Joy Huntington, Founder of Uqaqti Consulting and the Joy Huntington brand has had the courage to take risks. (Courtesy Isaiah Mangum – Fairbanks Brand Studio)
This article originally appeared in the summer 2019 edition of Native Business Magazine.
Success wasn’t handed to Joy Huntington, a Koyukon Athabascan entrepreneur raised in rural Alaska. And she didn’t earn it by playing it safe. She discovered the courage to take risks, personally and professionally, not by suppressing her “negative” emotions, but by staying present with them.
Her secret? “I started journaling at 16 to overcome insecurities, fears and low self-esteem,” says Huntington, the woman behind the Joy Huntington brand (registered in Alaska as Joy Huntington, LLC). “I’m in the process of trademarking everything,” she adds.
Her notebook first became her tool to cope and process at age 16, not long after being expelled from boarding school. Feeling lost and hopeless, she gained clarity, direction and confidence through journaling. On her own volition, Huntington applied to an international boarding school in Sedona, Arizona, and received a full scholarship. A family member donated his frequent flyer miles, and she set off, at age 16, for a new life at the rigorous academic institution. Determined to excel, she garnered awards in chemistry, English and Spanish in her first year.
Taking that plunge instilled courage. “I just went and did it. I took this huge risk, and through that process, I started to see my worth and my value,” she says.
Huntington went on to attend Dartmouth College, graduating with high honors in 2006 with a degree in Native American Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies. Thereafter, she returned to Alaska, where she worked primarily for Tribal organizations. In 2011, Huntington launched Uqaqti Consulting, her statewide communications and community relations firm. Pronounced “oo-kuk-ti,” Uqaqti is Inupiaq for “one who speaks.” Given Huntington’s strong cultural ties and knowledge of Tribal protocols, she’s become a highly sought-after facilitator and communications strategist for meetings concerning transportation, environmental impact statements and more.
Uqaqti is still going strong today, and resources from that business helped to fund the launch of the Joy Huntington brand — a platform for her writing, motivational speaking, coaching and workshops focused on everything from journaling to goal setting, personal and professional development, career planning, managing finances, entrepreneurship and more. The enterprising Huntington leveraged the opportunity to launch her new venture at the Native Business Summit in May 2019. “I realized I could launch my brand on a new, national stage,” she says.
The mantra behind the Joy Huntington brand is “Just Open Yourself.” The heart of her work is inspiring and empowering others to find resilience in the face of hardship to create sustainable joy.
“In order to build extraordinary confidence, I had to take extraordinary risks,” she says.
While Huntington has carved a successful career path, like everyone, she’s been dealt a fair share of challenges and setbacks. She cultivates the strength and grace to handle them through “staying open.” Ever honest and vulnerable, Huntington openly shares her struggles and impetus for creating a personal brand on her website JoyHuntington.com:
“Just Open Yourself came to me one day a few years ago, when I was in a deep negative, self-defeating black hole. I was in the middle of a horrible break up, dealing with intense work stress, and parenting my two young daughters. I felt overwhelmed, tired, and judged. Everything in me wanted to curl up, hide, and numb the pain I was going through. Yet, as I journaled about the situation, something occurred to me. The energy I was using to ‘resist’ what was happening in my life was making me more tired, and it was simply not productive. Instead, I decided to just open myself to my current circumstances and feel whatever I needed to feel. In that moment, the fear and judgement evaporated.”
Huntington is excited to bring this message to audiences far and wide. One way she’ll do this is through her forthcoming, self-published book, Backbone Girl, slated for release in summer/fall 2020. It sheds light on her transitional, teenage years — though offers valuable insights on resilience for readers of any age. She also anticipates printing her first book of poetry — selling it on her website, and promoting it at her speaking engagements around the country.
Joy Huntington is no stranger to high-profile public speaking. She delivered the closing speech at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in 2012, among other engagements. But her first paid speaking opportunity came in May 2019. She delivered the keynote at the Tozitna Annual Meeting in her late grandmother’s village of Tanana. “I was able to kick off my first speaking engagement, officially, in an Alaskan Village, where my grandma was raised. That meant so much to me,” she says.
In small Alaskan Villages like her late grandmother’s, a sense of hopelessness and isolation can feel pervasive. Huntington believes she can make a positive impact. “I think, in my life, I’ve known from a very young age that I have the ability to uplift people,” she says, adding that, with the name Joy, perhaps it’s mandatory.
“People need a burst of positivity and hope in their lives,” she continues. “People need to be inspired and encouraged and know that they are important and that they matter — that they have what it takes to go take on risks and build that confidence and create really positive, wonderful lives.”
Huntington has additionally hosted a suicide prevention workshop through an organization in Alaska, in which she lead behavioral health professionals through her journaling process “to cope with the pressure that they’re under and the importance of self care for the caregivers,” she says.
Huntington additionally intends to carry her message to schools, universities and corporate settings. “Developing that confidence as a professional is an important message, especially to women,” she says.
“Resilient and sustainable joy is the end goal I’d like to share with people,” she continues. “Financial health, career health, physical health and mental health, they feed into one another. They’re the foundation. Each separate component could be its own workshop, or they could be addressed collectively. The outcome is sustainable joy.”
Huntington’s new pursuit fills her with a sense of purpose, and a sense of anxious enthusiasm joins her for the ride. “I’m happy to share this in the raw excitement, adrenaline, fear stage, because that’s the hardest part to walk through, because it’s very uncertain,” Huntington says. In the spirit of her “Just Open Yourself” mantra, Huntington is embracing that vulnerability. “I would love for people reading this to say, ‘Okay, if she’s going to go make her big dream happen and face her uncertainty, then maybe I can, too.’”
Joy’s journaling workshop will offer participants a powerful and lifelong tool for setting goals, holding yourself accountable, and creating a positive and resilient mindset.
Quick three-step journaling exercise for the anxious over-thinkers (Like Joy Huntington!)
- Write down everything weighing on your mind. List them in categories like work, finances, home, health, relationship, and family. It is important that we take control of our mental state, and writing down our worries will decrease our stress response’s power over us, and it may also spur creative problem solving energy.
- Every day, tackle one thing from each category and regain your sense of ownership and control in all areas of your life.
- Reward yourself! Write things like, “Good job, you are doing great today,” and “We’ve got this!” We all need positive reinforcement and encouragement, so why not do that for ourselves?