Morgan DeBaun is no stranger to brand building. In 2014, she left her full-time job at Intuit to launch Blavity, a media company for black millennials, and has since acquired Shadow and Act and Travel Noire—on top of launching 21Ninety, a lifestyle brand for women of color, AfroTech, a conference and site for black entrepreneurs, and M.Roze, a skincare line. So yeah—she’s kind of a total boss.
That’s why we’re thrilled to have Morgan joining our Mastercard Women’s Business Advisory Council. Throughout the year, members of the council will be popping up at events and online with advice on how to get your small business off the ground—stay tuned to learn more!
Below, Morgan shares why she launched Blavity, how she hustles smart, and the best piece of advice she’s ever received.
What are the common challenges you've seen among female business owners and entrepreneurs?
Being able to get into the room. There are still a lot of closed doors when it comes to women entrepreneurs, whether it be to pitch, or securing funding, it’s still very much a boys club. Hopefully, that will change in the near future with the number of women business owners and entrepreneurs consistently growing.
What was the turning point that convinced you, “It's time to take matters into my own hands? The world needs Blavity.”
It was after the death of Mike Brown. Almost every media source painted this kid out to be a monster, all while his body still laid in the middle of the street. Too often we see the narrative around people of color go from bad to worse in the media before real facts have been presented. Blavity was created to change that.
When you run into a career obstacle, how do you find new roads?
I find new roads by going back to the drawing board and revisiting the original vision. That usually helps me get back to aligning myself with my goals. In doing so, I almost always come across new avenues and alternative ways to get to the job done.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who talk a lot about what they want to do instead of just doing it. Actions speak louder than words and execution is everything.
What does the concept of #hustlesmart mean to you?
To hustle smart means to put in the work needed, but doing so efficiently and effectively, so that time, energy and resources aren’t wasted along the way. Sometimes I think people take pride in being “busy” and “working hard.” If you can accomplish the same outcome with less work isn’t that a better outcome?
How has your relationship to that concept changed over the last five years?
I have a team now. We still hold the concept in high regards, but with more brain power, it has become easier, in a way. We work together and are able to pick up on each other’s blind spots, so that makes the process of executing ideas a lot smoother than being alone in my one-bedroom apartment trying to do everything on my own.
What are your biggest fears about running a business?
If I had to take a stab at it, I would say that taking too long to recognize that a project or idea or system just doesn’t work. I love the quote “fail fast” because the greatest lessons are born out of failures and mistakes.
What about your career makes you feel the most complete?
I feel most complete being able to employ people who are underdogs and deserve to work in a space where they can be their full creative selves.
If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
I wouldn't. I’m proud, and very much still in awe of what my team has done in the short years that Blavity has existed. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
At what point in your career did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?
It was when I decided to quit my job at Intuit and pursue Blavity full time. It was all sorts of scary and nerve-wracking but I never looked back. I think that when you find something that you’re really passionate about that you’d be willing to do for free then it makes everything that comes after less scary.
What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?
Stop asking for permission and just do it.
What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?
Beyoncé - "Formation"
Photo Credit: @davisfactor and Morgan’s Instagram