Ariana Pritchett has a knack for keeping processes simple and outcomes positive. With a background in coaching and leadership development she works as a creative strategist + business coach for her small strategy and design studio, Flight Design Co. Ariana’s favourite part of her job is helping people make a sustainable business out of their creative expression. When she’s not helping folks follow their dreams she’s busy taking adventures to far off lands, attempting to find poetry in the everyday, and wrangling her two littles, Teo and Juniper, with her husband in their home in Oakland, California. In this beautifully raw interview, I spoke with Ariana about her coaching and leadership advice, her unique approach to marriage and her children and how she ensures her light is always burning bright.
Can you tell us about Flight Design Co.?
Flight Design Co is a strategy and graphic design studio that is best known for it’s 4-week branding program Launch Sessions. We work with small and creative businesses to develop a brand identity that showcases their work, speaks to their ideal customer, and represents their own unique point of view. Additionally, we work with clients on creative strategy and business development as well as custom graphic design projects.
With your background in coaching and leadership development, what are the top 3 pieces of advice you give to clients?
- Be unapologetically you. Often the thing that you think makes you weird or different is actually your biggest asset and is precisely what helps you stand out from the crowd.
- Go after what you want to feel not just what you want to do or have.
- Money is not a dirty word. I so often work with creatives who feel that in order to be a true artist they need to be a starving one. I believe that creating a business model that supports your life can actually free you to be more creative and fulfilled.
Did you always want to work in strategy? How did you carve out your career path?
I like to say I’ve always been a guide – the question is just what adventure we’re taking.
My career path has been a winding journey, but I’ve loved each twist and turn along the way. My undergraduate degree is in Outdoor Recreation and I spent the early part of my twenties as an outdoor guide living out of my car and following seasonal work.
Feeling ready for four-walls and a rooftop, I decided to go back to school to receive a Masters in Education. While working on my graduate studies I took a course about the inequities of the US education system which opened my eyes to the incredible need for social justice in our schools and landed me working as a leadership coach for a Non-Profit in an East Oakland Public High School.
I loved my work with youth, but it was all consuming, and after the birth of my son I knew I needed something that was more flexible and could be done from home. I took a leap and decided to start my own practice doing leadership coaching for adults.
My favourite clients to work with were artists and change-makers, people who had a fire in their belly and wanted to build something awesome. Often these ventures led to businesses, so in an effort to support these clients in even more ways I partnered with my dear friend to launch Flight Design Co. We have now been supporting creative entrepreneurs and mission driven organizations in strategy and graphic design for over 3 years.
You have two gorgeous children, Teo and Juniper – what do you love most about being a mother?
Oh, by far it is watching their little selves develop. There is something so amazing about seeing a person become an actual person before your very eyes. Who are these two beings at their core? What life experiences are shaping their world view? What lights them up? Having such an intimate relationship and bond with two little beings is my greatest treasure.
When you aren’t working – as a strategist or mama – what pursuits are you passionate about?
I am an experience hunter and love exploring anything new, so my passions change all the time. Usually they fall into one of three themes: connection to nature, creative expression, and building community. This year my new pursuits have included ceramics, horseback riding, and leading a mastermind to support creative women to become thriving entrepreneurs.
You are married but both you and your husband didn’t believe in committing to the rest of your lives, so you committed to a 5-year ritual where you check back in every 5-years and re-choose each other and the life you built together. This is a unique and beautiful approach to a partnership – can you speak about why this works for you?
Freedom is my number one value and so the idea that I could be “trapped” into something for the rest of my life terrified me. The truth is being married to Jake has brought more freedom to my life, but our 5-year ritual is designed to make sure that is still true as the years go on. Neither of us want to be married just because of some promise we said years ago, we believe that it’s a choice we are still free to make. We know that we’d be fine without each other, but we’d prefer to be together and 10-years in we are still choosing one another.
You are a big believer in igniting your wild, feeding your true hungers and in turn igniting those around you. You have said that to do anything less is a disservice to the universe you came from – what do you do each day to make sure you are always burning bright?
What a beautiful question. The two most important pieces for me are quiet and permission.
I need time to be quiet in order to hear my true desires, my true voice. My spark. I get this from writing or hiking or sitting at the beach. Sometimes I get this by just staring out the window.
Then it’s about giving myself permission. Permission to feel what I feel. Desire what I desire. And be who I am. It’s easy to get caught up in what you (or your family or your friends or society) think you should be/do/feel. So consciously forgiving myself for any ways in which I’m not meeting expectations and instead allowing myself to be the truest version of me.
I also want to say that I don’t always have the energy to burn bright. It takes a lot of courage to be that vulnerable and daring for what you want and who you are, but I can say that I am always striving toward it for sure.
How do you balance your responsibilities as a mother and finding “you” time?
Here’s the thing, I am not fulfilled by the act of parenting. Eek, I know it’s kind of taboo to say. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly fulfilled by my relationship with my children and even my role as their mom, but the day-to-day tasks of cleaning, feeding, playing, scheduling, and caretaking just don’t light me up. It feels like work and can be taxing to my spirit. This has led to many tears on my therapist’s couch working through my guilt around not being the kind of mom who is super domestic or wanting to be with my kids 24/7. Instead I’ve had to work on allowing myself permission to be the kind of mom I am, one who needs freedom, alone time and wild.
So I’ve had to make me-time a priority for both my sanity and the sanity of my family. I feed my wild with journeys abroad, new tattoos, and dips in the sea. By writing poems, convertible road trips, and booking weekends to ride horses in the desert. This last year I even had a boudoir shoot to really let it all hang out. And if there is one thing I learned it’s that if my spirit is not being fed then I am a miserable person to be around, even to my kids. But when I feel inspired and alive then I can be a present and connected mama, the kind of mama I want to be.
The result, of course is that I actually have the energy to do the things I love to do with my children. Whether we’re climbing trees, reading Harry Potter, or having a dance party in the kitchen, my kids get a mom who is happy and full and therefore way more fun.
If you were giving someone who had never been to Oakland before a one-day itinerary, what would it look like?
It would start with chicken and waffles at Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland followed by a bike ride across the new Bay Bridge. Grab a rice-bowl lunch at Hawker Fare’s take on South East Asian street food and then take a stroll in either Redwood Regional Park (for the nature lovers) or around Lake Merritt (for the more urban crew). Drinks and a quick empanada snack would need to be grabbed on the rooftop bar at Mad Oak and then dinner at my new favorite spot, Shakewell. If you have any energy left I would then grab a show at the historic Fox or Paramount theaters in Uptown and finish the night with a little cornhole and ping pong in the beer garden at Lost and Found just down the street.
How do you relate to the word ‘adrift’?
Because of my connection to water I love the idea of drifting along. I often use a river as a metaphor for life and always aim to stay in the flow and not fight the rapids, but ride them. I also never want to get stuck in a side eddy and much prefer to be centered right at the heart of life riding every twist and turn I can. Being adrift speaks to my gypsy soul and the part of me that knows nothing can really tie me down.