I stay motivated by... the feedback we received from a business contest. One of the judges said, "I'm not convinced women will buy from other women." This misogynist phrase fuels my will every single day.
Three adjectives that describe me are... benevolent, badass, boss
If I could have dinner with one person (dead or alive) it would be... Mother Theresa (dead) or India Arie (alive)
The most exciting innovation to me is... every version of anything that brews coffee
MAIA.community is a collective of women-conscious consumers who search and spend their money, for work or home, with companies who have proven gender equality at the highest levels of leadership. We boast a directory of 700,000 businesses across the U.S. currently and are working to scale to all 12+ Million. We know that together, we can affect change today and it starts with the Power of One – if each female in the U.S. spent just $20 a month at a woman-owned business, for one year, the females of the U.S. would drive $37.7 billion more to women-owned companies than all Venture Capital funding did in 2017.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
I sold my soul designing workforce solutions and hiring for corporate America for over 15 years, it was here I realized once women left academia, the data sets no longer supported anything resembling equality. I also realized just because a woman can outperform her colleagues, it doesn't mean equal opportunity will follow. Women were grossly underrepresented at the highest levels of leadership and time over time I saw gender pay inequality. Three years ago I decided I knew I needed to do something different. My husband was the stay-at-home parent for our four small daughters and I had worked. We decided to switch gigs, I would stay home and he'd go back to work - the best social experiment ever! The perspective is priceless – I cannot believe the things I used to complain about. When I left the workforce, I was certain I would go work for a nonprofit and do some good in the world, but I lacked focus because there wasn't a cause I didn't believe in.
MAIA.community was born out of the convergence of my professional experience and what was happening in my home and family. Five years ago I have my ah-ha moment, I'm sitting on the floor watching a football game with my husband while our 4 small daughters are playing in front of us. It was the first time I realized 5 out of the 6 people in our home were female - 83%, and we watched ALL male sporting events. What the hell, right? Slowly, my husband and I started to think about whether we were really showing the girls a world where women have equal representation, and could we prove it. We started thinking about the products and services we brought into our home, were they made by women, ideated by women, done in some holistic image of women.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
Over a year ago, I tell myself to put my money where my mouth is, if 83% of my household was female, then 83% of my household spending should be going to women-owned, women-created products and services. I failed miserably month over month, it was too hard. Finding women-owned businesses wasn't free nor easily accessible, and I'm a consumer who also wants ample options so I can make a good buying decision for myself. All I wanted to do was spend my money with businesses who had proven gender equality at the highest levels of leadership. And I wanted what we brought into our home to be reflective of the people in our home.
From this failure, I started building the concept of Women-Conscious Consumerism and baking the idea of the MAIA.community. The 3rd wave of feminism is the economic empowerment of women and women influence or control more than 70% of the household spending valued over $11 trillion. What if all female consumers just spent their money with women-owned businesses? Talk about personally affecting change with no systemic barriers – today. I wanted to disrupt the status quo and drive a more female-centric economy.
What is your greatest fear? How do you manage it?
Putting myself out there, I'm a private person. The cost of not doing it though would haunt me. The adoption of women-conscious consumerism is a game-changer! I refuse to believe we cannot solve the gender pay gap for another 50 years. Corporate America has everything it needs right now to make it right, except the will to do it. If we cannot solve gender equality from within the status quo, then let's collectively create it outside of the status quo.
Was it difficult get capital/investors? Has anyone underestimated you as a female entrepreneur? If yes, how did you handle it?
Bootstrapped 100%. We fall in a strange spot. We don't intend to sell or “sell out” within 3-5 years so we aren't necessarily attractive to many Angel investors or Venture Capital funders.
As a nonprofit we would probably find funding from organizations who share our mission, however we are unapologetically a for-profit company and will probably migrate to a B corporation soon. My perspective on this issue is this, if all of the benevolent badass women are told to go start nonprofits and sit at the nonprofit table, then who does that leave at the for-profit table all by themselves? I believe strongly in equality and equal representation at all tables.
When I was just starting MAIA.community, I went to get guidance on EBITA. Previously I had P&L ownership of $42M, but never really touched anything below EBITA. I spent 45 minutes of my 1-hour session defending the concept of women-conscious consumerism, instead of getting what I asked for. If my experience is what it's like for every woman who tries to secure funding, get help on a business plan, entering a business contest, etc., it’s obvious how and why women-owned businesses do not receive the same level of funding, and find it harder to scale when they are ready to scale.