top of page
WFFIFF_final logo_color.png

Inspired Women

Via The Wacoan |

Three women share their talents and experiences

Pictured: Photos by Taylor Nicole Photography

There’s no shortage of talented women in Waco, and this month, we’re introducing you to three with diverse backgrounds, careers and passions. You’ll meet a homeschooling mom who enjoys a home of simplicity and sewing, a professor of marketing who founded a local film festival that brings people together, and an entrepreneur who developed a crowdsourcing app for fitness enthusiasts. Whether it’s a family-friendly event, the latest app or a fabric crown that fuels the imagination, these three women are using their unique talents to create and build community. Read their stories to inspire your own creativity.

Sharleen Graybill The Semi-Minimalist

Q: Your blog is called The Semi-Minimalist. What exactly is a semi-minimalist? A: I think when people think of minimalism, they feel like it’s a little scary. They think they have to have ‘no stuff,’ and it’s kind of an extreme. I want minimalism to be inviting to people if they want to try it. Because it really does help simplify your life and focus on things that are really important. I found the more stuff I had, the more my time was consumed with taking care of my stuff rather than spending time with my kids or doing things I love to do. So, if I can have as little stuff as possible so I can have as much time as possible to invest in those other things, that makes me happy. Q: What tips do you have for anyone who thinks they can’t be a minimalist? A: I think everyone can. Just don’t think you have to do everything right away. If you just tackle a drawer, start really small, and maybe don’t use the term minimalism if that freaks you out. Just do something for yourself that makes you feel good, and once you do that drawer, sit with that feeling of, ‘My space feels lighter, and I feel better.’ Then continue to do that throughout your whole house. Then it will become a lifestyle. I like teaching my kids, Pepper and Wesley, to fold their clothes nicely — they’re 5 and 7. Marie Kondo [author of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’] helped me incorporate some things. Like she personifies things, and it really helps. I was pretending and playing with them, ‘Do you want me to shove you in the drawer?’ And they’re playing like, ‘No.’ Once they saw, ‘Oh, clothes don’t like being shoved in the drawer. They like being folded nicely,’ my daughter was tucking her clothes into the drawer for bedtime. I think it inspires taking care of the things you have if you personify them. Q: Is there anyone else you’re influenced or inspired by? A: I actually was introduced to minimalism through The Daily Connoisseur, Jennifer L. Scott. I watched her TEDx Talk about the 10-item wardrobe. I still don’t have a 10-item wardrobe, but she’s just really amazing. Her and Marie Kondo are probably the two people that really encouraged my minimalism. Q: One of your hobbies is sewing. When did you first start sewing? A: It didn’t really take off until four years ago. It’d be this off-and-on thing. I’d find a project and get really excited about, and I’d do it and then I’d leave it alone for a little bit. Like with anything else though, you have to do it over and over to get good at it. So [at one point], I was just like, ‘I’m just going to sew and sew and sew,’ and then the more I did it, the more I enjoyed doing it and developed the skills. Q: What types of things do you make? A: I definitely enjoy making items of clothing for my kids. I get really excited about it. I would have thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to make this thing, and they’re never going to wear it.’ They like love it. They love that I made something just for them. I just started my Etsy shop in November. I enjoy making things for my kids to help them with their creativity. Q: But it’s not clothes in your shop. It’s fabric crowns, bows and wands. Why those items? A: My daughter was having a hard time in ballet class because we switched ballet classes and she does not like change. She was just standing around not dancing with the ribbons. When they had a princess day, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to make her a wand, and I’m going to watch her and see if she dances during freestyle.’ She felt more comfortable, and she danced during freestyle. I was really proud of her, and I just think that’s the power of creative play. That’s kind of my inspiration behind making those types of things. Q: On your blog you highlighted some of your kids’ ethical clothing. How do you research and find clothing that’s ethical? A: It’s kind of a buzzword now, so a lot of places say they are, and they’re not. You have to look at how transparent the company is. Also, there are organizations that list companies that are part of their group, like Certified B Corporation and Fairtrade International. Companies pay to have a third party inspect their factories and stuff like that. With fabric, I use a lot of deadstock fabric, which is leftover fabric. It’s usually from a Hollywood set. There’s a lot in California where sets just have a ton of fabric leftover, and no one uses it, so it goes to a deadstock warehouse. They have some dead fabric in Dallas, like at Fabrictopia, so there are fabric options. Q: What are some ethical brands you do enjoy? A: Right now, Ruby Star Society fabric is just really good quality. They’re a group of creative women that just make beautiful designs. Q: You also mention thrift shopping. What are some of your favorite thrift stores? A: I like the Goodwill out here. [Hidden Treasure by Caritas] is another good one. But the thing about thrift shopping, it’s hit or miss. You could find good stuff one time, and then go the next week, and nothing’s really there. I recommend going to a lot of stores and going often. I always go to Smarty Pants and Once Upon A Child.

Dr. Tyrha Lindsey-Warren The Edutainer Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? A: I started my career in Los Angeles. I started out at NBC in their children’s programming department. I spent the bulk of my time out there working in the TV film department for Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment. I always say, I worked on a whole bunch of movies you’ve never heard of, but a whole bunch of TV shows you have, like the last season of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ ‘In the House,’ ‘Mad TV.’ Then I received my MBA at Claremont Graduate University, at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management. Then I ended up in New York City. I was the director of marketing for United States Tennis Association. I went on to be the public relations director for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Then I oversaw all communications for UniWorld Group, which is one of the top multicultural advertising agencies. In 2012, I started my Ph.D. at Rutgers Business School. I grew up in [the performing arts] in Cincinnati. I started ballet and piano and voice when I was 3, and when I was 8, I went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts. A lot of famous people have come out of our school, like Sarah Jessica Parker, Nick Lachey, who was my partner in our musical theater group. I just have a strong background in entertainment, arts, theater. Q: You grew up as a performer, so what led you to behind-the-scenes careers in the industry? A: My dad wouldn’t let me major in theater at Northwestern University. I ended up seeing this TV show called the ‘Ebony/Jet Showcase.’ And that particular episode was talking about film and TV writers, directors, producers of color behind the scenes. I told my dad, ‘Hey, I can go to Northwestern, one of the top film schools in the country and major in producing. It’s business.’ And he [agreed]. Q: How did you end up in Waco? A: I interviewed for a clinical assistant professor of marketing at Baylor and received the position toward the end of 2016. I started at Baylor in fall 2017. Q: Do you feel like being an educator is wildly different than the other positions you’ve held in the various industries? A: Yes and no. Because I primarily teach seniors — I teach advertising and also a class of digital marketing — I’m preparing them to go out into creative fields. But for me, since my students are primarily Gen Z, it’s not enough to just be at the front of the room and speak to my students. I call it ‘edutainment.’ I have a whole research stream in edutainment because that’s what my students are used to. They’re used to learning from what’s on YouTube, what’s on TikTok, what’s on Snapchat. And so, in my classroom, my students get a branded edutainment experience where they get a little music, video — I even sing on the first day, because that’s my audience. With my students, an educator has to be very multidimensional and an edutainer. Q: This year was the inaugural Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival, which you founded. Why did you want to bring this event to Waco? A: My team and I have been producing international film festivals since 2013. My family’s nonprofit, GB Lindsey Family Charitable Fund, actually runs the film festival. At the top of 2019, I was observing the Waco landscape and really noticing that people and cultures are really siloed — quote, unquote — in Waco, and my husband, Sidney, and I found ourselves the only African Americans in numerous situations, whether it was for entertainment purposes or business purposes or fundraising dinners or gala dinners. We’re not used to that coming from New York City, LA, Chicago. So, I thought perhaps a film festival could be my small contribution to the Waco community to bring people together. We’re dedicated to empowering the creative spirit, serving with heart and celebrating all. And that ‘celebrating all’ aspect is, with leveraging film and storytelling, to open the hearts of our attendees. So perhaps we’ll look at each other a little better, treat each other a little better, give each other the benefit of the doubt more and maybe love on each other a little bit better. Q: What types of films and how many films did you screen at this year’s festival? A: Believe it or not, we received 1,688 submissions from 109 countries all around the world. We had three different areas: feature films, student films, as well as short films. Out of that 1,688, we selected 68. We ended up showing 72 films because we also had some Hollywood movies. Q: What is the Champions Award, and who were this year’s recipients? A: These are individuals who are exemplars of innovation as well as good disruption in TV, film, the performing arts and entertainment industry. We gave our inaugural Champions Awards to David Littlewood, Kevin Sorbo, Sam Sorbo and Gina Neely. Q: What can you tell us about next year’s festival that’s already in the works? A: We’re adding an animation category, which I’m super excited about. On July 31, we’re kicking off the new season with a first annual community barbecue. It’s a free event, open to the Waco community. We’re going to screen movies. In December, we’ll have our second annual toy drive. Then February 4-6 will be our 2021 festival. I’ve already invited four films that I saw at the Sundance Film Festival.

Dena Mayo The Entrepreneur Q: What inspired you to create the FitByrd app? A: I was traveling quite a bit [for a previous job]. I went to 111 cities last year. What was frustrating for me, if I wanted to do yoga or Pilates or anything other than what the hotel offered, it was hard to find a place to work out. So, I started looking into crowdsourcing for fitness. ‘Is there something out there?’ And there just wasn’t. That’s when we started developing the app. I met some developers, hired them, and basically created an Uber-style app for fitness. Right now, what’s out there in the market is subscription-based models, and ours is non-subscription base. It’s free for the fitness provider and free for the user. You just connect with whatever fitness provider that you want, book your work out, and you’re ready to go. Q: How does the app generate revenue? A: We get a portion of the fee [to book a workout]. If you list your service for $5, I get a portion of that fee. Right now, as we’re enrolling, it’s 10%, and we go anywhere between 10% and 30%, so it’s very economical both for the fitness provider and for the user. And that’s why we didn’t want to make it a subscription service. We wanted to just make sure that you had that availability when you needed it. I have a [local gym membership], I want to keep my gym, but I also want options while on the road. And that’s where we see our niche in the market.

Q: What was the timeline of when you began developing the app to launching it? A: In late 2017, we started looking into it, doing our market research. In 2018, we started with app development. June of 2019, I quit my job to focus on FitByrd full time, and then we launched in December. Right now, we have a little over 50 fitness providers in the United States, and then [a national fitness company] is going to come on, and we’ll have over 400, but we’re going to pilot it with some of their fitness providers.

Q: Is there any category of fitness you’re focused on? A: Any fitness need. So, kickboxing, Pilates. But we are focused on smaller-to-mid-size fitness businesses. A lot of fitness providers have a lot of passion for what they do, but they don’t have either the marketing experience, the bandwidth or the business acumen really to think about where this is going to go in five years. I feel like that’s a place where we can help, and we’ll connect them with travelers to help them leverage their existing assets. They don’t have to do anything other than list their service, and once travelers start using the app, it’ll generate additional income.

Q: Where are the fitness providers located? A: They’re spread out. We have one in San Francisco, one in Ohio. I’m hoping to get around a thousand fitness providers by the end of the year. It’s kind of like having Uber with no cars right now. We’re getting our fleet in, and then we’ll start going to the end user. Right now in Waco, we have The Muscle Cave [Bar & Gym] and the YMCA of Central Texas. We have 2.7 million visitors a year. Not everyone wants to work out, but there’s a large percentage of them that do. You might even live here locally and find out, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize the YMCA had this class.’ It’s even building in the local community a hub of fitness providers.

Q: A lot of people might have an idea for an app, but they might not know where to start. What made you believe you could bring your app idea to fruition? A: I think that I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve always loved to be out and about and doing new and exciting things. I’ve always wanted to make an impact with what I do. When it came to the app, I knew that there was a need on the entrepreneur that had a lot of passion for what they do. I knew I could help them with their marketing, and I knew that I can help other people find them. And for the end user, for the fitness enthusiast, I knew that there was a lot of frustration out there for whenever people travel. We did a lot of market research at both ends of it, and I just thought that if I don’t do it, somebody else will. And why not me? I started researching app development, and there’s a lot of information. It’s crazy. I think it’s still kind of the Wild West. We found an app developer. We outsourced it. We didn’t have the money to hire an IT team, but we hope to. As we grow, we hope to have everything in house and go from there.

Q: Who makes up the current FitByrd team? Is it just you? A: It’s me! And anything I need done I’ll outsource. If I need a content writer or something, I’ll outsource. There are a lot of entrepreneurs in Waco, so I try to keep it as local as I can. I do a lot of work out of [Hustle], a coworking space downtown. I love coworking, and that was never an option before. It’s one of the coolest places that you can go and be with like-minded individuals. And you’ll meet someone that’s a content writer, and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s perfect because I need some help with this.’ You just make some very natural relationships with other entrepreneurs.


bottom of page