Interviewed by Brittany Cole
A builder, a corporate queen with a few hustles on the side, and a super ambitious go-getter – this is how Mary McDonald, founder of Boss Women Media (formerly Boss Women Who Brunch), describes herself. Confident? Yes, but she has the data to back it up. Presently, Boss Women Media is one of the fastest growing women’s empowerment businesses with a 650 percent growth in 2018 over the previous year.
“I’ve always known that I wanted more,” says Marty. “I didn’t always know what ‘more’ looked like, but I always desired more from the time I was a kid until now. Even as a kid, I was always a builder. I would take my dressers in my room and design them and paint them. I was always a builder and a creator not knowing that would follow me in life.”
Marty majored in Interior Design and Architecture at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She initially planned to major in fashion design, but her dad refused to pay for that degree and gave her other options for her future. Marty followed suit and spent four years as an interior designer before moving over to brand marketing. She decided to go back to school for an MBA and soon found herself on the corporate grind.
“I was never fulfilled in that space, but I was always trying to climb to the next level in my career,” says Marty. “But I didn’t wasn’t living in alignment with my purpose, which is the desire to empower and propel other women forward so that they can tell their story.”
But Marty wasn’t there yet so she continued to work hard at her corporate job as the head of brand innovation and development for a Pizza Brand. She was responsible for their advertising and marketing promotion plans for about 500 restaurants nationally. It was a job that she was recruited for while heading up marketing and advertising for a luxury high end brand, where she was responsible for 16 restaurants averaging about $40 million in revenue a year. The excitement of working in a new environment where she could learn from “really smart people who went to top business schools” drew her to the pizza brand.
“I traded in the glamour to go learn from a Chief Marketing Officer who had worked for larger brands and gone to Wharton Business School,” says Marty. “I knew that I was going to go learn a ton from her. I had to relearn myself and what my worth looked like in this new environment. It was no longer someone telling me that I was the smartest, I just had to know it and show it, and show up every single day. That role taught me to never let anyone define my worth. It also taught me to never stop learning.”
Not all of Marty’s lessons were positive, but each one provided her with the opportunity and ammunition she needed to become the person she is today. She found herself constantly trying to prove her worth by working 60-70 hours each week. In the end she walked away learning how to create pitches, make her voice heard and, most importantly, how to use data as the motivating factor to influence clients. She describes this the most painful job she’d ever had and she tried to find solace and a network outside of work.
“I kept wondering,” says Marty, “where are my people? So, I called a friend and said ‘hey, we are always talking about wanting more. Don’t you think there are other women who want this, too?’ We decided to host a brunch at Neiman Marcus and I invited ten people that I knew and 15 people who I didn’t know also showed up. This was my first event and that’s when I knew there was a need.”
That was May 2016 and she poured herself into new company whenever she had time away from work. Then, after missing the mark on a project with a new CMO at work, she started questioning her worth, yet again. That’s when she knew it was time to call it quits. Surprisingly, her husband agreed, and she handed in her resignation in November of 2017 and hasn’t looked back.
“Once I put the notice in, that was the game changer between do I eat, or do I not eat,” says Marty. “That was what I needed. Maybe a week later, I met with Kela Walker and decided to put in the investment to bring her and Necole Kane of XONecole to Dallas for our 2018 kickoff event. That was December 21, 2017 and since then, everything has changed. More than anything, my mindset has changed.”
Since then, Marty has become a force to be reckoned with and turned Boss Women Media into a nationally recognized media company that hosts conferences, meet-ups, and empowerment events across the country. Here are some nuggets that she dropped during the interview about quitting her job, launching her business, and building a brand that lasts.
Brittany: You decided to quit your job. How has that transition been?
Marty: The first two months, I was busy planning the conference, so I was good. When the conference was over. I slept in and watched TV for two months. Then my husband said, what are you doing? I went into a depressive state of not knowing what to do. The advice that I give women now is that you have to have a plan. So, when you pivot in the plan, that’s ok just make sure you have a plan.
I was ready to empower myself to jump but after the jump, I didn’t know what to do. You don’t have to know everything that you want to do just have to have a plan.
“If you have three solid game changers that you want to accomplish, just remember that God is going to step in and do his miraculous work every single time.”
I knew what I wanted it to be so I had to put all of my effort and energy into it. I knew that I had to go figure it out and let people help. I know it's a mindset though and even if you’re the most talented but you’re not consistent, nobody cares. Nobody cares because you're not consistent and you don’t show up when you’re supposed to show up. But then also you need to believe that you can do it.
Brittany: What were some of the lessons you learned in the process?
I learned how the companies that I worked for did business. The luxury company prided itself on experience. So that was my biggest learning from working there. At the pizza brand, I learned how to manage a P&L and what the life cycle of business look like. I know how to use the right terminology. The best gift that we can give ourselves is learning how to run effective businesses. If you don’t have the time or energy to do something, find someone who can help you.
Brittany: Who inspires you?
Marty: I just came from Michelle Obama’s Becoming event and just her rawness, her truth, I really admire Michelle. I just love being around badass women. Women who had nothing and created something. I just love being in a space with women like that. But, more importantly, women who are not afraid to take what they have learned and pour it into other people. I am also inspired by women who think differently, too. One of my good friends right now is a woman who is 15 years older than me who believes in me and pours into me. She believes in me more than I believe in myself and shows me how to get things done. Women like that inspire me.
Brittany: What advice do you have for side hustlers or people who are thinking about taking a leap.
Marty: I would say for the girl who is side hustling, be clear on your why. Why are you even doing what you’re doing? Because your why is going to be that ticker in the back of your head that tells you to get going. It can be because I want to create generational wealth. It's never about you either. It’s always about a bigger cause. At the end of the day, if you have credentials and you have education, you can always go back.
Why not bet on yourself? We play safe as black women all the time. Society tells us, do you know how lucky you are to be sitting here in this space at this time at this table at this company? But, do you know how much the world is missing out on your talents, on your gifts? All that you have to offer that you leave at the door when you walk in here?
“Sometimes we just have to be ballsy. If you're serious, if there was ever a moment in history, this is your moment. Generations to come will talk about this movement that happening right now with women. It will be in historic text books in 30- 40- 50 years from now.”
Brittany: So, what’s next? Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Marty: I want to tell my story a little bit more. I know that I have focused on bringing women to the table to tell their story. So that’s on the horizon, but also just changing the way that women connect. Changing the way women connect in the digital space. So that’s on the horizon. And we want to practice what we preach so in the fall we are going back on tour and doing a pitch competition where we allow women to sell their ideas so that they can get the funding that they need to thrive. And then eventually the goal would be to have a space that can serve as an incubator for females/ black women co-working space and have that in multi cities.
Right now, I am a wife, and a dog mom but I am professing and claiming to the universe that I want to be a mom in 2019 (I think).
Brittany is a marketer by day and stylist by night. Learn more about her by visiting www.stylebybritt.com