BEHIND THE SCENES WITH INTERNET PEOPLE: MAVENLY + CO.'S FOUNDER KATE GREMILLION
There is no doubt that the internet – and all the tech that lets us access it – can be an amazing tool. The world wide web allows us to maintain relationships with friends and family around the world, and to make connections with people we haven’t even met. Because of Skype and WhatsApp I can talk with my best friends in Indonesia, and was able to advise my now-brother-in-law on engagement ring selection when he was in Australia. The constant connectivity can benefit us professionally, too – small businesses and entrepreneurs can now transcend the boundaries of their city or country, creating a consumer-base far beyond what was possible even ten years ago.
But of course, as we’re all painfully aware here at Folk Rebellion, there’s a definite dark side to constant connection. Long-distance friendships turn into constantly checking Facebook and pervasive FOMO. Smartphones allow us to check our email 24/7, making it feel impossible and even neglectful to stop working and unwind.
With all of these thoughts in mind, I wanted to connect with some of the ladies behind internet businesses I follow. Whether content platforms, blogs, e-commerce sites, or something completely different, there are a bevy of folks whose amazing work I simply wouldn’t have come across were it not for the interwebs.
First up is the lovely Kate Gremillion, founder of the inspirational lady community Mavenly + Co. As they describe it, 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.” Mavenly recently launched a newly designed site, and has announced that they’ll be adding some in-person workshops to their arsenal of offerings in 2016. Read on for more from Mavenly + Co.’s Kate Gremillion.
Can you share some background on Mavenly + Co. and how you got your start?
Right when I graduated from college I, very thankfully, had a job with my sorority Delta Gamma, and they offering me a job to travel the country, going to a different college each week to meet with women and talk about the sorority. So basically, it was my dream job at the time: I wanted to travel, I wasn’t quite done with the whole sorority thing and at first I kind of saw it as a year off.
Through traveling and consulting with all of these women, I realized there was this one large trend; whether I was at Harvard or Carnegie Mellon or UCLA or LSU, I would always end up talking to women about what they wanted to do after school. Whether you were paying six figures for an education or you were on a scholarship, the answer was way too frequently “I don’t know.” That scared me because I didn’t see us giving women the tools that they need to really find what they authentically wanted to do. Or, if they gave me an answer it was often something that I thought was the answer they wanted to give me, as opposed to something really authentic that they actually would enjoy doing.
That was ultimately the start of what got me thinking about this type of topic: what would we be able to offer these women to help? But then, shortly after that my year of fun was over – they only offer you a one year term limit to travel around the country on their tab – and so I ended up having to get my “big-girl job.”
So what came next in your professional journey?
I was a communications major in school, so I thought that being a PR account executive at a high-powered firm would be a nice job for me. I got there and within two weeks I could not stand it. Every day I would sit in my cubicle thinking This is my coffin, I am going to die here. I’m going to work forever, and this is it. It was miserable to me.
I became one of those women who I’d consulted with, and all I really knew to do was reach out to other women who I thought really loved their jobs and asked them very specific questions. Things like “how do you spend every minute of your days?” and, “What do you love about your job? What do you hate about it?”
You know, I love those Forbes articles where they say, “she was digging in a dumpster for bagels and now she’s a multimillionaire CEO!” It’s like, there was so much you missed in between the dumpster diving and the CEO piece. I just felt like there wasn’t enough of that on the internet and I was finally starting to get to that good, meaty information after so many hours of Skype calls and coffee shop meetings. Once I had that, I realized that this was something that could potentially solve the problems of a lot of women when thinking about what they actually want to do and maybe why they didn’t really like their job. I reached out to a bunch of the journalists I knew from school and they were oftentimes in the same place I was, so we all jumped on board, got online – because that’s the tool we’re most familiar with – and started putting those interviews out.
So obviously technology was a big player in the beginnings of Mavenly; What role has technology played in getting you to where you are? In sustaining Mavenly?
There’s no way that Mavenly would exist without the internet – in fact it really only exists on the internet right now, so I’m super thankful for the internet. When we get emails from women in New South Wales, Australia about the podcast they listened to, those are the things that totally make my day and would be completely impossible without the internet. So it’s actually been the greatest resource for us, but at the same time it isn’t a substitute for anything that happens in person. We’ve definitely seen it as a blessing and a curse; when we first started Mavenly we thought ‘okay, there’s a team of us that all live by each other but you know it’d be so much easier to do this on Slack, which is a group chat for business.” It’s definitely more productive and efficient, but we realized there we things we didn’t know about people that we work with just because we don’t see each other every day, and we didn’t like that. So tomorrow we’re getting together for wine to talk about the business, but also just to talk about each others’ lives. I think being online has been super beneficial in terms of the connections, but it can’t replace in person conversations.
You’ve mentioned that y’all are going to start taking things offline, as well. What’s the story there?
As anyone knows, finding a job and figuring out what you want to be is a very emotional process, and it’s great to be able to turn to the internet for something like that. God knows Mavenly would not have a been without the internet, but we are actually taking a bit of a shift and moving into some in person workshops from Mavenly. We’ve just seen such a draw for people wanting to connect in real time and actually have facetime with women who have the same values and ideals that they do. It’s just so interesting that the internet has brought us all together, but now we crave this in person connection that we’ve been almost running from previously. So that’s a phase that we’re really excited about at Mavenly; we see the value of being online, but we know that our in person connections are invaluable.
So you run Mavenly, but you also have an office job of sorts. Can you talk us through what your daily/weekly schedule look like?
I love being very detailed about this because, again, I hate that Forbes style article of like “she’s writing a blog and gets paid her whole salary!” Nope. By no means is that my situation, so I like being very thorough about my timeline and kind of where I’m at financially and logistically.
At the time I quit [my job at the PR agency], I had taken on a freelance role with a man based in DC, his name is Paul C. Brunsen, who talks about relationships and entrepreneurship as a tv personality– he has some great resources you should check out if you’re into that. With that I got to create my own schedule and work at the times that worked best for me, while also thinking about how I would continue to pursue Mavenly. So I was doing the dual side-gig and freelance job thing for a while, I want to say around a year and a half? After that I realized that I kind of missed having a place to go. A lot of us who are working from home… you know, you’re not sitting in a cubicle all day, but you’re still sitting in the same place all day. No matter how many Etsy pictures are on the walls or how many gold spray painted things I have on my desk, it’s still a desk. I wanted to pick up something on the side where I could go to an office and work with people face-to-face.
From there, a friend introduced me to a man at a party who has a couple of hotels and businesses in New Orleans, LA. I was really interested in working with him and doing some of his communications, going into the office two days a week and then spending the rest of the days working on Mavenly full time.
We struck up the deal that I would come in to the office two days a week; we map out all the things I need to do in a week, then the rest of the time is mine. Of course, I’ve found that those schedules are few and far between. At the time I was comfortable enough to negotiate to come in only two days a week – I know that not everyone has that luxury, but I also think that you’ll never get it unless you ask. He was definitely thinking I’d come in five days a week and I just let him know that wasn’t the quality of life I was looking for. I said “you can take back $10,000 off my salary but I need to be able to be at home three days a week.” And he said okay. Currently, every day of the week except Monday and Wednesday I am full time Mavenly staff. Honestly, so much of the value added to the person I work for now is because I’m able to do what I need to do the other three days that I don’t work for him. So when I’m at his office, I’m fully there.
You mentioned that you’ve recently started an unplugged Sunday ritual – when did you start that, and what was the impulse there?
Probably not even a month – if you asked people who are close to me if I took breaks on Sunday from social media they would think you were lying. I’m very bad about realizing that all of my work is done on the internet so I justify me being on my phone as work instead being disrespectful or rude to whoever I’m with. I was kind of always operating in this Kardashian mode of half taking a selfie, half listening to what my mom was saying.
Because Fridays and Saturdays are just constant social media days, Sunday was really the only option I saw for unplugging in any capacity. It also keeps me from working 24/7. Because I do enjoy what I do for work, I have a hard time turning off, and that is not healthy for me, even though it’s productive and efficient. A lot of people would probably say it’s a good thing that I can work from wherever and work whenever, but you have to be careful not to let it consume your whole day and your whole week.
Have you noticed any changes since adopting this unplugged ritual?
Now that I’ve done this really intentionally, I’ve just noticed that I’m a better friend, I’m a better girlfriend, I’m a better daughter. You notice nuances that you don’t when you’re communicating with someone in real time while you’re also looking at your screen. It’s something I had to do for myself and for my relationships. It’s been working out well so far – I’m not going to say it’s easy. The temptation to whip out my phone and scroll through Instagram or check my email is always there, but it’s definitely been a conscious effort. You notice too when you leave your phone how nice it is to really be present. It’s been hard to do, but it’s a luxury and I’m very happy I’ve started to make that commitment.
What are your favorite analog tools?
Notebooks are my thing, and I’m super old school – I’ll got to Office Depot and buy those college ruled notebooks, bound but with no spiral. I have that for everything I deem as a project in my life. I have like four of them in my bag at all times – so I have that for my clients, I have one for Mavenly, and I have to go through my to do list every day. I can’t do it online – I love my apps, but my to do list has to be on paper.
What is your favorite offline place?
My spin class – it sounds crazy but just stick with me for five seconds. I go spin at this place called Higher Power, and I have a very early morning class. This is a place where there’s no lights and it’s really intense with these flashing dance lights. You feel like you’re in the club but you’re cycling. It takes all of that ridiculous nonsense for me to forget about my to do list. It’s literally almost my therapy session, my happy place. I just walk in, get on my bike and for the next 45-minutes to an hour, there’s no email. There’s nothing besides just biking as much as I can bike to Drake and Lil’ Wayne with all of these lights flashing.
It’s not the most relaxing atmosphere by any means, but I always leave realizing I haven’t thought about all of my responsibilities and next steps and things for the whole time I was in there.
What is your favorite pre-Internet hobby?
You know it’s sad, but I actually had to sit and think about this. That’s the most embarrassing part of your question!
I lived in Baton Rouge, LA when I was younger, and we would always go walk around the LSU Lake. We’d do that with all of our friends to decompress and chat about our days. Just walking the lakes with anyone – with a friend, parent, sister… that was always my favorite pre-Internet hobby that now it seems like we never have enough time for.
What is your rebel manifesto?
My theory on life is definitely that time is the only luxury. So the only true thing worth having in life, and the worst trade you could make, is time for money. The idea of spending any amount of time doing something that makes you miserable or isn’t advancing you in some way seems like a total waste for me. It goes along with the mission of Mavenly: it’s about claiming and reclaiming your time. You have such a limited amount of it and you’ll never get more. It’s making the most of your days, recognizing that no matter how wealthy you are, no matter how much of any one thing you have, you’ll never have more time, so spend it wisely.
For more from Kate, visit her over at mavenly.co, and be sure to check out their podcast while you’re over there. Stay tuned for more behind the scenes with internet people.