Celebrating Community over Competition with Ché Elizaga Castro

May 4, 2022

Podcast Episode 11: Celebrating Community over Competition with Ché Elizaga Castro

Ché Elizaga Castro is the Founder of Come Alive Co. As a Conversion Copywriter and Strategy Consultant for over a decade, she’s nurtured memorable stories for brands across the globe. Today, her purpose is to help women feel known, seen, and worthy of their wildest ideas.

We both believe your brand story is your number one tool to rally people around your big vision. And it’s building a community (over settling into conditioned competition) that helps us create social impact. 

“It’s that trading of, ‘I believe in you, you believe in me.’ There’s so much power when we lift each other up. You never know when your opportunity is just waiting for you because you did it for others.” 

“As entrepreneurs, we’re dreamers. We have to get out there and think up the biggest dreams to change the world for good. I think it’s really important to hear each other out, listen, and to call out the goal that we see in one another because there are so many things that get in the way of us bringing a dream to life.” –  Ché Elizaga Castro

Highlights from the podcast episode: 

We discussed:

[9:30] Ché’s story of coming alive through brand storytelling 

[9:30] Why Ché niched into brand strategy

[12:40] Unlearning societal messages about visibility  

[18:12] The storytelling birth process

[26:55] Community over competition mentality

[36:05] Che’s big dreamy vision for the world

Note: this is a transcription of the episode so there may be small variances. 

[9:30] Ché’s story of coming alive through brand storytelling 

Stories are so powerful. I grew up as the only Filipina American in my class. And I remember looking around and thinking, “Why does no one else look like me?” I remember looking through my yearbook, looking specifically at this one girl with beautiful brown hair, a peppy cheerleader, and thinking, “I just wish I was white like her. I wish I was popular like her.” 

So my story really starts with me being different, and wishing that I could be the same as everyone else. Flash forward to my career. So now, in my 20s, I am working in Advertising agencies in Orange County with these household brands, and I’m the youngest woman and the only brown person in the room with white men who are twice my age. I remember thinking, “I have no voice, I have no say in this room.” 

Well, an interesting thing happened at this time, because social media started to explode. I was a creative copywriter and account manager. We started to notice that, hey, the brown and Black buying power was more powerful than anyone ever expected. For the first time in my life, I’m realizing, I have a say. I can intimately connect to people who once never had a say, but now have the spending power to do so. 

From there, my career just took off. I was constantly winning creative campaigns because I could really connect with the audience, what they’re going through, and what they desired. This is how I started to have an empathetic heart for storytelling and marketing. 

Flash forward, I ended up leaving the creative world because I got tired of making millions for billionaires and selling things that I didn’t believe in.  I just I didn’t find purpose in it. Like many entrepreneurs out there who have left their jobs in order to seek more family and financial freedom, I went on a six month trip. I needed to get away from always working, and also listen to my own heart and wonder, “What is my purpose on this earth. I don’t believe that I’m just here to make money and die”

The big story that really sticks on my heart that drives me and my work today is from spending time with my niece.  I was coloring on the floor of my parents’ house, coloring this picture of Cinderella with my four year old gorgeous Portuguese and Filipina niece. As she was looking through the colored pencils to pick the blue for Cinderella’s dress and the yellow for Cinderella’s hair. I said, “Why don’t you pick brown for her eyes and the black for her hair, just like you?” 

In that moment, my perfect, intelligent, beautiful four year old niece doesn’t skip a beat.  She says, “princesses don’t look like me.” That story continues to break my heart because it’s the story that I have lived my whole life of: you cannot be what you cannot see. 

So, I’ve made it my mission to help everyone – especially women and people of color – come alive with our unique gifts and audacious vision because you don’t know who’s watching, and you don’t know what you’re activating into the world. 

[9:30] Why Ché niched into brand strategy

Technology is changing faster now than we ever have experienced before. Now, we feel all this pressure to make fifteen second reels with dance moves to go viral. Marketing is always changing. And to be honest, I felt like I was aging out of my own industry.  

But my husband reminded me that it doesn’t matter how fast this world changes, story will always connect us to one another. If there’s anything in the world that I will stake my life on, it’s human connection and creativity. And there is nothing more human than bearing witness to each other’s stories, because that is how we see one another. 

And yes, it is a marketing strategy, because storytelling is 20 times more memorable than anything else. It’s how our brains are wired. But humanistically, it’s also how we pass the divide of me versus you or black versus white and say, you are human just like me. 

[12:40] Unlearning societal messages about visibility  

I was on a call today with Bozoma Saint John, the CMO at Netflix. She’s like my patron saint because she’s an African woman in the States making a big difference, simply by showing up as herself. [On the call,] she shared stories of how she was told to be less. She was told to not wear bold lipstick or bold colors. She said, “Are you kidding me? I’m fly and I’m not damping this down for anyone.” 

That’s the story that I wish I had heard growing up, honestly, because the stories that I was told, growing up as a Filipina American … and again, these were not overt messages. Nobody was telling me to be less than who I was. It was just the fear of your parents coming here from another country, trying to learn a new language and make enough money to provide a way forward for you and your family. And in order to survive, you better fit in so you don’t stand out and cause trouble. I felt like I couldn’t use my voice and became a cog in the machine. 

I had fallen into this depression because I wasn’t living out my gift or my vision for the world. But again, my company’s called Come Alive Co, because I don’t believe we’re here to just merely survive, but to come alive and create a life and work worth living and talking about.

Last year, I got to attend this amazing event in the Bay Area called Pinayista. It was an event solely dedicated to Filipina women, including creatives and entrepreneurs. I have never been in such a space, a safe space, where I could explore what it meant to be an entrepreneur and a creative in the context of being Filipina. 

One of the speakers said, “We are the women of the volcanoes and the rice paddies. We have survived through three colonist takeovers. There is nothing that we cannot go through and grow through.” When we forget where we come from, we also forget the power. Our ancestors worked so hard for us to get to where we are today. So its also about remembering we were put here on this earth for a reason, through the sacrifices of our lineage to do something more beautiful and meaningful and free than they ever got to.

[18:12] The storytelling birth process

It truly is so much work emotionally (not just in the head, but in the heart) to hold space for our storytelling clients. But as Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than a story untold inside of you.”  The emotional labor of holding space for someone else’s story is kind of like being a doula. 

As women, we are called to birth, and not necessarily physical children, but ideas and stories. The greatest thing we (as storytellers) are called to in these moments is just listening. We are often told to bring our voice into the world by being the loudest in the room. But where does that leave any space for listening and for empathy? 

We tend to hear each other, but we’re not truly listening. For instance, in our stories, we could ask, “Oh, it sounds like you grew up othered. What did that mean to you? Why?” It’s like:  where does the pain come from and where does the purpose come from? That’s where the gold comes from: when you understand both the pain and purpose to go deeper than the “Oh, I hated my job.” 

[26:55] Community over competition mentality

As entrepreneurs, we have to figure out how we’re going to achieve this dream. But first, let’s start with a WOW! We can figure out the how later, because if you start with a “how” you’re gonna snip the WOW in the bud. As entrepreneurs, we’re dreamers. We have to get out there and think up the biggest dreams to change the world for good. 

So, I named [my virtual coffee chats] WOW dates, because I wanted us to just wow each other with our ideas, and keep gassing each other up. We are so constantly wired for negativity, mostly because of our survival instincts for safety. But I think it’s really important to hear each other out, listen, and to call out the goal that we see in one another because there are so many things as entrepreneurs and dreamers that get in the way of us bringing a dream to life. If you don’t step forward, how are those people going to be served? 

So in community, we can see something in one another that we ourselves cannot see. When we can mirror to each other the goodness in one another, we can activate each other into our roles. And we are all going to be better off for it. 

In my upbringing, my family was made up of my family’s church. They’re not my blood relatives, but aunties and uncles who took care of me growing up. They watched me, fed me, and I found so much joy leaning on one another in this Filipino community. I just grew up being shown what happens when we all live interdependently, where we all can provide for one another.

Being able to model this as an entrepreneur has been so powerful. For example, I was hired on to do this amazing job for a company during the year of my wedding. I was like, “Sweet, I’m gonna make all this money pay for my stupid, expensive wedding in California” 

They approached me and said, “Hey, this is a lot of work and we might hire on a second copywriter.” This capitalistic tendency pops up. And I’m thinking, “Oh, no, what if this person is better than me? She’s going to take the work from me.” I guess it is about the unlearning and shifting my thinking, right?  We have to rewire our thoughts and say, “Wait, this is a good thing.”

We brought in the other copywriter, and I remember having a choice of either letting her stay behind and like, have her figure it out herself. But instead, I brought her up and I trained her in everything I knew. I didn’t make my boss teach her, but I did that with her and for her. We became fast friends. Years later, there was a speaking tour, and that copywriter couldn’t make it but she recommended me. So, it’s because of that trading of, I believe in you, you believe in me that I was able to fill her spot. There’s so much power when we lift each other up. You never know when your opportunity is just waiting for you because you did it for others. 

[36:05] Che’s big dreamy vision for the world

Originally, I thought it was to have more Black and brown voices and women amplified on platforms everywhere. I want more stories from the folks that we normally don’t see in major media to be shown, so that young people like my niece can look up to other women that look like her and say, “That’s possible, because I see it.” 

Interestingly, I had a conversation with a friend about plus size representation in lingerie ads. I was like, “Wow, this ad is really powerful. They’re using models who don’t normally look like what like the typical model looks like.” She said, “You know, I really hope that one day we get to the point where we’re not commenting about a different body shape, gender, or color because we’re used to seeing that.” 

So right now, I think we’re working toward the world where there’s more representation for more women, people of color, and marginalized voices. But I would love to come to the place where we can lift people up not because they’re a person of color but because they’re simply the best.  I don’t want a world that just tolerates one another I want a world that’s so empathetic and excited that we’re celebrating one another. That’s the world that I want to see.

Connect with Ché

Website: Come Alive 

LinkedIn:  Ché Elizaga Castro

Connect with Tania Bhattacharyya

Linkedin: Tania Bhattacharyya

Website: lumosmarketing.co

Resources from this episode

14 LinkedIn Content Prompts: Build your personal brand and thought leadership, show up for your target audience and grow your know-like-trust factor with your professional audience on LinkedIn. 

Demystify Linkedin with Tania

The people who can make your social impact dreams come true are on LinkedIn. They’ve probably even connected with you already! Our LinkedIn VIP Day is a 1:1 intensive for purpose-driven women who are ready to take their place as the trusted, go-to voice in their niche. 

To become an approachable expert. To stand out as you stand up for your mission. Learn more or apply here. 

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