W4 had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda Garvey, Founder of On the Dot Woman.
Melinda Garvey, Founder On the Dot Woman
On the Dot is an online platform where you can either read or listen to your daily dose of inspiration. Why did you choose an audio approach versus a text-only forum?
It’s a funny story. I was reading something on my phone one day, but I couldn’t see the small print because, you know, I’m 49. I was trying to read this article with my reading glasses on, while also trying to do my mascara, and I remember thinking: “Ugh, I wish someone would just read this to me.” This was at the time when I was starting to formulate the idea of a short-form newsletter, really impactful for women, a daily, quick dose of inspiration, and I thought, “That’s it! That’s what women need.” It’s ideal for those of us who are often multi-tasking. If you’re driving the kids to school, if you’re putting on your make-up, whatever it is, I don’t want there to be any barrier to entry. You can choose not to listen to On the Dot on a particular day, but you can’t really say, “I don’t have the time.” If you’re in a boring meeting, you can read it. Wherever you’re going, you can always find that little snippet of time. I just wanted to make sure it was fully accessible.
On the Dot ends all of its posts with the phrase, “Empowered women empower other women.” A phrase our W4 team loves to hear! What drove you to enter the field of women’s empowerment?
Well, I run a magazine in Austin, Texas called Austin Woman. We’ve been publishing for 14 years and it has been a true joy. I’ve met so many incredible women. Back when we founded it, my biggest fear was, “What if we run out of women to feature?” Well, that was never a problem! In fact, we just don’t ever seem to have enough pages. I would travel all over the country and go to different women’s conferences, really just to fulfill myself, because when I’m in Austin I’m always working, so I’m always “on.” I loved going to these conferences to meet more women and get inspired and see what others are doing around the country. I would take a couple of copies of the magazine with me, and people would always say, “That’s great! There’s nothing like that in my town. I wish we had something like that!” They thought it was wonderful that we feature these women who are not necessarily famous, but have done incredible, inspirational things. I would say, “Sorry. I wish I could feature you, but you don’t live in Austin.” As it happens, we do have a “Just Passing Through” section where we feature out-of-towners such as Andrea Jung from Grameen America. (She was speaking in town and I got the chance to interview her; she is amazing.) But I wanted to do more. I meet so many women, all over the world, and everywhere there’s this groundswell of women’s empowerment. This is our time as women. But, frankly, I believe that one of the biggest obstacles for women is that we aren’t telling their stories. It’s not that we’re not out there doing amazing things, but we’re not amplifying it enough, putting it under a spotlight and saying, “Look how many of us are doing incredible things and changing the world!” So, often, people don’t know about it. In the media these days, budgets are super tight, and it’s really difficult to get great content. But getting great content has always been our expertise. So, that’s how On the Dot was born: a combination of having met all of these incredible women, knowing there are so many out there, their stories are just endless, and also thinking, “What can I do to make a change?”
On the Dot is a fairly young venture. What are some challenges you have faced as young entrepreneurs? How have you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge has been getting a more global picture and then figuring out how to amplify. On the Dot is a free newsletter and eventually we want to have a tribe of women who can interact and connect and help one another. But that’s down the road; right now it’s more about growing that tribe, through the newsletter.
The newsletter is made up of 4 parts. The first is a thought for the day. Then there’s “Women in Numbers,” where we present an array of different statistics so that suddenly something will stop you and make you think, for example, – “What do you mean, not even 20% of corporate board members are women? That is not okay.” The idea is to help you to be knowledgeable about what is going on in the world, and grasp the actual statistics, but I also want it to inspire people to take action. The next section, “Woman to Watch,” is designed to make readers go away thinking, “Wow, I really want to meet that woman. Today I felt like giving up on XYZ, because I didn’t think I could do it, but, you know what, she did it. I’m not giving up.” Getting that message out can be hard. We live in this great world where we’re surrounded by social media and meaningful content, but there is also just so much noise out there. So the challenge is: how do we connect with the right organizations, people, women, who are really going to share this, become big fans, talk it up and build our network? And now we’re building this incredible tribe of women who are inspiring and being inspired every day. At first, On the Dot was only going to be national, but it quickly and easily became global because of the connections we made. And now we have subscribers all over the world. The first was Japan, I believe. And, of course, New Zealand, since my husband is from there.
Melinda & Caroline Freedman
In addition to promoting inspirational stories, On the Dot promotes many ventures of young women in business, technology, and strong leadership positions with solution-oriented missions. Why is it important for On the Dot to promote these ideals? What makes focus on solutions so important?
We aim to have a variety. It’s not just entrepreneurs, not just women in business, but really a great mix of women who are effecting change, breaking through ceilings. And, apropos of young women, we try to have a young woman on the cover of Austin Women every June. Usually she is 25 or younger, and I believe the youngest we’ve featured is a 14-year-old fashion designer. People ask, “What is your target market?” And that’s a hard question because, in addition to women of other ages, I want to attract these young millenials who are just starting out in their careers. In fact, we recently had a teacher contact us to say that she plays On the Dot every day for her high-school class, to inspire the girls. At the same time, I have a friend who works for the largest technology company in the world who says, “Hey, I love this because I travel so much and I work in this really male-dominated world and it’s so cool that I get to hear about all of these other women doing amazing things, women whom I wouldn’t normally come across.” That’s why the variety is so important. We’ve even interviewed a female police chief; it really is just a big mix.
Melinda & Kirstie Ennis
How can individuals and organizations support your work?
First, you can encourage other women to listen to On the Dot, because the more women who listen, the more we can do as we grow. That is what we need, for women to be inspired and pass it along. Second, you can bring us stories. We don’t work from a pre-fixed list of women. We want your stories!
What are your goals for yourself and On the Dot?
By the end of the year, I really want a million subscribers. I’m just saying it out loud. There is no reason why that can’t happen. Once we have that community, then we can evaluate what they want and how we can connect these women with one another, globally. For example, you may be in Paris, but you are looking for a social media expert in the States, and you might be able to find that person through our network. I really want to form this community and have women feel that they can come and interact and really get something out of it.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I encourage you to check out onthedotwoman.com, to sign up and just read/listen to it and, if you like it, please share it. And it wouldn’t hurt to share it with some male colleagues, too! We have lots of men who are loving On the Dot. I think this has the potential to change the conversation if we really get those millions of followers. I’m confident it will make a change.