Hannah Ayla

Photographer and Brand Designer

Hannah Stombler-Levine (also known as Hannah Ayla) is a photographer and brand designer with 15 years of experience working with well-known brands such as Apple, Nespresso, Williams Sonoma and Zillow. Hannah has dedicated the last 8 years to being a court appointed special advocate for San Francisco’s CASA program which supports Bay Area foster youth. Hannah has previously interned with the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, the National Council for Jewish Women, and the honorable Judge Susan Breall at the Dependency Court in San Francisco. Recently, Hannah helped lobby for a new bill presented by Senator Weiner’s office, SB 234, which aimed to expand access to housing for transitional aged youth, many of which are people of color.

In her free time Hannah enjoys consuming excessive amounts of soup, spending time with her senior rescue cat, Tofu, and making jewelry to help fundraise for local organizations.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

One thing I love about being a multi-hyphenate is that no two days are ever the same.

For the most part, I start my day by checking my email, having a cup of tea and journaling for a few minutes before diving into work. I have a bad habit of starting work as soon as I open my eyes and grab my phone, so I am trying to break this habit by having more me-time in the morning.

After my morning routine, I usually find myself transitioning between 3 to 5 projects, spanning various mediums such as photography, video editing, script writing, visual design, and sales.

One consistent element in my daily routine is staying in touch with the foster youth I support, whether through FaceTime or text messages. I have been a foster youth advocate for over 6 years, and try to provide an example of a consistent adult figure in their lives by checking in on them daily, the same way my parents did for me at that age.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I believe all creative ideas have a shelf life. As soon as I start to feel inspired, I give myself a week to get started on the project. This helps me gauge if the idea is worth investing in long term, or if I just needed to try it on.

What’s one trend that excites you?

De-influencing! In a world of mass consumption, I love seeing this new shift away from materialistic meaning and towards more meaningful and sustainable purchasing habits. I think everyone, and the world, can use less stuff.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

Every morning I write a to-do list with my top 3 goals for the day. I purposely put the task that is most daunting in the #1 position, and don’t let myself move on to tasks #2 or #3 until #1 is completed. This helps me finish the hardest tasks first and helps my day feel easier as it goes on.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries in all areas of your life. Boundaries don’t keep people out; they keep you in.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

Paris Hilton is incredibly intelligent and is strategically using her public persona as a means of coping with trauma.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

Write a list in your phone of your favorite people in the universe. Every month, go through your list and check in with each of them. This strengthens your relationships and holds you accountable when life gets crazy.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

When I am feeling completely overwhelmed, I set a 20 minute timer and clean my house. This helps me take a step back, while also feeling productive, and allows me to return to my work in a calmer space.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

Don’t compromise your morals for a quick dollar.

As a content creator, I often struggle with the fine line between promoting mass consumption, and helping sustainable brands reach new audiences.

Working with sustainable companies who are making products that are built to last, and using ethically sourced materials, helps me stay true to myself and promote brands and products I really believe in.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

Approaching my business from a scarcity mindset. When I first opened my business, I found myself accepting every job that came my way for fear of missing out on an opportunity. I quickly found myself burnt out and beginning to resent the work I used to love. Now, I accept projects more intentionally and it shows in my work.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An AI powered internet plug-in that detects fake news, provides sources, and provides unbiased facts on controversial topics.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Voice to text technology. After sustaining a repetitive stress injury to my dominant hand, I leaned into using technology that helped me maintain my productivity without adding to my pain.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

Personal: My best friend is pregnant and was raving about hands-free pull on sneakers… I will never go back to regular sneakers ever again. I will talk your ear off about why you need a pair of these.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

While it may not be your typical business podcast, I repeatedly find value in the podcast Armchair Expert. Dax is incredibly emotionally intelligent and creates a space for guests to share their vulnerabilities in a much deeper way. You get to learn about the real people behind the public persona. This podcast has taught me a great deal about my own psyche and the broader spectrum of human behavior.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Film. When my father was diagnosed with Parkinsons’ a few years ago, it was difficult to envision how this condition would alter his life in the far future. This movie masterfully portrayed the harsh realities of Parkinsons, while maintaining a profound sense of empathy, love, humanity, dignity, and a great sense of humor. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Michael J. Fox, and think everyone can gain something by watching this documentary.

Key learnings:

  • Approach your business with an abundance mindset. This allows you to produce more meaningful work, and helps prevent burnout.
  • Don’t be afraid to set boundaries in all areas of your life. Boundaries don’t keep people out; they keep you in.
  • All creative ideas have a shelf life. If you have an idea — don’t wait to pursue it.