People of Charlotte, please meet Hannah Kay Herdlinger! "You heal, you grow, you help others," recites Hannah Kay. Not only does she talk the talk, she walks the walk, turning trauma into light. When I first met this bright soul, I was blown away by her story. From her accomplishments, to her strength, to her determination, Hannah Kay shows us how to turn towards positivity and resilience.
Now let's get to know Hannah Kay's story!
Literally, you picked Charlotte out of a hat?!
I did! I knew I was ready to move somewhere new and had a few cities picked out. I couldn’t decide, so I decided to leave it up to chance (in a controlled way).
How did Charlotte even make it into the hat?
I first came to Charlotte for a (you guessed it) NASCAR event. The city exceeded my expectations plus was conveniently located on the east coast where my family is scattered about. At the time, I was living on the opposite side of the country in California.
So you pretty much moved to Charlotte without knowing anyone here?
It wasn’t the first time I had moved somewhere where I didn’t know anyone. When I say I didn’t know a soul in Charlotte, I didn’t know a soul.
Where did your life map originally begin and what were some other stops?
Arkansas! I then attended the University of Georgia and the next chapter of my life began. I moved to Washington D.C. for an internship that turned into a job on Capitol Hill which was a fun experience.
What unofficial title did you earn while working at Capitol Hill?
I became the youngest scheduler in the Senate.
And then what personal event took place shortly thereafter?
After reuniting with my college boyfriend at a football game, we began a long-distance relationship. We then got engaged and he moved to D.C., but we eventually moved back to Georgia for his job.
Tell us about opening up the D.C. Facebook office!
Since I was a scheduler, I set up a meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and the senator I worked for. Facebook later asked me to work for them and I opened up their first office in D.C. The social media company then allowed me to work remotely from Georgia once we moved.
Your relationships have created many opportunities for you. Who has played a key role both personally and professionally in your life?
While in D.C., I was fortunate to meet Sheryl Sandberg and began a working relationship with her that evolved into a friendship.
What opportunity did Sheryl Sandberg then present to you?
Sheryl’s book, Lean In, was just coming out and she asked me to assist with her book tour which was separate from Facebook.
On the outside, everything looked magical in your life. What was going on behind closed doors?
After moving to Georgia, the abuse in my relationship began. On Superbowl Sunday of 2014, I found myself in the hospital. The doctor who treated me said I almost went into a coma and could have died if I had received one more hit “a little more to the right.”
Rightfully so, you took some time off. How did you pick yourself back up and reenter the world?
Sheryl Sandberg offered me a job in California. I moved there a week after signing my divorce papers. I have the voicemail saved from Sheryl letting me know she was proud of me. I am still so grateful.
It’s easy to see why Sheryl offered you the job! You have a bright personality! What was life like in the Golden State?
I finally got to meet people who I had only met virtually. Sheryl then offered me a position in operations to run her nonprofit for Lean In.
You and Sheryl bonded over another tragedy. Can you share?
When Sheryl’s husband suddenly passed away, I supported her in any way I could. She did so much for me and I wanted to be there for her as well.
What did Sheryl say that made you realize it was time to go back East?
During her commencement speech at the University of California, Berkely, these words stood out to me in a self-reflective way, “As you graduate, can you ask yourselves to live as if you had eleven days left...I mean live with the understanding of how precious every single day would be. How precious every day actually is.”
After looking inward, what did you know you wanted to do with your life?
It was time to do something with and for domestic violence survivors. When I moved out of the home in Georgia, who I shared with my ex, I donated all of the furniture to the local domestic violence shelter. Since then, I have toured shelters all over the country, learning how some are five-star while others need a lot of community support. This was the space that needed my talents, energy, and time.
Two other opportunities came your way before you fully dedicated yourself to domestic violence causes. What were they?
They were both short but impossible to turn down. First, I worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Then I helped Arianna Huffington launch Thrive Global in New York City.
What is a big takeaway that you have learned from these powerful female leaders?
To always self-evaluate your values.
You launched Thread Talk to help support domestic violence shelters. Tell us more!
Domestic violence shelters are in need of many items. The most requested are blankets and linens. Thread Talk is a line of luxurious blankets that gives 10% of each sale to shelters. I have been fortunate to partner with stores like West Elm.
I am officially kicking off my speaking platform and would love to share my story with your organization. The power of connection is so important as is the hope after abuse. Sharing our stories allows others to do the same so I know I’m making a difference. We are never alone.
So are you staying in Charlotte for a while?
I love Charlotte! It still has that small-town vibe and is very welcoming. So yes! There is so much more to explore and people to meet!
To learn more about Hannah Kay, Thread Talk, and more, click on the links below.
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