Levingston is living an infamous life

Startup urges women to overcome, dream and achieve
Levingston is living an infamous life
Chris Charles of Creative-Silence
Sagashus-Levingston is founder of Infamous Mothers.

This new year is going to be a very big one for Sagashus Levingston, founder of Infamous Mothers. A for-profit startup, Infamous Mothers aims to redesign modern American workplaces into high-functioning and highly successful organizations where everyone can realize their potential.

“I don’t just talk about the importance of more mothers–especially marginalized ones–becoming CEOs, doctors, scientists, business owners, etc.,” Levingston writes on her website and expounds on in workshops and trainings. “I talk about strategies to make it happen. Equally important, I talk about what’s at stake if we don’t.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Levingston’s forthcoming book and art exhibit, “Infamous Mothers: A New Vision,” will interpret her work in a breathtaking way. Inspired by her Ph.D. dissertation in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the project profiles 22 Madison-area women who share their stories in deeply personal vignettes. The stories are accompanied by stunning contemporary portraits of each of her subjects, depicted as anything but infamous. Instead, these women are strong, smart, bold and beautiful, redefining their deficits as teen moms, prostitutes, addicts and victims of rape and incest into the assets that inform their lives and work.

Here are some of their voices:
“Our grit is what makes us truly infamous.”
“We survived. And we refuse to let our struggles be in vain.”
“They empower our mothering, make us activists, fuel our education, shape our relationships. For some of us, these experiences inspire our practices as teachers, attorneys, doctors, nurses, actors, photographers, CNAs …writers.”
“We make a difference.”

All of this amazingness is just the start for the 38-year-old entrepreneur, mother of six children by four different fathers, and the daughter and granddaughter of sex workers. It’s Levingston’s own infamous story that fueled the book/art exhibit and the business, which is set to debut products and services in the coming months.

“Make Room” is a series of workshops for employers on creating an environment that’s more conducive for mothers to thrive professionally.

“The [workshops] benefit businesses by allowing them to efficiently and effectively tap into more talent and potential,” says Levingston.

Businesses and individuals can also sign up for memberships and receive access to classes and workshops–as part of their subscription or at member discounts. In addition, a one-day summit is in the works to showcase more new products, promote membership packages and preview other “infamous” opportunities, including a national conference in Madison in 2018.

Part of the motivation to write this column, now in its second year, is to chronicle the startup community as it grows and develops over time–through the lens of the entrepreneurs who are launching their businesses, as well as the ecosystem of goods and services that sustain them. The other reason I write this is to demonstrate how diverse this ecosystem is and how inclusive it can be. I’m an optimist, which is why I’m drawn to entrepreneurs like Levingston. They dream big. They believe anything is possible if they work hard enough and let setbacks be their teacher–not their torture.

I asked Levingston for a bit of advice for the aspiring entrepreneur reading this column. In her own infamous words, this is what she told me:

“A vision is something you chase in the dark while everyone else is sleeping. Have confidence while you’re following the moonlight. When the sun comes up and everyone is awake, you birthed something that will leave people in awe, and inspired and grateful you did it. If you give up in the midnight hour, you rob the world and yourself of the beauty of your vision.”

To learn more about Levingston’s work, order the book and more, visit infamousmothers.com.