April 8, 2021
If you’re a person who struggles with knowing your identity and worth outside of your career. If you feel worthless if no one buys from you, or if a launch isn’t as successful as you hoped, and you struggle with having a firm identity in who you are, today’s episode is for you. We had the absolute honor of chatting with Zim Flores.
Named a leader using her voice and talent to elevate humanity by Oprah Winfrey, Zim is the founder of Italicist, an online styling service that helps women discover modest clothing they love, without the time commitment. Previously she was the CEO of Travel Noire, a boutique travel company reaching millions of travelers each month. In 2017 she sold the company to pursue Christ. A serial entrepreneur, Zim is a Forbes“30 Under 30” awardee who has been featured in the New York Times, ELLE, Glamour, TIME, and NPR, among others. She often writes in faraway places and lives with her husband in Illinois.
Zim talks about her story of not feeling like she belonged, feeling hardship as a child to sudden and extreme success. How she navigated and found her identity in who God says she is amidst insane success. Why she gave up a wildly successful business even though everyone around her told her not to (and why it was the best decision she could’ve made) AND so many more things: like how to be a believer AND a business owner, how to have big goals & desires as a Christian, and so much more.
Seriously. Zim has SOOOO much goodness to share, and we promise after listening to this you’re gonna wanna be best friends with this girl. She has a way of speaking in such a way that you feel the presence of God and His peace. We know this episode is gonna bless you so much.
Zim always says that her story doesn’t just start with her. She doesn’t think anybody’s story just starts with them. It started for her with her grandmother, her family is Nigerian, and her grandmother grew up and was widowed in the ’60s in the African War. She had to raise all her children alone, she was a hustler, she was an entrepreneur and she got it done. Zim’s mom grew up in that same kind of environment and ended up in an arranged marriage with her father and found her way to Minnesota, in the dead of winter in 1980. The relationship that her mother and father had was an abusive one and so in the early ’90s, when Zim was one and a half, her mom left their father. It was one of those middle of the nights disappearing types of things. He was on a business trip in Nigeria, she packed her brother and her up and they left and went to California.
Zim’s entire upbringing was characterized by exploring. Trying to find her sense of place. She grew up in Minnesota as they eventually made their way back and were living in a community of people that didn’t look like her. She had to be comfortable with being different because there wasn’t anybody who looked like her, who fought like her, or acted like her. She became this kind of novelty if you will as she grew up in Minnesota.
Her mom took a nursing position and they moved down to North Carolina and ended up being around people who did look like Zim, but she still wasn’t accepted because she came from an African background. And back in the day being African or from the continent was not cool. Those two types of experiences shaped her upbringing and how she saw herself in the world.
Zim attended college and one of the first things that she did was clone genes, she was nineteen and had cloned this gene and that had similarities to this genetic disorder. She began to travel the US during her first two years in college, sharing her research and what she had done. She was the youngest pre-synced judge for the state of North Carolina. These unique kinds of experiences were what rooted this idea of being different and not allowing somebody’s idea of what she should be or do dictate how she decided to live. After she left college she told herself she wanted to move abroad, so she sold everything she owned and moved to India. Having never had Indian food before didn’t speak the language, it was a unique kind of experience. Zim lived and worked there and it was a game-changer. Her travel company would not have existed had it not been for the time she spent overseas.
After returning from Africa, Zim stayed with her mom (who wanted her to be a nurse). All she had was a couple hundred dollars in her account, so she booked a Greyhound to San Francisco. She crashed on a couch for six months and had four jobs, then ended up launching Travel Noir from her bedroom in 2013. That was an experience that changed her life, she had never started a company before, and for the most part, didn’t know what she was doing. But had this desire to tell a story about a person who looked like her, who could travel to all these different places, and still feel like they were home.
They grew Travel Noir to reach millions of travelers each month and hosted about sixty different experiences across five different continents. The ethos behind those experiences was you didn’t travel to see things but to travel to meet people. Ended up selling Travel Noir in 2017 because it was something that she felt like God was telling her to do, which was very empathetic to what others thought since she had such a successful business. But Zim had this desire to please God and that meant that to get comfortable with not being the travel girl, she wanted to be known as God’s girl. It took that sacrifice to step into all that God has called her to do and be.
There is this scripture in the book of Jonah that says “The Lord appointed a fish” and that fish was the fish that swallowed Jonah. Zim thinks about her life and the circumstances that happened to bring that entire situation ahead. A lot of times life is going good, it’s going great and there is a scenario or situation where all of a sudden feels like it came out of nowhere. But God orchestrates these circumstances in our lives to force our pause. In the summer of 2013 something really interesting happened to Zim.
Her boyfriend at the time, now her husband, decided that they were going to take a break. They wanted to consecrate themselves to the Lord and if moving forward was the next step together. At the time she would go to him about everything, and so we took this break at the end of June or July, and then her business went onto a terrible launch. It was thing after thing and she couldn’t call her boyfriend and talk to him. It was this circumstance or a series of circumstances that brought her to her knees. It was to a point where she didn’t want to talk to anybody, she wanted to rely on what it was that God wanted her to do. Wanting to download some sort of strategy for her to move forward and it took weeks of isolation and trying to figure out what it was that God was asking her to do. It first started with a decision she had to make. Zim would give this thing to Him if it is the thing that God wanted. If it is the thing that is hindering her from moving forward.
Zim thinks about Travel Noir not being a thing that was inherently bad but it was something that needed to be pruned for her to grow more abundantly. Those were the circumstances that led to selling the company and a long period of pruning that happened after that. God needed to prune her to bring her into the thing He had called her to do. She needed to get all of those things removed from her life.
Zim took herself on a retreat and started writing the book and felt like she was forcing her hand, so she put the book down. Later she was in a coffee shop one day and asked God to let her know if she was on the right path. She felt like she was swimming, but wasn’t sure if it was in the direction she was supposed to go. While at that coffee shop she received an email from an editor at HarperCollins and the conversation began about writing this book of her painful experience. She asked the editor how she had found her and she said she puts all her offers on a prayer list and when she feels like the Lord lets her move forward then she moves forward and she felt like this was time. It was a confirmation of what Zim had been thinking the previous fall when she took her writing retreat and set it down because she was forcing her hand.
Dare to Bloom is about identity. It’s about remembering who God says you are even when the thing that you define yourself by is no longer there. How many times have you moved to a new city and were like “I don’t feel like myself?”. We have attached our identity to a place. We have attached our identity to a person. We’ve attached our identity to a job and those things are always meant to change.
New York is always New York, but twenty years ago or fifty years ago it was a different kind of New York. Jobs change. Are there still milkmen? Things are destined to change and if we tie our identity to these things we are bound to be swaying with those particular changes.
When Zim changed from selling Travel Noir, it was her identity, she had rooted herself and her success, and when it was no longer there, “who am I”? Was she supposed to be this successful entrepreneur but doesn’t have a company? Was she supposed to be the leader over these people but her entire team left? There were all of these different things where she didn’t know who she was. That 18-month journey was where God not only pruned those things out of her life but He reminded her of who she was and who she belonged to.
Dare to Bloom is this charge for all of us. The enemy will try to remind us of who we were and how good our last success was or that our past success cannot be as big or as good as our future success. It is saying you know what, despite how you feel, despite no longer having these things with you, despite no longer being in the city, despite not being at this job anymore who defined you and defined who you were. You are going to dare to bloom where God has placed you. You are daring to say, “You know what God I am going to stand upright because I know that you care for me and I know that you cover me. I know that my identity is always safe with you, I am going to dare to believe that you are who you say you are and that nothing that I do, nothing that I have done, or nothing that I will do will take away the fact that I am yours and you are mine”.
Say that now.
The world has told us over and over and over again what to look at, what to be afraid of. Who matters to us, who doesn’t matter to us. It has told us these things. Be reminded that we are Gods. The more that we find ourselves in the news, in the opinion of others, in social media, the more we start to believe what they say over what God says. Zim’s book is this long love letter to you. That reminds you to go back to your first love because God has something for you. It has something for all of us.
As an entrepreneur, especially in the creative industry, where you are your brand. If you are launching a program that is tied to you and what you do, if that launch is unsuccessful then you’ll think since my launch was unsuccessful and your face is plastered all over it. Everything that you are is poured out on those pages and people did not want to buy. Does that mean there is something wrong with you? Did somebody just not like you?
It is a perverted way of viewing business because we revolve around people’s tastes and what they are looking for with acceptance of ourselves when that is not the case. It shouldn’t feel like an attack on your character or who you are.
Zim found that if they had a bad launch she felt she had done something wrong. She has had to be much more mindful and sometimes means taking a step back and asking God to remove the blinders that are over her eyes or the voices that are whispering. She has to separate herself from her business. Who you are is not what you do. In this generation, people are starting to merge the two. America has this crisis of placing their identity in their work and not in the worth that God has given each of us. Tying our personality, how God created us to the things that we create. It’s a perverted way to view business, and we are all guilty of it and constantly need to ask God to search our hearts and repent for making our business all about us.
There is a scripture about Solomon, where he asks for wisdom to manage and take care of God’s people. He asked for one thing, he asked for wisdom, he didn’t ask for fame, treasures, good health, he didn’t ask for anything. He asked for wisdom to handle God’s people and God said I will grant you wisdom and I will also grant you success, money, all of these things. Come to God and tell Him you know that He called you where you are at and to do big things, give you the wisdom first and you know that all other things will be given unto us.
If we go into business single-minded, not in the way that we are thinking we need more money if we are aligned with whatever it is that God is calling us to do. If you are a servant unto Him, He will grant you all of the other things. It will be a bi-product of the things that you asked for. But not let your first conversation with God be about money and strategy when you have not first come to Him with a heart of repentance and with a desire to do good by His people.
It seems like a conflicting thing, but the Bible says if you have wisdom there are so many benefits to having wisdom. If that is the only thing that you ask for, you are already rich.
Give me wisdom to manage the people you have given me.
It depends. There is a scripture that talks about all things to all people. Some folks have businesses that are all Jesus and are very vocal, then you have businesses that are the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus and their ethos is very much driven by who God is. For either entrepreneur, there is not a right or wrong way but if you are a Christian or a believer, everything in your life needs to revolve around what you believe.
If you are walking down the street and every day we see you pass by somebody who is poor or who doesn’t have much and you turn your back on them every day. What does that say to us about you? Maybe you don’t have great customer service or your representatives are all haughty and mean, how can you let Christ speak through every area of your business? It is a struggle and is not easy. If you are vocal about your faith, it takes a special type of boldness, but a boldness that is not without reach. If it is boldness that you want, God will give you the boldness. You come to a place where no money can be given to you where you will deny who has given you power. No amount of money will get you to not talk about your God.
It’s a journey for every entrepreneur. It is a race. Balancing doesn’t feel like much of a balance. Some of Zim’s brands are a faith thing, but then some are the ethos of the servant and heart of God. It goes back to what it is you want for your businesses and then asking God to show you areas that you can improve and then add in things that are more Christ-like.
This was what Zim had realized the day she decided to sell Travel Noir, there was a conference of 30,000 worshippers and a preacher that was ministering. And he was as he put it consecrated to basketball and he talked about success and what success looks like in the world. In the world, it is more money, more cars, bigger houses, but success in the Bible is sacrificing. It is constantly not being tied to those things.
When we think about our own lives and success, success is sacrifice. It means it doesn’t make sense to you but you are going to do it. He has called you here to do it. It means being un-tied to the very things that society tells us that are successful. So you didn’t make a million dollars this year, does that mean you’re not successful? How do you define success?
Divorce yourself from what the world deems successful. We are so tied to the concepts of success. You have to constantly remind yourself that the people that are deemed successful in the Bible were uncomfortable.
Going back to the scripture where Solomon asks God for wisdom. The reason that Zim says that is the most important lesson is a lot of people will think that financial metrics are the biggest metrics of success. But if you are making a ton of money and are not wise with it, that money will disappear real quick. If you don’t know how to manage people but have a ton of money those people will leave like the plague.
The biggest lesson for Zim is asking God for wisdom and knowing that everything else will follow after that. It is something that people don’t do often. The Bible says a fool is even considered wise if he closes his mouth. There is so much there as it relates to wisdom and desiring to hear more and desiring to understand than to speak. If we get that right in business, there are so many benefits that will follow.
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