Don’t be fooled by her megawatt smile and her warm, gregarious nature when she talks about her work. Colombia, South America, native Natalia Bishop is on a mission to educate, empower and support women with an idea. The self-proclaimed Chief of Happiness strives to make the Louisville community stronger through building up its people in all she does. Whether it is through her photography business, Chocolate Box Photography, through her collaborative workshare space, Story Louisville, or through Level Up, her bottom line is making a positive impact in people’s lives. Meet Natalia Bishop, today’s FACE of Louisville.
On your Level Up website, you are listed as the Chief of Happiness. How did you arrive upon that title?
It was a little bit of a twist on the CEO title that is everywhere. Typically, you’re always given a title, right? You accept a title of director of this or whatever. But for me, I get to put whatever I want behind my name, and I started thinking about what I wanted that to be, what my true mission was in any of my three companies I am in. And it was really to make sure everyone is happy: Our shareholders are happy, our people who work with me are happy, our clients are happy and to overall provide that feel and energy to whatever we are touching.
You have three businesses: your photography business, Chocolate Box Photography; the workshare and collaborative space, Story Louisville; and the one our readers may not be as familiar with, Level Up. What do your want our readers to know about it?
We are a tech-enabled education startup. We are on a mission to connect, educate and inspire women in our community. As we continue to grow our community here, we are going to Cincinnati in the fall. Our hope, at some point, is to be able to expand nationwide. The idea is to bring a platform to women to be able to scratch that creative itch and learn a new skill — when was the last time you learned something for the sake of learning? When was the last time you were truly connected to the people you were experiencing something with, without a cell phone, without all of things you’re normally doing? When was the last time you did something for yourself? That is the mission of Level Up.
How are the topics for the classes determined? Is there a set curriculum for the courses, or is the content user-driven?
We have about 30 to 40 classes a month here in Louisville, and what we do is we create a roster of basic categories like food and drink, where we teach things like macaron-baking or pasta-making or sushi-making. Then in mixology, we have a summer batch cocktails class that’s going to be a lot of fun. We also have arts and crafts. We want to make sure that people make something they can actually take home with them, a skill. It’s not just come and glue something together and call it a day. We may teach you how to do floral arrangements, so then you can go to the farmer’s market and create your own. And if you decide to make it a business later on, we are going to teach you how to do that through small business classes.
Have you had a student take what they learned in a class and turn it into a business?
One our biggest success stories is our cookie decorating class teacher here in Louisville, Preston Fouts of Sweet June Bakery. She came to a class we offered last year when she had a full-time job at a company here in Louisville, but she wanted to do something creative for herself. So she took the class, opened a side business and is now booked all the way through October and is now teaching for us. It’s really cool to see someone take that little bit we gave them from a class and make it their own and give back to the community in their own way. It’s super rewarding. We had a husband email us, “This has been so amazing for my wife. Thank you so much. You don’t understand the impact you’re having.” It’s that reminder that it’s not just about the classes, it’s the impact that it makes in your life and how then you can go through your life imparting the same sort of happiness to everything that you touch. That’s the fun piece of it, the really cool piece.
Is that your business philosophy — to have a positive impact?
My history as an entrepreneur started when my son was born. I have an 8-year-old now, and so when he was born and it was time for me to go back to work, I had to sit down and decide what I was going to do to replace the income. How do I make money doing something I am good at or something I enjoy that’s creative? At the core of that was the ‘why’ — why am I doing what I am doing?
If you typically ask someone about me, they will say I’m a connector or a people’s person. That’s what people normally refer to me as. For me, it’s about the people. The businesses themselves are an avenue to impact people. I have this feeling that if we all did that, if we all put the people first and figured out how to make this person thrive, how much better of a community would we be? How much better of a world would we be? That’s what’s at the core of everything, different aberrations of that concept. And I am obviously trying to make it sustainable, so we can keep doing it for a really long time.
Where do you find your inspiration for these ideas?
It’s crazy, because it all typically happens in the shower. It’s a process, the first time I did it, I was working in retail. You know, it’s that fear that holds you back — it’s comfortable … I am drawing a paycheck. How do you then exercise that bravery to step out there in the wild and get what you need? The process isn’t natural; you almost have to make yourself go through the steps. I just needed to put numbers to it and make a plan. Once I did that, the fear just kind of went away. That’s the thing with entrepreneurship — your brain just sort of shifts in the way that you see things. In the beginning, it’s very much like learning how to shoot a camera. You have to be technical; it’s awkward and it’s hard. Then after that, you don’t even think about it.
What makes you you?
I think, my heart. I try to be empathetic and kind and show compassion as much as I can.
What is the best piece of advice you could give someone?
Success is when preparation meets opportunity. It’s absolutely true. The people we call lucky have been working at whatever they are working on for years before they get that break. They just have to be ready.
What are three nonessential things you couldn’t live without?
Tech — I have to have tech. I am married to an engineer, we have all kinds of crazy stuff you wouldn’t need in life, things you wouldn’t think of having. I really, really like eating out, and I can’t live without traveling. I really enjoy getting to know the world and showing the kids the world, too.
Thank you, Natalia! To learn more about Level Up, visit levelupwithus.com; to learn more about Story Louisville’s workshare and collaborative spaces, visit storylouisville.com; and to learn more about the photography services of Chocolate Box Photography, visit the Chocolate Box Photography Facebook page.
Thank you to Christine of Christine Mueller Photography for the beautiful photos of Natalia!
To be inspired by other great Louisville women, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.