Creating Deeper ConnectionsApr 01, 2018 ● By Christi Redfearn
Nowhere in any of the chaos was there time to check in with any of your friends. And they probably have kids, too, so they are going through similar routines. On those rare days where you do have time to get together with other women, it can be tough to make it happen because you still have to plan the whole thing, coordinate schedules and try to make sure it is fun for everyone.
The thought of putting together a girl’s night out can be daunting, simply because women these days are already doing so much. The idea of asking your friends, who are all just as busy, to break away from those schedules, can seem unfair.
But, what if all you had to do was show up? What if there was a regular monthly evening where you and your best friends could shed the responsibilities for a few hours, have everything planned for you and the event would center around finding ways to create deeper, lasting connections?
That is where HeartStories comes in. Crystal Gornto and her amazing team do all the work so groups of girlfriends can show up, have a great night and then go back to the chaos a little more relaxed. Each woman comes for her own reasons, but leaves with belonging.
The night works like this: the first Thursday of the month, you show up with your friends. You grab a place to sit, have a glass of wine, if you like, and hang out. They have people there who will do your hair and makeup, give you a bit of a massage and a few other ways to pamper yourself before the night really gets going. Then, you can grab a bite to eat, sit down and Ms. Gornto will start the evening with some laughs, some things she’s learned, a discussion about the theme of the evening and even give away some fun door prizes. There are a few activities designed to help you and your girlfriends have meaningful, honest and supportive conversations because we all know we are hard on ourselves.
HeartStories is designed to be fun, but also to be uplifting and nourish your soul. Ms. Gornto had the idea to do something bigger than herself back in 2011. She learned about human trafficking through an event with her church. She stopped to ask herself, “What am I doing with my life?” She was busy and successful selling medical devices and it felt like it no longer mattered. After hiring a coach to help her figure out what she was meant to do with her life, the idea started to reveal itself to her. “I wanted to help women understand their significance in the world and figure out what they are meant to do with their lives. When you start talking to women, we hold ourselves back with the stories we tell ourselves in our mind -- that we are not good enough. But, when we are in relationships with other women who love us and see potential in us, that is when we really are able to have courage and take steps to do what we are meant to do,” she says.
The organization’s heart-shaped headphone logo even reminds ladies of the HeartStories purpose: to replace negative noise within our minds with truth and love that comes in the context of genuine, authentic friendships. “Women are not afraid to show up and talk about the mess and love each other through it,” Ms. Gornto says.
The road to HeartStories’ fun girls’ night out was not a straight one. It took a few detours along the way. Ms. Gornto originally built an app with the intent to allow women to stay connected easily with their closest friends -- to quickly and easily swipe your finger to let them know how much you love and care for them. Because everything was moving toward digital, Ms. Gornto figured it was the way to go. She believed in it so much she liquidated her retirement fund to get it built.
And what is an app without a launch party? Ms. Gornto says, “We might as well make it a workshop with speakers and it was fabulous, but I lost a load of money. It was all fabulous from the outside, but I was used to having these huge pharma parties and I tried to make it as nice as I could.” The app launched, and she worked on a 21-day campaign and it was great for the initial friendship challenge. But, it was a web app and needed to be converted to an iPhone app. “There were so many things I did not know and did not have the money to do,” she adds.
At the end of 2015, Ms. Gornto admits that even though she is a very positive person, she was “down in the dumps” after so many struggles. After some soul searching, she realized she was meant to do events, despite being a little scared of the idea after losing money with the app launch event.
Ms. Gornto decided to search for her ideal client through social media. She reached out to about 100 women to let them know she was putting together a girls’ night out. She told them, “It is not just a party and it is not a networking event. It is designed to connect you with your girlfriends, to give you a break from your life, to have fun, but also to inspire you through the joy you are having in your life and the courage to pursue your purpose.”
The first event was in April 2016. At the event, Ms. Gornto interviewed a female entrepreneur who happened to sell jewelry, textiles and other products made by women. She sold around 150 tickets. The idea worked. The people came and her entrepreneur sold a lot of products. She felt ignited! Ms. Gornto realized she could start working with partners, they could promote their businesses and everyone could benefit.
“I have learned that women really love to do something. If they are going to take the time to get out of the house, they want to hear stories and be inspired. They also need something they can hold onto,” Ms. Gornto adds.
“Show up with your girlfriends or show up with a plan to have fun,” Ms. Gornto says. It is in a package that women want, but it is about something women need on a deeper level. If this sounds like something you might be needing in your life, check out heartstories.com and clear your calendar for the first Thursday of the month. Bring your girlfriends and be ready to have fun, but come away feeling a little more empowered than you were the day before.