A series that spotlights the inspiring women who are building inspiring things.
Danya Shults is the founder of Arq, a platform that helps people connect with Jewish life and culture in a more relevant, inclusive, and convenient way. Before Danya launched Arq she ran Pop-up Shabbat, a pop-up restaurant with her (now!) husband and friend. We are avid readers of Arq, are obsessed with the events they host, and think Danya is incredible (you will too!) Check her out on Instagram , you'll be happy you did!
Why did you start your Arq?
Because I couldn't find a way to connect to Judaism - which is an important part of my heritage, my identity, my community - in a way that felt relevant and integrated into my life and inclusive (including of my husband, who is not Jewish), and I knew that I wasn't the only one who was looking for a solution. On a more macro level, there's so much hate and loneliness and prejudice around us these days, and I think that if Arq can help anyone connect to Jewish life and culture and tradition, we can create more understanding and acceptance in the process.
What was your most exciting day as a founder? What happened? Why was it the best?
There have been some really exciting milestones, like our launch party, and validating press, but those are cheap thrills in a way. They make you feel so high, but then they're over in a split second, and you're left with the real day-to-day work, which is hard! The moments that truly make my heart flutter and that remind me why building Arq matters are when I get emails from our community members telling me about the impact Arq is having on their lives, and when I get clarity around the next priorities or phase for Arq and feel like the world is our oyster (especially since those usually come right after a horribly frustrating period of overwhelmedness as I try to figure out what's next!).
What is your biggest struggle in the hustle? (Be honest!)
Being a founder is like surfing a sin curve, and it's gnarly. You start at rock bottom - you haven't built anything yet, all you have are ideas, and you often don't even have the skills yet to accomplish what you want to. Then, after a while, you feel like you're on top of the world because you've done what you need to get the ball rolling and you've learned a ton about the thing you didn't know how to do before...and that is EXACTLY when you ironically start getting a knot in your stomach because you know you're about to transition into the next dip in the curve where you've got a whole new challenge to tackle and it feels like you're at the bottom again. The brilliance of this, though, is that you don't end up at the same bottom where you started - the overall curve keeps going up and up and up as you increase your overall impact and skill set and knowledge. It doesn't make the dips any less painful, though!
What is the item on your to do list that you wish you never had to do?
Transcribe interview audio! This past week I finally decided to start farming that out to a freelancer, and it felt glorious :)
If there was a brand/marketing/PR genie that would hand you one achievement, what would it be?
I would LOVE to kill it at brand partnerships. It would be a dream to team up with Travel + Leisure or Phaidon's Wallpaper Guides or Wildsam Field Guides on travel guides with a Jew-ish twist, or to partner with The Infatuation or Eater on a series of Jewish food & restaurant reviews.
What is your favorite Instagram feed right now?
I can't pick just one! I'm a long-time @garancedore fan, especially since she just moved from NYC to LA, like I'm doing :) I also love @tinaessmaker's black & white photos and original poetry, @bohemegoods for vintage fashion inspo, and @heyokreal @girlsatlibrary @cyclesandsex @and sister.is is for lady power. There are so many more, but I'll stop here!
What is an article you read / podcast you listened to recently that felt like the writer/host was in your brain?
I am newly obsessed with a podcast called The Turnaround, in which a professional interviewer interviews professional interviewers about interviewing (like Katie Couric!). It's validated so much of what I've learned on the fly interviewing people for Arq, but I've also learned invaluable tactics to become a better interviewer.
Let's end on a non-work note! Favorite place you have ever been?
Whidbey Island, a magical island off of Seattle where my husband's family has been spending summers for generations (sans wifi, even still!) is one of my most favorite retreats.
CEO & Founder of Tactile