Your Favorite Bachelor Contestant, Sarah Herron is Trying to Lift Others Up


Bachelor Favorite, Sarah Herron Is Lifting Others Up

You may remember her from Sean Lowe's season of the bachelor, or more recent seasons of the wildly entertaining spin-off series, Bachelor in Paradise but there's a lot you don't know about Sarah Herron. From her background in advertising to starting a successful non-profit in a few years, she's much more than a former contestant on an ABC show.

3 of 12 (WDC): You put yourself in a very vulnerable position when you signed up to date on television. Were you prepared to share your story? Did your physical difference propel you to go on television?

Sarah Herron (SH): "No, in no way. I signed up for The Bachelor because I was really struggling with my own dating life and self-acceptance. I really and truly thought going on The Bachelor would solve my dating problems. I never set out to be an example for girls, I never set out to lead a mission or educate people on limb differences, so I never really considered the fact that I would be the first contestant with a disability, none of that even crossed my mind. I was just like, "I need to meet a guy" and I find it really hard to put myself out there so maybe if I go on a TV show where people force me to date it'll help me overcome that fear.

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It wasn't my goal. My goal was to find love, so even when I came off the show I was overwhelmed with all this feedback and response from all these viewers, [some of whom] maybe had one arm or one leg or their daughter did, and they were so excited to see somebody they could relate to on television. And I thought that was great but it's not my responsibility.

I wasn't in a place of self-acceptance where I was ready to take on that responsibility so really, for the first three years after appearing on The Bachelor, yes my fan following grew and a large percentage of the audience was people of physical difference community, but I didn't know what I was supposed to do with it.

[I thought] I'm still struggling with my own self-acceptance, my own insecurities, so how could I possibly be a mentor for these people? Meanwhile, I was developing this love for the outdoors and I really found a lot of solidarity and confidence in spending time outside. So, I started going on hikes and skiing more and a lot of this I was doing by myself. I posted photos to Instagram and that's when these followers were like, "wow that's so cool that you don't let anything hold you back and you go on these hikes by yourself and it's such an inspiration".

And that's when it started to dawn on me okay maybe I don't have the answers, and I don't know how to be a mentor for these girls but what I do know, being outside helped improved my self-esteem and confidence so if I can inspire other people to find their confidence through outdoor recreation then that's at least pointing me in the right direction. So, that was my first approach, or the light bulb moment for SheLift which ultimately grew and grew from there.

I went back on Bachelor in Paradise, and then I went back on Bachelor in Paradise again [laughs] and over that course of five years, I was doing a lot of self-improvement and working on my confidence, and I think it really took that whole duration to arrive at a place of "okay this is my story and I do have a social responsibility, whether I asked for it or not, and I can't let this platform or this opportunity go to waste for girls who need support". So that's when I decided that I was going to step into this role. The mission had found me not necessarily the other way around. I think is happens for a lot of people when they are discovering their life's work or their purpose, often times the mission finds you. And that's absolutely what happened in this scenario.

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Blending in while standing out. Pic by @dylan.h.brown

A post shared by Sarah Herron (@sarahherron) on

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WDC: How did your background at 72andSunny help you create a non-profit?

SH: I don't think people know or are aware [of] my technical skills, I went to school for communications and graphic design, so working at 72andSunny which is where I started by career, and spent eight years of my career, really helped me foster every skill set I could've used to start this organization.

In many ways I've reflected on it and I'm like, "wow what if my years in advertising was just a form of grad school in the sense to prepare me for starting SheLift?" Because I really learned brand strategy, I learned how to activate people, motivate movement, I learned the sense of influencer engagement and marketing and I learned how to design my own website. My job for so long was to create campaigns that people wanted to be a part of. I spent three years working on the Truth campaign for the American Legacy Foundation which is the anti-tobacco campaign.

A lot of people think advertising is selling brands, selling sex, or products but fortunately I got to work on a non-profit whose sole purpose was selling teens on ending the use of tobacco.

I started at 72andSunny when I think I was employee number fifty or something. It was a very small agency, and those fifty people that we started out with have gone on to start their own agencies or write novels and they are doing amazing trailblazing work. I just feel so privileged that I got to learn everything that I know from these people who are literally changing the world through marketing and it was a really cool experience working in advertising.

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WDC: How did you get your non-profit, SheLift, off the ground and running?

SH: Because my background was in content creation, my initial idea for SheLift was a TV show. A lot of people don't know that, but I initially wanted to sell it as a branded content series and I actually pursued that avenue for about a year. I met with networks and there was a lot of love for it but there needed to be evidence of a sustainable community. A lot of the feedback was "who is the audience?" "what is this community?" "How are you going to prove to me that viewership is strong, and brands will want to get involved"?

And so, I took that as a creative brief,[I heard their] point loud and clear. I'm going to start a grassroots movement and prove to everybody that there's a cause and a need for it.

I didn't know the first thing about starting a nonprofit I literally Googled "how to start a non-profit" and I just went with it. You need a business plan and there's a form you need to file with the IRS but I'm lucky enough to know people in almost every industry and I tapped [my] resources. You have to get very comfortable when you're starting a business and working in non-profit, you have to be very comfortable asking for help.

I asked a lawyer friend to help me with the filing process for the 501(c)3 and we just did it. I don't know how to explain it but it was kind of a crazy thing, we filled out the paperwork together, I wrote a business plan, which I also didn't know how to do but I took my best shot at it, and we filed the application.

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WDC: Where would you like to see SheLift in five years? What are your next goals with the organization?

SH: You're catching me at a pretty transformative time because we're entering the third year and that's kind of the growth spurt or growing pains stage of SheLift and of any start-up, non-profit organization. Okay, so we've established ourselves, people know what SheLift is, we have a huge following and girls are applying for the retreat. But we're at this place, how do we scale?

We still don't have the money needed to hire staff, or continue paying ongoing support and so it's a chicken before the egg scenario because we need to continue providing these opportunities and resources, but we don't have the staff and the funding to afford the staff. We're working really hard to apply to as many grants as possible right now. Also, finding a way to scale our program so that it's available for more girls at a cheaper cost. So, I guess the five year plan is that we'd love to have retreats 2-4 times a year, currently we have them twice a year, so really being able to do 2-4 a year and bring more girls along on each retreat.

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WDC: Where can people find SheLift to donate, learn more, or join the cause?

SH:We just kicked off the SheLift podcast, which I'm really excited about. It's an extension of the SheLift brand and so it's focused on highlighting women who are using their platform and projects to inspire change in the world. It can be any woman, just somebody that's using her passions and creativity to use projects that'll change the world. We're interviewing everyday women and we're also interviewing celebrities who are using their platform to do good and give back and use their voices.

Get Involved:

Download and listen to the SheLift podcast here

Donate to SheLift here

Shop to support SheLift here

To learn more about Sarah visit her website here