Empowering Women: Alison Raskin
~ It is my honor and privilege to bring you…
I am incredibly honored and humbled to be featuring Meagan Hooper, Founder and CEO of the bSmart Guide, on the blog today. I look up to Meagan so much! I have honestly never met someone with as big a heart to serve other women. Meagan dedicates her life and work to helping all women succeed in achieving their goals, whatever they may be, all through her online community platform, bSmart Guide. After attending a few of the bSmart Guide events, getting involved in their mentor groups, and meeting the most amazing women, I tell everyone I know about it! If every woman that I care about could be involved in bSmart, I would be a happy girl. Read on to learn more about bSmart Guide from the woman who created it! Meagan is truly one of the most down-to-earth and inspirational women that I have ever met, and I am so proud to be sharing this Q&A today!
How did the idea to create bSmart come about?
I was struck by the lack of women in senior leadership positions in politics, corporate culture, and entrepreneurship in 2008 when I became the Chief Operating Officer of a New York hedge fund. It was clear to me that 50% of the world’s population is not 50% of the world’s decision makers. When I thought about my own life and what had contributed to my success, I knew I needed to create a platform that provided young women the knowledge, support and promotion needed to accomplish their goals.
I created bSmartGuide.com as a mentorship platform for young women that features curated content to help you live your best life and provide the expert advice you wish someone had given you. Our community is designed to find and spotlight women who are doing extraordinary things and connect them with women who aspire to do the same. We’re committed to training women leaders in our community to impact the world.
How has the site evolved since you first launched?
I knew I wanted to provide knowledge, support, and promotion to young women, but as technology advances, I have more opportunities to do that. Google docs, Google forms, and our CRM make it easy for an unlimited number of contributors and editors to share their life advice through blogging. Video chats, online community groups, event postings, and an activity stream make it possible for our members to receive support and encouragement from women who may live across the country. E-commerce and Paypal makes it easy for our members to promote their brand, product, and service and receive sales from within the bSmart community. And next year, we’re hoping to produce original scripted content by women, for women, that reflects the media we want to see. Ever-changing technology allows us to serve our community in ever-changing ways.
When you think back on all of the incredible inspiring women that you’ve profiled on the site, is there one specific profile that really impacted you and your success?
I’ve learned from every woman we’ve interviewed and we use those stories as curriculum for our bSmart mentor groups. The interviews we conducted when we first launched were particularly impactful to me because I was learning essential lessons from successful women who had built businesses and impacted their communities.
Laurie Meadoff, Founder of The CityKids Foundation, has had a tremendous impact on thousands of youth around the world. Through her interview she shared how everyone has a quiet voice inside them that wants to guide and provide ideas for how to use your talents to serve the world. She impressed on me how critical it is to take time every day to listen to that voice for guiding my decisions as a person and business leader.
Susan Leger Ferraro, Founder of Little Sprouts, Inspirational Ones, and Imajine That, turned babysitting into a multi-million dollar early childhood education business through prioritizing, caring, and listening to her team. She made sure all of her employees experienced wellbeing through their job and scheduled time each month to learn about employee challenges and goals – professional or personal.
Listening to your inner-voice for guidance (some people call this your gut or intuition) while radically caring about the people you work with is the recipe for success for any business leader.
So many women have benefitted from bSmart! What has been your most rewarding moment as founder and CEO?
Our goal is life change for our members and we believe that happens best in bSmart mentor groups. Each group goes through a curriculum of identifying their strengths, formulating their purpose, and receives training on how to be smart with their career, finances, relationships, wellbeing, technology, and leadership. Through support, education, and commitment, our members find they’re able to accomplish their goals and dream even bigger. Watching our members accomplish their goals, and feel equipped and supported to do so, is my most rewarding experience running bSmart.
What’s one thing that you hope to pass along to each member on your team?
I believe the process of collaborating and creating your life’s work is more important than the end result. I want my team members to know it’s not only their work that’s important, but the process of working together and serving the world in a way only they uniquely can do is satisfied living. I want them to know it’s an honor to work with them and that they are impacting me the world every day by giving of their time, talents, and resources.
What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced since starting bSmart?
People not believing in me, or my idea, was the biggest challenge for me. When I first had the idea for bSmart in 2008, the majority of people I spoke with didn’t think the world needed a website to provide life advice, mentorship and promotion for young women. The concept of a blog of blogs, online community, and buying and selling from friends online seemed like an odd concept at that time. If you have an idea, it’s important to ignore any negative voices who don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Ironically, those voices will probably be your biggest supporters once you accomplish your vision.
What’s one piece of advice you would give other women who are hoping to launch their own website or start their own business?
If you have an idea – start today. The key to any successful project or business is that you tweak, iterate, and experiment over a long period of time (and I mean years, not months). Running a business is not about paying someone else to create a website or manufacture a product one time and then you sell that for the rest of your life. To be successful, you have to constantly gain feedback and improve your service for years until you’re producing something that you’re proud of and meets a need or provides a service. Start today, figure out where you want to go, and take one step every day to improve your website or business.
What’s been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned throughout the whole process?
I experienced a big shift from having an idea (and working to accomplish that vision) and then all of a sudden a few years later having a website that people are responding to and understand what I’m trying to do. If you can push through to that point (past the initial idea and iteration phases), you’ll be surprised at how many people want to help you accomplish your business mission. I’m surprised and grateful at how many people want to encourage, help, and support me, and my business’ mission, simply because they believe it’s something the world needs.
If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
McQueen, McQueen, McQueen – day, night, and weekend. I would wear anything from Alexander McQueen from dresses, pants, skirts, tops, gowns, shoes, bags, and accessories. I want to be buried in Alexander McQueen.
What women have inspired you?
A mentor of mine since high school, Michelle Long, inspires me as a professional writer, director, and actress all while being a wife and mother. She demonstrated feminism and equality even when people around her didn’t want to give her leadership or artistic control. She embraces challenges and isn’t held back by gender bias or local stigmas.
My business mentor, Amanda McNaught, sits on my advisory board. She embodies the definition of mentorship with a mind for business strategy. It’s a rare combination for someone to have such a strong and strategic business acumen while having a heart to care deeply about all people in an organization.
Our volunteers and interns such as Polly Hilton, Gabriella Bower, Molly Goodspeed, Kendra Schwarz, Amanda Wowk, Amanda Beadlescomb, Alexandra Wieser, Alexandra Weidanz, Andrea Rice, and Gwen Crafts inspire me. These women give of their time to develop and grow bSmart to help us be the media and community we want to see. Their ideas and initiative have made bSmart so successful.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I think most people do know this, but making people laugh is one of my greatest joys. My secret dream is to do stand-up at the Apollo or have my own HBO special. I have job envy for Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. Is there still time to become a late night television show host?
What are three things that you absolutely positively cannot live without?
My husband Joe, pug Stella, and my iPhone (although I try to break it every chance I get by dropping it.)
I’m a foodie, so eating at a David Bouley or Jean George restaurant is always my favorite indulgence. The Grand Marnier Soufflé dessert at The Mark Restaurant is one of the best desserts in New York City in my opinion.
What makes you smile the most?
Making other people laugh with my jokes. I love a good joke (mine or someone else’s). My husband, Joe, and pug, Stella, both make me smile but for different reasons.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you knew 5 years ago?
Success is the result of overcoming many challenges, not avoiding them. The faster I embrace challenges, the faster I’ll overcome them and my project will grow. I suppose this is another way of saying – don’t give up. Any idea or project takes a tremendous amount of stamina to get off the ground and it’s the same process everyone has to go through. I wasted a lot of time in the beginning wondering if I should pursue this business when I should have just been working to improve it.