First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Asha Dahya: I live with my husband and two small children, so we have been mostly at home since March. It has been very exhausting and stressful trying to balance work and a baby and toddler! My husband and I are both self-employed, and not being able to have any sort of help has been a challenge, but we slowly adjusted to the COVID world and managed to make it work.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GirlTalkHQ.
Asha Dahya: My career started in broadcast television. I have been a host and producer for nearly 2 decades in Australia and here in Los Angeles, working for entertainment, pop culture, lifestyle, and news shows. It was a great experience for me and taught me a lot about the creative process. But I started to become restless and realized I wanted to make my own opportunities, rather than waiting on the industry to employ or “validate” me. I founded my blog GirlTalkHQ.com in 2012 while going through a divorce. It was a way for me to curate, share and amplify the stories and voices of other women and girls who were also going through struggles or who simply wanted to share their perspectives and journey in life. It has grown over the years, and today we focus on sharing op-eds from women who want to share their stories or interviews with badass women and girls who are breaking barriers in their industries.
In 2019 I got a book deal from a blog series and released my book called ‘Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing The World’ in march 2020! You can read about the 50 women featured by going to TodaysWonderWomenbook.com
How does GirlTalkHQ innovate?
Asha Dahya: As a blog platform that relies on word of mouth and social media, the best way I’ve been able to continually evolve and innovate is by finding what kind of content gets the most engagement and hits from readers and focus on that. In the beginning, I was trying to do everything and be on every social media platform. But after listening to other entrepreneurs and successful creatives, I’ve found that the best way to stay relevant and continue growing is by listening to what your readers want to see more of.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Asha Dahya: Because we are all digital, it hasn’t impacted us in any way. However, with COVID-19, the US presidential election, and Black Lives Matter protests, it has given us a chance to reevaluate what we stand for and ensure that our content reflects the values we hold dear: diversity, inclusion, and amplifying the voices and stories of, particularly marginalized and underrepresented folks.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Asha Dahya: The biggest lesson I have learned is to trust the process and listen to my intuition. There have been many times when it feels easier to give up because I am not getting the viewership numbers I hoped for one month. But I am constantly getting emails and requests to feature some incredibly inspiring women on the website, which reminds me that what I am doing is valuable, and I should keep going. I have also learned to stop comparing or trying to compete with other blogs or digital creators. When I focus on my goals for GirlTalkHQ and stay true to the message, I get excited about the stories we produce.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and GirlTalkHQ in the future?
Asha Dahya: It sounds old school, but I shut my computer and go for a walk outside. I play with my kids, take my mind away from what is happening digitally, and choose to stay present with my family. Exercise also helps my stress levels and helps me sleep better. On the weekends, I have made it a habit not to be on my computer, and instead, read a book, not respond to emails on my phone, and enjoy the downtime.
In the future, I see GirlTalkHQ as part of my overall personal “brand,” if you will. It ties into my goal of championing the voices and stories of women and girls through media. With the blog, and now my book, and hopefully a TV series in the future, I want to see GirlTalkHQ grow into a recognizable brand and name in media that viewers know they are going to see some inspiring and empowering stories about females.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Asha Dahya: There are probably a million competitors, but honestly, I have stopped trying to compete. I am not beholden to any investors or employees, as I am running this by myself. I plan on staying in the game by staying true to my values and goals and constantly creating the best content for the readers I know who love what I am sharing.
Your final thoughts?
Asha Dahya: When I released my book “Today’s Wonder Women,” a quote that kept popping into my mind was this one from South African poet June Jordan: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” I think it really sums up my own journey as someone who has spent far too long waiting for someone or something else to come and validate me or give me the opportunities I seek. It took me a while, a divorce, a second marriage, two kids, and various career changes to make me realize that I have been searching for me all along. And my own voice. So everything I do is about the expression of my passions, my creativity, and my goals, and I encourage others to find themselves in this way as well. Know you are the hero of your own story. All 50 women in my book embody this mantra, and I feel honored to have been able to share their stories with the world.