After research showed that a lack of relatable role models was a huge barrier to women achieving greater success at work, today’s guest, Melinda Garvey, decided to shift that dynamic (sorry Oprah and Sheryl, but most women don’t exactly find you relatable!). She founded On the Dot Women in 2016 after having successfully launched and run Austin Women Magazine since 2002. Join us to hear about her vision to “brainwash” women so that we ALL know our worth, build tribes to support us, and kick ass in our Manolos!
Episode 28: Helping Women LeaderShift into Entrepreneurship with Melinda Garvey
Shani Magosky: Hey, LeaderShifters. Welcome to another episode of The LeaderShift Show. I’m Shani and our guest today is Melinda Garvey. Say a quick hello.
Melinda Garvey: Hello everyone. I’m so happy to be here with you. Thank you, Shani.
Shani: Thrilled to have you. LeaderShifters, let me just tell you a little bit about Melinda. She is super cool. She is all about all things women and culture, which we will dive into. Just as a small taste, she developed and continues to publish Austin Women’s Magazine and is the founder of On The Dot Woman which is a fantastic site for women and interviewing many, many different female role models. When I was introduced to her, I knew I would love her because when I read this little blurb on her website, I knew it was a match made in heaven.
She just sees this as the– Let me back up. If you ask Melinda Garvey, what her big dream is, you will probably hear her say, “I want to brainwash women.” Now don’t be alarmed, she just sees this as the fastest way to ensure that all women know their worth, have a tribe of other women supporting them, and can see their own path to success through access to the Manolos of women that came before them. I’m a fellow shoe collector, if I may say. Welcome to the show.
Melinda: Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here. I hope all your listeners and watchers are ready to be brainwashed. It’s my superpower.
Shani: Yes, I love it. Well, brainwashing isn’t bad if it’s a positive thing that we’re helping shift mindsets, because that’s really- when we say brain brainwashing, it’s helping people shift their perspective.
Melinda: That’s right.
Shani: Give us just a little bit of a history of how you came up in the business world and bring us up to the point at which you started Austin Woman Magazine.
Melinda: Okay. Well, I– Gosh, that’s going back a lot of years. Austin Women is almost 17 years old, which I can hardly believe. I had an interesting– I was one of those very accidental entrepreneurs. I had this great career trajectory when I was young and I kept moving up. I was just on top of the world and doing really well. I had actually come to visit Austin, Texas. A friend of mine was living here. I just kept extending my plane ticket and stamps, like I love this place. This is amazing.
I thought, “You know what? I think I’m ready for a change. I’m going to move here.” I was probably, I don’t know, about 15 years into my career, I guess. Again, I’d had this great trajectory. I moved here. Literally within 30 days, boom, boom, boom, got a job, great on paper. Probably there are a lot of you, have you ever had one of those jobs where it’s really good on paper?
Shani: My first couple of jobs were jobs that look great on paper. Absolutely.
Melinda: Yes, exactly. It was one of those. It was like you could hear that, like the screeching skid marks of tight– I get into this job, it’s literally the worst job on the planet. The people are absolutely crazy. It just was one of those things where I’m like, “How did I end up here?” What happened was, is that, fast forward eight months into that job, and I’m a really naturally confident person. Like I said, I had had this great career trajectory.
I have to say it really started to just– I thought, “Okay, this must be me, something’s wrong.” You really start believing the myth, like, “Okay, this must be something wrong with me.” That eight-month period I was really like, “I got to get out of here. This is just killing me. It’s killing my self-esteem.” I was out with some girlfriends, having a few glasses of wine as you do, whining about my job.
Shani: Wine and whining. It’s a perfect combination.
Melinda: Exactly. One of my girlfriends looks at me and she- I think she had a martini and she’s like, “Hey, I just got back from Des Moines, Iowa.” I was like, “Seriously? This is my pity party and we’re going to talk about Des Moines, Iowa?” I was like, “Please, by all means.” She’s like, “There was this really cool magazine they’re called Des Moines Woman.” This is in Austin, which I don’t know how many of you know about Austin, but we’re in this tech boom.
We really were the very first tech boom back in 2002, and it was just men, men, men, men, you never read about women and shows that there’s nobody talking about women in this town. “You know you’ve done some publishing stuff, you have that background, you should just do that.” I’ll tell you, I can remember like it was yesterday. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I knew instantly in that moment that’s what I was supposed to do.
Now, I had never thought about starting my own business. The word entrepreneurship was not hip, cool, sexy that it is now. I didn’t take any classes. I didn’t have any family members that were entrepreneurs. None of that, but I just knew. Literally, the next morning, I got up. I took a couple of Advil because I needed them after the night [laughs] and I started writing a business plan. Seven months later, we launched the first issue of Austin Woman, and that was in September 2002.
Shani: Wow, congratulations.
Melinda: Thank you. It was a crazy ride. I like to tell people because I think that now that entrepreneurship is such a buzz word, I think there’s this pressure like, “If I don’t have this great idea, if I don’t have something planned or–” I just want to encourage people to watch out for that moment, that that change happens and you know.
Shani: Actually, I’m glad you said that because my next couple of questions are really to help LeaderShifters embrace some of what you had to in order to do that because I’m sure that there’s lots of listeners out there who have had that hair standing up on their neck kind of moment and then just didn’t act on it.
They’re like, “Oh,” because they got excited, but then they talk themselves out of it. Those inner critics, those words of doubt, “Who do I think I am to be an entrepreneur? Maybe the idea is not that good. It’s going to be hard. I need the stability of a W-2 paycheck.” How would you recommend people, not just women because I have a lot of male listeners too who I think sometimes let fear stand in their way? What would you suggest people do when they have that moment to not get scared away?
Melinda: Well, I think that there are a couple of things, the first is take some kind of action. I literally got up the next morning. I’m not kidding you when I said I started writing a business plan. I was just like, “Okay, so what would this–” You take some kind of action, don’t just let it live in your head because I think sometimes when it lives in our head, then all the voices can tear that apart. I put some stuff on paper so that that way at least I had that reference point at my most excited, at my most confident like, “Hey, I could do this.”
I had that to go back to when the next few weeks in the middle of the night when I was waking up going, “What am I thinking? I can’t do this.” I would pick up the business plan from the floor of the side of my bed and go, “Oh, yes. Okay, I can do it.” That to me was really key for me. The other thing is really finding your tribe. I talk to women about this all the time, that really find those people that will support you and encourage you and make connections for you and really be that push for you.
The last thing is, and this actually happened to me, is make sure that you get rid of the people who are the naysayers. Now, that doesn’t mean you get rid of everybody who challenges you or who questions things. I’ll tell you, I had an attorney, this young guy that I actually knew. I was like, “I need some paperwork to start this business, right?”
I had known him previously. Super nice guy. He sits me down the first time and just gives me all the stats on how often businesses fail and yadda yadda yadda yadda. I was like, “Okay, I got it. You’ve done your job. Great.” Every single time I talked to him, it was like, “Are you sure you want to do this? I don’t know. This is a real risk.” Every single time. I was going off the rails because here he was, he’s a professional. He’s seen this before. What do I know? I finally got the guts and I fired him.
Shani: Good for you because he was sucking your accidental entrepreneur energy.
Melinda: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen entrepreneurs that have advisors around them, that end up going off the rails, losing that dream because of someone else’s fear. That’s the other thing. You can’t take on– Look, you got enough of your own fear, trust me, it would last your life. You don’t need to be taking on anybody else’s. [laughs] I have to have that confidence that you’ll make those correct decisions.
Shani: It’s so true. The proverbial, they say that we’re a combination of, let’s say, the 5 to 10 people we surround ourselves with most. It’s really true. If we’re surrounded by people who are negative and living from a place of fear, we’re most likely going to follow that path and start to doubt what we’re doing versus if we’re surrounded by people who are encouraging and positive and have the same sort of goals, then we’re going to follow that path.
I think not enough people are conscious of who they’re surrounding themselves with, especially regarding the things that are really important to them. I guess I want to take a minute to challenge those who are watching or listening and say where in your life do you need to maybe reshuffle the deck in terms of the people that you’re surrounding yourself with? Not just if you are striving to be an entrepreneur, but whatever your circumstances are, it’s really important to build that right pit crew, as I like to call it.
Melinda: That changes as time goes on. I think that people feel– That doesn’t mean you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but there are certain roles for people that they fit in or don’t fit. Even now the people that I’m surrounded by are much much different. Especially with On The Dot being global, rather than just local, I have to surround myself with different people. All of those things are important to understand. I love that reshuffle the deck. It’s a perfect [chuckles] way of looking at it like that. You don’t have to throw out the deck, you just have to reshuffle it sometimes.
Shani: Yes, exactly. It’s all about expectations. If you have certain friends who just aren’t capable of providing moral support and encouragement, yes, you don’t have to necessarily get rid of them as friends but readjust your expectations about what they’re in your life to deliver. Maybe they’re just the friend that you go out and wine with wine to, as opposed to the friend that you’re going to call when you’re getting frustrated and demoralized you want to go to the right friends.
Let’s actually talk about On The Dot. What was the culture? Since the leadership project is all about helping the organization shift culture so that it aligns with the proper execution of the business plan. What was the culture you were seeing out there especially visa vee women that prompted you to do something like On The Dot?
Melinda: Clearly, I’m a little nuts because I thought [crosstalk]
Shani: How much time do you have?
Melinda: Back up to, I guess, 2016, 2015-ish, when we have a woman running for president and definitely, you just felt the media and everything. Everything was rubbing up about this women’s movement and just talking about all the issues facing women. This is really before the me two times up stuff happened. This is all about those top things that you hear about lack of access to capital, lack of access to networks. I was really interested in what was happening in the inequality of pay. What was happening with women?
Here I am in Austin, Texas. I’m like, “We have this great little great network. I’m around women.” I’m feeling the abundance. I talk a lot about this abundance versus scarcity and I’m feeling the abundance, so I’m clueless. I’m like, “Really.” I know gazillions of fabulous women who are killing it and doing it. I’m exposed to them all the time and I have that powerful–
I started doing research on really what are these things that are affecting women and why? You hear all the ones I just mentioned, but then when I realized that right at the tippy top of the list, lack of access to relatable role models. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Then I just got ticked off. I really was like, “That’s not okay. I can solve that.”
I’ve been doing down here in Austin for, at that time, you know, 14, 15 years. I didn’t understand because I often go to conferences in different parts of the country, really just to fill my own cup for these women’s conferences and meet all these amazing women and find out what they’re doing. It’s so interesting, and I thought, “How is it?” What I realized in the media, all we see is Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah and Beyonce.
Shani: Meghan Markle.
Melinda: The thing is they’re all great people. They’re really great for getting people like Whoo, excited and getting a message known. At the end of the day, none of us can really relate to them and see that path. That’s not someone that you can say, “Wait a minute, she looks a little bit like me. You know what? If she can do it, I can do it too.” That’s really what On The Dot is. On The Dot is just a global iteration of what I’ve been doing locally for a long time. It’s really about celebrating the accomplishments of these incredible women, but exposing that to other women so that other women could– That’s why I talked about the brainwash part.
I have this vision. Especially with On The Dot, I thought, “How do I really want to do this?” Of course, being global, it really had to be digital. I knew that women are so time-starved. We don’t make times. We don’t make time for the things that actually will advance us. I knew I wanted it to be super short because I wanted– I didn’t want anybody to have any excuse. You can choose not to read or listen to On The Dot every morning but you can’t say, “I don’t have time,” because you got four minutes.
You’re putting on your mascara and your makeup and you can listen to it. We made it four-minute audible and a short form newsletter, you can either read it or listen to it. My whole vision was what if? What if every day millions of women the world over just had four-minute talking about mindset change? Four minutes incoming positive, relatable role model. “Wow, this woman could do that.” This is women who are getting it done? How would that change the conversation about women’s advancement?
If we know that one of the top issues facing women is the lack of those role models what would happen if there was an abundance because there is an abundance, we just can’t see them because nobody is talking about them and that’s what we’re doing. That’s really was my whole mission and passion around this. It’s really interesting how it’s morphed.
Not only do we have the consumer version, but we actually now have a white label internal corporate platform of women in large companies, like Adelle for example that has 30,000 plus women that help those women make connections within their own companies, and advance and profiles women within those companies. What we found is that those women that are in corporate America are often far more siloed even than entrepreneurs.
It seems weird because if they work with all these women and we work alone or with small teams, but we’re naturally out there because we have to be for our business. We naturally connect a network. Whereas women in those big corporations often they look around their cubicles, they are the only woman. They certainly don’t see anybody in leadership or in the C-suite. That’s really what corporations are struggling with. Not only how do we get to gender parity, but then how do we take that and get these women and advance into our upper levels?
Shani: I love that.
Melinda: It’s so fascinating.
Shani: Again, I want to take a quick pause and address folks who are listening, not just women also men, what could it look like in your organization if you teamed up with On The Dot for a white label way to shine that spotlight on exceptional women and maybe other underrepresented folks who feel disenfranchised just because they’re not white guys, right? Let’s just call it what it is, right? To do that because there are plenty of talented folks in your organization whose accomplishments deserve to be highlighted. I really love that. That’s a fascinating evolution to what you’re doing. [crosstalk]
Melinda: One that just happened based on– You talk about these shifts. That was probably the most significant. Of course, I’ve never worked in big-time corporate America. I’ve either been in smaller companies or doing my own thing in the entrepreneur world. When I really started getting to know these women in these large corporations and talking to them and looking at what they’re doing, I think, “They’ve had tons of resources.” Surely and they all have these ERG, employee resource groups, which 20 people show up to at a monthly luncheon.
I thought, “Oh, my gosh. In one fell swoop, I could reach 30,000 women like bam, and help these women and help connect. That got me excited. It’s accomplishing the mission that we set out to do working with these big companies. It really became fascinating to me, and just the learning and how we’ve developed. We’ve developed out a whole platform where you can make introductions and connect with each others, like an–
Shani: Almost like an internal LinkedIn.
Melinda: That’s right, very similar. It’s gamified so you get points and badges if you’re a super influencer so that you get recognized. We have this idea ****that if the top executives could see that you are like, “Who’s this super influencer? She’s super quiet at her desk, but man, she’s making some waves in her own way.” I think that women often get overlooked because we don’t stand up for ourselves or we don’t apply for that job because we don’t think we’re qualified. This really allows women to have that recognition and to make connections and to have those tribes within their own company.
Shani: Great. Well, I’d love to turn around that statistic that I’m sure you’ve heard as many times as I have which is that most women won’t apply for a job unless they feel they have 90% or more of the qualifications in the job description. Men will feel comfortable applying for the same job if they have 40% to 50% of the qualifications of the job description, which is bizarre. Somewhere in the middle is, I guess, the mindset that folks should have.
I think what you’re doing is so important for inclusion efforts in general because telling people we have to be more inclusive doesn’t really go very far. You can talk until you’re blue in the face and it doesn’t sink in for a lot of people but when they experience it, when they see it, when people are doing it, that’s when inclusion starts to really matter and get into people’s bones. You’re highlighting women who are actually doing it and showing other people that it’s possible and that they’re missing- until now, they’ve been missing talent development opportunities.
Melinda: That’s right. Well, and I think that it goes back to at the core of when you hear about the reputation of some women which– Look, it’s earned in many way and it comes from a scarcity mindset. If there are 10 jobs that are available. You’re like, “Okay, I might be qualified for these 10.” But if you only see one woman, and nine men, in your mind you think, “I have one shot, so I better not help anybody else because there’s only one slot for a woman.”
Whereas a man, if you had nine women and one man in a job, the man would go, “I got all 10. Of course, I could apply for all 10.” He wouldn’t even see that as a barrier. I think that’s the first thing that needs to happen. That’s just getting those women into those upper levels so that we see them and go, “Of course, I can apply for all these.” That’s part of overcoming that mindset. Also, that abundance mindset also creates an environment and an ecosystem where women are helping one another.
There’s a new research that just came out which, I haven’t known this forever, from the University of Notre Dame that basically now proves that the women when interviewed and figured out women who have made it to leadership positions, the number one factor is because they had a tribe of women.
It’s the same sex not just a tribe around them, a tribe of women who encourage them and help them and connected them and really help them feel that confident throughout their career. That is the most common factor. Those women, they’re almost three times more likely to get in other upper-level positions if you have a tribe, it’s really helping. It’s so critically important. We’ve got to be in abundance because if we’re in scarcity, it’s every man for themselves. You’re using those Manolos to kick somebody in the face not to uplift, right?
Melinda: Not to, let say, “Here, take mine, walk in them, right?”
Shani: That’s right. Right. Your Manolos got popularised by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex in the City. Those four women were each other’s strengths, best friends, champions. It’s not even irrelevant that we’re talking about designer shoes because I think those women were–
Melinda: It’s never irrelevant to talk about designer shoes. Can we just put that out there?
Shani: #truestory. I know.
Shani: Something else I wanted to ask you about because it’s really piqued my curiosity, because I worked at Goldman Sachs for the first, almost half of my career, and I know that you participated in their 10,000 Small Business Initiative. I guess three things, tell folks what it is, how you got involved, and what the impact was?
Melinda: Well, the 10,000 Small Business I actually met the woman who was running it at the time, Patty Green, at a conference. It was just this crazy– I think I was at a point where Austin Woman had been running on, we were 14 years in, something like that. I was feeling this like, what is next? How do I grow? What the Goldman Sachs program does is it takes people that are in business and ready to go to the next level. It’s about growing your business or scaling your business, figuring out how to do that. That was really my impetus.
I was like, “Okay, so what’s next? How do I grow and scale this? What should I be looking at?” Really just brushing up on those skills and being around other entrepreneurs. It was incredible. I actually did the national cohort. Still enclosed with many of the people that were in the program with me, it’s a great program.
It really goes back and forces you to go back almost to the beginning where you’re putting goals together, you’re really thinking through five years, you’re looking at financials and matching those financials. I can tell you, as a small business owner, you do that in the beginning because you’re like, “I’m going to do this, right.” You have all these people helping you. After a while, you’re like, “Budgets, what?”
I think that it was a really good refresher for that. What ended up happening during that is when I was thinking about how to scale, really what kept coming up is national, global, national, global. I was like, “Kill me now. I’m not going to do a national magazine, blah blah blah.” I think that what it did is again, this mindset change, I hadn’t really ever thought bigger. I definitely attribute– On The Dot is actually a separate entity, but obviously there are sister companies and very closely aligned.
Melinda: It definitely expanded my mind to think about that scale to not just think local. Even though it wasn’t necessarily right for Austin Woman per se on that, but then developing out and it’s really what started getting the juices flowing and giving me really the confidence to think bigger. It was a great program.
Shani: That’s terrific. How long is the cohort from start to finish?
Melinda: It’s a semester-long. You do everything virtually except for twice during the semester, you actually go to when you’re in the national cohort. They have some local cohorts that you do on the weekends. Then you fly to Boston and you’re there for a week and you work with your teams and you do presentations and all kinds of really interesting things. It’s a great program. Goldman Sachs funds the entire thing so you have to apply, but they pay for everything. Your plane ticket, the whole schmear, which is so great for what they’ve done for small businesses.
What it’s done is it really is raising the level of sophistication for small businesses and helping to scale them because what Goldman Sachs knows, because there’s a lot of really smart people there, that they understand that small businesses are what’s driving our economy. If they can help get those businesses to think bigger and scale and be more sophisticated, then our economy is going to thrive and flourish. I think that that really is a big part of why our economy is thriving right now is because small businesses is just buzzing and booming.
Shani: Right. Terrific. Well, again, congratulations on completing that program and having it launch you into that global space because you’re right.
On The Dot’s mission is relevant for women all across the planet and in some regions of the world, even more so where women don’t even have the kind of rights that we do. Kudos to you for all the great work that you’re doing in the world. Any last words of wisdom for LeaderShifters?
Melinda: Oh, gosh. I think that always asking for help– I just recently hired a business coach. It’s the first time I’ve done it, which is surprising. I’ve noodled with it and thought about and I could never find the right fit, but I really feel like– I felt a lot of this fear gripping me and it’s lonely. It’s lonely at the top.
When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re small and even when you’re going through- even if you’re working at a big company, and you’re going through some kind of change, having that outside influence. That was my way of asking for help but whatever that looks like for you because it’s so important to be able to push through because you can’t change your mindset, you can’t make that shift if the fear is stopping you.
Shani: Absolutely. Thank you for that and thank you for joining us today.
Melinda: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Shani: I want to wrap up and summarize all the wonderful things that you shared with us today. Before I do that, though, how can folks reach you either for Austin Women, On The Dot, white-label program or as an individual participant?
Melinda: Yes, well, for On The Dot, the signup is free so it can come to your inbox every morning. It’s 6:00 AM on the dot, no matter what time zone you’re in, you go to onthedotwoman.com. You can just, again, just put in your email address and bada bang, bada bing, you can also download–
Shani: Four minutes ladies, you have time.
Melinda: You have four minutes. Like I said, you can either read it or listen to it. Right there from your email, you can just press listen, you can also get it on iTunes and Spotify and all those things. We have lots of great additional content on our website and articles just to encourage you in your advancement.
For Austin Woman, you can read all of our content online at atxwoman.com. I just would love to and certainly, for the white-label program, you go into our website and contacting me about that if you’re in a big company and this interests you and you can make a connection for me, that would be fabulous. I’m just Mmelinda@onthedotwoman.com, pretty. [laughs]
Shani: Absolutely. Women helping women. Let’s help Melinda get this as global and make as big of an impact as she possibly can. Love that. Great asking for help by the way.
Melinda: Thank you. [laughs] I’m getting good at it.
Shani: Just a random question. Are you in favor of keeping Austin weird, which is every time I go to Austin, all the bumper stickers, right?
Melinda: Well, it is funny because I have to say, Austin’s a wonderful city. For those of us who have been here, I have been here now, gosh, I guess 18 years or so. Right now, everything’s hard. The traffic is atrocious. It’s just there’s so many people moving here every day, there’s so much– prices are skyrocketing. Where a lot of us who have been here a long time are feeling like– I think hopefully, it’ll settle out a little bit. That’s what’s happening. It’s really booming into a very big city and becoming much different. I think that Austin is probably becoming a little less weird because it’s hard to stay as weird when you get bigger and bigger.
Shani: For sure. I know. [crosstalk] I’ve been there a bunch of times for work over the past six months, I’ve been there five times.
Melinda: Oh, my gosh.
Shani: Actually, five times in four months.
Shani: I love Austin, but you’re right.
Melinda: You have to look me up the next time you come.
Shani: Absolutely. All right. Again, thank you for joining us. LeaderShifters, if you, once upon a time, had some dreams of being an entrepreneur, accidental or otherwise, and you didn’t take action, is it too late? Are there some small steps that you can take to take that vision and turn it into a reality? If so, and frankly, for anything that’s a goal of yours, find your tribe. Who are those people, those 5 to 10 people who are going to support you and help you grow and be your best?