Kayla Huff is the Director of Development and Marketing for Healing Waters International and the Founder of The Her Initiative, passionately fighting to end the global water crisis. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, Nathan, and dog, Alfie. She’s loves speaking on all types of social justice issues, sneaking away to the mountains whenever she can, dreaming up new design ideas for her home, and enjoys bringing the right amount of goofiness into every personal encounter.
As a child I dreamed of becoming
An author and speaker to women. Even at a really young age I was aware that there seemed to be a lack of authority and power in women’s voices. I grew up in a culture where women’s words weren’t held with the same respect as men’s and whenever I heard a woman I respected, I was all ears and wanted to be just like her! I’m thankful that today’s society has given women much more of a platform to speak up.
The last photo I took on my phone
A selfie with my husband and dog in the back of our truck, drinking coffee in the mountains (insert country music song lyrics!)
My guilty pleasure
Tuna poke and a really good glass of Pinot Noir. Really just any fantastic food/wine pairing. Some (my husband) may say I’m a “food snob,” but I like to think they mean a “foodie.” I can also kill a bag of white cheddar popcorn quicker than the average person so I’m not that high maintenance!
One thing people might be surprised to learn about me
After college, I started a Master’s program studying Historical Theology and was planning on getting my phD. I quit the program, moved to Colorado and started working retail at Anthropologie. It was such a major 180 degree change from the life I thought I was going to live but trusting my gut and leaving that program was the best decision I could have ever made for my career.
My favorite way to unwind
This has changed over the years but can look like anything from a high intensity spin class after work or a slow stroll in our neighborhood. Time outside is always good for my soul! Often I just need to sit down on the couch with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and just be still. Being with my people – my husband, my best girlfriends, and my sister keeps me grounded and is an extremely necessary part of how I relax and unwind. I love constantly being on the go, dreaming up work concepts, thinking about the next home project I want to do, and while productivity is something that makes me come alive, I’m learning more and more to create margin to just rest, with nothing on my calendar.
My real life hero is (who and why)—
My teammate and dear friend, Jessie Matteson. There are many heroes in my life but she sticks out so significantly, especially in this season of life. Jessie works alongside me doing all the marketing and development for both Healing Waters and The Her Initiative. I’ve never had a more perfect work partner who is also a great friend outside of the office. She constantly challenges me and always pushes me closer to Jesus. Not only is she incredibly talented at what she does, she’s also one of the most positive and passionate people I have ever met. Jessie and her husband, Bryce, are great friends who constantly encourage me to think how I can love and serve people better. Jessie stopped her full-time photography gig to come work full-time with me and her husband is committing all of 2018 to run 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 weeks, to bring awareness to the global water crisis! (Check out Run5050!) How incredible is that? It’s so important to have inspiring people in your life and Jessie is for sure one of the best!
What I love about my work
The people I come into contact with and the creative ways we get to interact with them. That may be my coworkers at our headquarters or our coworkers who live all around the world. It’s the women, men, and children we work with in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, and Mexico who are changing their communities for the better. It’s the women I get connected with everyday who want to join the work we are doing with The Her Initiative! It’s all the incredible donors who are actually ending the Global Water Crisis through their generosity. People and relationships are the best and most important part of my work.
The hardest thing about my work
Never really being “off the clock.” Being so personally invested in our work keeps me always checking my email, responding to texts, etc. It’s always on my mind. I can’t really imagine having a job where I could just leave after 5pm and be checked out. That’s not how I’m wired.
How I got started with my current career
August 2018 starts my seventh year in the “development” (fundraising) world. Not to be confused with “international development” which is the sector I’ve always worked in, but my role in development, refers to fundraising, like “business development” opportunities. I got started by approaching a friend of a friend with my thesis on the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and why education was key in changing the lives of formerly enslaved women. That led to a few meetings and being offered an entry level development position for a non-profit working in Cambodia. Two and a half years later I was given an opportunity to come to Healing Waters where I became the Director of Development and Marketing and was given the agency to become an “intrapreneur” of sorts to start The Her Initiative.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was starting out
When I get asked this I cringe because there is one specific moment in the very beginning of my career that will forever be the dumbest thing I’ve done working in fundraising. After receiving a significant gift from a donor, I went to meet with her and assumed she had the capacity to continue to make large financial contributions. She then told me that her gift was a huge sacrifice for her and that she was not a “person of means.” I can’t tell you how tactless I felt sitting across from her. The key lessons I learned from that encounter continue to inform all of my relationships: never make assumptions, don’t force an “ask” without having a relationship with the person, and take the time to get to know someone authentically, not because you want to get something from them!
I used to think success meant
No limits on anything you wanted to do.
My current definition of success
Living an authentic life that is full and generous but has margin; being with people who love you.
An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
I am always pushing through my insecurities. Recently I started reflecting on the things I don’t feel “qualified” to do, say, be and then I realized that not feeling qualified was a byproduct of fear and insecurity.
I have felt disqualified at times to speak up because I have felt that previous bad decisions I made didn’t give me authority to share truth and wisdom with people. As though I was defined and scarred by my past. Recently, I was scared to have a tough conversation with a friend and had convinced myself I wasn’t qualified to speak truth into her life because I hadn’t seen her in a while. That lie was because of fear and I had to push through and tell myself I was highly qualified because I love her and want the best for her. The same is true in my professional life too. Maybe I don’t always feel qualified to sit in executive meetings because I’m a 29 year old girl who is the age of my boss’s own daughter. And yet I’m there, because I am qualified and I should be sitting at that table. Our minds can be our greatest enemies in telling us we aren’t worthy or qualified. That just isn’t true.
For me, balance means
Feeling at peace in a very holistic way – body, mind and soul. If I feel stress or anxiety in my thought life, my spiritual life, or in my overall health, I feel completely unbalanced. The older I’m getting the more I’m learning just how important keeping a “checks and balances” approach to these three parts of me is!
A few ways I practice self-care
Being outside, reading, saying no, cooking, traveling, unplugging.
My happiest moment in the past 6 months
My wedding day! My husband and I got married in January and it really was the best day of my life, as cliché as that sounds. To commit ourselves to each other in front of all of our friends and family was such a sacred experience and then the party and dancing after made it such a celebratory day and the perfect way to start our adventure into married life!
I feel the most beautiful in my skin when
I come home from a spin class drenched in sweat and Nathan is so excited to see me and gives me the biggest hug and kiss even though I smell disgusting.
I wish I could tell my younger self
To be patient. It’s so important to work hard and set goals but it’s also great to sit back and watch things unfold the way they are supposed to. I used to create timelines in my head as to how things should go and when those went awry, I felt like my whole world would fall apart. Patience has brought the best things – a dream job, an incredible husband, the deepest of friendships, and a life I’m proud to be living.
A favorite quote
Words can carry so much hope and these two quotes have been powerful mantras for a long time for me:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” John Steinbeck
The legacy I hope to leave
That loving yourself, others, and the world are not mutually exclusive things – you can do it all! And each relies on the other. I want people to look at my life and see a woman who vehemently pursued justice, was generous in giving grace and love to those around her, and took care of herself in a way that encouraged others to love themselves more.