2020 and the start of 2021 has been a challenge for everyone – for those whose lives became busier (healthcare workers, teachers, parents of school-age children, those in the food industry), whose lives got boring (working from home or retired), or whose lives were turned upside down (lost jobs or personally affected by COVID-19). This has been a time when we have seen our country divided politically, racially and economically. But, as much turmoil, heartache and unrest as there has been, there has also been so much good going on around us. Sometimes it’s hard to clear the clutter and find the bright shiny moments, but they are there – and sometimes, they are what get us through! We have some great examples of women who are creating bright, shiny moments and we want to share those with you!
As women, we have many roles we play in our day-to-day lives. Chances are, many of us took on even more roles this past year. Through my job as Creative Director, I have had the great fortune of getting to know many amazing women! This year Walking Cradles is celebrating women in our “Shoes for All Walks of Life” series. Throughout 2021, we will be spotlighting women and their lives, sharing their stories, with some shoes sprinkled in along the way! As a woman-driven company, we want women to know that their busy lives are making a difference in this world – and that does not need to be done in uncomfortable footwear!
To kick things off, we had the pleasure of catching up with Forever Fierce founder, Catherine Grace O’Connell. I first met Catherine in October, 2019, at FierceCon in Redondo Beach, CA. Through our mutual friend, Jodie Filogomo, Walking Cradles was invited to be part of this weekend conference. What started off as a business trip turned into a life-changing event. Quickly I found myself being completely enthralled by the stories I was hearing, the challenges other women had endured and are still facing, along with the sheer love, joy and uplifting that took place. It is not an understatement to say I left that weekend with a renewed sense of “being.” Catherine is like a magnet – her compassion and unwavering loyalty are infectious. So, I am pleased introduce… Catherine Grace O’Connell!
Catherine Grace O'Connell wearing Walking Cradles' Shine Bootie
To become more familiar with what ignited this passion to begin Forever Fierce, we needed to find out what first inspired Catherine's midlife mission. We asked Catherine to share with us her first steps into creating this incredible community for women- not only just within midlife, but inclusive to those of all ages.
I had the idea to launch a social service campaign on February 19, 2017, called “The Fierce 50.” The vision was to unite and celebrate a group of women who were bloggers as well as over the age of 50 to create a collaborative, supportive community for older women. Part of the mission was to shift the perception of women over 50 to one that was vibrant, relevant and empowered. The other part was to create a community where women were truly connected to one another, one without competition, through their hearts.
That’s why we’re known as “The Tribe With the Kind Vibe.” We changed the name to Forever Fierce to remove any age barrier as Ageism tends to start when we are well below 50. Surprisingly, we also had many younger women asking to join us! Today, we have women from the age of 20 to our oldest member, Jerry Rosenblum (yes we have some brave men!) who just turned 99!
Every year seems to go by faster than the one before, presenting its own set of challenges, surprises, and joys. Especially with all that 2020, and now 2021 has brought us- we wanted to know what has changed since the inception of Forever Fierce?
Life has changed A LOT since February of 2017, hasn’t it? It feels like lifetimes ago, especially after 2020. Over the past 4 years, we have grown to almost 7,000 members, all through word of mouth alone. The community is wildly active and engaged, which I love! I’ve made lifelong friendships with women that feel as if we’ve known each other for decades. Forever Fierce is a true Sisterhood. It’s a community born from the heart!
Since we began, we have grown into a global community with members all over the world. Currently, we are in almost every country in the world and state in the US. It’s wonderful to have such a multicultural perspective in Forever Fierce. We’ve even had women from as far as New Zealand, the UK and German fly over for our events. We have hosted a lot of events over the years, from local events hosted by our Fierce Ambassadors to 3 day weekend events, that feel more like a fun wedding/retreat.
Everything with regard to running the events along with the Forever Fierce Community on Facebook is done by volunteers. We are unusual in that way. Without the help of volunteers, our events would be much too expensive for many of the women to attend. We never want finances to be a barrier, so we decided to give scholarships to help as many women attend as possible. We continue to expand into all kinds of fun areas. Clearly, 2020, was forcing most of us to “pivot” and to find a new way to connect in the virtual world since we couldn’t host live in person events. We recently held our very first all day virtual event, Forever Fierce Day, and it was a wonderful success. Thank you to Walking Cradles for joining us!
We have also recently expanded into Clubhouse and are creating a Midlife space there called, “Midlife Matters.” Our vision is to be The Space for the Voice of Midlife. Every woman deserves to have her voice heard and to feel relevant.
With everything that Catherine juggles in her daily life, we needed to know what her typical day looks like!
What’s a typical day?!?
Catherine & her sweet puppy, Moxie!
Seriously, there is no typical day when you lead a global community as well as multiple businesses. Every day is different. I wear a lot of hats and have my hands in a variety of pots. I’m used to pivoting. I’m pretty good at maneuvering between the various things that I manage.
It’s no small task to be a leader. I see it as the greatest responsibility of my life. I’m very real that I wasn’t born a leader. I didn’t see myself as a leader. Now, I do but I also understand that the greatest responsibility I have is in creating more leaders. We need more female leaders. We need more women at Midlife & Beyond stepping up and stepping out in order for us to be seen and heard.
I also have a talk show/podcast. That’s been a wonderful way to connect with some amazing women like Joan Lunden on my last show. She is AMAZING and ageless We are in the midst of launching a new pilot as well, one focused on diversity and a variety of topical issues. Stay tuned, as we have some wonderful things on the way.
As a small business owner, I have had to teach myself everything in my mid 50’s. Everything I do today, I wasn’t doing 5 years ago. It’s all new and I’m completely self taught. I do all of the creative content on my blog and the social media which can take up a lot of time with multiple platforms. I do much of the graphic design and I am definitely not a graphic designer. I’ve learned how to be a model which was anything but natural. I have a lot of responsibility on my podcast as well. I book the guests, do all the research and run the show. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful producer on the back end handling the technology and video production. Some weeks, we film multiple shows which may mean that I have to read several books cover to cover and do a lot of research to be well prepared for the interview. That’s my favorite part - the research - learning the story of each and every woman. When it comes to events, I tend to do the majority of the leg work and planning. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful woman on my team, Loretta Sayers, who helps me stay on track and organized for all of our events. She and Kristen Coffield are my partners in our Clubhouse vision which is hugely time intensive at the moment and so much fun!
We also work with a selective group of brands that are aligned with our mission and message. We are very fortunate to have worked with everything from top Fortune 500 Companies to small businesses. We pride ourselves in giving the same level of care and attention to every company and person we work with.
Over the years, I’ve moved into becoming an inspirational speaker. That’s my favorite! Being able to connect and interact with women while watching them light up from the inside out is such a gift. I plan to do more speaking engagements, ultimately a Ted Talk and to write a book this year.
Let’s just say that every day is different and every day is very full. The hours can be long but the joy in the result is so worth it. Until I'm discovered (hint hint Oprah!), I’m going to be a busy little bee working to change my little corner of the world.
Like with any job, the right footwear matters. Everyone deserves to feel their most confident and supported while getting the job done! Thinking about this led us to ask Catherine how choice of footwear impacts her life.
I was never a shoe person. I just didn’t get it. Until, I got it! I used to laugh because my Mom was like Imelda Marcos. She had an entire closet devoted to shoes. They were so beautiful but her foot was much smaller than mine. Most of my life, I lived in high heels for work or tennis shoes for anything else.
That was until I started blogging. I began to understand the power of shoes. They’re like candy for your feet. Now, I have a HUGE collection that I love and many of my favorite styles are by Walking Cradles. Much of the time, I plan my looks around my shoes. Beautiful shoes make everything better.
It’s so important to love what you’re wearing but, also, to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing - to feel comfortable in your shoes, literally and metaphorically. Even though we’ve been in lockdown for what feels like FOREVER, I haven’t stopped wearing heels. When I film my shows or I’m on camera, you can’t see my feet but I always put on heels. Heels change the way that I feel. Of course, when I’m running around, I live in my flats. I absolutely love loafers. I love kicks. Walking Cradles has the best selection of loafers and kicks on the planet. I’ve seen some heel styles on some of my Forever Fierce sisters that you used to carry and I wish you would bring them back. I guess I just want one of every pair! I can’t get enough of Walking Cradles. I suppose it’s an addiction, the best kind of addiction and one I don’t plan to cure!
It's no secret, as we get older we often find all sorts of things we once relied on as our go-to's, whether it be specific products, places to shop, or food and beauty brands changing. Of course, this switch up is no different when it comes to footwear. We asked Catherine to share how her wants and/or footwear needs have changed over the years.
It’s funny, when I think back to my working days when I was out of college, I lived in high heels. I worked on Capitol Hill in the days of Fawn Hall, and we were very dressed up. Men wore suits and women wore dresses and heels. I loved those days. I ended up moving back to Chicago to work at Swiss Bank Corporation and Aon Corporation. That was long before casual Fridays. It was a fun time when it came to dressing up every day. We would change into our running shoes for the commuting part and then slip into our high heels when we got to the office!
Now that I work for myself, I wear flats when I’m running around and heels when I’m working. Back then, I didn’t have many shoes. Today, my shoe game is strong!
Catherine, rocking the Wren Loafer from Walking Cradles!
There's no denying how fabulous Catherine looks rocking her Walking Cradles, but we needed to know just what she loved about the styles she features here- the Shine Bootie, and Wren Loafer in Black & Bone Snake Print Leather.
I’ve been obsessing over the snakeskin booties for as long as I can remember. I would be styling an outfit around them in my mind. They’re so perfect! They can make any look into an instant stylish outfit. I didn’t know that they [the black and bone snake print] also came in a loafer. I couldn’t resist having the same material in both a high and low look.
What I love is mixing and matching. I love the unexpected. For this look, I kept things simple as I wanted the focus on the shoes. I decided to pair a beautiful sequin blouse that mirrored the snakeskin vibe for the boots. I would also love these boots with a pair of distressed boyfriend denim and a cozy, cable knit sweater. They can go with absolutely anything at all.
For the loafers, I decided to slip on a pair of skinny white jeans to make the shoes pop a bit. They’re SO comfy. They feel like what heaven might feel like on your feet. I love the silver buckle detail. It makes them feel like an expensive designer shoe. I could see them with just about anything, from a simple dress to a beautiful monochromatic look. I’m planning to live in these two pair of shoes from Walking Cradles.
To conclude Part I of our newest series, we asked Catherine to include any type of message she would like to extend to both our communities.
Did I say how much I LOVE Walking Cradles and YOU!
In all sincerity, the line is blurred between the brand and the personal relationships that so many of us have created with you, Lisa Schmitz, and the Walking Cradles team. The shoes are like family. I feel deeply connected to the brand and forever grateful for the relationships that have developed over the years.
To have had the experience of having you at FierceCon was magical! I only wish we could do it over again and again, especially now. I miss my sisters.
I wish every woman in the world could experience the beauty of Walking Cradles as I have. Yes, they are fabulous shoes but it’s the whole package and experience of Walking Cradles - the love and care that goes into creating the shoes and the designs that is everything. You can literally feel the love!
I’d like to encourage all of the women reading this out there to join us at Forever Fierce: Midlife Matters and join the Tribe With the Kind Vibe! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (and get my free e-book My 7 Powerful Tips For Finding Your Confidence at Midlife) as we have some major surprises and announcements coming soon! We would love to have you on Clubhouse too! It’s currently in Beta and only available on IPhone. If you need an invitation, we gotcha covered!
Thank you, Catherine for being part of “Shoes for All Walks of Life.” We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to join us so we can all learn more about the women who wear Walking Cradles and their multi-faceted lives.
Each separate feature will include both a dressy/career style along with a casual/sporty style styled by different fabulous females. We hope you look forward to reading their stories as much as we enjoy working with them. Although, is it really work when you love what you do and get to spend time with such amazing people?!
Until next time,
Comments will be approved before showing up.