Meghan French Dunbar is the Co-founder and CEO of Conscious Company Media, the nation’s leading media company dedicated to purpose-driven businesses and social enterprises. Conscious Company Media produces national events, such as the World-changing Women’s Summit and the Conscious Company Leaders Forum, to train business leaders to use business as a force for good. French Dunbar is also the creator and host of the World-changing Women’s podcast, which tells the stories of female business leaders and founders making a positive impact on the world.
Be Your Change Podcast is proud to be a part of the World-Changing Women’s Summit later this month, and are fortunate to have had an opportunity to chat with Meghan for an interview ahead of this amazing gathering.
Juliette: Launching a magazine is an incredibly difficult endeavor. Did you have a media background prior to launching the magazine? What were the main challenges you faced?
I had — wait for it — five months of media experience before launching Conscious Company Magazine! I did my undergraduate degrees in English and Journalism but spent the first portion of my career working in the nonprofit field. A chance encounter led me to work in the print magazine industry. After getting fired from that position, I decided I knew enough to be dangerous and launched my own magazine at the age of 29.
The main challenges that I faced were creating a viable revenue model (the print publishing industry is very challenging) and raising capital to grow the business. As a young woman in an evolving industry, it would be an understatement to say that it was hard to find investors. We were lucky enough to find generous people who believed in our vision, but it took more than a year to raise enough capital to keep the company afloat. We then faced a whole new set of challenges — which most startups do — revolving around strategically deploying our investment, hiring decisions, leadership issues, chasing the bright shiny objects rather than focusing on what was most important, and the list goes on…
J: In your journey with Conscious Company, have you met many other women CEO of a media company? Has it been a lonely journey?
I have not met many women in the media industry who actually run their own company. Tami Simon, who is the Founder & CEO of Sounds True Publishing, has been a huge inspiration as one of the only women I personally know who runs a large media company. I would say that it hasn’t been lonely though, as I have found many other female founders to connect with. I run a women’s CEO group with other female founders who run mission-driven businesses, and while we all work in vastly different industries, our challenges are very similar. My husband is also my thought partner when it comes to everything that I do. We spend our dinner conversations thinking through business challenges and strategy, which makes the road much less lonely.
J: Thinking back on your journey, Conscious Company got acquired by Intentional in 2017. How was this experience of being acquired? How did you know it was the right move for you? What are some of the advice you would give to women who are thinking to develop their own media brand?
The experience of being acquired was pretty intense, to be honest. It took far longer than we thought it would, and there were just so many small details that I hadn’t thought about when you sell your entire company to someone else.
We knew that Intentional Media (IM) was the right partner for us because of their vision for the future and the heart of the people involved with the company. I had already acquired SOCAP, which is the largest convening in the world for impact investors and social entrepreneurs, and I knew we wanted to be in the same company. I personally spent hours on the phone speaking with the Chairman, Bob Caruso, and loved his energy and desire to make a positive impact in the world.
In terms of advice that I would give other women who are starting their own media brand, I would say to be really clear about your “why” before you start anything. Also, ask around and ensure there is an appetite for what you want to do — do people really need the content you want to produce, or is it just something that you think they want? Talk to anyone who you think would be your target market and get their true feedback on what is needed in the marketplace. Additionally, be super clear about your revenue model and exactly how you plan on making enough money to keep the doors open.
J: In 2016, you launched the World-Changing Women Summit. Why was it so important for you to create?
As mentioned previously, I didn’t feel lonely as a female founder of a media company because I had found so many other incredible women who were also founders and CEOs of their own companies. I found those women through years of attending male-dominated conferences and befriending the few women who were in attendance. On an evening when I was feeling particularly frustrated about how hard it can be to be a woman in business (noting that I am a white woman and it is even harder and a much different experience for women of color), I said to my husband, “I just wish there was a meeting place for all of the badass women who are doing something extraordinary in business and who want to do good in the world!” As soon as the words left my lips, I ran to the office and sketched out the entire concept for the World-Changing Women’s Summit. I wanted to create a brave space for purpose-driven female and non-binary business leaders to find each other and have real conversations about the challenges they were facing. We’re on our third year now of producing this convening, and it’s unlike anything I have ever been a part of.
J: Is there any special part of the program you are highly excited about and would like to share with us?
This year we are focusing much of our conversation around how the experience of white women in business is different than that of women of color. We’re having deep conversations around how well-intentioned white women are unknowingly causing harm in the workplace and how white women can be better allies in general. While this can be an uncomfortable conversation for some, we’re really excited to be focusing on this at this year’s summit.
J: What would you like women to know who are thinking about attending?
If you’re looking to connect with women and nonbinary people who are making the world a better place through business, you will find more connections than you could possibly imagine at this convening. Every person who attends has something to teach you.
J: Let’s talk about your podcast, “World-Changing Women.” What is about and what hosting your own podcast has taught you?
We had a number of people express that they couldn’t attend our Women’s Summit for various reasons (financial resources, time, couldn’t take time off of work, etc.), and they kept asking if there was a way to still hear the stories. In an effort to democratize access to the inside stories of successful female founders around the world, we created a podcast that anyone can listen to called World-Changing Women. I have learned so much from the process of interviewing so many women about their journeys. One of the major lessons that most women share is having some point in their career where they wished they had listened to their gut instincts more, or in other instances, women who attribute much of their success to listening to that inner voice.
J: You have a son, correct? How do you think your role as a mother influences what you do?
Becoming a mother has really helped me to prioritize my life and what is important to me. It was really hard to step away from work to give birth to my son, but I forced myself to take my full three months of parental leave as I felt it was not only critical for my own health, but I wanted to model for my team that family comes first.
We espouse ideals of conscious business and who would I be if I didn’t live those values? As I have returned from maternity leave, anything that takes away from time with my son needs to be something that I can stand behind or that I believe in wholeheartedly. Also, I no longer have the option of burning the candle at both ends in the name of work because I need to be a present, thriving mother. Having a little one has also really helped me to think about what I want to do with my life and the impact that I want to make long term. What type of ancestor do I want to be? How do I want my child to remember me when I am gone? We are all given one precious life — what do I want to do with the life that my parents gave to me and how can I manifest that through my work?
J: We are entering 2020, a year of growth and transformation for many people, what would be your recommendation in entering this New Year? And what can we wish you?
I would say to ask yourself some of the questions that I just mentioned — ask yourself what type of ancestor you want to be and what you think would be valuable to spend your valuable life doing and then work to manifest that through your work. Don’t settle. Just put one foot in front of the other in the name of doing what you want to do with your life — even if it’s the smallest step you can imagine, it’s still progress toward building a life that you want to live.
And for me, you can wish me luck in continuing to pursue my passion of helping to redefine success in business in service of all life. 😉
Conscious Company Media (CCM) is a community-based media company serving as the
voice of the conscious business movement. Through year-round live events, online education, multimedia content, and podcasts, CCM is on a mission to empower like-minded thought-leaders to create a better world through business. Founded in 2014, one of its
premier events is the annual World-Changing Women’s Summit. In 2017, CCM was acquired by Intentional Media. CCM is a certified B Corp and was named a 2018 Best for the World Honoree. For more information, visit https://consciouscompanymedia.com/;
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