Allison Monaghan McGuire
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Founder & CEO at Monaghan McGuire & Walc
Tell us about your career and how it all started? and Why?
I’ve always been obsessed with storytelling and giving a voice to the voiceless. As a former actor, I was passionate about creating meaningful art through other people’s stories. However, while in college studying theatre, I started working for a grassroots political organization. Politics wasn’t an arena I knew too much about, but I saw it as a new way to tell stories and make change. After working in national security and human rights in and out of the US Congress (and for a brief time in the UK Parliament), I saw there was a lot of arguing but not a lot of change happening. I got tired of that world and decided to move into tech, where innovation breeds. I joined a DC-based tech company and became immersed in a whole new world. After working there for a couple of years, I had this crazy idea to build a walking app that gave real-time experiences of city streets. I raised some money (so hard) and moved to New York to start my first business. Then we pivoted into my second business, Walc, a walking navigation app that gives directions based on visual cues (turn right at McDonald’s) instead of north/south. From there, I used my acting skills to pitch in competitions all over the world. And a funny thing happened… every competition I pitched in, I won. When I saw other entrepreneurs weren’t able to tell their stories the way I do, I thought, “Maybe I can help.” So I started training entrepreneurs on storytelling techniques and then they started winning… money, competitions, deals. And that’s where I am now: a public speaking coach, focusing on how storytelling drives action and makes change.
As a female entrepreneur what are your biggest challenges?
Most of the challenges I’ve faced as a woman have been completely out of my control; an offensive comment here, an eyeroll-worthy gesture there. As a woman, I’ve definitely been treated differently in the media and while raising money. Then, as an entrepreneur, I have many of the challenges any founder faces: the pressure of making money to support a team; presenting as perfect while it’s really a sh*tshow; suffering from depression and anxiety when things don’t go my way (which happens a lot, by the way). But as women we’re judged differently, and sometimes that hurts. At the end of the day, I can only control my actions. So I’ll continue my storytelling through my body, my experience. And hopefully my work will inspire other women to take a leap and do the same.
How do we educate the community to invest in small businesses run by women? What can an individual do?
It’s all about the Benjamins. Women-led businesses consistently provide higher returns than those of our male counterparts. So if you want to make more money, back a woman. If you don’t have money to invest, then support women with the little things: send a text saying you admire her tenacity or share on social media how she inspires you. So much of the time I don’t realize anyone is watching or that anyone is motivated to start their own company by observing my actions. Hearing that validation from my friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers, makes me feel like I’m on the right track.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood means supporting other women. When I watch women being devalued – online or in real life – I call it out. I read stories blaming women for simply being. Then I hear people parrot what’s being said in the media. And that’s when I call BS.
What's your personal mantra?
Giving a voice to the voiceless. Always has, always will be.
What would be your advice for women who are building careers in your industry?
- I always ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen here?” And if I can’t handle the worst-case scenario, I don’t do it. I’m a big risk taker but I take calculated risks – I’m not reckless. My main learning has been this: even if I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ll figure it out. So for you: GO. FOR. IT. If you’re hungry and you’re tenacious, you’ll make something happen. The story won’t go as you’d expect, but you’ll learn so much along the way.
- I teach a class on using storytelling in negotiation. As women we seem to fear not being liked. This particularly arises in business: if we negotiate, people won’t like us. Well, that’s ridiculous. Who cares if someone doesn’t like the fact that they’re paying you more? You wouldn’t like it either! But they (and you) will get over it. The difference is, you’ll get over it with more money in your pocket. And respect. Ask for double what you were initially thinking. Worst case is they’ll say no. Then you’ll negotiate from there. (Seriously, do it.)
- DM me to tell me your story, your vision of the future. I can’t wait to meet you.
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