For most, post-graduate life can be confusing and full of paths with unknown success. Co-founders Kate Gremillion and Tallia Deljou know firsthand. They found themselves trying out different environments, from grad school and corporate life to freelance and startups, and, yet, nothing quite fit. Worse, there weren’t enough resources to help them figure it out. So, they took matter into their own hands and created an entrepreneur community to bolster their (and others’) careers – Mavenly + Co.
A “maven” is a trusted expert in a particular field, looking to pass on their knowledge to others. Through their network for women entrepreneurs, the leaders behind Mavenly are providing that service, offering access to workshops and career resources to help build futures with purpose. And followers are flocking. Mavenly proudly reaches 7,000 on Instagram, dozens through their workshops in cities across the South, and nearly 20,000 listeners of their “Women, Work and Worth” podcast.
Here, Gremillion and Deljou talk about their passion – helping women entrepreneurs to fortify their connection, build their brands, and refine their networking skills. (They even dish tips about taking the leap to your own big business dreams.) What is Mavenly and how did it start?
Kate: This started because Tallia and I met as sorority consultants, which sounds like a fake job. If you ask our parents they would still say that it’s a fake job. It was one of those great jobs out of college where you got to do something you really enjoy and interact with an organization you enjoyed. Essentially that entailed us going to different college communities every week. We would go to California, Boston, Texas, everywhere for about a week and interact with the women there — act as problem solvers and sounding boards for what was going on in their chapter. We realized there was a huge gap in the conversation about post-graduate life. We’re spending sometimes over 6 figures in tuition to get an education to do what? We weren’t talking about the end part of it, we were just talking about the means to the end.
Talia went to grad school and I worked in a very corporate environment, hated it. Worked for a start up, didn’t like it so much. Worked remotely, didn’t like it so much. A trial by fire of all these different careers and realizing there was just so much lacking in the conversation about what post-graduate life looked like, or career paths looked like, for women who were ambitious and didn’t know where to place it. We both realized we were having the same revelations but in very different sectors, academic and business. We would come together and have these 4 to 7 hour conversations over the phone about this topic.
What’s your revenue strategy?
Kate: That’s something I think is very interesting that’s not talked about enough. A lot of times we read about these startups and entrepreneurs and think “Oh wow, that must be so great to start your own company.” Mavenly was not profitable for 2 years, easily. Right now, we have these in-person workshops. We charge $179 for those workshops per participant. We get anywhere from 20 to 30 people that attend those. To be transparent, not a sustainable revenue stream.
Another point too on the revenue stream, we were essentially breaking even for a long time. The way we were breaking even was we had affiliate links on our website. We would have a book club. All those books were linked to Amazon. People could buy those, a cut would go to us. We also do sponsored posts when it’s appropriate, and sponsored podcasts when it’s appropriate. We were very lucky to be able to be disciplined at the beginning about who we got to advertise with and who advertised on our podcast. We’ve seen that serves as well. We only advertise with people that we personally use or someone on our team uses and can vouch for. That’s always been a really nice way for us to monetize. It’s something we believe in, we’re helping someone else out, and a lot of those relationships we still have intact which is nice.
A lot of women succeed in becoming entrepreneurs through social media. What advice do you have about building your social presence?
Kate: For us, our social presence, at first, was struggling a lot. We were still figuring out who we were, and what we were in the space. Constantly our message and brand was changing. Once we identified clearly what we wanted to be catering to we sought out like-minded people and did the Netflix version of you may also like this.
We would go to their Facebook groups, or their Instagram accounts, and find people who were having these conversations and put ourselves in those conversations. It served us well. So many of the women that come to us, or come to our events, find us through Instagram, but they found us through a friend of a friend who re-posted one of our quotes. Also, our podcast has done wonders for our social media presence. Basically the algorithm, the way iTunes puts out podcasts, if you’re in a particular group they are going to start feeding it to people. If you’re very clear about where to direct people after that we see so many women globally who find us through our podcast, then trickle in that way. It’s actually our favorite way for people to find us. They hear our voices, they resonate with our message in a way that’s different from engaging with us first on Twitter. Why the decision to start a podcast?
Kate: Quite frankly, it was easier for me to talk than write. Before we had a podcast, I would write my blog post via a voice memo. I would just be in the car, think of something, or just have a conversation with someone and I would dictate to myself. Then I started listening to everyone else’s podcast. I’m an auditory learner as well. This idea that we cater to people that are on the go. It’s a lot easier to consume information when you’re stuck in traffic and wanting to move forward than reading all those blog posts because Facebook is overwhelming.
Talia: It adds a personal touch. They like to hear someone’s voice. You feel like you know them. We have people come up to us, “oh we listen to your voice every morning.” That I think adds a whole other component of we’re your friends too. I think that’s important, just to make you feel a little bit more connected and feel like you know who’s on the other side. It makes it more fun. It makes it more interactive. It makes it more of a community. I think that’s what we hope to be, a community of people who come together and have conversations. There needs to be more that just a blog post for you to read.
Kate: Also, guests are more willing to be on a podcast then they are willing to write a guest post or a career profile. If you say “Hey, I would love to chat with you for 30 minutes and 18,000 people are going to hear it.” You’re going to get the people who wouldn’t talk to you otherwise. We have a long running joke with a lot of our friends who are podcasters that say people should start podcasts if they just want to interview important people. You’ll get access to them because they’ll say yes much more likely if they know their message is going to reach 19,000 people, rather than just 30 minutes with you.
Why move to Atlanta?
Talia: Atlanta, for me, is home. I’ve been away for about 7 years. I did my undergrad in DC, traveled for a year for the consultant position, and then was in grad school in California. I knew Atlanta was going to be my end goal with my family being here and just having grown up here.
Seeing how much Atlanta has changed over the past few years — as a startup hub and with the direction the city is moving in. Downtown is the heart of all of it now. I think it was an exciting place for Mavenly to be, with the right resources and the people we want to connect with, being here made sense for us. It was nice to be able to bring all of our experiences from our travels, and from the different cities that we’ve been to to finally come to one place and settle, and plant some roots. Make our presence a little be stronger and build from there.
What’s your goal for the next year?
Kate: I think our goal for the next year is to really find companies and organizations that are willing to invest in their young employees and bring this curriculum in house. I think we’ve done a good job of identifying cities where we want to be and getting women to buy in financially and time-wise by themselves to our program. It is humbling and gratifying in a lot of ways. I think there are a lot of women that have those corporate jobs that are looking to find their own way in that space. Hoping to find the CEOs that understand the importance of that and expand within their company. I think that also speaks to why we’re in Atlanta.
There are so many headquarters here. There’s so many huge companies here. So many people move here for opportunities. I think often you have this glorified image of yourself at your first job and what it’s going to be like being on your own finally. Working as either an entrepreneur, a side hustler, or full-time, it can be incredibly discouraging, alienating, and disheartening. I think for us the idea is to have as many conversations with young people in the workplace about how we can make it work for them.
Interview and production by Kiki Roeder. Transcription and interpretation by Muriel Vega.