“She who dares wins,” is how Lizzy Okoro lives her daily life. With that being one of her favorite quotes at the moment, and her bio on Instagram, you could imagine what kind of woman she is.
I had the opportunity to talk to Lizzy over coffee and the loud background noise at Starbucks about everything: childhood memories, inspirational quotes, relationships with parents, creatives, and career changes.
The L.A. native grew up in the valley. As a child, she had always been ambitious. She was very entrepreneur-minded and was always thinking of ways to become rich. “I recruited my friends into selling trading cards and I would get a cut from everything that they sold,” she reminisced, laughing at herself. “I was such a weird kid. I think that I’m actually more child-like now.”
She attended UC Berkeley as a pre-law major. However, she realized her sophomore year that being a lawyer is something she didn’t have a passion for. Being already fully committed to it, she decided to double-major in something that included mass communications, media studies and sociology altogether: interdisciplinary studies.
“I had known for 3 years that I didn’t want to do it but I never told my parents. Finally, I told my mom and she was really disappointed. She didn’t really understand why I had changed my mind and not told them,” Okoro said.
Especially as a child of an immigrant parent, she said it was hard for her because she felt like she would disappoint them. “My dad responded much better than I thought he would but he still to this day is like, ‘law school!’ but my parents really support me. They’re like, ‘even if it’s not our vision for you, we know that at the end of the day you’re gonna pull through’ so I feel very lucky to have them,” Okoro said. Now they’re her biggest fans and even pass out her business cards to family and friends.
During her time in New York studying at Parsons The New School for Design for graduate school, she met a lot of people who inspired her. The type of people who were creative and ambitious. She was introduced to many jobs she had never heard of, one of them being an art restorer. An art restorer is someone who paints over artwork to restore them from fading or destruction due to natural disasters, she said. She met one of the top art restorers in the world through a friend and was fascinated by the idea of an artist who isn’t starving. Because people usually think of artist as “starving artists,” she wanted to tell the other side of the story.
With a full-time job and attending graduate school, she studied other magazines to get an insight of what it takes to create one. Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company being some of them. Then, BUNCH Magazine was created–effortlessly and daringly.
“There was a movement happening where people were getting back to wanting to touch and feel and hold a magazine, and things feeling important if it was a magazine form. So I was like, yeah! Lets go, lets do it,” she said. “I probably should’ve thought about it a whole lot more but I really didn’t. I was kind of like, how do you start a magazine? Literally googled it and just started that way.”
As the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, she has faced a couple challenges that have pushed her to dare fearlessly. As a woman, she constantly battles with the thought of asking for something she deserves, she said. She has learned that it is more difficult for women to ask for things, such as ad sales, because women often feel like they are bothering people.
“That’s a huge issue that I’m really trying to overcome and it maybe a self-imposed one. Honestly, in terms of the industry right now I feel like women are really kickin’ ass and taking game,” Okoro said.
Being a woman of color has also triggered surprising reactions. “It’s hard to tell exactly but people assume that I am something else. So when I show up on set, you can kind of see on their faces,” she said. People assume she has another title and often ask her how she started writing for the magazine. Once she says she’s the founder/editor-in-chief, “they are really more mystified,” she said.
No matter what challenges she faces, she always goes back to her motto: “She who dares wins.”
“You can either ask or not ask. The thing is when you don’t ask, the answer is always going to be no. When you don’t try, the answer is always going to be no–that you failed. I never really believe that you’ve failed if you’ve tried. I’ve only failed when I haven’t tried.”