TIED UP IN GOODNESS
What can't this woman do?
The daughter of an immigrant father, Ty Stiklorius, says her dad had expectations for his daughter to be James Bond meets Lauren Bacall meets Super Woman.
Seeing as Marie Claire just named her one of their "Women Changing The World" on their annual New Guard 2017 list and Fast Company named her on of their Creative People of 2017, for combining traditional management services with social activism, we'd say she's come close to hitting that target.
The founder and CEO of Friends At Work, a media and impact agency that partners with leading artists and thinkers, FAW launched in 2015 and manages artists and influencers including John Legend, Lindsey Stirling, Fletcher (C&C 100 honoree) and Madame Gandhi (also a C&C 100 honoree). Alongside Legend, Ty is one of the principals of Get Lifted Film Co., production company based in Los Angeles. Under the Get Lifted banner, the trio has served as Executive Producers on the HBO documentary “Southern Rites,” WGN’s hit series “Underground” and the award-winning film “LaLa Land.”
With an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BA from The University of Pennsylvania, she's using her brains and badassery for good.
More from Ty below.
Name: Ty Stiklorius
Instagram Handle: @Stiklori
Business Instagram Handle: @FriendsAtWork
Can you chat us through the inception of Friends at Work?
I had been a manager for over a decade focusing on helping artists thrive but within other people’s infrastructures. At 40 I realized it was time to own my ambition and launch my own company so that I could execute on a big vision for something beyond a management company with better services, more focus on wellness and social impact, more transparency, more creative services & business development and overall a better focus on long-term sustainable artistic development. And not just with musicians but with leaders of all kinds - astronauts, civil rights leaders of our time, etc.
What was the moment you knew it was time to launch something of your own?
It wasn’t one moment. It was a long process of building my experience, relationships, and confidence to take the lead. Starting a company is a big responsibility. I knew that when I did it I couldn’t fail my artist partners or my team. I knew I had to be ready, have the right funding, vision, and mix of the right team to be better than what I had seen elsewhere. It’s an iterative process of improving. But when my contract was up at my old company I knew I was ready to leave and start my own company.
Where do your drive and passion come from?
I cultivate goosebumps. I lead with heart and passion. I stay in an inspired zone. I have always been that way. The drive is likely informed by a combo of my education, upbringing and my immigrant father’s expectations for me to be James Bond meets Lauren Bacall meets Super Woman.
My immigrant father had expectations for me to be James Bond meets Lauren Bacall meets Super Woman.
What does it mean to be a social impact company?
It means we prioritize making a positive impact on the world. We only work with artists and leaders who want to use their platform to create positive change and help others.
Do you think you've found your true calling?
In some ways, but I am constantly evolving and honing what that is. I think it changes as a human being evolves.
Who are some of the people who have championed your work?
John Legend. Dave Wirtschafter and Brent Smith. Troy Carter. Gary Gersh. Erik Flannigan. Kevin Mayer. Priya Chordia and Greg Propper. Rob English. Lindsey Stirling. Adina Friedman. Chuck Ortner. Sylvia Rhone. Jonas Stiklorius. Aaron Rosenberg. Mike Jackson. My Dad and Mom and old friends. You need a lot of people to believe in you and support you. Being an entrepreneur who is taking a leap & trying to change the world is not easy.
In addition to FAW you work with John Legend to launch #FREEAMERICA. What about incarceration policies drew you to the cause?
John and I had worked to improve K-12 education for many years. We launched The Show Me Campaign in 2007 with that aim. We believed that a good education was the path to success. But in our work we kept bumping into the school to prison pipeline. We saw places in the US where kids were more likely to end up in jail or prison than college. We were involved in a lm by Eugene Jerecki titled “The House I Live In” about the failed war on drugs. We helped promote the lm and screened it at churches. John Lewis helped too. It woke us up. Then John Legend suggested I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Those books changed us. We started learning more about how the United States is the most incarcerated country in the world. And at one point I said to John “you need to do a Johnny Cash and perform at prisons and jails around the US and draw attention to this issue.” A couple months later we had put together a team to help us do just that and we launched #FREEAMERICA. John has performed at jails in Texas, juvenile detention centers, max security prisons, a women’s correctional facility in WA, at immigration detention centers and has visited a prison in Portugal. We humbly listened to and learned from people affected by the system. And we helped tell their stories. That’s evolved into constantly honing our strategy to fix our broken system, to raise awareness, to focus on various strategies to reduce our prison and jail populations and to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Are there any fears associated with your work? If yes, what are they?
I am aware of risks and dangers, but rather than be fearful, I prefer to come up with strategies to address them. For example, these horrific shootings that have happened at live concerts are frightening, but the first thing I want to do is figure out how to be helpful, how to help us heal and come up with strategies so it won’t happen again. I try not to let fears overwhelm me.
What's one of the most culturally transformative evenings you've ever had?
Once I danced at the White House till around 1 am. Obama came out and danced with everyone. Questlove was to my left. Dave Chappelle was to my right. Tears were flowing. It was one of the biggest moments of joy, celebration, and happiness I’ve ever experienced. I can’t even explain how great that night was and how culturally transformative it was. To see the White House celebrating this moment of community, love, achievement.
What's something you'd like people to know about your job that they probably don’t?
It requires a lot of creativity and an ability to stay optimistic. I’ve heard managers say, “I am not the creative person, I couldn’t pick the single if I tried.” The best managers are deeply creative people who help their artists learn about why Bruce Springsteen is so great and worthy of deep study. The best way to stay in a creative flow space, work out of the Hammer museum once a week and never let the brilliance of life get dull.
You work on so many projects and campaigns. What about your career makes you feel the most complete?
Not sure what it means to feel complete. But to me, I guess that feeling comes from my family, from love, from our FAW team, from having had a lifelong friendship with John Legend, with seeing Lindsey Stirling thrive and achieve her dreams, with having a bigger outlook on what we can achieve beyond ourselves.
If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
I have always wanted to be a painter. Maybe Picasso or Georgia O’Keefe. How cool to paint all day long!
At what point in your life did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?
It’s a process, not one point. It took years and years.
What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?
Don’t pre-suffer. Don’t worry. Work!
When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road?
I hunker down with friends and we dream up some new dope shit to do. I meditate. I do the daily practices that keep me in a good healthy positive space. Big bumps are actually smaller when you know how not to inflate them.
What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?
Ella Fitzgerald & Louie Armstrong’s “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off,” or any song on Burnin’ by The Wailers.
Photo Credit: @davisfactor