Stephanie Shepherd’s résumé is impressive, to say the least. As the chief operating officer of Kardashian West Brands, she built an influential social media platform with over 1.6 million followers and counting. But she wanted to do something more.
Global climate change is an issue that needs more attention and, for Shepherd, not doing anything was not an option. She felt had to use her influence, and that’s why she co-founded Future Earth, an educational platform dedicated to sharing informative knowledge around climate change and sparking change, by using her marketing expertise to inspire global activism on and offline.
For Shepherd, it is all about making change accessible to those who want to help. From creating approachable content and learning to give herself some grace (especially given the past year) to taking full advantage of all her opportunities no matter how intimidating, Shepherd teaches us all how pivotal taking a risk can be.
Since stepping down from your position as the Chief Operating Officer of Kardashian West Brands in 2018, you’ve turned your attention to the environment, becoming an environmental advocate and social entrepreneur. Take us back to the beginning—what was the lightbulb moment for Future Earth and what inspired you to pursue this path?
The more I learned about the climate crisis, the more I recognized the major flaw in the way we talk about it. More often than not, climate education is so academic, intimidating, and inaccessible. I wanted to create a community where we could learn together, but I knew educational content alone wasn't enough; it also had to be visually appealing to get people's attention and simple enough to impact their behavior. With my co-founder Max Moinian's academic expertise paired with my knowledge of social media marketing, we created a brand that really resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds.
With over 1.6 million Instagram followers, you’re using your platform to leverage your social influence to inspire global activism. How are you using social media to make a difference, and what's your strategy for speaking to millennials and Gen Z?
To be honest, I’m not sure if there is a formula or a strategy. We've positioned Future Earth as a climate club where we are learning together, peer-to-peer, and not teacher-to-student. I think that takes some of the pressure off and makes the content more approachable (and even fun). Ultimately, I talk to my followers like they're my friends.
Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks—What’s the most pivotal risk you’ve taken, and how did it change your path?
Working for Kim Kardashian West was the most pivotal risk I’d ever taken. I had no clue what I was doing, and I never set out to be an assistant. But I was convinced: no matter what the outcome, it was going to be an incredible learning experience that would change the trajectory of my life.
2020 presented everybody around the globe with new, unprecedented challenges. How did you #FindNewRoads + switch gears towards your new version of success?
This was a year of personal reflection. The things I thought I wanted or needed, my priorities, my outlook—everything has completely shifted. Human beings are incredibly adaptable, and oftentimes, tragedy is accompanied by an opportunity for us to dig deep and do the real work.
Going after what you deserve in life takes confidence and guts. Does confidence come naturally to you or did you have to learn it? What advice can you share for women on cultivating confidence and going after their dreams?
I’m still learning about confidence, what it means to me, how it feels, and how it manifests itself in my life. The older I get, the more confident I am in going after what I want and taking up space that is rightfully mine. My best advice is to follow your gut. Every time I don’t trust myself or my intuition, I regret it.
When you separate yourself from your job title and the bells and whistles of your business or career, who are you and what do you like to do?
I’m a thoughtful friend from a small town who likes to binge-watch “Will & Grace,” online shop, and play trivia games.
How have you remained true and authentic to who you are and what advice can you share for women who are struggling with that?
First, give grace to yourself and others. I've lost myself countless times, and I always learn a lot on my way back. Don't be so hard on yourself, and keep trying to take up space. Stand in your power, and believe you're worth it. I have personally learned that your story, the things that make you different, and the mistakes you’ve made are exactly the things that will make you great.
It’s easy to celebrate the wins, but how do you handle failure or when something hasn’t worked out for you?
Failure is a both/and. It is both deeply painful and absolutely necessary. It sucks and it is a valuable teacher. Failure gives us a chance to do better, fight harder, reroute, and re-strategize. My biggest failures were my most profound guides. These days, when I fail, I sit with all of my emotions (embarrassment, disappointment, etc.). And then I ask, "What is there to be grateful for here? What good thing could this failure be trying to teach me?" Again, the key here is perspective and grace.
With success comes opportunity, but that also means you have your hands full. What keeps you inspired and motivated to keep going even on your most challenging days?
In addition to making sure I'm paying my bills and meeting my own needs, I also financially support my loved ones. That's a powerful source of motivation for me. There's a saying I love that comes from an ancient faith tradition: "To whom much is given, much is required." I hold the honor and responsibility of my work carefully. Not a day goes by where I don't marvel at how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I do. I don't take any of it lightly.
What is the #1 book you always recommend and why?
“The Alchemist.” It's timeless and deeply meaningful no matter what stage of life you're in.
If you could go back to the beginning of your career journey—with the knowledge you have now—what advice would you give yourself?
Remember who you are.
Fill in the blanks:
When I feel fear, I…
Talk it out with my small tribe of girlfriends.
To be successful, you need to be…
Utterly convinced that you deserve good things.
If there were more hours in the day, I would…
Learn a new language (or five).
The three qualities that got me to where I am today are…
Adaptability, resourcefulness, and diligence.
The change I’d like to see in my industry is…
To understand the responsibility that comes with influence. This ranges from fact-checking posts before sharing them to leveraging our platforms for meaning rather than money alone.