Issue 1, 2018. February-March

   

MEAGAN WARD: CREATE FREEDOM FOR YOURSELF

Detroit-based entrepreneur Meagan Ward visited Georgia as part of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence international campaign. As a guest of the U.S. Embassy, she spoke with a diverse group of women about entrepreneurship and finding the power to create one's own path. Investor.ge spoke with Ward about her trip and her own success story.

An entrepreneur and strong advocate for women in business, Meagan Ward was invited to Georgia as part of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an annual event celebrated in countries around the world.

In 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia decided to bring two strong female role models-Ward and U.S. astronaut Heidemarie Martha Stefanyshyn-Piper.

"A lot of opportunity"

For Ward, her trip to Georgia reinforced that women share the same challenges, regardless of where they live.

"A U.S diplomat heard about Femology opening, which has been deemed Detroit's first business-professional space for women. The Republic of Georgia is a place with a lot of opportunity, which, however, faced many challenges in the past.

They wanted to learn more about the opportunity I had provided women in the Detroit area.

They told me about the campaign and what they wanted to do which fell right in line with my mission," she told Investor.ge in an e-mail interview.

"I've connected so deeply with the audience I didn't have to change my message, goal or vision. Georgian women are going through the same challenges we face.

I was able to go to a prison, to see what life looked like while these women were incarcerated and to see post-prison life. I've spoken to women involved in IDP (internally displaced person) settlements and heard their stories about life after the war with Russia. I've spoken to Georgian women professionals, running the government.

This is a diverse group of women all wanting to make change in their environment and never wanting to settle. I had to be very transparent when I spoke. Not only did I share my success, but I also shared my challenges," Ward said.

Her message to Georgian women echoed the message she is giving American women through her work in Detroit.

"It's about owing your story and the challenges that come with it. Not being afraid to seek your purpose. We are all here on this earth for a reason. Don't be afraid to go against the grain," Ward said.

A Space for Women

She also tried to reinforce the importance of women entrepreneurs for the community.

"The role that women entrepreneurs play in the community is more powerful than we think. I am creating freedom for myself. One of the things we face is our self-worth, which has been defined by how much we get paid, our position and the relationships we have with other women. But we are starting to understand our truth and our self-worth. Sometimes we must make a decision for ourselves that others won't make: deciding that corporate America isn't for you, or not taking a job because it doesn't offer what you're looking for," Ward said.

Having access to female-only space can help women tap into their strengths and collaborate with other women.

"Women are understanding their true power. Once we have that realization, the second step is 'How can I collaborate with another woman to make these dreams come true?' A lot of us are wanting a place where we can exude our womanhood. There are a lot of shared working spaces, but they're not focused on women.

You don't see programming of curated events that tailor to women. It's important to focus on women in both personal and professional aspects. Purpose, family, and individuality are all interconnected," Ward said.

"For example, we have bedrooms, which serve a purpose as a sleep haven. This is where you rest, energize and prepare for a fresh new day. It's important to have a women-specific space for sisterhood, womanhood, strategizing and fostering collaboration-a place where you can find a strong sense of self-identity as well as create authentic conversations," she said.

Coming to Georgia helped her reconnect to her own purpose and strengthened her goal to connect with more women.

"Experiencing Georgia has heightened my sense on a local, statewide and national level. Women are experiencing these things across the globe. It makes me more connected with my purpose, as well as want to connect with other women. The trip to Georgia was a life-changing experience because I was able to see so many different perspectives. I was able to experience different groups with different challenges," she said.

"These women want to experience a breakthrough. They want to change policies. What's so great is that everyone can take what they have learned back to their communities and use it in their culture," she reflected.

Advice from Meagan: Branding for Success

Investor.ge asked Meagan Ward what Georgian entrepreneurs could do better to improve the branding of themselves. Using social media effectively is key, as is owning your own story.

"A core part was owning your success story. We tend to sweep our story under the rug and focus on the shiny part of things, i.e., when we made that sale, when we received that job. Owning the struggle within your success story and sharing it will help people understand that the story can be inspirational to some. It's powerful, people can relate to it and will also be more prone to buying your service or product," Ward explained.

"I talked about social media and online branding. I wouldn't be in Georgia if it wasn't for social media. I don't pay for advertising or anything. I've received opportunities from social media. I challenged my audience to start being active on social media and being more consistent on those channels," Ward said.

She added that some main points from her talks were:

- Getting a professional image for your business, whether it be a logo, headshots or website.

- Social media and consistency: you don't have an opportunity not to post. And every post should have a purpose.

- Cultivate your community. Branding is how we're perceived by people. You have a community to help define who you are (supporters) that can help you crack into your brand as well has help with what you do and what you can provide.

As an example, Powerful Women served as a foundation on how Ward could help women to solve their problems and issues in corporate America.

- Don't be afraid to change and re-strategize, whether within or outside your industry.

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