Vanessa Chandler is a co-founder, general manager and a creative writer at Red Arrow Media, a media production company located in Northern California. Living in various locales around the world has guided Vanessa’s dream journey.
Sam's Dream Blog: Tell me a little bit about your background. I know you spent some time in Africa. How has that shaped your view of life?
Vanessa Chandler: Growing up in Africa was absolutely incredible. Just being around people that had nothing, but they were peaceful with themselves even though they had nothing. They were very poor. That definitely shaped me in terms of wanting to see people reach their full potential and have justice in their lives for the things that happened that weren’t very good. Also I have a very broad worldview. If you haven’t traveled a lot, it’s hard to see things from a different perspective. Growing up in Africa taught me that there are so many different ways of seeing things. Also relationships in Africa started on a very deep level. If you didn’t ask how someone was doing and how his family was if you saw him on the street, it was very offensive. Learning to have deep relationships and care about people in a very deep way, as well as an appreciation for nature, was some of what I learned.
SDB: You also teach as well right now, correct?
Vanessa Chandler: I do. I teach a couple classes at a charter school. I teach English and history part-time. I do that to provide for myself as I’m building a company so I don’t have to go into debt and so that we are not borrowing money to build the company. I’m pursuing my dreams but also being wise about finances. A lot of people start businesses and they pitch to investors. They go into debt several hundred thousand dollars, and sometimes more, to those investors. If they don’t return profit right away, it can become a very messy situation. We decided to build it as we go and to pay for things as we go. Most of the people that work for the company have side jobs.
SDB:What’s been your journey to becoming a publisher?
Vanessa Chandler: I’ve loved writing. I wrote my first novel in seventh grade. Actually on my title pages, I wrote 'published by Vanessa J. Chandler' even though I never anticipated becoming a publisher. I worked on my own novel for quite a few years. I went through the process of getting that published. I had an agent, but I got really discouraged with the agent and with what publishing companies were willing to give the author. It felt like they would take most of your money but not highlight you and not do much for you unless you were already famous. I felt like I could do a better job myself. What led me into publishing was wanting to do something for my own book. When I decided to do that, all these other projects started falling into my lap. It became something like, 'Oh my gosh, people want my help,' and this is a niche that needs to be filled. Why don’t I just do this publishing? Not only will I be a writer, but I can also build a business, fund my writing projects through this business and help other people reach their dreams.
SDB: With no background in publishing, how did you get up to speed?
Vanessa Chandler: That was a process as well. After working on my novel for a while, I decided that I needed to move to Los Angeles to learn how to take my writing to the next level. I moved down there to work for a media company. I was going to learn more of the film side of things, but it so happened that I got connected with a publisher down in that area and started working for them. It kind of opened up a bunch of different publishers. I was in that world and learned the process of what a book goes through.
It’s been a huge learning curve. The publishing/writing side was easy because I’ve already had a lot of experience in that. The harder part for me was learning about business because I had no experience in that. Honestly the best experience has been jumping in. When you don’t know what to do and you have to find out yourself and do it, you end up learning a lot.
SDB: What are your dreams for Red Arrow?
Vanessa Chandler: For me specifically, my dream is to develop the company in such a way that we are producing media and literature that is excellent and world changing in all different forms. That’s photos, documentaries, books and magazines. I would like to have an international team that goes to different countries to report on social justice issues.
SDB: What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
If you have a dream, you have to believe in it, and you have to go after it no matter what people say. There will always be naysayers. Really, the only person stopping you is you. It’s important to find out who you are and to remember your identity. It’s a lot about perseverance.
You have to come to a place where you pursue your dream, but it can’t be your identity. It can’t be what gives you fulfillment. Otherwise whenever there’s discouragement, it’s going to break you down and make you quit.
Trust in God. You’re going to encounter a lot of people as you pursue your dreams who might end up betraying you or what you are doing. Build your relationships wisely. You can’t put all your trust in people around you. Have a circle of people around you who are going to be with you on your journey and encourage you, and who you can trust.
SDB: How have you overcome obstacles?
Vanessa Chandler: You cry. Your writing gets rejected, but you also have to take constructive criticism. You have to take the comments that people say that maybe you don’t want to hear and use those comments to make your writing better or your dream better. If you really feel like it’s something you’re meant to do, you have to trust that it’s going to happen.