At 24 years old, Hannah Brencher would have never imagined she’d be speaking to a crowd full of people on the TED Stage. But there she stood, a girl trying to find her way, speaking about how the world could use a little more love. What is love? Hannah’s definition of love is figuring out how to be selfless and want good for people by being a cheerleader for others — encouragement, affirmation and a push in the right direction regardless of whether the world sees it or not. That’s essentially how The World Needs More Love Letters began in 2011. Fresh off a move to New York City and struggling with depression, Hannah, now living in Atlanta, began leaving love letters to strangers around the city almost as a coping mechanism. Since then, Hannah has been named a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Oprah, and the Chicago Tribune; she has also published her book, If You Find This Letter. Today we are honored to feature Hannah as our FACE of Atlanta.
Writer, TED speaker, spokesperson for the United States Postal Service and communications expert. How did you end up where you are today?
I said “yes” to a lot of opportunities that would grow me and deepen my knowledge of the industries I wanted to be in. I still feel like I am at the very beginning of my journey, but have gotten from point A to point B because I worked hard and always believed “better” was possible and that I could create a dream job out of things I truly loved.
You founded The World Needs More Love Letters in 2011. How did this start and what is the mission?
It was honestly a crazy accident. I was struggling with depression when I graduated from college and moved to New York City. As almost a coping mechanism, I started leaving love letters around the city for other people to find. The whole idea went viral, and I ended up handwriting and mailing over 400 letters to strangers before I created the organization. I wanted to give people the chance to get involved and make a difference but never anticipated it would spread this far. We are now in all 50 states, over 70 countries and on over 100 college campuses!
You co-founded If You Find This Email. How did this come to be?
If You Find This Email was born out of my own personal inbox. For the longest time, I would get some really sad but honest stories showing up in my inbox. It left me awake at night thinking about these people and really grappling with the fact that I knew their names and yet I couldn’t help or reach all of them. I wished there was a way where people could seek solace and closure in an inbox while being able to keep it anonymous.
When my intern Jenna came on board to help me with some office tasks, I asked her if she would be willing to help me read a bunch of the emails. We became so inspired by the stories of other people that we began writing down lines and sticking them to the wall. If You Find This Email was born out of us being inspired by the truth of strangers.
What is your secret weapon as a female entrepreneur?
Basically being a gangster (kidding … kind of) and being able to launch something in 24 hours or less without thinking or hesitating. I am a launcher. I believe in launching first and figuring out the rest later — can’t give fear enough time to seep in and take over the creative process.
You recently got married. What was the biggest challenge in running your own business while planning your wedding?
I honestly hated planning the wedding, but I loved the outcome of it. I’m not one of those people who dreamed about their wedding since they were little. I only cared about the guests who were coming and how I could honor them well. I will probably never have the chance again to have that many people I know and love eating burgers with me in one room. And we had a pretty fierce dance floor. I would say the biggest challenge was that I am wired to run a business, but I am not wired to plan a wedding, and so little details would suck the joy out of both things and would make me anxious.
Who are your mentors and what advice do you treasure most?
I would say the biggest influences in my life whom I look up to would be Tammy Tibbetts (founder of She’s the First) and Jane Johnson. Both of them have had such a deep impact on my life and have taught me how to balance social and business life well.
The best advice I’ve been given comes from Lindsey Pollak. She once said to me, “Your dream job does not exist. You must create it.” I’ve been taking that advice seriously ever since she said it, and I wholeheartedly agree with her. You must be willing to create the dream job.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week look like for you?
My days are always changing, but I try to keep routine in the mix. Mornings are always reserved for writing. I will either get a workout in at 6:30 a.m. and then start my writing or I will save the workout for when I need a break in the day. I write in my office or home office until about 11:30 a.m. or noon. Afternoons are reserved for different projects, logistics, editing, blogging, etc. I normally take a break around 2:30 or 3 p.m. since that is my afternoon slump. I’ll refuel, take a walk, read a book or do something to give my brain a break and then plug back into work from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Nights are reserved for serving at our church, going on dates with my husband, seeing friends and really spending time away from all the devices like my phone and computer.
How did you end up in Atlanta? What’s your favorite part about living in the city?
I used to live in New York City and Connecticut, so Atlanta was probably one of the last places I expected to end up. However, I fell in love with the culture of the city and the creative circles. I found so many people who were trying daring or risky things, and I wanted to be surrounded by it constantly. I was young and knew I could pick up my life and move anywhere. I’m thankful I made the leap because I’ve built my whole life here, and it’s better than I could have ever imagined.
My favorite part about living in the city has to be the food. So many good restaurants and places to try out for date nights. I also love that the city feels a lot like New York in what it has to offer (food, fitness, fashion, etc.), but it is smaller, less chaotic and more spread out.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _________.
Calendar and journal.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
I work in East Atlanta Village and love the little neighborhoods where our office is situated. You can find me picking up my coffee frequently from Taproom Coffee. I love trying yoga and barre classes around the city.
What is your favorite thing to do in Atlanta?
I love finding new places in the city to go and eat oysters. It’s one of my husband and I’s favorite hobbies!
Are you a night owl or early bird? What do you do during that “quiet time”?
Early bird for sure! I am in bed by 10:20 p.m. most nights. I make my coffee, read my bible, pray about the day and start writing.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
If you could travel anywhere in the world and money was no object, where would you go and why?
I would definitely go to Europe! I’ve not been yet, and I really want to go check out all it has to offer. Plus, I am a big nerd when it comes to WWII history, so I would really like to go check out Anne Frank’s home and see some elements of that era up close.
What are three of your favorite things right now aside from God, family and friends?
Crying violently to This Is Us episodes, devouring meat and cheese plates with my friend Dawn, and getting in 6:30 a.m. workouts with my friend Maddie.
Thank you to the uber-talented CatMax Photography for today’s fantastic photos!