive, supportive social app for teen girls that inspires healthy self images through kind interactions and meaningful connections. She has seen firsthand how social media interactions can affect girls lives. To Be Me is being created as a positive place online where girls can connect with peers who have common interests, goals and concerns live to be made strives to be a safe space for girls as they share their ideas, thoughts and images that define them. And the Live to be dream is to build an online community that understands how to express honest feelings in a way that respects others. Cindy is taking the step to launch your company and you’re brave, braving the world of entrepreneurship. I have three questions for you. Please tell the listeners who you are, what you do, and why your brand matters. Please introduce yourself.
Cindy Abel: [00:01:59] Well, I’m Cindy Abel and I started Cofounded liv2Bme with my partner Tasha Marks. We started this because as moms with teenage girls, we had a really big gut feeling that something was wrong with social media when they first started using all the tools that are out there. And a mom’s gut usually is directed by the actions that they’re seeing with their children and their friends. So for us, we saw a lot of exclusionary behavior. We saw, you know, girls trying to attain perfectionism. And if they didn’t get 100 likes in an hour, they take down their post off of Instagram. So just some behaviors that as a mom were disturbing to us, quite frankly. When we started this, it was a few years ago, and we we started with a website for girls to test out, you know, the idea that there could be a community that was positive and supportive and sort of embrace this group, think of being together, doing something good. And we really felt like we saw a lot of things go on in that first iteration of the website that spoke to that it. The company went on pause for about six years. And in 2020, you know, one of the challenges we had early on when we were discussing this topic with different people in the community, other businesses, was there wasn’t a whole lot of data supporting our moms gut feeling.
Cindy Abel: [00:03:37] There wasn’t data out there readily available saying that there was something wrong with social media, that it actually was creating mental health issues like depression, anxiety and increase in body image issues and eating disorders. Those kind of statistics that if you’re familiar with the news today, we’ve been bombarded in the last year with the Wall Street files and the Facebook whistleblower who have brought to our attention that. Facebook itself has been doing research for years about teenagers. They wanted to understand why they were losing market share to Tik Tok and Snapchat. So they started doing their own internal research. And what we now know is that one in three teen girls has body image issues because they use the Instagram app. So it’s no longer in a place where I have to dig to find the supporting information. It’s out there, there’s research available, and so live to be me. A couple of years ago, when we decided to start this back up, really became an effort to turn the social media model as it exists today upside down. What we wanted to do was create a place that felt supportive, kind, authentic, where girls could go into a community and talk real about real issues they face every day and receive valuable feedback and advice from peers and mentors. So our community, we created the minimum viable product version of the app so that we could test out our concepts and ideas.
Cindy Abel: [00:05:20] We knew that this app needed to be an app that was research driven and data driven. We wanted to make sure that girls got on our app and actually felt better as a result of using it. And as a result, today we have partnerships with the University of Georgia. We’re involved in research studies to make sure that we’re doing just that. We’re social enterprise company. We believe that our our first priority is the teenage population that we’re serving. And we want to make sure that we’re making a positive impact on their lives given all the mental health challenges that are out there right now. So while we’re not a mental health app, we aim to improve the mental health resiliency of teen girls. The community is for 13 to 18 year old teens, and we have a model, a business model that includes community mentors or moderators that actually go through training their college age females, which in our future business model, when we are actually live out there in the world, will train these young women to in mental health resiliency and mentoring best practices concepts so that the mentors that are actually just a step away from where they used to be as teens themselves are the ones that are being the mentors for the teenagers in the community.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:06:47] Okay. Well, thanks for sharing that, Cindy. You made several interesting points that I kind of want to circle back to. When did you first start the organization?
Cindy Abel: [00:06:57] We first started the first iteration of the organization in 2012 and 2012.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:07:02] And when did you pivot and rebrand?
Cindy Abel: [00:07:05] We pivoted and rebranded in 2020, 2020.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:07:08] So you had been in operations for quite some time. What? Determine you and your co-founder to say, you know what, we need to pause, reevaluate, rebrand and relaunch.
Cindy Abel: [00:07:22] That’s a great question. And really, it’s more about life and circumstances in life than anything else. We were out there pitching our idea and the investment community in Atlanta. And back then I as I mentioned before, there wasn’t a whole lot of people that understood social media, especially older people in the business community that, you know, are the investors out there. So that was a challenge. That was a big challenge. We didn’t have supporting data, so it wasn’t like we could go out and Google, you know, what are the issues that are facing girls out there that are using social media today? So we you know, we had a lot of challenges at the beginning. And so, you know, my co-founder and I both had other things in our lives that we were doing. We’re both very involved philanthropically. We have I have three kids. She has two kids. We were in the high school, middle school, high school years send off to college years. You know, my business partner took on another job, a full time job to support her family. And I had several things that were coming my way as well that I had to say yes to.
Cindy Abel: [00:08:38] An example of that is in 2016, I was the interim CEO of Hands on Atlanta for for a while while we were looking for a new leader. And that sort of took my life over for a while. My husband ran for Congress one year, so I was really the supporting arm of that from a business perspective, like uplifting the business behind that. So we just had some other things that kind of took us off the path. And I think as we, you know, my husband and I sold our we have had an IT technology company in the Atlanta community for 23 years, and that sale was official in 2016 as well. So there were just a lot of changes and a lot of things going on in both of our lives. And in 2020 we looked at this organization and said, Wow, it seems let’s do a little research, but it seems like it’s more relevant than we ever thought it was and we came back to it.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:09:36] So very good. So again, you saw a need in the market and you said, you know what, we can pause, we can revamp and relaunch what you did, but you brought up look, you’re already making several interesting points, something that women entrepreneurs struggle with in the very beginnings. The early stages of their business is work life balance. Now, you said you took on the role of a CEO, your wife, your mom, your community leader. What advice would you give our listeners about work life balance or does that really exist?
Cindy Abel: [00:10:11] You know, I grew up when I graduated from college. I started my career at Andersen Consulting back then, which is now Accenture. The the the world of a consultant as a single person at the time was a great place for me to start my career as I married and started having children. The the reality of living in that world as a career person really was challenging. And I think the same challenges exist for many, many women today that want to have the balance of having a family and a balanced life in that family versus still having a career. So I think oftentimes I applaud women that stay home. I applaud women that are still working, that are balancing children. I applaud women that never had a family and just pursued their careers and their dreams. There’s so many different stories out there about, you know, women and their struggles just to be in a career and advance the career. I my personal story is that I have three children. I wanted to make sure, you know, it was very, very important to me. I grew up in a rather dysfunctional environment when I grew up, and it was really important for me to make sure that I was present for them. And so when we started our own company, Able Solutions, we really focused. My husband fortunately had the same value system. We really focused on making sure I could keep my foot in the game. But you know as well, try to do both. But, you know, let’s let’s face it, it’s still challenging. It doesn’t matter who you are.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:11:54] It doesn’t matter who you are. We all have a different path that we have to take. And that’s it’s so important to applaud women and not have comparison syndrome. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other. So I think that’s very important to keep that in the forefront of your goals so that you. Art so you can still move forward and still live the life that you deserve. Live to be, yeah.
Cindy Abel: [00:12:18] Live to be.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:12:20] Live to be. Which is really good. Now, when you were starting, you talked about having the data. Let’s talk about how important having the facts before you actually go to the market.
Cindy Abel: [00:12:32] It’s something I think a lot of. I’m not sure. I just think a lot of people place emphasis on when when you’re in the business community, it’s really, really important to be data driven and you can have a phenomenal idea. But to build something and just believe that people are going to come is probably not a very smart way to start.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:12:57] And so the Field of Dreams Building They Will Come doesn’t always work.
Cindy Abel: [00:13:01] I don’t think it always does work in a practical way. I mean, we we knew that at our first iteration of this whole idea is, you know, we saw first hand we could talk about it all day long. But, you know, if we didn’t have concepts that really drove the audience to want to be in our community, then it wasn’t going to be successful. So we’re really driving this second iteration of the app around data, around understanding the needs of teens. We have a business partner, Robin Farrell, and her husband Tim, who have a company called Sharpen, which actually has mental health resiliency content that they’ve been building for years, research and evidence based content. And we’re partnering with them under the notion of we want to infuse those positive mental health resiliency tactics in our community to again, add to the data that we’re actually making somebody feel better as a result of using our app.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:14:05] So is that what separates you and that’s your differentiator from other apps or other programs that are out there?
Cindy Abel: [00:14:14] I think so. I think several there’s three what I consider key differentiators. One is that we really want to to solidify this concept around group think if you create a community where everybody has a certain mantra that they live by, I think we have all experienced it in the business world. We’ve been in environments before where we’re coming in new and we don’t really understand the scene or what’s going on in the environment that we’re in from a business perspective or maybe from a, you know, you’re entering into a board member or some kind of volunteer engagement with a nonprofit organization where groupthink kind of takes over and you question yourself because you don’t have the institutional knowledge of the organization maybe, and you rely on others for that. So in our groupthink world, we really think that there’s a world where a community of girls can come together and self-police themselves, knowing that the community is about one thing and that’s empowering one another. The second point is this mental health resiliency content, and the idea that we want to improve mental health outcomes were not a mental health app. We’re a community.
Cindy Abel: [00:15:30] But that doesn’t mean that that’s not at the forefront of our minds is improving anxiety or the feeling of being alone in a world where all our teens are so very connected. But yet there, you know, the research is showing they’re feeling more lonely and disconnected to than ever. So creating that environment in that space. And then the third differentiator is we’re really focusing on this mentoring impact. There are tons and tons of data points out there about the benefits of having mentors. You know, we’ve experienced it maybe later than some of the younger generation that’s coming into the professional world now. It would have been great if I had a mentor when I entered the corporate world. I didn’t have that. But even more so when the numbers out there tell you that if you’re mentored as a teen, your chances of being successful later on in life go up tremendously. So this concept around having mentors in the community that have just lived the experience of being a teenage girl and making sure that those young women that we hire are trained to be as helpful as possible.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:16:47] Those are great differentiators and putting that out to the market, how do you attract your teens?
Cindy Abel: [00:16:55] I believe that that’s going to be the most challenging part of our app. It’s not that we don’t have interest at all when we talk. We’re out there talking to nonprofits right now. We’re out there talking to educational institutions. There is a lot of appetite for this. There’s a lot of appetite. There’s a lot of teens out there looking for alternatives. We know that there’s evidence out there to prove that. I think that it’s important for us to just make sure that we create an experience and listen to this audience about what they want. So we started a pilot program this summer. We are not only, you know. Asking our community of beta testers what they want in the app, what they like, what they don’t like. And we’re frankly, I’m just going to be honest, we’re minimum viable product. So it’s not that snazzy. It’s certainly not Instagram right now or tick tock.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:17:53] It’s on its way.
Cindy Abel: [00:17:54] It’s on its way. So we’re we’re looking to the future to build something that’s compelling like that, but in a positive way, a way that engages the community in a healthy way and not in an unhealthy way, which a lot of the algorithms out there on the current social media platforms do. So I just think, you know, we’re primed with trying to get people on the app to inform every decision that we make.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:18:20] So out of your beta and your pilot testing, what has been your greatest learning?
Cindy Abel: [00:18:27] It’s been really interesting at this first phase moment of our pilot. You know, our initial thing was we had to go out and find mentors. We had to find college age females that this concept resonated with. And we are keeping the initial test of this very small intentionally. We want to know our community and we, you know, put the feelers out there to a lot of local universities. We have a really close partnership with the University of Georgia Department of Public Health, and we’ve used a lot of their interns to help us build the infrastructure around the app. But we also have some mentors that are from the Emory community, Kennesaw, Georgia State. And it’s really inspiring to me when these young women applied to be mentors on our app, just the type of things that they said and the reasons that they were doing it. You know, whether they had a younger sister that was still in high school that they saw being influenced by social media in a way that they didn’t like or had body image issues. There’s one young woman that she herself has gone through struggles with an eating disorder, and she just wanted to be part of a solution to help her in her journey to recover. So everybody’s got such a great story and it’s really inspiring to me to see these young 20 somethings come forward and really want to jump in and be part of some movement that’s that’s helpful to younger people.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:20:01] That’s awesome. You mentioned institutions like Emory, UGA. Let’s talk about the important importance of partnerships. Yes.
Cindy Abel: [00:20:11] For a startup company that’s pre-revenue. I’m I’m very fortunate that in the last six months, I have my first private equity investor. She’s invested in the company. She remains she does not want to be known, but she is a wonderful, wonderful person. She really believes in what we’re trying to do. And she also has three daughters of her own, so it really resonated with her. But the partnerships in the community have been what’s enabled us to propel forward as a pre-revenue company and somebody that is is doing all the day to day legwork myself and somebody that doesn’t necessarily have like you do a great marketing, in-depth marketing background. I know that I have to reach my audience on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok, because 15 million women between the ages of ten and 19 in the US alone are on one, two or all three of those platforms. So I need to be able to reach them and communicate about the app and I needed expertise. So the university system has proven to be an invaluable partner to me. It’s where I found my marketing interns that run my social media Instagram feed have helped me build my following from 300 to 3000.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:21:37] Oh, look at you.
Cindy Abel: [00:21:38] Yes, none of that I would have been able to do on my own. And my interns have been just wonderful. And then the public health interns that are really vested in this whole concept and trying to build the infrastructure around the app and make sure that it’s researched and data based. So the universities have been extremely helpful as partnerships to me and the nonprofit community as well.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:22:05] Right? So through this conversation, I realized that you have several target markets, not only girls, but even like I said, your secondary partners with the university, with public health organizations to mental health organizations, and it’s all data driven. So thumbs up to you for putting in the work. A lot of the time people like to start on Instagram and Tik Tok with all of the social media platforms, but don’t do the back end to support their growth. So look, again, so I applaud you for that and live TV, you guys are doing a great job and it’s going to help you to continue to gain traction. So that’s I guess with having your interns, you’re building partnerships, you’re building community. You’re building. A system that can live on from generation to generation after after you leave here. Yes, exactly. And that’s a part of developing and growing women and doing that during doing that through mentorship. I think a lot of us lack those opportunities to have someone to go to and say, hey, this is I need help in this area. And Cyndi, you have not been afraid to ask for help.
Cindy Abel: [00:23:21] I have asked for a lot. And I’m fortunate I’m very fortunate that a lot of people the idea has just resonated. And I think so many people have stood up to introduce me to people, you know, you know, and I know how important networking and communication and connections are in our community. And I’ve reached out and not been afraid to ask. I have to ask for help. And I’ve just been really just blessed with so many people coming to my aid. Yeah, you know, I have one intern, and this makes me so happy. When she started with me marketing intern, she told me that she wished she had a community like this when she was young because she is the daughter of two immigrants and they came to the US. So she’s first generation college and she really didn’t know how to navigate anything. And she said had she had a community like this to ask questions or to find people to lead her, she really would have been helped a lot. So yes.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:24:28] That’s a good thing. And speaking of community, how can my community support leave it to be?
Cindy Abel: [00:24:36] You know what, you already are. Thank you for inviting me to come today.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:24:40] Okay, great. We start there.
Cindy Abel: [00:24:43] I think, you know, there’s just not understanding all you know, I’m a I’m really good at technology, I feel like. But there’s a lot of technology. I don’t know. You know, I I’ve been studying social media and technology for a long time. So I’m really looking for partners in the community that really want to create a new type of social media that changes the way we value our teens instead of profiting off of them by, you know, feeding them algorithms that are not good for them and, you know, companies capitalizing on that and making a lot of these tech giants rich when they know that some of the stuff that they’re doing is inherently causing harm, but just finding those technology partners out in the community that are really engaged in these conversations. There’s a nonprofit organization called Center for Humane Tech, which was really the catalyst when I first started doing my early research in 2020 for, you know, giving me the ammunition I needed to move forward. They have on their website something called a ledger of harms, and they were talking about all the issues I’m talking with you about today. So finding the community, your community, you know, you have a lot of connections in the community. I like to share my connections with other people, but I just think staying involved, you know, I’ve it’s been suggested that I need to start exploring going to some of these conferences out there that are talking about these issues. And I’m looking at a lot of ways to, you know, invest in that as well. So.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:26:28] Yeah, visibility is very important. And, you know, your social enterprise and this is indeed a social dilemma. It is. And you have found you identified the problem, you’ve created a solution, and now the end users or the girls are going to benefit from the data and the research that you are driving from these higher education institutions as well as these community service organizations. So again, we applaud you for recognizing now, I guess I know it’s going to come up because it comes up all the time for me when you’re niche focused and you’re targeting girls. What about the boys?
Cindy Abel: [00:27:13] Yeah, it does come up a lot. Yeah. Lived to Be Me is a name that allows inclusivity. So maybe one day it’ll be, you know, my son says that this is necessary for girls, but he says there are needs for boys, too. But, you know, he likes to tell me often that young women and young men use social media very, very differently. Okay, girls are we’re more emotional creatures. We like to talk to our girlfriends about the issues that are deeply affecting us. And we face boys are a little, as he says, you know, closed on those topics. So. Not that that’s a good thing. But, you know, we’ve had a lot of recent discussions in the media as well about COVID and mental health, the mental health crisis. You know, the American Association of Pediatrics, if I got that name right, I hope I did. That organization has come out saying that we’ve got a crisis we’ve got to address with young people in this country and so many aspects. And that’s boys and girls, boys. So yeah. So it’s not that I don’t care about the boys, it’s just I felt that as initially I needed a focus somewhere and I felt like this was my greater understanding given that I came, you know, equipped with two daughters that were short their friends and they were showing me their needs.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:28:40] I get it. I have a running joke here, which she sparks, and I like to say he sparks, too.
Cindy Abel: [00:28:45] That’s great.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:28:46] Yeah. So we touch everybody when there is a need for those who aren’t as far along on the journey of entrepreneurship and then development of their product, what advice would you give?
Cindy Abel: [00:28:58] You know, you get you get so much advice along the way, really good intentioned advice. I’ve had conversations that I didn’t like to hear, you know, conversations with a social impact investor that says there are a lot of great smart people out there trying to, you know, solve similar problem to this. What makes you think, you know, you’re the one to do it? And I, I just carry on every day knowing that I might be a small cog in the wheel. But if I can make a difference in the life of just, you know, a couple of teen girls and some mentors, I consider that successful. And the reason I chose the social enterprise route from a business model perspective, which is what a lot of people refer to right now and in the community as B Corp was because I wanted to differentiate myself. I want to I want to make a profit and I want to make a profit so I can sustain the business, but also so that I can give back in areas that I need to give back in. So supporting those nonprofits out there that might not be able to afford technology and might might need a hand. So, you know, in order to do all this, honestly, Clarissa, one of the biggest the biggest, biggest challenges I have is raising capital. Right. And I need to raise that capital pretty immediately for the next iteration of the app, which, you know, will hopefully prove to be just a great version that we can release to the public and start getting into people’s hands. So.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:30:38] Yeah, okay. Yeah. Capital is a common issue for most early stage entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs, and particularly when we’re going out to pitch our ideas. So we’ll keep that in mind. So lastly, you know, how can we learn more about you, more about the organization so that we can hopefully get you some funds?
Cindy Abel: [00:30:59] Yeah. Thank you. You can go to our website Live to be me, live the number to the letter B and that name originated from my co-founders daughter’s email address. So she, you know, had an email for her daughter when she was traveling an AOL account. I think it was AOL. Right. But our website has a lot of information. I’m open to be contacted. I’m an open book. You can go to my LinkedIn profile and my my email is out there. I’m looking to connect with anybody that has an interest in this topic.
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:31:39] Yeah, sorry. So we know where to find you now. So thank you for sharing who you are, what you do, and why your brand matters. Here on Spark Stories, we celebrate business owners today in every day listeners. Please remember to support local businesses and express your support on their social media platforms. Thank you and create a great day.
Intro: [00:32:01] Thank you for listening to Spark Stories. If you’re looking for more help in gaining focus, come check out our website where you can find episode show notes, browse our archives and access free resources like worksheets, trainings, events and more. It’s all at WW she sparks.
About Your Host
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks is a personal brand strategist, trainer, mentor, and investor for women entrepreneurs. She is the founder of She Sparks, a brand strategy design consultancy.
Using her ten-plus years of branding & marketing experience, Dr. Sparks has supported over 4,000 women entrepreneurs in gaining clarity on who they are, what they do, and how they can brand, market, and grow their businesses. Using her Brand Thinking™ Blueprint & Action Plan she gives entrepreneurs the resources and support they need to become the go-to expert in their industry.