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#UpWithHer: How building tables transformed into purposeful workshops

A decade on, building tables transformed into “on the table” workshops with a purpose for this business owner.

It's been said talk is cheap. But intentional conversation can be life-changing.  

Bree Clarke started her company, The Iman Project, with table talk.

Now that conversation has grown into a successful community discussion that’s changing minds and hearts.

Growing up, Clarke spent hours around her family’s dinner table.  

"We would just talk about everything; it was truly our safe place to come together," she explained.

But as a young woman, Clarke started to slip away from that solid foundation. 

"I’ve lost it all. I was in prison. I know I put my parents through a lot," she said.

She went through a lot herself.

Clarke was homeless for a period of her life. She met her husband online, and at one point, the couple lived in her car.  

"We didn’t have a table or a place to gather or anything," she explained. "When we did get an apartment, we had our air mattress and we didn’t have any furniture. We would have all our meals on this air mattress." 

With $60 and help from her dad, Clarke and her husband soon made their first farmhouse table, like the one she grew up eating around.  

A decade later, building tables transformed into “on the table” workshops with a purpose.  

Clarke cultivates do-it-yourself classes for women centered around diversity.  

"The whole time while we were creating with our hands, I wanted women to create with our hearts and open them up to something that was new," she said. "Diversity is more than a hashtag. Women empowering women is more than a hashtag."

And it’s easier to have a difficult conversation while you’re creating something beautiful.  

"People say, 'Oh, Bree, you have no fear. You’re fearless. And you can go and do this.' But I do have fear," she said. "What I don’t think I lack is courage."

RELATED: The Iman Project: Celebrating diversity and community long before the year 2020

Her nerve sent fledgling businesswomen flocking to her, so Clarke launched “Pick My Brain with Bree."

"I say all the time, I'm not a business coach. But I get it. And I just want to share how I got through it," she said.

Here are a few of her top pieces of advice. 

"I feel like the way to connect with people is being selfless," she explains. "By not just focusing on me and how I’m feeling or what I’m going through, I’m able to connect with others on a more personal, mental and spiritual level."

To connect with people though, you have to put in the work. Make intentional connections and forget about communicating through DMs or studying someone on social media. 

"A lot of the stuff that I’m doing with my business, it’s from relationships I’ve made years ago. It’s people that I worked for when I was a hostess," she said.

Putting in the work doesn’t mean you abandon boundaries. Clarke is good at saying no so she's still able to prioritize her husband, the man she calls the heartbeat of her brand.  

"At a time when it’s all about women empowering women, and the Alpha female and women being strong, show your appreciation and love for those who are cheering us on and are keeping us going as well," she said.

Her next project keeping her going? Taking her popular workshops online. To register for an event or find more details about “Pick my Brain with Bree,” visit theimanproject.com.