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Female Founders: Lauren Hirsch Williams of Global Media Fusion On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

You must have people help you. Women, in general, think they must do it all. It’s not always easy to ask for help, especially if we’re not funded in a business venture. But that doesn’t mean we should go it alone. It’s essential to get help from a part-time VA, a mentor, colleagues, or even friends in a mastermind group. Having more than one brain in the room at a time is invaluable and will save hours and hours. Here too, social media and LinkedIn can help.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Hirsch Williams.

Lauren Hirsch Williams is a high-performance strategist, author, Executive Producer, and award-winning screenwriter. She has held positions on all sides of the table, from Worldwide Director of Advertising at PepsiCo to creator of MovieHatch® and Founder of Global Media Fusion, an entertainment powerhouse the develops, produces, and distributes film and TV programming to over 1/3 of the entire planet. She’s worked on Emmy winning shows, written a breakthrough book, ONE SENSE AHEAD, and recently developed a women’s network — MyTurn TV — that’s rolling out across the globe with A-List celebrities in 2022 and beyond. For more:

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My claim to fame came when I held the Worldwide Director of Advertising and Consumer Communication position at PepsiCo for Frito-Lay snack foods. I was with the company for a decade and, as part of that role, I pursued my passion for the entertainment industry by handling product placement and integration on major studio films. Many marketing executives understand that I was part of the pioneering team for today’s mainstream celebrity product endorsement and integration by working on films such as Rainman and Back to the Future. For example, we contributed to Jay Leno’s ascent to fame by including him in a national award-winning series of TV commercials for Doritos when he was still on the local market comedy circuit.

When I moved on from the rigors of PepsiCo, I wanted to follow up on my own screenwriting passion and thought it would be a cinch because I had established a tremendous network in the entertainment industry. Surprisingly, my intentions turned out to be a big struggle. I discovered the industry I had supported for years was a tight-knit group that few could enter no matter your history and contacts. If I was having a hard time, people who had no connections would find it impossible. As a result, I came up with various ideas on how to help novices and soon realized my passion was more for creating businesses than it was for screenwriting.

I created MovieHatch, one of the first Hollywood crowdsourcing websites as well as groundbreaking sites in other industries such as the wedding market and consumer products. CNN found out about my endeavors and featured me in a global media segment about my innovations. With that exposure, the ‘bug’ to be an entrepreneur bit me hard, so I moved full time to founding businesses such as my latest venture, Global Media Fusion. I’ve been a happily driven Founder ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

MovieHatch was just launching when I was accepted to interview for a coveted spot with Springboard Enterprises. Their mission to help women founders secure funding to build and grow their businesses was the first of its kind. I was eager to be part of their organization because that year’s theme was ‘All Things Media.’

On the very day of the interview, Murphy’s Law occurred in full force — one thing after another went wrong. At the height of it, the clock struck 1:00 pm, and it was my turn to present in front of a group of stone-faced panelists whose job was to whittle down hundreds of applicants to a final 24 women. With great strength, I began speaking, but when it came time for the question-and-answer session, I was overcome with a sudden bout of severe vertigo and, within seconds, was slumped across the side of my chair. I only had a limited time, so I kept answering their questions even though I was gripping the side of the chair as the room was spinning at warp speed around me. Shockingly, in the end, they accepted me because of my tenacity. My vertigo-driven tenacity!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was first developing MovieHatch, I met an old friend who ran the production company that produced one of the world’s biggest hits: American Idol.

I really wanted to collaborate with him and was ready for a big pitch. He had two young colleagues with him the day we met, and before I started my pitch about MovieHatch, I felt compelled, for some reason, to voice my opinion about all that was wrong with the show that year. I knew him well enough that I felt comfortable being blunt — so I went to town about a handful of things they were screwing up in my [strong] opinion.

I didn’t give him time to fully respond before I laid into him about the next mistake. It turns out one of his colleagues (who had his nose in his phone during my whole rant) turned out to be Simon Fuller, the billionaire creator of the Idol TV franchise. Talk about a misstep of missteps in front of a powerhouse executive! The biggest lesson from that story is obvious — ALWAYS know who is in the room and ALWAYS stop to let other people answer your questions and LISTEN to read the room accurately. My friend was trying to warn me, but I wasn’t listening.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The most remarkable woman who changed the entire course of my career — and life — was Charlotte Weisenberger, and tragically, she passed away before I could fully thank her. She was my boss early in my career, and my time with her was short. She ran the media department at the Bloom Advertising Agency in Dallas, Tx, but only stayed a short time. Yet, that’s all it took to save me. There was a man in the account services department that requested I be moved onto his team. No one was aware he had been sexually harassing me, but he was in senior management, so I kept quiet. This was the 1980s, and that’s what women did — kept silent. Somehow, this tremendous lifesaver and hero named Charlotte instinctively knew something was wrong. I never had to say a word, but after a 10-minute conversation with me, she made the unilateral decision to keep me where I was and not permit the transfer to that man’s team. I’ve never been so thankful to not get a promotion!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

The most daunting thing holding women back from founding companies resides inside their heads. A mind is a powerful tool, and it dictates so much of our behavior and choices in life. When women have a mindset that spotlights doubt, insecurity, and imposter syndrome, it often overrides any passionate vision of lofty goals and dreams. The wrong attitude prevents many women from following the path that allows them to chase their dreams of founding a company.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

There are quite a few programs that support women in business, but they aren’t always well known to people when they’re starting out. To overcome that lack of exposure, I think broader coverage and disbursement of information should be addressed. The government, society, and individuals can also help provide better education in the public school system, starting with young girls in elementary grades. A “can-do” mindset needs to be ingrained at a very young age for girls, so restrictions and doubts are dispelled or prevented before they become too deeply embedded. Another area that would help is more prominent publicity of business organizations that offer grants for seed funding. I believe the key with grants is not solely providing funding but making sure there’s a system of education and support to help women utilize those funds.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

In general, women tend to be more focused on multitasking, relationships, and the encouragement of others. This helps women with their ability to juggle the many hats that an entrepreneur — and founder of a business — must handle every single day. Women seem to have a greater balance of right-brain and left-brain activity. This allows them to grasp the mandatory topics, processes, and execution requirements of founding a company in a well-rounded way.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

First myth: You must have funding before you start a new venture. This is always desirable, of course, but it’s not at all true. You can start with an idea and a drive to work hard. There are many free resources available to people now. It may take more time to get something done when you’re on a no-budget or shoe-string budget, but you can still start a business without having a lot of funding first. Social media is a crucial element and cannot be discounted as a way to begin with limited funds.

Second myth: Your startup business is destined to fail. Although many sources state that 95% of new businesses fail, women shouldn’t let that guide their drive to create a business. Most businesses fail because the founders give up too quickly or buckle to early “failure.” They may hit a few attempts that fail and then walk away. (See my other comments in this article about learning to love failure and why it’s a sign of future success). If someone isn’t financially able to walk away from their current job to start a business, they should take baby steps and make it a side hustle until they can go full time.

Third myth: There is still a glass ceiling for women. Although there are many industries where women have a more challenging time climbing to the top, it’s still possible. It can be done. And if someone is the founder of the company, there is no glass ceiling because they’re already above it! Don’t let that hurdle stop progress and forward movement. The only ceiling faced by a founder is the self-created one. Founders should not let ‘old school’ ways of business stop them from starting a new company now.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

One of the most important traits for being a founder is possessing motivation and a high level of perseverance. There will be so many times that founders will fall down, and it can be disheartening. But the successful founders find a way to get back up again and keep at it. It’s strong motivation and perseverance that gives them the strength to do so.

Another important trait is to have a clear vision of where the business is going combined with enough personal confidence to carry through to that place. There are plenty of hurdles in the entrepreneurial journey, so knowing precisely where a person wants to end up is paramount. Even if confidence twists like a rollercoaster, it’s vital to have a good amount of it to keep moving forward each day.

It’s also critical to be able to handle the constant pressure of wearing different hats. Even if a venture is funded and has a team on board, it’s still the founder’s job to make decisions and have a thorough knowledge of each aspect of the company. That can be difficult. Founders need to multitask and switch topics at the drop of a hat. The devil is in the details… nothing is too small to acknowledge.

If someone dislikes being alone, they may need to stick with a regular job as an employee. The entrepreneurial world can be a lonely one, and if a person struggles to be in an environment that doesn’t have a lot of people surrounding them at all times, it may not be the right path.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I certainly have more than five things I wish someone had told me before I started, but I’ll provide the top 5 here.

1) You must have people help you. Women, in general, think they must do it all. It’s not always easy to ask for help, especially if we’re not funded in a business venture. But that doesn’t mean we should go it alone. It’s essential to get help from a part-time VA, a mentor, colleagues, or even friends in a mastermind group. Having more than one brain in the room at a time is invaluable and will save hours and hours. Here too, social media and LinkedIn can help.

2) Learn how to love failure or, at the very least, coexist with it. Although we all grow up thinking failure is a bad thing, it’s turns out it’s a good thing. Failures open the door to success in the future because we can learn from each failure what NOT to do. Having that information is just as valuable as seeing what DOES work. On top of that, failure is a fundamental aspect of every entrepreneurial venture. There’s no such thing as a business without any failure. So, the sooner we learn to embrace it, the sooner we can get to the vision we desire. I’ve created sales pages or product offers that took months to plan and execute, only to be a total loss. Although it stings, instead of walking away from my business, I learned from it and shifted my focus to new paths that did work.

3) Celebrate small steps. We all have our eye on the grand prize and feel the little mundane steps are not worthy of full attention and praise. But that would be wrong. If we celebrate and feel pride at each of the minor actions along the way, we learn it’s the fastest way to get to the grand prize. In writing my book, ONE SENSE AHEAD, I planned a celebration after each step was completed. For example, the Table of Contents may not seem important, but it set up the framework for writing everything else. My celebration created the momentum to help me finish writing the first chapter. And then the next and the next.

4) Set up an accountability system. I’m a Type-A, Aries, and being forced to do anything ‘by the book’ or with strict instruction is difficult. I’ve tried the simplest accountability coaching programs and hated them. However, I saw my milestones accomplished much faster when I finally found one that works for me — a monthly system. There’s a reason most successful people have an accountability system in place: they work. Just find the one that best matches your style and personality.

5) Start before you feel ready. As a founder, we always have plenty of new ideas or ways to improve our product or service. It’s quite like an artist who feels their work of art is never quite finished. If you wait until you’re fully ready, time will have passed, and you may miss the opportunity to chase that dream. Don’t get stuck in the paralysis of waiting. Just leap even when you don’t feel ready. You can constantly adjust and shift in the future. Being nimble is key. Be agile and reasonable to change.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I think it’s so important — and fulfilling — to make sure every venture gives back to other people on any level. I’ve done my best over time to educate and work with students and people that may not be able to afford my services or programs but who want and greatly appreciate them. As often as possible, I like to tie some form of philanthropic organization to our shows or programs. My book, ONE SENSE AHEAD, helps people learn how to use skills they already possess — their senses — to find business success so regardless of any physical limitations or financial insufficiencies, they can still move forward.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

To reach the most significant number of people in my industry is to create television programming with enough appeal and attraction to keep audiences around the world engaged. Right now, that’s through a program — a series and movement I created — called Boundless Humanity™. The series supports a unique way to educate women, so they develop their business skills, start businesses, and yet still pay it forward with small everyday acts of humanity and kindness to other people. This paradigm change is the future.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

One person I’ve admired is Jamie Kern Lima. She came from humble beginnings yet skyrocketed and became a pioneer in her industry and a trailblazer for all other women founders and entrepreneurs. She’s approachable, engaging, brilliant, and has stayed in touch with reality despite her enormous success. She proudly wears her failures as badges of lessons learned, allowing the rest of us to feel a haven when things don’t work out. She is the perfect definition of a role model for all other women, and if I had the great fortune to meet her, I’d be thrilled and ready to learn… and laugh (she seems to enjoy laughing a lot as well!).

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Female Founders: Lauren Hirsch Williams of Global Media Fusion On The Five Things You Need To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.