Heather Avis is an Author, Speaker, Narrative Shifter and the creator of Own Your Story—a workshop that gives anyone the tools to share their stories. We heard about Heather from our very own Abby Vernon, VP of Aerie Merchandising, who met Heather at a retreat last fall and then joined the Own Your Story workshop as a storyteller. Watch Heather and Abby’s stories below, and find out more about the power of sharing YOUR own story.

What inspired you to create the Own Your Story workshop?

Heather: As an author, shouter of worth, and narrative shifter I was being approached by so many women who wanted to know how they could find a platform to be a shouter of worth and narrative shifter. The common theme I continued to see as I met women all over the nation was that they felt they needed something more, some kind of grand audience or stage to be able to be a narrative shifter, when in fact, the first and biggest step any of us need to take towards shifting a narrative and having a positive effect on the world is to understand the power of our story and truly own it by putting it out into the world. I created Own Your Story workshop because I believe our stories hold power to connect us to each other in change making, narrative shifting ways. I want others to recognize that power as they Own Their Stories! 

Tell us about the workshop! What do you hope participants take away from it?

Heather: The goal for the workshop was to inspire, encourage and equip participants. We wanted participants to hear from a variety of “storytellers” whose stories would inspire them. We wanted participants to be encouraged in seeing the value of their own story and impact that story can have when it is put into the world. And finally, through a professional storytelling coach and hands on step by step coaching, we wanted to equip our participants and teach them exactly how to share their story within their context. It was my hope that participants would leave ready and excited to share their story with the world around them. 

What’s next for you?

Heather: We had a lot of interest from people who were unable to attend the workshop so we have created an Own Your Story eCourse so anyone, anywhere can have access. We also plan on hosting more workshops and creating a “crash course” which would be a shorter version of the workshop perfect for businesses and corporations who see the benefit in hosting this event for their employees and for overall staff moral, production and connection. 

What makes you #AerieREAL?

Heather: I’m a mom of three, two of whom have Down syndrome and if my kids have taught me anything it is to show up as my authentic self…always! This means not only embracing the differences I notice in myself and others but actually celebrating these differences for the beautiful, inspiring and real ways they make all of us #AerieREAL 

How did you get involved with Own Your Story?

Abby: Heather and I met at a retreat that she hosted in Austin last fall. Our passion for our children (as we’re both mothers of kids with Down Syndrome), our passion for supporting women and giving women a voice, and for representation in the world for all people really brought us together, and we became best friends.

After the retreat, Heather called me and said “I have this idea—I want to help people share their stories.” And I believe that is the next evolution of body positivity. Body positivity is “I have the confidence to feel good about myself no matter what social norms say is beautiful.” The Own Your Story philosophy is like saying “I have permission to take up space in this world. Not just my body matters—my voice matters. My story counts. My point of view and my journey deserve space in this world.”

When Heather told me about the workshop, I immediately thought about the opportunity to link up with Aerie. It’s REAL, it’s authentic, and the idea of giving people a voice is so powerful.

What was your experience like at the workshop?

Abby: Because I was a speaker, I was assigned a storytelling coach prior to the workshop. She had been bringing in professional speakers to her organization all the time, but then she looked around the room and thought “I’m bringing in all these people to inspire and motivate, but I have a library sitting in this room. I bet I could find someone who could write a book about divorce. And someone who could write a book about cooking. And someone who could write a book about child rearing. And if I could just teach people how to share their stories, then I don’t have to bring in inspirational and motivational speakers because they’re all sitting right here in this room.” That to me was really powerful—I thought about Aerie, our team, and our store associates. There’s a lot of power around that. You don’t need a celebrity name or an influencer following list to have a profound story that can really impact people.

How have you used what you learned in the workshop in your daily life?

Abby: I’ve turned into a bit of story seeker as a result of this workshop, wanting to hear more about people’s stories. I find myself in parties or at dinner or in meetings saying things like “Tell me more about that. I want to hear more about that.” Versus maybe being a little more of a passive listener previously. That’s one of the components that has really resonated with me.

What makes you #AerieREAL

Abby: It’s my story. It’s that I’m not afraid to stumble and own my stumbles every step of the way.

I’m a juggling act—I have a wonderful job, lots of travel, all of my family lives elsewhere, 3 incredible children, I’m a Board Member of the Down Syndrome Association at the hospital… and for me, it’s a constant juggling act. But for me, these connections keep me REAL and grounded and help me weather the storm when I need to.

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