When I interviewed Haley Hoffman Smith she was also working on some t-shirts for an event and yet every word she spoke was well-thought out and deliberate. She knows and understands the importance of words. This observation is unsurprising considering that she founded Lit Without Limits, a nonprofit organization that aims to help girls and young women discover the inspirational power of literature, at age 18. Now, you might wonder what type of literature Lit Without Limits donates and recommends, and the answer would be books that have, “strong female protagonists,” according to Lit’s Mission Statement, “[as well as those that have] vital messages about their innate power to stimulate a passion.”
However, beyond simply teaching girls to love literature and engage with it actively there is another goal for the organization – to inspire girls to realize the value of their own voices and their educations. Haley, a student at Brown University, emphasized to me how important her personal education has been in shaping who she is today. She also stressed how education can mean personal experiences as much as it can refer to classes and lectures. That is one of the reasons she launched Lit, because reading and books are an excellent source of education inside and outside of the classroom. But, Haley wasn’t content with just running Lit and making an impact through the distribution of literature.
In July of 2016, Haley Hoffman Smith and Kelly Hart co-founded the company She Is Without Limits, which serves to connect young women to each other and encourage their personal and communal empowerment. Lit is a sister nonprofit to She Is Without Limits. Together Haley and Kelly created a space where women could develop confidence, find themselves, and pursue their dreams with the support of an entire community behind them. The significance of the titles of both organizations is not lost on Haley who spoke of pushing beyond the limits people create for themselves. She believes that if people follow their passions eventually something will work out, it just might not happen in the way they previously anticipated.
Haley’s work is amazing, especially considering her age and her status as a student. On that note, I casually mentioned that there are times when school can be all-consuming and that it can seem impossible to do anything else but study. Haley’s response was that she had thought about waiting until she was older to start Lit but her passion and drive pushed her to begin regardless of her age. When asked about the key to starting up as an entrepreneur Haley responded, “Just start.” She is an ambitious person who sees limitless possibility in the world around her. However, she did speak candidly about sometimes succumbing to imposter syndrome, a situation where one distorts and doubts the overall impact of one’s achievements. When those days happen she emphasized how important her friends and family are – they remind her of who she is and what has she has accomplished (like the publication of her first book).
She also commented that age and gender should not scare people away from working towards their goals, although she acknowledged that there are definitely challenges that exist in the world for everyone. As a Gender Studies major who focuses on women’s agency in leadership roles she has an in-depth grasp of some of these challenges. Haley is also extremely conscious of how important it is for women in leadership to have a solid community of people who lift them up (and who they can lift up in turn) around them. Haley is truly a woman who lives her life without a thought for limits, because, in her mind, limits are merely challenges to be overcome – they are not impervious obstacles.
*In an effort to share some of what she has learned about overcoming limits and breaking barriers Haley published a book entitled She Is Without Limits.
Connect with Haley on Twitter: @HaySmithh
IMAGE CREDITS: Every Ella