Kate Gremillion is the founder of Mavenly + Co., “a community of young women having honest conversations about college, career and life and helping them create a lifestyle by their own design.” Mavenly + Co. has a podcasts, blog, interview series, and two-day workshops. It is a place women turn to for personal and professional development — that’s provided in a fun, “cool older sister” way. Kate started Mavenly because, “Mavenly was the resource I needed when I was navigating graduate and post-graduate life. A place to find inspiration, connect with ambitious women, and learn tangible ways to improve my life. It’s the passion project of my life.” I emailed Kate after reading approximately two dozen of Mavenly’s articles on a Saturday morning while drinking (and refilling) a cup of coffee. I loved everything I was reading (and not just because I had a caffeine-high) and emailed her to find out how we could work together. And I’m so happy we did! We started syndicating each other’s content, featuring each other on our sites, working together (she designed my press and Career Profile page) and became fast friends. I know you’ll be just as inspired by her as I am!
Kate Gremillion, Founder of Mavenly + Co.
What inspired you to start Mavenly + Co.?
It’ all started with me sitting inside my coffin…I mean cubicle.
You see, in college, I was the student with all the internships, extracurricular activities, extra classes and meetings in my planner. I was a communications major so I thought the natural next step was to work at a PR firm, which seemed glamorous to me at the time.
Before I started applying to PR “big girl” jobs, I was offered a position traveling the country with my sorority, Delta Gamma. The position had a one-year term limit at the time, so I thought it would be a great way to see the country before eventually finding a “real job” in PR. I was in a new city every week working with college women, and while the travel was draining, I truly felt alive. I felt like my work had purpose. But that was the problem. I was having such a good time that I didn’t see it as work at all, so naturally it could never be a career for me. That thought was silly.
So I ended my year as a consultant and grabbed a pencil skirt and a job at a large PR firm with huge clients. This was it. All my work in college led to this.
And it was terribly disappointing. I felt like a failure, and even worse, I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about it because how do you tell your family or friends that you just spend $80,000 on an education and you hate what you do? I thought I couldn’t.
So I solved the problem the only way I knew how after spending 21 years in school: research. I made coffee date after coffee date with women who I thought loved their jobs and asked them very specific questions including having them break down their day in 30-minute increments. I needed real answers.
I learned so much in those talks. I learned that most often, women like their jobs because of the context and environment and not necessarily the content they were working on. The felt purpose in their work and they created habits that made their work meaningful on a regular basis.
I started sharing this information with my girlfriends and I realized one by one that most of my friends were having the same feelings of emptiness and lack of direction. That’s when I decided I needed to share the information I was receiving with others so they would have a place to go when they wanted to find a life of meaning and fulfillment.
And here we are.
What were the first logistical steps you took to start a business?
Since I was a communications major, I had the good fortune of knowing great journalists and amazing writers, and many of them cared about these issues. I shared the idea with them, and all of them came on board. We wrote and wrote some more for about five months until we felt as though we had a good starting point.
Then I bought a URL, I bought hosting, I put the content in the backend, and I sent an email or Facebook message to literally everyone I knew. (Sorry for the spam, guys.) I was very fortunate that I had the job at Delta Gamma because I met women all over the country who were our prime audience. This made growing our brand easier than it would have been. It also gave us the opportunity for feedback and insight from all over the country, which was immensely helpful.
How would you describe Mavenly + Co. in a few sentences?
Mavenly + Co. is a community of young women having honest conversations about college, career, and life to help them create a lifestyle by their own design. We do this by providing in-person workshops and online resources for our audience.
I’m always so inspired by how people choose their company name. How did you find and choose Mavenly?
Our name originally was The Girling. We chose this name because we wanted women to think about a time when they were young girls and what they dreamed of doing and achieving and tap into that authentic feeling. While the sentiment was great, the name was not.
About six months in our team met and we started doing word clouds. We did this for weeks. No luck.
Then one night I woke up at 2:36 am (Yes, I remember the time.) and I said there is a “M” word that means something I want to tap into. Maverick? No. Matriarch? God no.
Enter thesaurus.com. I typed in female words that start with “M.” And maven popped up. That was it! The definition was perfection: “Maven [mey-vuh n] (noun) : a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. It comes from a Hebrew word, meaning ‘one who understands,’ based on an accumulation of knowledge. It is often used to describe a woman.”
That’s exactly what we were doing. Sharing stories of successful women and having honest conversation among a group of women who understood a particular mission.
Well of course maven.com was taken, and I was bummed, so I turned to Instagram and the first post was from the Instagram account Loverly.
What about Mavenly? Yep. Sounded even better to me. URL taken? You bet. But I was committed, so we became Mavenly + Co. so we could be mavenly.co and actually the + Co. is my favorite past because we are a community, not one maven.
What is a day as Kate like? Please walk me through a day!
5:15 am: Alarm goes off. Yep, I’m an early bird. I put on gym clothes and grab water and head to spin class. It’s literally the only 45 minutes in the day where I can’t think about anything but what I’m doing. The music is loud, lights are flashing, commands are being shouted. My brain has to focus I love it. Then I head home and shower.
7 am: Turn on a podcast, make coffee (even though I still buy coffee after that first cup), get dressed and ready for the day. I tried meditating in the morning but my mind is usually already on everything I have to do that it won’t let me silence.
8 am: If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I’m headed downtown to work with my freelance clients. I work with freelance clients for two reasons. First, It’s a nice change of pace to work on other projects besides your own. I have a home office so if I don’t have a reason to leave, I probably won’t, and freelance work gives me a reason. The extra income isn’t bad either. Second, I knew if Mavenly + Co. was my only project or source of income, I would have much more anxiety about making it work financially instead of making decisions rooted in what’s best for the brand. That’s why we don’t advertise on our site and we don’t take affiliate links we don’t approve of. Having freelance clients has allowed me to be disciplined with my decisions, and I’m grateful for that.
So if I’m downtown I’m there eight to five working with clients. But we will proceed like it’s Tuesday or Thursday.
9 am: The interns come! It’s honestly my favorite part of my day. They stay until lunchtime and we catch up on pop culture, meet about our content calendar, discuss any new business, then we get to work. They also have the best Spotify playlists and YouTube videos. During this time we’re answering emails, scheduling content, recording an editing podcasts, finding women to feature — basically anything that we need to do to move Mavenly forward.
12 pm: I try and take a break for lunch to get out and walk around, but sometimes I’m strapped to my desk.
1 pm: Come back to my desk, and keep grinding away at the to-do list.
6 pm: This is usually when I try and call it quits with the computer. On Thursdays we have our staff meetings, which we usually do over the phone since we have staff in different area codes. We walk through upcoming projects and what still needs to be done on new ones.
7 pm: Again, getting out of the house is a priority. Happy hour, live music, cooking class — you name it, I’m going. I’ve also been very fortunate to meet young female entrepreneurs in the city, and I often make an effort to attend their events in the evening.
9 pm: I’m trying to make it to bed as soon as possible. I go through the 12 different places I keep my to-do lists and try and simplify them in one place so I know what the next day looks like. I watch an episode of my latest Netflix show, shower, and head to bed. Lights out by 10— true grandma status — and start all over again.
What are your responsibilities as founder and CEO of Mavenly + Co.?
Make sure the ship stays afloat.
Whether that’s going through our financial statements, meeting with potential partners, calling our web developers, finding contributors — it’s on me.
Thankfully, I have an amazing team that does what they do well so they do an insanely amazing job at managing the content side so I can focus on business development and growing our brand.
What have you learned about yourself since founding Mavenly + Co.?
There’s so much I don’t know and there’s so much I can do.
Let me explain.
Each day at Mavenly + Co. I learn something new that only opens the door for ten more things I don’t know. Example: I formed an LLC! Wait…what’s an EIN? What’s a 1099? How do I write this off on my taxes?
The anxiety sets in. Then I remember that Google, my grandpa, and my lawyer exist, and I go look in the mirror and say, “It’s just another task. You can do it.”
Then I panic again 30 minutes later and do that again and again until I fall asleep.
What is the most important characteristic that someone needs to be successful in your role?
Resilience and focus.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was: “Best way to be successful: Focus on your own shit.”
I make a point of not checking any other content providers or accounts in our industry before I’ve done something for my business that day. It helps with the constant comparison.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you look at someone else’s flawless Instagram post or bestselling book, but everyone started at zero. You have to keep that in mind and keep going. Do you before you do anything else.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting Mavenly + Co.?
Biggest challenge: Trying to cram all of our ideas into the 24 hours a day we are given.
Biggest reward: Emails. When we get emails from women who have made changes or choices or felt better because of our content, I legit cry— and I never cry. It’s making those connections.
When I started Mavenly + Co. my dad asked me how I would know if I was successful. I told him if I changed the life of one woman, it would be worth it. I still think that’s true more than one and a half years later.
Can you please tell us a bit about Mavenly + Co. workshops? How did you decide to start them?
In short: Our audience asked for them.
We would receive emails where women would say, “I would love to have coffee with you in person and chat about negotiation” or “I want to leave my job, but I don’t know my first step. Can we set up a call?”
We realized the best way to make a true impact in our community was to get everyone in the same room and talk it out and create and action plan, and that’s what we’re doing.
We’ve created workshops for women who are looking to create a lifestyle by their own design by learning how to take action, make informed decisions, and create habits that actually move them toward your goals. I knew if we were going to ask women to buy it, it had to be done right, so I hired two higher education and psychology experts to build an experience that was worthy of our women, and they did.
Our workshops are two-day experiences for anyone looking to take action in their life and move closer to a life they love. After I went through the workshop myself I made a few major changes, and I’m a living testament of the effectiveness of the program. Oh, and you can be too.
You have such a large team. How have you grown your team and what do you look for when you bring on colleagues?
I’m honestly just super lucky.
As I mentioned earlier, since I was a communications major, I had the good fortune of knowing great journalists and amazing writers, and many of them cared about these issues. I shared the idea with them, and all of them came on board. That’s how our content team has grown, and some of our audience members have chosen to transition into contributors, which is amazing and humbling.
As for our workshop creators, I met both women through my time as a consultant for Delta Gamma. Both had copious amounts of experience in curriculum and workshop design as well as facilitation, specifically with our demographic. All of that was important to me. They also both cared about our mission aside from their role. Everyone on our team chips in, everyone talks, everyone is heard. To be a member of our team, you have to be a team player and care about helping women. It’s that simple.
What has been your proudest moment from your career so far?
Women I don’t know signing up for our workshops. The fact that someone I’ve never met will invest their time and money in something we’ve created is incredibly humbling. Every time we get a new registrant, I just feel the most intense gratitude. I personally email every single person (no automation here, folks) and thank them. I need them to know how much their investment means to me, and how I plan on delivering on that investment ten fold.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
That finding work you love takes work, and if you want your dream job, you have to create it yourself.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be an entrepreneur to be happy. In fact, often I think how lovely it would be to work for Mavenly and have someone else do all the”founder stuff” for me. What I mean is when you find a job that has potential, you have to work with your boss or you team to make it your own, and that takes courage and self awareness.
Often times women can make a job that’s okay into a job they love by having honest conversations about what they need and what they want to contribute.
What is on your desk right now?
I have an iMac, iced coffee, a picture of me and my girl gang, four notebooks, post-it notes, my cellphone on a charging stand, and a podcast microphone. And it still looks kind of clean!
What is your morning routine?
Right when I wake up, I have to drink water and workout. Not in a “fit-spiration” way, but in a “I-have-the-worst-anxiety-and-moving-my-body-and-drinking-water-helps” way. That’s why I really respect Lena Dunham right now. She’s big about the “move for your mind” concept, and the best medicine for stress and anxiety for me is sweating it out.
I shower, check my email, listen to a podcast while I get dressed and put on makeup, make some coffee, and get going.
What are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading Dr. Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade, which is about making the most of your 20s. If you’re 20-something, this is your Bible.
What is your career advice for other young professional women?
Know what you need to make your life and days feel good.
For me, I can’t sit at a desk from nine to five. I cannot. I also need to exercise in the morning. I need to work with people and have a clean environment to work. I can’t work with excel or percentages. I can’t do phone meetings that are longer than one hour.
I learned these things about myself through doing them, and now I make my strengths and limitations known so that I can be good at what I do.
You only get what you ask for, so find out what you need to be happy, and get after it.
Self awareness: If you don’t have some, get some.
If you’re looking to gain the skills and resources you need to build a career you love and brand yourself to reach your professional goals, this is the workshop for you. Mavenly + Co in partnership with General Assembly is bringing their one-day career crafting workshop for professional women to DC, Chicago and Nashville. This workshop is perfect for anyone looking to confidently identify next steps to reach their career goals including strategic negotiation and intentional networking. Check out the dates here, and use ELANA to get 10% off your registration. http://mavenly.
All images via Mavenly + Co. and Kate Gremillion.