Globally, 163 million women have started a business since 2014. While this figure highlights how women-owned businesses have grown significantly across the world, women’s participation in entrepreneurship is still lower than men’s in almost all societies. Numerous cultural and political factors hinder the development of budding women entrepreneurs and prevent them from accessing the resources needed to launch or sustain their business.
Sitting at the intersection of activism and entrepreneurship, Detroit Native Meagan Ward serves as an advocate for women’s success on a global level. Launching her first business in her college apartment, today Ward travels the world working with the United Nations to provide workshops that discuss how women’s empowerment can be a positive force for global change. Her mission is to unite women of all backgrounds and celebrate womanhood in its entirety, helping individuals realize their potential, “I believe that women’s voices make an impact and just because you’re one person, doesn’t mean that you can’t cultivate change.”
Ward shares 5 actionable steps you can take to pivot away from unfulfilling work and make a meaningful difference in your life and others:
Understand the Power of Choice
Ward’s focus was not always on entrepreneurship and global impact. Like many new graduates, she followed the path that seemed to be laid out for her and found a 9-5 career. Working hard to climb the ranks at work, she believed that her diligence would pay off with a raise at year-end. In alignment with more than 60 percent of workers polled who said they did not get an increase in their pay, Ward discovered that she would have to wait another year to be considered for a raise. She remembers, “I felt smaller than I had ever felt in my life and then that’s when I started to understand that I had the power of choice. I have the power of deciding what my self worth is.” Deciding to put trust in herself and ultimately be the one to determine her net worth, she strategized a plan to leave her job.
Position Yourself to Take the Next Step
Not every woman can afford to leave a job that does not recognize her value. However, research shows that many women start businesses out of necessity due to factors such as workplace discrimination, childrearing and household management. For Ward, she had built up a clientele in her side business as a brand strategist and ensured that her monthly revenue matched what she was making at her job so that she was well positioned to take the leap into entrepreneurship. Pooling not only financial resources, Ward also utilized the workplace as an opportunity to learn business best practices so that she could elevate her own brand. She describes, “I was building my company like a fortune 500 company as an early 20-something-year-old. I was ensuring that everything that I was learning in my job, I was applying it to my business. So if the company I was working at had a company handbook I would think ‘Okay, let me write this down, let me start curating a company handbook.”
Use Purpose to Fuel Innovation
Ward recognized that her side business was an opportunity for a purpose-driven career pivot. Believing that she had more to offer her clients than branding and developing websites, she soon realized that her purpose is to connect women. “I feel like society doesn’t give us that platform that we need to collaborate and connect with each other. So I wanted to disrupt it, especially here in Detroit,” says Ward. Curating spaces for diverse women to come together, she started first with small networking luncheons, the luncheons grew into conferences and then the conferences took a pivot into the co-working space that Ward founded and co-owns, Femology. “I spearhead women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, but I think that this all dates back to defining your skill set and your expertise and then using that to find out what your purpose is,” she advises.
Be a Catalyst for Change
Known for being a connector of people, ideas and resources locally, Ward caught the attention of the U.S. Embassy who reached out to her via social media. They asked her to take the blueprint of what she was producing in Detroit and scale it to be a powerful empowerment tool for women around the world. “I’ve always had an organic representation of myself online that often sheds light on what I’m great at, how I can help people and what my purpose is. So with building myself online, I think that it started to get attention from people who also had similar values,” describes Ward. The power of social media connected Ward to this opportunity, but some women around the world do not have this same resource for their business, “I remember going to a country and I was talking about branding and building an online presence, and the women said that they can’t get domain names,” says Ward. What some women see as a first step to setting up their business, for others it proves to be an obstacle to overcome. “I’ve been to countries where women can’t drive yet or women who have been displaced by war so they’re scratching the surface on their ‘why’ in life,” recalls Ward, “I think that women’s empowerment is different all over the world but at the end of the day, women want to be purposeful and impactful.” With a global perspective, Ward drives that impact with empowerment workshops around the world, including Tbilisi, Georgia, Trinidad & Tobago
Have a Game-Changing Approach
“No one cares what you do average, seriously. No one cares that I can do a brand strategy session, because I do it average, just to be honest with myself. If you’re going in average, don’t do it at all,” declares Ward. The purpose in serving people is about how you are serving in a capacity in excellence. “People don’t care what you do average,” says Ward, “do something that’s going to disrupt.”