Have you ever met someone and knew instantly that the two of you would be girlfriends for life? I knew this for sure the moment I met Sarah Batista. Her energy is magnetic. Sarah is an award-winning journalist, entrepreneur, and mom. We were introduced in 2015 days before I quit my job as a news producer. I was in a tough spot and needed some inspiration to guide my next steps.
I was familiar with Sarah’s work at the CBS-affiliate in Charlotte, NC. She left her decade-long career as a TV news reporter in 2013 to launch her video production company, Stories to Inspire. Sarah was all too familiar with taking a leap of faith and entering a journey into the unknown.
The day we met, I asked Sarah for advice about freelancing and how to make a living as a creative. She simply responded, “You’ll figure it out. When your back is against the wall, and you need money, you’ll get creative and figure out how to survive.”
At the time, I didn’t recognize the value of her words. Three years later, Sarah’s words continue to drive my creative passion, especially on days when I feel like giving up. She’s a true champion for progress, inspiring women and girls to step out of their comfort zone and pursue their dreams, by any means necessary.
Her work has been featured in a number of national and local outlets including Cosmo for Latinas and Investigation Discovery Channel. Here’s Sarah in her own words.
Tyler: You were married at a young age and became a mother in your teens, what challenges did this present in pursuing a career?
I got pregnant at 18 and had my son at 19. Surprise! Within a span of a year, I went from being a carefree college student to getting married, having a son, working a full-time job and eventually buying a house. Everything happened so fast that I didn’t even process it —I just entered the rat race of survival. I worked different admin jobs for a while, but I got bored with them quickly. My dream had always been to become a TV reporter, so when my son was 9 months old I went back to school part-time while working full-time. Eventually, I was able to work part-time and go back to school full-time while managing TV news internships. My son became my number one motivation, and I learned how to hustle early!
After the divorce, you were a single mother entering the world of news. How did you juggle the two?
The marriage lasted three years. Although my family and ex-husband were very supportive, I felt the pressures of being a single mom. BUT, I was determined. There was never a dull moment. It was go, go, go. I worked three unpaid internships at different TV stations before graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and journalism. I remember going to the post office daily to mail out VHS resume tapes to small market TV stations across the country, before finally getting an offer four hours away in Charlottesville, VA. At age 24, I packed up my 5-year-old son and moved away from family and friends to make a whopping $18,000 a year (standard for rookie reporters). People told me I was crazy! It was difficult, but I learned all facets of television and made amazing friends. To this day, I don’t know how we made it! Truly by the grace of GOD! Two years later, I was offered a TV reporting job in my hometown of Charlotte, NC making more money (THANK GOD).
Tyler: What valuable lessons did you learn that you carry along with you today?
I was a general assignment reporter but focused a lot on covering crime and courts. I have a huge heart for people and listening to people’s stories, so I learned so much about the human spirit and how resilient we are. There were many days where I showed up on someone’s doorstep who had just lost a loved one to a tragedy and struggled to hold back tears. Every day involved morning meetings to pitch stories, phone calls, emails, driving around to find interviews with a photographer, filming, writing stories, editing, and going on live television multiple times a day. It was non-stop. I worked every possible shift and almost all holidays, but I learned how to talk and connect with people from all walks of life at any level and how to think quickly on my feet. I was always the “breaking news” girl. My experience was truly priceless. I wouldn’t trade that decade of my life for anything. I literally met thousands of amazing people and got my Ph.D. in LIFE! Lol
Tyler: Why did you decide to walk away and branch out as an independent storyteller?
After working 10+ years as a reporter, the grind started to wear me down. I started feeling restless and exhausted. I knew I needed to make a change, but I had no idea what to do. Reporting was my life. I had a teenage son and a mortgage. I had busted my butt! I couldn’t fathom walking away, but I felt led to tell stories in a different way and inspire people. A friend sent me an email about another reporter who started a video production company in another state, and a light bulb went off in my head! I decided to launch my own film company called, Stories to Inspire, but I wanted to do things with integrity so I followed my mentor’s advice, “honor your contract and finish strong.” BEST ADVICE EVER. The day I walked into the station from doing my last live shot, I got a standing ovation from my colleagues. I cried as I drove out of the parking lot gate for the last time, but I felt strongly that I was making the right move. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, and one of the best things.
Tyler: In your talks, you’ve spoken about faith. Tell us about faith walk. Why is it so necessary?
Oh my gosh! There is no way I wouldn’t have come this far without the GRACE of God. There’s just NO WAY. My son graduated high school this year, can you believe it?! Time just flew. God never left us. NEVER. My father was a pastor and even when I strayed from my faith, I found my way back. I pray and journal often, and I try not to make any moves now without feeling at peace about it first. I attend regular Bible studies and keep a strong network of faithful women around me. It’s so important because we can’t live by what we see alone, or we will never go after our dreams. It takes faith to pursue GOD-SIZED dreams. If HE calls you, HE will see it through. Follow your intuition, even if it doesn’t always make logical sense.
Tyler: Tell us about She Flew the Coop (SFTC). What sparked the idea?
She Flew the Coop started as a documentary idea about women who left the coop of comfort to pursue more fulfillment. I didn’t have a name at first until one day I saw where someone had hashtagged a post about their sister moving –#flythecoop. It was an aha moment! I started googling different variations and came up with #Sheflewthecoop. When I told people, some were like “that ‘s not a good name”, but it resonated with me. I was like, “Nope!” This is it. It just felt right. In three years it has grown into a movement that includes workshops, live events, meetups and social media chats.
Tyler: You’re working on a documentary for SFTC. Can you tell us what it’s about, what viewers can expect, and when it will be released?
The documentary follows my five-year journey behind the scenes journey (good, bad, ugly) of leaving TV reporting to launch a business and what has now become the She Flew the Coop movement. In the film, I also travel to different countries and cities to interview other women. Viewers can expect to get a raw look at what goes into a journey like this. It is intimate, it’s real, it’s raw and it’s INSPIRING. It is truly a vulnerable piece of art. It has come together organically, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!!! It comes out in 2019. You can follow @sheflewthecoop on social media for updates.
Tyler: What challenges have you encountered working on a documentary?
A lot of stops and starts. It started with one idea and now it’s turning into another idea. Also, funding has been a challenge. Very early on, we tried to raise money for it but didn’t meet our crowdfunding goal so all of the money went back to the donors. I was crushed, and then I realized we were being redirected. It took the film in a different(better) direction. I have filmed a lot with the help of my producer, Kristen Johnson. We plan to launch another crowdfunding campaign this summer. Fingers crossed!
Tyler: You recently visited your family in Puerto Rico, documenting the Hurricane Maria aftermath and the resilience of survivors. What did you draw from that experience? How did it impact you as both a storyteller and as a Puerto Rican descendant?
I was born in Chicago and raised in Charlotte, so I’ve never lived in Puerto Rico, but I have a lot of family there including my grandmother who still didn’t have power THREE months after Hurricane Maria. I was amazed at how people were dealing with it. As of today, about 50% of the island is still without power. That’s crazy, and yet everywhere we went people offered food, drink, hugs, laughter, or tears. We were forced to connect. My uncle played his guitar for us in the evenings, because there was literally hardly anything else to do! I love, love Puerto Rico and I believe it will come back stronger, but it has a long way to go.
Tyler: What kind of legacy do you want to leave for the next crop of women visionaries?
I want anyone reading this to know that if I can do it, so can you! YOU CAN DO IT! It won’t be easy, but the growth alone makes it worth it. Believe in yourself, even when other people don’t. Don’t let challenges and circumstances keep you stuck. When you stumble, get back up. When you stumble again, get back up. When you fall, extend your hand and let someone help you. Help someone else. Pray A LOT. Surround yourself with good energy and positive people. I truly believe anything is possible with GOD on your side. You are worthy simply because you are a child of GOD and in HIS eyes, we’re all on the same playing field.
Tyler: What piece of advice can you give to any woman ready to fly her coop, but afraid of taking the leap?
DO IT, but be smart about it. PLAN, STRATEGIZE, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t expect to have it all figured out because you won’t. Most of the time, you will be figuring it out as you go. Start with one step. Just one. Almost any dream is going to take you out of your comfort zone. Expect that. I can promise you that you will find yourself in amazing places and situations that you could have never imagined. My life has not been a straight shot, but I am stronger because of it. When it gets tough, dig your high heels in harder. We only have one life. This is not the dress rehearsal. THIS IS IT. So, live your best life and do it with grace, integrity, and kindness. You’ll get so far!! I’m rooting for you! Soar. Xoxo