October 30, 2020

Interview With Journalist, Entrepreneur & The Vivid Minds Editor-in-Chief, Anastasia Chernikova

1- Hello Anastasia, can you please tell us a bit about you?

Hi! I actually published my story on Vivid Minds to show how I stemmed from the project. I was working for various business magazines in Russia, and moved to New York three and a half years ago. I started working on PR and was organizing conferences, but I always loved writing, and while connecting with new people in the city I was thinking about their stories. As a business writer, I always noticed that readers, as well as myself, were mostly interested in how entrepreneurs have overcome challenges, what their pinpoints were, and how they struggled. People get inspired by learning others’ experiences. 

Now, in these turbulent times, we can see it so clearly – people are coping with their problems by learning about how others do. Starting with adapting to the new reality by working at home and moving to how they are going to pay their rent and where they buy groceries. Overall, I believe the problems of humanity are universal, and sometimes the right words can give you a perfect push to ease your mind, and soul, and live a better life. That was the idea behind Vivid Minds – to tell about the challenges of interesting people, founders, leaders, and creatives.

2- How do you convince people to tell you about their problems?

This is the most exciting part for me. You know that as a journalist, at least in the feature-kind field, not breaking news, your success depends on how a person wants to open up with you. How vulnerable he can be with you and if he believes that what he says is of value. So, I’ve been interviewing people for over six years now, and I would break it down to these things – sometimes it’s really hard to get a person to talk about challenges. I talk a lot with tech founders because that’s where my background is, and what they normally talk about is their investors, valuations, and exits. That’s just how the business works, and as with any journalist, they would think whether it’s a great value and they need it for their business or not. Most of the time, if you come up with a question about their struggles, it won’t work at all. You have to talk about the journey and this could take an hour or two. Use the first thirty minutes to just relax and help the person learn a bit about you, to see that you have good intentions. Help them see that their story would have a positive impact on the world. So – the one thing I do is pitch the project itself, explaining why it is great to be featured on Vivid Minds. I think we have a very generous mission.

The second is, of course, referrals. We have a nomination form on the website and anyone can add a person they know and would like to see interviewed. I see it as the best way to find interesting people for interviews and of course, it’s easier to conduct interviews when someone introduces you.

As with any other project, the more you grow the project, the better the acceptance rate, and then it becomes vice versa – you are plugging in the offers and people are reaching out to you and want to become part of the community.

3- How would you describe “Vivid Minds” in a few words?

Vivid Minds is a community-driven media platform dedicated to the stories of how founders and other creatives overcome their challenges and move forward. I emphasize that even though I have many entrepreneurs it’s not only about founders, it’s also about doers in different fields. I enjoy being around and learning about different disciplines, so on the website you can find bar owners, artists, filmmakers, tech founders and venture capitalists. Right now we are publishing stories about COVID told by people all over the world. And I think everyone is so important and is going through tough times now that we need to give voices to them. I really believe we need more human stories in the media. 

4- Where do you think it’s making an impact?

I’ve heard people telling me the words they read on the website speak to them and they find them ‘beautiful’ and that it makes them feel better. The last story on Humans of New York is about a guy who coped with his own problems by helping others, and we should talk more about this, and how people are coping with their struggles. That was one of the reasons for me to start Vivid Minds in the first place. The second reason is to connect with interesting personalities and to create a supportive community around me and my friends. It’s not only me meeting amazing humans every week as I interview them, but anyone can reach out to me through the website and ask to connect with them – so we can call that conscious networking. And the third part is education and knowledge. You learn about different spheres and ways of life, and we are going to host Zoom meetings and real meetings with our leaders who are happy to share their knowledge and connect with others.

5- Why do you think people would read your content when there are so many things to read around the world?

Honestly, I don’t think much about it. I started Vivid Minds as a labor of love because I enjoyed interviewing and doing stories. I’ve got a few amazing people helping me, they have become a core team now, and that’s because they deeply believe in the project.  I sponsor it myself and have a very limited budget, and those are people from Ivy League schools working for the leading outlets, so I know it’s not about money for them, it’s about the mission. 

I’ve recently watched an interview with the founder of Masterclass David Rogier, and he told a story about how he got $500K from a seed investor who just told him to do any project he wanted (a slightly better fortune than mine, haha). So, he had many ideas popping up, and was really anxious about the whole responsibility. And then he recalled a beautiful story told by his grandma, and long story short, she finished it by saying he should do something he could be proud of even if it fails. I think it’s the only right way of doing something – to love it and be proud of it, more than estimating market size, what the audience wants, etc. 

This passion is especially important in the media field, where, you are right, we have such an abundance of content. But I know if people see passion in what I do, it becomes contagious. Maybe I won’t have the audience of a reality-show but that’s not what I’m aiming for. I want the best, most interesting, supportive and conscious people to be on the platform, and I pick them myself. I already have around 10K subscribers across my social media channels and newsletter, and I just started recently, so that is something.

6- What does the future hold for businesses, with all this situation right now?

I won’t give any forecasts because I don’t know. For me, it’s harder because I was getting money that I invested in Vivid Minds from my conference and PR projects at another company, and obviously no events now at all, and the PR budgets have been cut down. It’s tough for many businesses, but I believe we will go through it and become stronger. It’s a good time for self reflection, to clean up your mind and even your physical space, since you are spending time at home now, so I definitely see positive aspects. I also see how important stories are. People read news all the time, and I think we should pay more attention to what we want to see written even though it’s the internet where there is space for everything. I kinda miss prints and magazines where everyone was thinking much more about what to print on paper, because of that cost more.

7- From your experience interviewing many creative people and entrepreneurs, what advice would you give to young people just starting out as business owners and hoping to make it?

First, to understand if they are ready to take responsibility and work on their own. Entrepreneurs and artists are similar in that they are in charge of everything they do. But some people would say that they want to build their startup and still go to their office 9-5 their whole life. Not everyone needs to be that risky. But if you feel that you found what you love and you really want to do it, or even if you just want money, and you feel you are tired of always being managed and told what to do, then keep going. Realize it’s your life now and there are going to be many obstacles that only you can resolve. There are so many levels when people give up. I’ve seen people telling me enthusiastically that they are starting a company, and in half a year they are looking for a job again, because it turned out to be tough. Of course it’s tough, risky, and challenging, and that’s what entrepreneurs love about it. 

8- Where do you see the project in the next 5 years?

I hope we will have a vast collection of the most amazing people from around the world. I love that my project is so international even though it’s based in New York. I’m going to dig into people’s challenges, bring out more sympathy and empathy that will connect people with each other and make them feel that they can open up about their problems, because vulnerability is what makes us human.

9- And what are you most excited about at the moment?

I’m working on a story about small businesses in New York and how they are going through these challenging times. I’m excited about my bold friends who are staying positive and adapting to the new reality. A few companies I know have created their sanitizers and started selling them in a week to cover losses on the gaps they got due to the virus. We are also publishing stories on how people perceive the crisis in the epicenters – last week we talked with Italians, and next week we will publish interviews from France.

10- The last word or final thoughts?

Let’s be kind to each other, let’s be conscious about our decisions, let’s not regret, let’s fill ourselves with love, not anger, and everyone would become a bit better and stronger.