From the Ground Up


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This is the season finale of Margins, and over the past six months, I’ve learned a lot about influence. I’ve also learned that Mary Ellen will never let me produce an episode consisting entirely of me interviewing Instagram fitness models.

When we started planning the season, I thought we would be talking about charm and charisma. Instead, the conversations have repeatedly centered around authenticity and consistency. One quote from M&A consultant Jennifer J. Fondrevay in Episode 3, has really stuck with me: “Demonstrate through your actions what you expect others to do. The leaders who haven’t been successful said one thing, but they didn’t apply that to themselves.”

So, if you want to have influence, don’t be like this guy. Instead, be like the three entrepreneurs we feature in this episode. They’re all kickass women doing kickass things — and they’re using their influence to help even more people kick ass, too.

And I’ve got a feeling that when they say they’re going to do something, you don’t have to worry about if they’re going to follow through.

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Did You Do Your Homework?

Kim Seals is a general partner at The JumpFund, a venture capital fund investing that focuses on investing in women-led businesses in the Southeast. She also serves as a strategic adviser with Sapient Insights. In other words, if you’re looking for investment capital or really great HR consulting advice, you come to her.

But before you call, you better do your homework. For example, Kim and her team only invest in companies based in the Southeast, and every company must have at least one woman with decision-making power in the C-suite. If you don’t start the conversation already knowing that, you’re going to have a hard time keeping her attention.

You also need to be prepared to show why your idea is unique. “If somebody comes in and says, I'm going to be the ‘Uber of X,’ or I'm going to be the ‘Airbnb of X,’ then likely we've stopped listening right after they said that sentence,” she says. You have to tell your story in a compelling way. “We only invest in maybe three to four percent of the companies we see,” she warns.

“Have they done their homework to know what we're looking for as an investor group?”

What Happens When You Lose Oprah?

Paula Froehle is the co-founder and CEO of the Chicago Media Project, which has provided funding and support to some of the most popular documentaries over the past few years, including “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “Crip Camp,” and “Icarus,” which won the Oscar for Best Documentary.

One of CMP’s most recent projects is “On the Record,” a documentary profiling Drew Dixon, a music producer who came out publicly with sexual assault allegations against music mogul Russell Simmons. The movie is now streaming on HBO Max, but its journey there was quite a winding road. In fact, the movie initially had the support of Oprah Winfrey, but she pulled her name off the film soon before its Sundance premiere.

It was a potentially disastrous moment for the film — what happens when you lose Oprah? While Paula says the experience was initially difficult, it also offered filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering a unique opportunity. “It gave Amy and Kriby a platform to talk about how meticulous they are as filmmakers,” she explains. “It enabled them to be able to refute the claims that it was somehow biased or skewed storytelling.”

How Will You Use Your Powers For Good?

Sevetri Wilson started her first business at age 22, and now she’s onto her second: Resilia, an SaaS platform that supports nonprofits. She has raised over $3 million dollars for her startup to date, and she was recently featured in Inc.’s 100 Women Building America's Most Innovative and Ambitious Businesses.

Sevetri’s journey in entrepreneurship is not just a story of resilience and financial success, though. It’s also a story of commitment to her community.

As her business has grown, she’s held fast to keeping an office in New Orleans. “I made a commitment to continue to operate in New Orleans in hopes that I can be part of the tech ecosystem — because everybody keeps leaving,” she says. It’s her hope that she can not only create more tech jobs in New Orleans, but also create pipelines for native New Orleanians to fill those jobs. “I want to help individuals who were born in New Orleans obtain better opportunities,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons why I kept my company here.”

“My staying in Louisiana has definitely been a fully heartfelt, connected responsibility to give opportunity and create opportunity.”

People Featured in This Episode

Other ways to enjoy this episode:

Rex New is a multimedia content producer. When he’s not driving his coworkers bonkers with extremely detailed feedback, he can be found in Jackson, Wyoming, snowboarding in the winter and biking and hiking in the summer. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and received a Writers Guild Award nomination for co-writing “Dance Camp,” YouTube’s first original movie.


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