My 2016 Annual Review: Aeshia DeVore Branch

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2016 was painted with so many pops of color and shades of grey.  The previous 365 days were filled with hard lessons, unexpected losses, tough love, beautiful truths, and surprising triumphs for me. New doors of opportunities have opened and long exhausting chapters have ended. Throughout the ups and downs, I managed to stand strong, encouraged, and supported by my faith and the amazing people in my circle. So I decided to conduct my FIRST Annual Review and share it publicly. This exercise has been so helpful to evaluate and reflect on the successes and failures of the previous 12 months, but also because I think it is important to hold myself publicly accountable to the many girls who have been inspired to follow my lead.
 
So here it is!
 
I will answer 3 questions in my 2016 Annual Review:
 
1. What went well this year?
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
3. What am I working toward?

2016 was such a blessing for me, but I also failed on several fronts. The good stuff is in Part I, the bad stuff is in Part II, and the future is Part III. I hope you find it useful and interesting.

1. What went well this year?

Here’s what went well:

Marriage. After being thrown a few obstacles with the sale of our New Jersey home that we built from the ground up 9 years ago (watch my house farewell video), 2016 proved that my guy and I could survive anything! I am so in awe of my heroic husband and his ability to keep our family grounded. We celebrated our 12th year anniversary on November 7th, and I’m feeling good about the next 50+ years.

Mentoring. Besides being a mother to the most creative and courageous girls on the planet, it is truly an honor to mentor some of the most talented female students EVER. As a team, we enjoyed a very successful year writing on prettygirlssweat.com. Some of my favorite articles were about "Women Who Support Each Other are the Real Winners", "Waka Flocka Inspired Me to Become Vegan", and pretty much every story in our SWEATLEBRITY section.

Writing highlights for 2016:
·       369 new articles published this year
·       1,011 new email subscribers this year
·       6,544 total email subscribers as of December 31, 2016
·       71,628 registered users on prettygirlssweat.com
·       212,312 unique visitors this year
·       280,335 unique visitors since Pretty Girls Sweat LLC launched as a business on September 9, 2015

Fitness. In 2015, I exercised 104 times. In 2016, I increased that number to 116 workouts, which is an average of 9.6 per month. Considering how challenging this year was and how much I jammed into this year, I feel good about that number:

Workouts per month in 2016:
·       January – 9
·       February – 10
·       March – 9
·       April – 9
·       May – 11
·       June – 8
·       July – 12
·       August – 5
·       September – 10
·       October – 7
·       November – 4
·       December – 22

Fitness Parties. In 2016, the PGS Dream Team produced 99 fun fitness events that have inspired female students to make their health a priority. 

My favorite fitness parties of the year were:

·       Celebrating 108 Women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (video)
·       5th Year Anniversary (video
·       Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Pink Party (video
·       90s Skate Party (video

Travel. I visited 2 countries and 8 states in 2016. I was so excited to travel to Portland, Oregon for the first time to speak on a Women in Sports panel at the Adidas HQ. It was truly an honor!

Travel highlights for 2016:

·       2 countries: Dominican Republic, Mexico.
·       8 states (1 new): California (twice), DC (twice), Florida (twice), New York, North Carolina, New York (twice), Oregon, Tennessee (four times).

Instagram. The main improvement I made this year was encouraging our 13 college chapters to start their own PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT accounts. For the first time, we have been able to get a consistent view of what college fitness looks likes nationwide. Our college ambassadors started posting their favorite workouts, featuring active students, and highlighting healthy foods on campus. This helped us hit over 17,700 followers in 2016.

Reading. I read 19 books in 2016, which is more than I have in any previous year. Here are some that I think are terrific and worth sharing: Year of Yes, #ASKGARYVEE, Body Book, and It’s My Pleasure.

Accepting help. No one succeeds alone. Like many entrepreneurs, I repeatedly fall victim to “superhero syndrome” and attempt to do everything myself. I improved in this area in 2016 by creating training tools to empower our team captains, outsourced help for difficult tasks, and caught the attention of some powerful women who wanted to support our goals. I hired interns to take repetitive tasks off my plate, worked with three new photographers / videographers, and partnered with a young executive at REVOLT to produce an epic workout. The result? Revenue doubled and we exceeded our fundraising goals for the Teen Diaries Foundation this year. I still have a long way to go when it comes to becoming a great team leader, but this year would not have been what it was without my mom, dad, Zanele, Buku, Kim, Andy, Elle, Carol, Al, Dawn, Nicole, Aliyah, Olivia, Denae, and the entire PGS Dream Team. Thank you all!

Visiting family and friends. This year, I made trips specifically to visit family and friends in Tennessee, New York, North Carolina, and California. I also hosted three dinners for friends in Atlanta, GA. Finally, I reunited with my childhood friends for a fun girls weekend in St. Petersburg, FL and again at Beyonce’s “The Formation World Tour”. My friends and family also celebrated my oldest daughter’s acting debut. It feels good to make these relationships a priority because doing so has been a weak point over the past few years. I’m excited to increase these in-person connections in 2017 by launching a monthly #WCW workout series.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Here’s what didn’t go well:

The loss of a relative. On Thursday, January 28, 2016, Alberta DeVore passed away at the age of 66 and I’m still not 100% clear on why. Alberta was my aunt and the loss of her life was extremely unexpected and tough to handle, especially after losing my aunt / godmother, Patricia Brown, five months prior. On a positive note, honoring both of these lost lives brought family members together from near and far.

Breaking off a friendship. I posted a throwback family photo 20 days after saying goodbye (on October 6th, 2016) to the first home my husband and I built and owned for almost a decade, because I was too emotional. I was happy to move on with my new life in Atlanta but the memories that we shared with our family and friends in that space made me extremely sentimental. A day later, I lost a friendship to someone who we opened our home to during the last year of owning it, did something unthinkable, never said thank you, had me utterly baffled and confused, and almost ruined my trust in people. Once I let go, and forgave her actions, blessings have continued to pour into my life. I am thankful for the friendship we had and the friendship we lost because I have learned so much due to that experience.

The Treadmill. During the year, I found myself repeatedly feeling like I was never ahead of things in my business and personal life. Whenever I was on track and running towards my goals, a trip, new commitment or intense work project would knock me back a few days or weeks from tackling my to-do list. My email inbox was overflowing, text messages piling up, thank you notes that never went out, deadlines slightly missed and there were inquiries I hadn’t followed up on. I also kept promising myself that I would set aside days to reach out to potential business contacts and follow-up with friends that could offer me valuable advice, but I never made the time. You can do it all, but not at the same time. That’s why I am eliminating distractions and developing a solid operations plan for 2017 and beyond.

Nutrition. After eating a strict pescaterian diet for three years, a family vacation leading into 2015 changed my eating habits. While in teh Domincan Republic, I was eating tons of salad that was being washed in tap water. As a result, I caught an amoeba parasite that had me in the bathroom every 20 minutes and afraid to eat anything uncooked. After a day with limited food intake, I ended up consuming a hamburger to ease my hunger pains. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back since. I eat a reasonably healthy diet, but—like most people—I probably think I eat better than I actually do. One thing is for certain, moving to Atlanta, GA has me eating Chick-fil-A way more than I need too. Our #nofastfoodchallenge in October helped me kick this addiction. As a result, I have decided to return to my pescaterian diet in 2017.

Lack of sleep. I honestly can say that my skin is losing the glow it once had and I’m suffering from more breakouts than I have in the past due to not getting the 8 or 9 hours of rest that my body needs. Working late nights and rising early in the morning had me averaging 4 to 6 hours of sleep per night. I have a lot of room for improvement in this area.
 

3. What am I working toward?

My attention will be focused on five areas in 2017.

Take good care of myself first. I have to remind myself that self-care is not selfish. You must tend to your own mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being first before trying to help someone else. If I haven’t learned anything else from flight attendants while sitting on planes, waiting to take off it’s this: “In the event of an emergency, please make sure your own oxygen mask is working properly before you attempt to assist others.”
 
Be mindful of what I consume. Food, friendships, media, everything. I'm getting rid of the toxic junk that doesn’t stimulate my mind, body and spirit in a healthy way. I am so focused on being a student this year. Reading, writing, and erasing all fear of asking questions. My thirst for knowledge is at an all time high.
 
Become a certified health coach. This is priority number one. I have a great team supporting me and it’s my responsibility to lead them to the best of my ability. I can’t wait to save enough money to enroll!
 
Eliminate time wasters. My biggest struggles in 2016 were caused by trying to do too much in too little time. As our community and my business has grown, my time has become stretched. I need to get better about protecting my schedule, making wise partnership choices, and ruthlessly eliminating everything except the most important tasks.

Tell deeper stories. This year, I want to tell more compelling stories through our instagram, newsletter, and youtube platforms. Maybe this means adding audio (a podcast, perhaps?) or filming a video interview series. In any case, I want to tell stories that make a difference while continuing to offer practical ideas for how to live better.
 
2016 was a magical year for me and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store. There aren’t many jobs where you can work on what you want, impact people in a positive way, and live a good lifestyle all at the same time. I’m so lucky to have this opportunity and I will never take it for granted. As always, it is a privilege to share this all with you. I have said many times that I am not an expert. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just trying to become a better person and I’m excited to be honest about the lessons I learn along the way. Thanks for reading. HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Shout out to James Clear for inspiring me to do an Annual Review this year.

FOUNDER | Aeshia is living her dream. The social entrepreneur unites and empowers girls to be health leaders in their communities. The child obesity epidemic along with the void of entertaining yet positive fitness content and events for young women (ages 13-22) led to the conception and rapid growth of her passionate venture. Before creating Pretty Girls Sweat, Aeshia worked in the TV industry for over 9 years - working her way up from an intern at ABC to a producer on Sundance Channel's celebrated, primetime series ICONOCLASTS. The former high school athlete (track, volleyball, and basketball) and proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was also a model for Wilhelmina in New York City. In her free time, the wife and mother of three girls enjoys reading inspirational books, listening to music, eating great food with friends, and enjoying the outdoors.