Olivia June is Founder and CEO of VINA, the tech company backed by Greylock, Tinder, and NEA that connects, celebrates, and empowers women. In 2016 she launched the award winning app Hey! VINA, a social networking app often referred to as the “Tinder for (girl) friends”, that’s connected millions of women in 158 countries. Olivia is the Editor in Chief of Vinazine.com a media outlet with stories and advice from and for women of the VINA community.
Talk to us about Hey! Vina, what was the inspiration behind it and why did you start it?
I created Hey! VINA as a safe and welcoming community where you can meet likeminded women in your area because when I first moved to San Francisco right out of college, I suddenly realized how hard it was to meet new friends when you move! I thought about all the things we rely on the internet for, and it seemed so obvious that we needed a place to connect with other awesome women. Before I decided to build an app to solve my challenge, I tried a million things, from volunteering, work-out groups, to trying to befriend the friends of people I'd go on dates with, to even trying to message other girls on dating apps to meet up for friendship. You can imagine that last one was pretty awkward! After successfully starting a women's happy hour series, I decided that I wanted to take that women's only social experience to scale with an app!
What are some of the struggles you faced while trying to make friends?
The biggest challenge isn't just meeting people, it's meeting your people. We all know and feel the difference when we're around friends who really get us. I'd go to events or be sitting in my local coffee shop, and never know who else could also be open to meeting new friends. We all know you can't judge a book by the cover, and how true that is for people, so having a tool like VINA helps you discover who is really around you, if they like what you like, and if your lifestyles are compatible!
How are friendships an important aspect of self-care?
Healthy friendships are actually the biggest predictor to our wellness that exists. We often think of our social lives as the thing we do after we work, exercise, eat healthy, sleep, and spend time with family, but we should be prioritizing friendships as an essential ingredient to living healthy lives. Feeling lonely is super normal, but if you don't proactively put in effort to find or spend time with people who make you feel seen and heard and understood, it can have the physiological impact equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
What are your favourite ways to practice self-care, and what self-care suggestions do you have for other girls and women?
Self-care comes in two specific forms for me -- pump up and calm down. To relax and unwind, I spend time journaling, cuddling up under a blanket and drinking my favorite tea (ginger tea!), or doing a guided meditation. Self-care to get myself feeling really good might mean spending some extra time doing my hair and makeup or turning up my playlist of songs that make me feel fierce and dancing around my living room. Spending one-on-one time with a friend and talking through everything that's going on in life is my go-to #1 form of self-care for either of these categories. I have a system with a few friends where we can call each other for a pump-up talk when we need it and we shower the other in compliments.
What would you tell your 12 year old self?
I had a really rough time at 12, so I would tell 12 year old me that all the pain she feels in her heart now will be what powers her to help others when she's older.
Anything else you'd like to share?
If you're curious about the community of women around you, or in the need of adding more awesome friends to your life, get the Hey! VINA app... it's free on the App Store and Google Play Store.
Also, follow me on Instagram if you're curious about my journey as a founder and friend maker @heyoliviajune.
About Hey! VINA:
Hey! VINA is a free mobile app that empowers women to choose community over competition and to tap into the power of a supportive global community of awesome women just like them. Meet new friends and go to local events with likeminded women who live near you!
www.heyvina.com to get the app and www.vinazine.com to read advice and inspiring stories from the VINA community.