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Fireside chat with Joyce Shulman, CEO of 99 Walks

Who is Joyce Shulman?

I am the co-founder and CEO of 99 Walks. I’ve always been a bit of an idea junkie—new ideas get me excited! For the past two decades, I’ve been an entrepreneur focused on women and committed to building authentic communities. I’m the author of Walk Your Way to Better, and host of The Weekly Walk Podcast. I have the honor of speaking on the topics that are most important to me: women, wellness, walking and the power of real communities. Yikes, I’m busy. Maybe too busy….

What’s the story behind 99 Walks?

Throughout my life, walking has been a key practice for me. It’s the way I’ve processed challenging things, ideating my most creative and powerful ideas, and kept my body healthy and strong. Years ago, I began walking with friends, and through those many long walks, I discovered the power of walking together to connect people.

During that time, I was working with hundreds of women as the CEO of the digital publishing platform Macaroni Kid. I kept seeing two things over and over again: women are lonely and disconnected (I went on to discover a ton of research that supports what I observed) and, despite the fact that we’ve never known more than we know right now about what it takes to be healthy and well, the incidence of obesity and preventable diseases continues to rise.

It occured to my husband (who has been my business partner throughout our entire entrepreneurial journey) and me that finding ways to get women up, connected and walking could have tremendous positive impact.

And 99 Walks was born.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Everything! Just kidding. Actually, it isn’t the early beginnings that are most difficult for me. I launch into projects with tremendous enthusiasm and ready to figure it all out and I absolutely love that part of the journey. Where it gets more difficult, for me at least, is when the day-to-day becomes so busy and all-consuming that I have less bandwidth to address and solve the inevitable challenges that arise, pretty much non-stop, in a business’ life cycle. That’s the part I find most challenging.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Hands down the incredible impact we are having on the women in our community. Every single day we hear from our “Pack Members” about how 99 Walks has profoundly impacted their lives. They have learned to better manage their anxiety, gotten off medications, connected in a meaningful way with other Pack Members and learned to take better care of themselves. Lives are truly being changed and nothing makes me prouder. We know that a regular walking practice seems like a very simple thing, but it is often difficult to create new habits, even if they are valuable ones, and we have created a program that is simple but incredibly powerful.

What is your vision for the future of 99 Walks?

We are on a mission to get a million women walking their way to better.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

We have to become even more comfortable planning and strategizing despite uncertainty. It is very challenging to make plans knowing that there is a real chance that they will get disrupted and that we will be forced to pivot and adjust. But that’s okay. Learning to pivot and adjust is a critical skill set and one that we are all getting plenty of opportunities to practice these days.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

As a tech start up ourselves, we are deep into all kinds of platforms, technologies and partners that can help us better understand our members and deliver the best possible experience. We are constantly testing and evaluating a variety of SAAS products. And as a virtual team, we are deeply reliant on Basecamp and Google suite.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

I have a morning practice of reading five pages of a book that I believe will teach me something or make my life better in some way. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but five pages a day adds up. I am currently reading The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph and my favorite, which I keep around because it makes me smile, is The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. The other thing on my nightstand is the NYT Sunday Crossword Puzzle.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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