We had the good fortune of connecting with Sherry Eklund and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sherry, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’m going to step back in time a little bit, 14 years ago my husband and I started an aerial photography business, which we have absolutely loved, (we love flying, we love working together) however, for a variety of reasons, over the past few years we have slowly been phasing out of the business. This led me to an opportunity to re-invent myself and change my path and personal journey. It was about 3 years ago that I started hearing and reading about situations that were occurring all in a short period of time, each having the same theme…a situation which was due to teens not knowing what resources were available to them and how to access them. I also became very aware of the teen suicide problem in the state of Arizona, especially in the East Valley, where we live. As I did the research, I found that there really wasn’t a place for teens to go to get resources designated just for them. I decided at that point my new mission in life would be to help fill that void and create one place for teenage girls (13 yrs. – 20 yrs.) to find resources and information to support their emotional and physical well-being. However, I wanted to be more than just a directory of resources and services, I wanted to have a magazine like feel and bring in articles that talked to them about body positivity, relationships, mindfulness, sex, self-empowerment, and so much more. After visiting with my own naturopathic doctor, we decided to additionally create a Health & Wellness team for the website. The girls can email in questions to the team and the Q & A gets posted on the website (all anonymously). In June of 2018, I launched TeenStrongAZ.com, a website that provides a directory of state-wide resources, plus information/education to address the needs of teenage girls. Recently I updated the website domain to be IamTeenStrong.com to help position us for growth outside of Arizona. I am currently on track to expand the website to include a state-wide directory of resources for Colorado by the first of 2021.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I have learned so much about the issues facing teens, and I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to create a product (website) that is truly distinctive and helps address important societal issues for the girls…suicide, body image, and eating disorders to name a few. The website is a unique blend of life resources, information, and the opportunity to share personal stories to inspire and encourage others. By talking about puberty and body changes, body positivity, self-empowerment, and emotional health, the goal is to build the girls up from the inside out so they never consider suicide the solution to any situation. I’ve been able to connect with so many wonderful psychologists, social workers, and counselors who provide excellent insight and information to our readers; I know that we are helping the girls grow into strong, confident, and resilient young women. Our mission is very “non-profit like” and most folks assume that we are a non-profit organization; however, using an on-line magazine business model, we are a for-profit company, Teen Strong, LLC, generating revenue through advertisers/sponsors. Pre-COVID 19, I was out in the community each week meeting with schools, community programs and other organizations to help get the word out on Teen Strong. I’m proud to say that we have grown our readership tremendously and regularly average 1,000 visits to the website each month…and will continue to grow. Teen Strong proudly supports everyone, regardless of their personal situation, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. I get pushback because I have partnered with Planned Parenthood of AZ to share education and information about our bodies, sex, and sexual relationships. I additionally get pushback because of our support of the LGBTQ community; however, this does not bother nor deter me. In fact, I’m currently working to create a LGBTQ Life section on the website to further support this community. I have learned that our website has helped in the saving of two lives (and there may be more that we don’t know about) and I could not be more proud and humbled. As a Teen Girl Advocate, I will continue to work to make a difference and help change and save lives.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We have too many favorites to squeeze everything into one week, but here’s a list to get us started… * Sitting outside enjoying appetizers and Bulldog Margaritas at The Grille at Las Sendas Golf Club * Beautiful drive up north to explore the red rocks of Sedona. While there need to relax with a spa day at Los Abrigados Resort & Spa, Creekside breakfast at L’Auberge de Sedona, and lunch at The Asylum Restaurant in Jerome. * Enjoy a wonderful dinner at 3 Kings Kasbar located in Old Town Cottonwood * Need a couple days to visit the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), and maybe take in one of their fabulous jazz concerts * Dinner at Elements, Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa is also a must
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My biggest shoutout goes to my husband Brett! Without him I would not be the woman, entrepreneur, and success that I am today. My mom, sister and brother-in-law are also huge cheerleaders for me and I thank them with all my heart for their loving support.