Summers McKay, Co-Founder The Spark List

5 Questions that Spark is our way of getting to know some amazing entrepreneurs and people who inspire us at The Spark List. Entrepreneurs get to select five questions from a list of fifteen to answer in our interviews.

We decided it was important to turn the questions over to our founders, Summers McKay and Lolita Carrico – because well, after all – they definitely are Sparks. Check out Lolita’s 5 Questions that Spark here.

Spark List: What is your definition of success?

Summers: I’ve spent an insane amount of meditating, journaling and reflection has gotten me to a place where I am clear.

Success to me means the freedom to have a meaningful impact by helping people make their lives better.

As entrepreneurs, our work is integral to who we are. I don’t call it going to your place of work. I call it going to your place of opportunity.

Success has meant knowing that opportunity and abundance all are within me already. Through conscientious intention, hard work, and dedication, I really can have anything I want.

Ultimately, success isn’t about money, although cash flow is an element of every successful business. For me, it is about freedom and impact. I’ve been willing to take a lot of risks in order to achieve those things. I like helping others do the same.

Spark List: When do you feel most like yourself?

Summers: You know that Tom Petty song, You Belong Among the Wildflowers? The lyrics continue, “You belong in a boat out at sea.” and ultimately, “You belong somewhere you feel free.”

I really feel in the flow when I am one part endorphins, on a hike, a swim, a paddle board and one part communication and inspiration. There is literally nothing better than to be on a climb with an entrepreneur, talking through the challenges of a business and coming up with ideas. I take clients on monthly Walk & Talks. We review pressing problems and so much gets solved when we are moving. Ultimately, I am at my best with a little bit of sweat, a little bit of sand or dirt, and the optimism and determination that endorphins and a creative idea can bring.

Also, since I’m actually a mermaid, I’d say scuba diving – but it’s sort of hard to talk forty feet deep.

Spark List: What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

Summers: Parent teenagers?? Hmmmm not sure I’m there yet – but giving it a solid effort.

On a more practical terms, I had to beef up my skills in design and branding over this past year as we were bootstrapping the next iteration of my natural skin care product line at Love Summers. I had to re-learn tools like Adobe Illustrator, the Adobe Color Wheel, and new branding tools like Canva. When amidst bootstrap branding, one must do a lot of leg work before approaching designers. They need solid direction when working on a shoe-string budget. I got those skills in much better shape and can now pull together an initial brand book pretty quickly.

On a more personal level, I have let go of the need to always be nice at the expense of being straightforward. My focus is goal oriented and I have a thicker skin. I have increased respect for the value my time spent, my integrity and my commitment. I am stronger at clarifying my professional opinion and requirements. I can say both yes and no with greater confidence than I did a year ago.

Spark List: How did your family respond to you choosing to be an entrepreneur?

Summers: This is a two part question. I happen to be married to an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurship is sort of a core value in our relationship. We align when it comes to risk taking, the inherent juggling of capital, and the decisions we’ve both made to make long bets. My partner applauded my decision to be an entrepreneur.

On the other hand, friends and family were a little less understanding. Choosing to leave my full time position at UCLA Anderson was not well received by my parents. They expressed concern about the lack of stability, absence of structure, and at the time – the very nature of the business I was starting.

My first approach into entrepreneurship was in the world of women’s sexual health – and improving intimacy through organic personal lubricants and cleansing wipes. They most definitely weren’t on the “good for you” side of the fence.  Some of my closest friends asked me quite often, when I was going back to work. I believe that people who love you want to protect you from what they actually are most afraid of. Sometimes their fears and your fears match. Sometimes they don’t. Recognizing that while my parents weren’t down with the uncertain nature of entrepreneurship, and I was entirely ok with it felt good. We don’t actually have to meet in the middle.

Having people on both sides of the fence is a winning combination. With a partner who understands being an entrepreneur, I’ve got the love and support I need. At the same time, having parents who want to keep me on a more secure path, brings great value to my decision making.

The kids are pretty awesome too – and always willing to hear my stories about entrepreneurship and have pretty solid marketing ideas. 

Spark List: What is the most valuable question you’ve ever asked – of yourself or others?

Summers“What would be the ideal outcome of this situation.”

I start most challenging situations with this question. Whether it’s starting a new business partnership, or dealing with a conflict – it’s imperative to get clarity on what you want most out of the experience. How can this end well? That one is pretty simple for me to answer. 

Ask “What would be the ideal outcome of the situation?” and let your intentions match your actions from that point on.

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