the wildernest team

We all have different backgrounds, personalities, skills, and motivators, but were drawn together by the desire to make the world a braver, wilder, and better place. We wanted to create a space where women just like us could nurture and grow their ideas and passions into world-changing businesses. And alas, Wildernest was born.

Meet the chicks

Hey, meet us! We’re just like you. Seriously! We’ve dealt with all the same crap: the micro-managers, the non-existent work/life “balance”, the brutal hours, the being called “sweetheart” on conference calls, the guilt of taking your hard-earned vacation days, and the general dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment. We’ve also spent our early mornings, lunch breaks, and way-past-our-bedtimes dreaming about our big escape and plotting our next move.

The only thing that makes us different is that we took the leap. It was messy and hard and exhausting and absolutely terrifying. But the payoff was living the exact lives we’d dreamt about in our Pinterest boards.

We made our “Someday” our “Right. Fucking. Now.”

Now it’s your turn.

We’re going to help you navigate the wilderness, build a solid nest, incubate your idea, and get you and your business ready to fly out into the world. We’re your wing-women.

Stephanie Goldfinger

CEO/Creative Director

lisa val verde

COO/CMO

alicia ward

Strategic Marketing Director

andrea kalan

Digital Marketing Director

emily johnston

Design Director

gabi defosse

Copy Director
Get to know us

stephanie goldfinger

CEO/Creative Director – Le Chef

USA/Bali, Indonesia/Earth

There was always a path laid out for me – the road heavily traveled and pre-approved by the world. Prestigious university, marketable and respectable degree, coveted internships, immediately followed by an enviable career, marriage, family, white picket fence and all the things that go along with it. While I marched to the beat of that excruciatingly loud drum for a while, I always knew in my gut that this traditional way of doing things didn’t vibe with my heart. I yearned for more. I craved purpose; I lived for creativity; I desired freedom; and I wanted to find something that spoke to my soul, not everyone else’s. So I wandered, switching careers, starting businesses, and grabbing opportunities, to try to find something that truly spoke to my soul. I became a serial creative entrepreneur, and in that path none of my choices were linear; none of them quite made sense at the time; and none of it was planned. I just kept leaping when something undeniable in my gut told me – this is the right move.

“Eventually, in the mirror of these women, I finally found my trinity: Freedom, Creativity, and Passion. I quickly began to develop my own unique recipe for creating a brave, impactful, and wild-hearted business.”

A few years ago, having worked myself into a perpetual state of illness from the endless, stress-filled, exhausting hours and thoroughly hating my life, I exited the company I co-founded and thought was my ultimate-end-of-the-road-dream-business-venture (and which was on its way to becoming a huge success). In the days that followed, I drew up a brilliant business plan for my next big idea, smiled to myself for finally “figuring it all out” as I pressed PRINT, and took off on a road trip up the West coast to commemorate my next chapter. As I cruised the PCH, feeling freer than I ever had with that trusty business plan in the passenger’s seat, I suddenly realized

that this trip was not only marking the beginning of my new venture, but also the end of my newfound freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want. My business idea was flawless on paper, and the company would undoubtedly be successful, but I’d be falling back into the same pattern of burn-out, being tied to one place, and not fulfilling my greater purpose (whatever that would turn out to be). So somewhere around the Washington-Oregon border, I literally threw my business plan out the window in favor of the great unknown (who knows, maybe an enterprising coyote found it and is now living his best live as an entrepreneur in Portland).

I quickly ditched LA, packed my overstuffed suitcases, and began to search the world for Freedom and her soul mates, Creativity and Purpose, because I firmly believe that nothing helps your find yourself like being totally and utterly lost. A few months after I threw my plan to the coyotes, I landed in Bali and saw my first glimpse of everything I had been seeking. For the first time in my life, I was completely surrounded by incredibly inspiring women doing exactly what I wanted to do: living life by their own rules, working at something they truly gave a shit about, and prioritizing freedom and passion over status and the status quo. They were really happy and ridiculously good at their jobs, but I soon discovered many of their businesses were failing to take off. Some had slapped their companies together without much intention, often skipping big-deal steps that were biting them in the ass down the road, and others were just too scared to take the leap  to the big leagues. They longed for a road map, a step-by-step guide to tell them how to build a financially successful business that still fit within their dream lives. With every woman I met during my travels, every conversation we had about their lives and businesses, every pain point I discovered they were facing, every hurdle we overcame together, and every empowering talk I gave, my true path forward began to take shape. 

Eventually, in the mirror of these women, I finally found my trinity: Freedom, Creativity, and Passion. I quickly began to develop my own unique recipe for creating a brave, impactful, and wild-hearted business. Combining all my insights gathered and lessons learned with the brilliance of the diverse (yet idealistically aligned) women I met along the way, I founded Wildernest. And guess what? All of a sudden, the eclectic set of skills I gained from every twist and turn in my journey, every failed venture, and every inexplicable 180 made perfect sense. It became clear that each experience (good, bad, and really damn ugly) ended up being essential to my standing right here today, guiding you on your journey, empowering you to have the courage to brave the wilderness of business ownership, and helping you harness your power to create real change in your life, the lives of those around you, and the world.

Oh, and spoiler: it’s going to be fucking brilliant.

lisa val verde

COO/ CMO – Chief of Getting Shit Done

Singapore

I’ve always been a bit of an oxymoron, but I have a strong sense of self and simply gravitate toward things I Iove. In college, I was a mechanical engineering major and a cheerleader (which many found an unusual combination). Over time, these seemingly disparate interests continued to evolve into a love for both innovation and empowering others to pursue their dreams. In business, this has proven to be a valuable and complementary combination.

I consider myself a natural problem solver and am not burdened by adversity, but instead find ways to challenge the status quo to constantly improve the world around me. I’ve always liked the idea of staying stubborn about your goals but flexible about your methods, a mentality that has served me well over the years. When it comes to supporting new businesses and businesswomen, I believe growth and innovation come from encouraging women to stand by what they want, embody the lives they envision for themselves, and challenge traditional conventions to create an environment that drives and celebrates change. At Wildernest, I am in league with women who also

inspire and enable a community of other women to become catalysts for change. And when a strong community of passionate (and compassionate) women band together to create thriving businesses, the world will evolve for the better.

“I believe growth and innovation come from encouraging women to stand by what they want, embody the lives they envision for themselves, and challenge traditional conventions to create an environment that drives and celebrates change.”

I’ve spent 10+ years in marketing – everything from concept to commercialization on a global landscape.  I loved the ability to make an impact. To me, that’s what it’s always been about. One of the most meaningful experiences in my career was leading my company’s Asia Pacific Women’s Network. I feel an innate sense of connection with the brilliant community of women I come across every day, and a great passion for female professional and personal development. I found that often as women, our true competitor is the voice in our heads that says “Stay your course and don’t venture off. You’re not good enough.” My mother always encouraged me to “Let them tell you no,” and over time I think it broke down my fear of rejection and ultimately changed my life. It gave me the courage to ask for everything I wanted and worked for, no matter how big or small. And trust me when I say that so many things have not worked out in my favor, but then again, so many did! In my mind, I would rather knowing I tried than telling myself no and living with fear and regret. Our collective power is so great and I, like so many amazing women who have inspired me, feel a strong responsibility to help other women break down their own walls to achieve their full potential (we might be the underdogs, but we pack a hell of a bite!).

If you have a fire in your gut – a dream that you want to pursue – I’m here to say, “You can do it!.” It’s simultaneously exciting and scary to start a business, but I wholeheartedly believe in responding to every call that excites your spirit.

alicia ward

Strategic Marketing Director – Marketing Mama

Niagara Falls, ON Canada

I was raised by a strong mother who had me when she was young, but who worked her ass off to achieve a successful career in engineering and raise a happy family. I’m very much my mother’s daughter. Before I had my baby this year, I would say one of my biggest motivators in life was impressing my mom. Now that I’ve become a mother, I have a whole new appreciation for her and what it took to raise her kids, put herself through school, find a career she loves, and build a life where she’s thriving. I strive to be even a fraction of the role model she’s been, and to provide for my family with my own career path.

Just over a year ago my husband’s career in the military required that we move, but I couldn’t take my job at the time along with me. I was going through a massive adjustment period with moving and finding out I was pregnant soon after. It was a crazy whirlwind of change all at once! I’d briefly thought about going back to work in an office setting, but pregnancy seriously kicked my butt and staying home really was the best option for me at the time. I had over 5 years in corporate marketing roles, freelance, and sales, and while I did actually enjoy aspects of both the corporate

environment and the freelance life, building something of my own offered a level of flexibility and freedom that made the most sense with my goals and lifestyle. I loved the idea that I could create a business that I’d be able to grow wherever I went.

“we were so aligned in wanting to start something for ourselves and use our expertise and skills to help other women build businesses that would allow them to “have it all” however they defined it.”

I’ve struggled (as many women do) with work/life balance and the idea of “having it all” – a successful career I can be proud of, great family, happy marriage, big house, all while being a good mom… with the added challenge of being an army wife who moves every few years. With every move, I have to restart the career part, and depending on where we go, who knows if the right opportunities will be there?! When I met Stephanie and the future Wildernest Women, we were so aligned in wanting to start something for ourselves and use our expertise and skills to help other women build businesses that would allow them to “have it all” however they defined it.

I believe in the work we’re doing, empowering female entrepreneurs to create and own something that they can continually foster and grow, which is something women are inherently good at anyway. Becoming a mother has allowed me to create and nurture a life. Businesses are a lot like babies actually, minus the diapers – they wake you up in the middle of the night, require constant love and attention, and force you to grow alongside them. Women are so capable and are such strong business leaders, but look at the top Fortune 500 companies – how many CEOs are women? You can’t tell me it’s because women are less capable or don’t negotiate enough. There’s an implicit bias in the workforce and women are working harder than ever to upset that bias, but at the end of the day one of the most efficient ways to become a CEO is to start your own company and build from there. It feels really good to be the boss and so many men get to do it, so why shouldn’t we? That’s why Wildernest is so important – we’re working to balance the scales and give women the support and guidance to be the boss of their own companies and their own lives.

*I’m currently on maternity leave but will return to Wildernest when I’m back!

andrea kalan

Digital Marketing Director – Marketing Maven

Tampa, Florida USA

I was always a good student and an overachiever at every stage in my path to the Wildernest. Status quo was a pretty big part of my life. I wanted validation through feedback confirming I was smart and doing a good job, and through upward movement know that I was successful and on the right path. I’ve worked in digital marketing for 10 years in various roles and companies and I’ve learned a hell of a lot about my goals, values, and self in that time.

Recently, though, I began wondering if this truly made me happy. It took some serious soul searching and honest self-reflection to admit that I needed more. I craved fulfillment with a deeper purpose. I wanted to connect with clients on a personal level and help the struggling underdog and naïve newbie, not just work to improve profits for established companies. I wanted to inspire others and have a direct impact on changing lives.

It was around this time that a connection I made at a networking event changed my life. What started out as getting headshots for my new (I’m-taking-this-seriously-now!) freelance website, turned into an opportunity to create something even bigger. The shoot director, Stephanie, introduced me to a group of brilliant and passionate women with whom I felt I’d found my professional girl squad. Together we entered the wilderness and started building a business that would help women just like us pursue their dreams and define their own success.

“I have found validation from inside myself by listening to my heart and living my values while using my skills.”

In building Wildernest, I have created the lifestyle I need to be my most full, creative self. I have found validation from inside myself by listening to my heart and living my values while using my skills. I started measuring my success by the level of passion and excitement I had for what I was doing. And most importantly, I found the power to use my voice to advocate for myself and others.

I believe that everyone should have a fair shot at life and doing whatever makes them happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Not everyone will understand or agree with your choices and that’s OK; let go of being a people pleaser. Stand up for what you want and believe in. I have made this my mantra, “Do no harm, but take no shit”. In this regard, I have found my purpose-soulmates in the badass Wildernest Women. And we’re here to help you do the same.

emily johnston

Design Director – Visual Virtuoso

Denver, Colorado USA

My purpose in life, my WHY, is simply to bring happiness to the world through creating beauty. This has been my mantra and my driving purpose during my 11 years as an Art Director & Graphic Designer when setting the vision and strategy for brands, and delivering innovative and creative solutions for clients. I love to solve design problems and tell compelling stories through visual expression, and my happy place is when I’m transforming a nugget of an idea into something wildly beautiful. My ultimate goal is to thoughtfully develop a brand’s aesthetic into something tangible, something that truly speaks to their overall mission and purpose and captures the hearts of their audience in a thoughtful and clever way.

I truly love what I do, but in recent years, I’ve been living in a stage of personal exploration, striving to understand who I am, what I’m doing, and where I belong.

“But in the journey of entering the wilderness, I have learned to find that value within, and am finally discovering my true inner voice that is begging to be spoken and heard. “

Throughout this exploration and awakening, I have found that I’ve always felt I was built a certain way, to always follow the rules, and to go along with the path that I thought I was “supposed” to follow. And I’m only just now discovering how important it is to me to feel that I am valued and celebrated for my contribution to the world, especially within the design community. But in the journey of entering the wilderness, I have learned to find that value within, and am finally discovering my true inner voice that is begging to be spoken and heard.

Bringing visual beauty to our Wildernest community has been one of the most rewarding projects of my career and has made me feel seen, heard, and reassured that I’m not on this journey alone. Sometimes what you really need is for someone who has been through the same thing as you to validate that what you’re feeling is normal and to explain how to get out of your own way – and do that on the regular! The sense of belonging and the mindset awareness is so critical for women (including myself!) to navigate their own journeys. And remember, while your journey is your own, you aren’t alone. By joining forces with the women of the Wildernest I have found that true belonging I have been seeking, deep sense of being valued, and know now that my voice will never be silenced again – and my wish for you is to feel the same when you join our flock!

gabi defosse

Copy Director – Wordsmithstress (see, smithing words as we speak!)

Bali, Indonesia

I used to live inside what I believed was the “dream” path – climbing the ladder in the entertainment industry, glamorously working in film packaging and comedy talent management in Los Angeles, then catapulting into a “big job” as a Client Executive at IBM managing some big Bay Area tech accounts. After a few years of arbitrary (and unobtainable) quotas and thousands of inane emails (“Will circle back,” and “Out of pocket until Tuesday,” and “Target the low hanging fruit.”), I felt like everything I was doing was inconsequential. I got sick of playing the part of who I thought I should be. I got sick of measuring success how other people said I should. I just couldn’t be that girl anymore. I didn’t recognize her and I didn’t like her. After about a year, a good friend asked me who the hell I’d become, and when she broke off our friendship, it broke my heart. 

So instead of continuing down the path I was on to a value-barren wasteland and crippling depression, I decided I needed to break up with the life I’d built. It was an

“I got sick of playing the part of who I thought I should be. I got sick of measuring success how other people said I should.”

emotional and logistical clusterfuck. The “jump” involved moving twice and eventually ending up back in my mom’s house – directionless, insecure, and scarily close to hopeless. After that, I had absolutely no plan, but figured I’d take a couple months off to either “find my passion” OR just find a different, hopefully-more-satisfying job. I did neither. 

It was terrifying, inevitable, and entirely worthwhile.

What came next played out in ways I could have never predicted from the halls of my “perfect” university, or from the shiny board rooms of my “perfect” corporate life, or from the spotless bathroom floor I cried all over in my “perfect” (and absurdly overpriced for a… what’s smaller than a shoe box?) San Francisco apartment. I ended up quitting “perfect” and embracing messy. I took over a year off, met the love of my life, traveled the world, and somehow ended up moving to Bali. One day, as I merrily made my way through my second scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip at my favorite ice cream shop, I met a woman who liked to talk to strangers (Stephanie) who asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” Nobody had ever asked me that, but after a brief moment of panic, I answered,  “Write.” So I showed this arrestingly charismatic lady some things I’d written (and would’ve never DARED show anyone before) and now I write. I’m a WRITER! And it’s no small feat for me to say that. I was a math major; writing was supposed to be left to the literary girls, the ones who read every book in the library, had Sunday-morning writing circles, and knew lotsa words really good; and anyway writing wasn’t a practical career, just something reserved for the “chosen few” who, of course, knew something I didn’t. But now, here I am, a god damn writer living my new “perfect” life – and honestly, it’s actually fucking perfect.

Building Wildernest and being part of this community of incredibly driven and passionate women has given me the space to figure out what my true calling is, and to help other women who may have taken a similarly circuitous (and at times practically vomitous) route to figure out theirs. As it turns out, I have determined my actual big-time WHY, my raison d’etre, is to make people laugh. And I think the world could use a few solid belly-laughs, don’t you? (I mean, come on, “vomitous”? …anyone?)

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