It was from the unfortunate demise of a previous venture that led Kathryn Minshew into a position she now feels most fortunate to be in. As the co-founder and CEO of The Daily Muse, 27-year-old Minshew and her fellow co-founders Alex Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery proved their biggest critics wrong by turning their big idea into awe-inspiring reality.
After working on vaccine introduction in Rwanda and Malawi with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, in June 2011, the trio built a website. The goal was to create a single destination for professional women where they can find what they want to do with their lives. Fast forward thirteen months later, and they’ve reached nearly 2 million women and partnered with companies ranging from Intel and Sephora to Pinterest and NPR. That’s not all. The biggest surprise came recently when demographic research showed that men accounted for 30% of the site’s growth.
Since the site laumched Kathryn has appeared on CNN, Fast Company, PBS, Forbes’ 30-Under-30 in Media and INC’s 15 Women to Watch in Tech.
But, Minshew and her team aren’t just standing around and gloating about their success. They are on to their next move! The Daily Muse team is rolling out a new branch of the original site called TheMuse.com to start better integrating the job search and professional development aspects of the company.
We sat down with Minshew for a Q&A to discuss all of these rapid changes in business, her life and her pursuit of happiness for all working women.
Q: What’s the best mistake you ever made in your career?
A: Trusting the wrong people too early, because it taught me a life-long lesson about working with those who share your values and ethics. I also would never have started The Daily Muse if I hadn’t been forced to let go of my previous company through some really terrible events. It was one of the worst times in my life – and also completely preventable if I’d paid more attention to things I didn’t want to believe about my business partners – but it left me free to start this business (The Daily Muse), at this time, with these wonderful people, and for that I think it led to good things in the end.
Q:What’s something you wish you would have learned earlier on in your career?
A: At the risk of sounding like a broken record – I can’t say enough how important it is to choose your partners wisely, and work with those who share your values and ethics. Don’t assume because you would uphold an explicit verbal agreement that someone else will. Get all important agreements in writing, with a lawyer if necessary. The equity docs for my first company were written on notebook paper and, well, that didn’t turn out so well I learned the hard way!
Q:Having worked in a range of industries, many women can relate to you and the struggles involved in making career switches in their quest for finding their passion. How did you do it so quickly?
A: I was never satisfied with being unhappy at my job. In fact for a while I thought there was something wrong with me, like I was on this crazy quest to find a career I was interested in. I interned for the UN and the US State Dept in college but nope, that wasn’t it. I then worked as a management consultant at McKinsey but that wasn’t right for me either. I thought healthcare work in Rwanda could be the answer but, while a great experience, it didn’t seem like what I wanted to do for the next ten years. I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life, but I’ve also been relentlessly determined. I never wanted to settle for mediocre. That said, I’ve been tremendously lucky to have been offered some of the opportunities I was offered early on, and also to have stumbled into this line of work. I never thought I would start a company but I couldn’t love it more. I feel really lucky.