subscribe for free

Season 2, Episode 14
Creating Inclusive Communities with Mai Moore


Mai Moore (she/her) is an Award-Winning Social Impact Leader, Co-Founder of EYEJ: Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice; Founder of Setting Off Social Impact, and Boss Me In. Mai helped two tech start-ups go public; Travelzoo Inc. and United Online. She believes in diverse women, BIPOC persons, and our young people to help create a more equitable and inclusive world. Mai is from Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Website | LinkedIn

NOTE: Feminist Founders is a listener-funded podcast. Your contributions enable me to continue bringing you these important conversations. To support the mission, sign up for a paid Substack subscription at https://feministfounders.substack.com/ 

SUMMARY:  In this episode of the Feminist Founders podcast, we chat with Mai Moore, founder of Boss Me In, exploring her shift from corporate leadership to championing values-aligned networking for Gen Z women. We discuss creating safer spaces and the unique challenges anti-capitalist startups face. Mai offers impactful leadership tips for building inclusive communities and navigating the non-traditional paths of mentorship and funding. Her insights inspire entrepreneurs to lead with authenticity and purpose, aiming to transform societal norms and foster real change in the business world.

 

Discussed this episode:

  • Mai’s relationship with feminism
  • Why Mai moved from the C-suite to helping Gen Z women kick off their careers
  • What founders need to understand about Gen Z
  • The challenging (and different) future that Gen Z professionals face
  • What is missing in many mentoring and networking programs and what makes Boss Me In different
  • How Mai chose the name Boss Me In
  • The “no-mask” policy that appeals to Gen Z’s value of authenticity
  • Creating truly inclusive communities
  • Steps Boss Me In takes to create safer spaces
  • The importance of harm repair inside of communities
  • Personal growth and the ebbs and flows of finding values-aligned communities
  • How Mai deals with imperfect communities
  • Tips for finding truly inclusive communities
  • Finding a mentor at any age
  • Mai’s best tip for moving beyond the fears of getting visible
  • Why founders need community
  • The ways Boss Me In is challenging capitalist norms
  • VC funding, KPIs, and burnout
  • What’s different about Boss Me In’s approach to funding

 

Resources mentioned:

Becky Mollenkamp:

Hi Mai, thank you for being here.

 

Mai Moore:

Thank you for having me.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I’m excited to chat with you about networking and all sorts of things community based. Before we do that, I wanna ask you if you could just quickly tell us a little bit about your relationship with feminism, if you have a relationship with feminism.

 

Mai Moore:

I’ll be honest, I don’t really get into categorizing and stating feminism because feminism, if you look at the definition, is really just being a human. And so I definitely have a relationship. I definitely fight for women in my work and believe in women and believe that women are the most powerful force. But at the end of the day, it’s about equality and being equitable and inclusive and belonging and being human to me.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I know those are all things that are deeply important to you, things that you’re really working on in your work around equity and inclusion and humanity. And specifically, your focus right now, anyway, seems to be largely around working with younger folks. Boss me in. And then you also co-founded Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice, both of which are focusing on younger people. Boss Me In. I think is really around college-age women who are entering the workforce. And then the EYEJ is, I think maybe more school-age children. And both of those organizations are about helping people become agents of change. So I wonder if you could just kick me off. I know you have a daughter who is college-age, so that may be part of it. And you were obviously once younger yourself, college-age student. Why do you care so deeply about helping young people and specifically around that idea of becoming change advocates.

 

Mai Moore:

Truly, I’m not 100% sure on that. I’ll give a little bit of context and background. So I am a social impact leader here to create a more equitable, inclusive world. I had spent 16-plus years in the tech industry, helped two companies go public, and then I totally switched gears and I co-founded the social impact nonprofit that you’re talking about, EYEJ, Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice. And that was in 2013. And the reason being is because I had a very, very successful career and had moved back to Cleveland where I’m from. And who I am is really a bridge and a connector. And I saw in Cleveland how there was 27,000 nonprofits, yet young people were still in the state of toxic stress you know, and it just it didn’t make sense to me. You know, it didn’t it did the connection was missing between the real impact that could be made. And I think also, it was my time to give back. It was my it was, you know, I was calling on what are my skills? What do I know how to do? And I’m very entrepreneurial. And so I think that’s part of the answer of why I started that work and really in that work teaching young people how to create change. So I served 2000 underserved youth at that time, literally, and a lot of young people have bright ideas. I see I love innovation and new ideas, but they don’t know how to actually implement them, right, to create changes around different injustice areas. And so we had did many different things, policy work, social action work, award-winning, different kind of marketing work around injustice areas, but really teaching young people the skills of how to create that change was something that was just authentically innately in me. It’s not like I was in government before or anything like that. I really, through my social impact work, was really like in tune with myself and authentically what I could bring to the table to help, right, to help create a better world. And yeah, I mean, in my current role, I mean, we can go into some of that more later. But yes, we are at Boss Me In bridging intergenerational women together to solve for the future of work, creating connection, inclusivity, and wellness. And so the work is really about women and women are of many different age groups, social economic levels, ethnicities, backgrounds, education levels, all that. But the future of work is in danger and Gen Z are now, right? They’re not our future, they are now, literally. So yes, and to answer your question, yeah, sure, some of it is I have a 19-year-old BIPOC daughter in college who’s already been through so much adverse situations. But ultimately, I think about my responsibility as a human and my duty and my calling knowing that we need to ultimately help our world and our young people are our duty to support, you know, empower and set up for their future.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And you mentioned Gen Z because I know with Boss Me In, that’s really the focus, are these young Gen Z. They’re not even that young anymore, right? But those Gen Z folks that are moving into the workforce. And because of your work with Boss Me In and getting to spend time up close and personal, having conversations about work and about diversity and inclusion and the belief systems that you’re seeing in these Gen Z folks, I’m curious what are you learning from them? What are they teaching you? And what do you think older founders should really know about these Gen Z workers?

 

Mai Moore:

That’s a big question. And really, again, at Boss Me In it’s really about the intergenerational relationship between executive women and Gen Z. It’s not just about Gen Z. But I think just with my work experience in the last 10 years or so working with young people, I happen to know some of those skills. And I would say with Gen, what they really demand is ultimately they have no time for the injustices and they really demand authenticity and authentic leadership and they really demand transparency and they really are really about innovation, right? And they really care. They really care about their cohort of other Gen Z. So and it’s on us as older people. I mean, we’ve really dumped a lot on them. Of course, in history, there’s always been like catastrophes and there has been pandemics before, but we’re really in a new world where it is kind of a lot at once. And we’ve really just dumped it on them. And so we have even a bigger responsibility of being as leaders and leaders, being a servant leader to use our resources, our connections, you know, and expertise and experience to then listen to them and respect Gen Z for their ideas for problem solving, their support that they need, their empowerment that they truly desire to do what they passionately see to help this world as well.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You mentioned earlier the future of work is in danger and you just talked about some things that we’ve dumped on them, I’m curious if that’s what you’re talking about with the future of work being in danger or if there’s some more to that because that sounds ominous obviously and I’m curious what it’s about.

 

Mai Moore:

Doing the work at EYEJ. I knew that women were the most powerful force because every time things got hard, you know, especially when you’re serving underserved youth, it was always women and diverse women that stepped up to the plate, right? And I knew that I wanted to do something bigger in social impact and like where could I really get to the root of creating change? And so that’s either in government at the highest level or that’s in corporations. And so I had then become a Chief and I was really paying attention to executive women. I had interviewed maybe 200 Chief women talking to them about what’s going on with pay gap, DEI issues, burnout, wanting a seat at the table, all those kinds of elements with the great resignation. And so, you know, and just coming out of that pandemic, really being in tune with the world and what’s happening around the changes and kind of disruption in the executive woman workspace. And then, so, you know, we had created, pulled together some Chiefs and another Chief and I, we had created this coalition and we started doing these speaker series. And along with that, I was asking women like, what is it that you want to see? What change, who do you want to help? And it was young women. And so I was like, I know how to do this, right? And so just bridging then with the executive women and their authentic storytelling and the things that they had been through to get to the C-suite, right? And then bridging that with what’s going on with young people. And, you know, for example, 72% of young people want to, Gen Z, want to leave their job right now. And you see all these, you know, Gallup reports and, you know, around the mental health state of Gen Z right now, right? So it’s bigger than that. It’s not just mental health. There’s, you know, there’s, where you look at the, I mean, there’s so much. Do you look at the, what’s gonna happen, you know, with Gen Z who now have to take care of their elders and then they can’t, you know, the transition and finding jobs right now. I mean, it just goes on and on, right? And so my work is really, again, about bridging women together to help Gen Z, to help them, you know, support them through this new walk of life.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Folks who are in those C-suite, those executive kind of positions, the leadership that’s out there now, those women, and then these younger women that are coming into the workforce, what are the differences in what people who’ve been in the workforce for a long time, what they needed when they were starting their careers versus what these Gen Z women need as they’re starting their careers? 

 

Mai Moore:

I think that what is needed is a lot of training and intergenerational leadership. You see billions of dollars going into the future work. However, only 1 to 2% of those dollars are really focused on Gen Z. And then you talk to the executive women and people are curious, but they don’t know. Some may have some experience, having younger teams and all that. But there’s not really a lot of solutions and answers to intergenerational leadership. And I think that’s what Boss Me In does really well. And I would say the positive though on the flip side is that executive women and Gen Z are super busy and they want change now, right? They want action. And again, I think that Boss Me In does a really good job there especially with our BMI mentorship program where we are kind of eliminating all the fluff and like getting to action when we connect the executive women with the Gen Z, getting them into the internship, getting them into the jobs, connecting them, networking them, whatever that they need, the social-emotional development, like getting to action quicker so that we can make real impact together.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You just started this more recently. And what was it that made you say, there’s a hole here, there’s a gap here, this is something that’s needed. What’s missing in all of the sort of mentoring programs and networking programs and things that are out there that this is taking care of?

 

Mai Moore:

Again, I think the differentiators with Boss Me In is that embracing diversity. So we have a very intergenerational team. There is not one person more important than the other, whether you are an executive with $300 million experience, 30 years experience, or you’re a Gen Z who’s 19 in college. Everybody has a committed role to play. And I think the difference is that we respect each other, we listen to each other, and we innovate each other. And so, yeah, I mean, to answer your question, the difference is that’s the answer that we’re demonstrating in leadership that corporations need to learn from. And we’re also this bridge, this connector between the corporations and universities and the Gen Z to provide that support. 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

What does Boss Me In mean? Where did that come from?

 

Mai Moore:

Boss Me In came from, like I mentioned, the speaker series for Young Women Coalition that was created last August through Chief. And we had started doing these speaker series, like 20-plus speakers in a certain format and design. Diversity was embraced, sharing authentic storytelling. And so we had over 300 young women attend those. And so we asked them, because I knew that we were going to bridge out into an actual company. And so we asked them, what would you name, after this work that you’ve seen these events, how would you name this new company? And so they chose Boss Me in.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I guess I kind of can see it both ways of sort of it being you are the boss, help me, fill me in, and then also kind of like I’m ready to move into those ranks, like bring me into the boss ranks. So I guess it kind of works both ways.

 

Mai Moore:

I love to ask people what they think what does Boss Me In mean to you, and I love that answer.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love that Boss Me In is focuses largely, and a lot, on mentoring. And I just recently had someone ask me a question about mentoring, about how established business owners, founders, how they can mentor others to help them integrate their beliefs into work. So the people who are listening to this are people who, like you, care deeply about social justice, about, you know, DEI issues and also, we are often told in the professional space that we should keep our quote unquote politics out of business, you know, the personal and professional don’t mix and all of these sort of things that can leave people feeling a little like I don’t know how to integrate my full self and all of my beliefs into my work, into what I’m doing as a founder, as a leader. So what kind of advice do you have, like for people who are mentoring other people about how to navigate all of that?

 

Mai Moore:

It’s really about self-awareness and being more confident in yourself as a leader, as an individual, knowing who you are. I mean, obviously getting to know ourselves is a lifelong scenario, but the more that we can center in ourselves, then we can be more authentic and show up in a more true true way. And so that’s a that’s a principle of Boss Me In. We have a no-mask policy. And that resonates with Gen Z because Gen Z really demand authenticity. And it goes deeper than that. The truth is in social impact work if we really want to make a real impact, the more that we are true and pure in ourselves, the more that we can help mentor and we can help support and, and create, you know, a better and more equitable world. And that goes for anybody that goes for corporations, anybody. We have to bridge, we have to be more pure in ourselves and leadership. And we have to bridge and really respect the other party because it’s always a two-way street. And so it’s not like one party is more important than the other. It’s really, it’s relationship building. It’s really acknowledging each other, listening to each other and coming to solution together collectively.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love the idea of a no-mask policy. I’ve been thinking a lot about masking lately, just with some of the ways that I’ve noticed how I go through the world sometimes masking. And often, I mean, it’s a trauma response, it’s a survival technique, and it’s exhausting. And especially when you’re trying to be in community, is it even real if you’re all wearing masks? And so I would love to talk more about community because community building is clearly something that you’re passionate about, you’ve been involved in. And as somebody who cares really deeply about inclusive communities, what do you think is different about, and I’m thinking that masking piece is part of this, what’s different about being inside of a community that’s really truly trying to walk that talk around inclusivity versus communities that aren’t really doing that work?

 

Mai Moore:

Boss Me In is actually innovating and building out a BMI community, and we have some really amazing people that are part of our community. I think, again, what’s unique is showing up as your true self, that authenticity. And also, the truth is, again, it goes back to that servant leadership, is that even if you have 30, 40 years of experience, no one alone has the answer these days, right? And Gen Z don’t have the answer alone either. And it’s really about that discussion and really brainstorming together, strategizing, saying, oh my God, I have no clue or oh my God, I screwed up, and not judging, right? Not judging the other party and not criticizing, but lifting them up and encouraging them and saying, hey, have you thought about this? Or, oh, no big deal, whatever, we make mistakes, we move on, right? And so resilience is part of that as well. And openness, I would say definitely being open-minded. Open-mindedness is a fundamental need in this new world. No questions asked. And a willingness to learn, to continue to learn. As one of my advisors, he’s 92 years old and he says he’s still learning at 92, right? And so we are constantly learning every single day.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

We need to be. Not everyone, I think, is invested in that, but it makes all the difference, I agree. Why do you think it matters to create and to find and to be a part of really inclusive communities? 

 

Mai Moore:

Because there’s moments when we just don’t know, and we need to be around like-minded individuals, and we need support, especially women. And us as women, it’s just not like we need one mentor. We need 10 mentors. We have interests. We have work interests. We have personal interests. But to be around like-minded people who do want to see change, who really do care, and who want to brainstorm, collaborate and be open to new thoughts and ideas, diverse thoughts and ideas is huge, right? In a safe space. I think that’s a fundamental key right now. All of us need safety, right? And so finding a safe space where you can be completely vulnerable and open and, you know, just talk is priceless, priceless.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

That word, safety, is such a tough word, right? Like how do you create safety? What is safety? What’s safer one person versus another? And we hear people talk about safe spaces a lot. As you’re building Boss Me In, community inside of that, what are you all doing around safety? What does it mean to you? And what are the actionable things you’re doing to try and create a space that does feel safe for people of all walks of life?

 

Mai Moore:

Just to give a background, I’ve always been about that. Even with EYEJ, we conducted a thousand discussions, literally, and those were safe spaces where diverse people came to speak with young people. And Boss Me In is no different. I mean, even on a day-to-day level, like in our Slack, we’re constantly, I think the people who are older and more experienced are constantly have a watch out. It doesn’t matter what role you are, I think everybody’s looking out for each other. How are you doing today? What’s going on? One team member might have a funeral today. The other team member was at an emergency room the other day, but just being like open and open to every day being maybe different and different challenges and different moods going on and not, again, not judging, not criticizing, just being a team being a team and other team members maybe step up while that person can’t be there and just being compassionate and empathetic and kind and understanding that we are human, I think is really our really key fundamental things for safety and if something does come up that is out of that kind of vibe and minutiae, then the leadership has to speak up and say, you know, you got to speak up. You got to be a leader and say, hey, that doesn’t really equal or match what the culture that we’re trying to keep going and momentum here on.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Even the spaces that are most committed to safety or inclusion or creating really diverse spaces, they’re going to make mistakes. People make mistakes. They will unintentionally, sometimes intentionally, but let’s hope if they’re trying, they’re unintentionally, sometimes they’ll cause harm. I know you’ve experienced this. I certainly have. And I’m just wondering, what are your thoughts on? For people who are, because a lot of people listening to this will be people who are running communities. They, you know, and even if you don’t have a membership or a community in that sense, if you’re a leader, you are a part of culture making and a part of community. Your team, your clients, your customers, all of that is community. So in those times when you get it wrong, you cause harm, what are the things that you shouldn’t do? Like, what are the ways to really mess that up? And then what are the right ways to like, come back from that?.

 

Mai Moore:

When that moment happens, again, I go back to being a human and just apologizing or just bringing it up for discussion, maybe gathering the group and say, hey, do we want to chat for 20 minutes about this topic? How’s everyone doing, and acknowledging that you made a mistake, because it’s honestly, again, it’s really not a big deal that a mistake was made. It’s just more about addressing it dead-on rather than pushing it to the side and then not dealing with it, and it festers and it causes stress to people, right? And so I think the key answer here is addressing the scenario dead-on as soon as possible to mitigate future issues. Because when you don’t do that, I have literally watched how the impact of not dealing with something impacts other people and other team members and then other work and then other processes and it costs money, right? I’ve seen tons of money wasted because we don’t deal with these issues. So we have to understand that our circle influence and Boss Me In circle influence is big and wide and there’s a responsibility there, right? And everything is connected, whether we want to admit it or not everything is connected. And to your point, there are going to be, especially in this world and everything going on, there are going to be instances where something does break that safety moment or cultural environment. And so also, I think that’s also the value, again, of bridging with executive women because the older you are, the more experience you have and the more experience you have with dealing with tough moments or instances too. And so we can problem solve as well in a meaningful way.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I think in the cancel culture environment, there’s this fear that people often have of like, if I mess up, then it’s everything’s forever ruined. And what I’ve noticed is the same thing you’re saying, that the problem isn’t the harm, especially when people know you’re really engaged in learning and trying to do the right things. And if you make a mistake, it’s not the mistake that becomes problematic, it is the response to the mistake. And so learning, like, don’t avoid, don’t get defensive, don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen, all of those things that go wrong, it’s the facing it head on.

 

Mai Moore:

Yeah, and it’s our responsibility in leadership. It’s ultimately because we have to demonstrate that it’s safe to say that, hey, I made a mistake. That doesn’t come, we can’t expect that from our team. It’s us that have to show, so that they can see that, oh, okay, then this is a safe space that I know that if I mess up at some point, that it’s gonna be okay. Because the truth is, I think, if you look at human nature, people do really, want to try to do their best and are inherently good and want to help, especially women, are nurturers and all that. So again, to the point that you just made, it goes back to leadership that we have to show up on a daily basis and demonstrate that as an example first, then the rest follows. And I would say also to answer your question is don’t give up. Right? You make a mistake, who cares? You keep it moving. That’s life. And if anything that’s going to teach you strength and in this world, new world, you need a lot of strength..

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And how do you just personally, not as somebody who is leading communities, but who is inside of communities, how do you personally deal with that when you are in a space where there have been problems, where there are issues, and how do you navigate deciding where you’re going to stay, where you’re not going to stay, where you give your money, where you don’t, whether you believe someone is actively repairing or not? Like, what does that look like for you as a consumer of communities?

 

Mai Moore:

It morphs and changes over time, I think, as you age and you mature and obviously like how much bandwidth you have and where your changes and interests are, what initiatives you have going on, and where you are in life, right? And I think as you get older, you realize like, and not only older, Gen Z too, like we want peace ultimately, right? I think women are moving towards a space of, how do we flow and be in creativity and ease more? So when you are aligned with your own values, naturally your community and who you are around will naturally flow and change according to who you are as a human. That’s what I believe. And so, and the power also of learning to say no to situations or things that don’t align with you are also, I think, important. And that’s not an overnight thing to learn how to do. I’m still learning that at age 45. But I think when we are centered with who we are as humans and we state who we are or what we’re about or what we’re working on, it’ll naturally, organically flow, your community and your environment and who you’re around to align with you. And you will feel off when it is not aligning with you. I think the more, I think something that’s unique about me, maybe that’s different than other people. And I’m not saying this is right or wrong, is I change often and I change, I’m always, not to say other people are not growing because everyone’s growing, but some people try to stomp that growth, right? I’m always working on myself, growing, trying to be open to learning and change. And sometimes I’m a little actually too hard on myself. I need to be patient with myself. But why I’m bringing that up is that when you do grow a lot too, then people around you do fall off. And so I think a lot of people have a hard time with that too, of that letting go, right? Because, and I’m not trying to say I’m a very loyal person, trust me, and it’s not always easy to let go. But I think just realizing that some people do stay around you and some people do fall off and that’s a natural course of life and that’s nothing bad or good, especially when you’re changing.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And I know when we talked previously in advance of this interview about community and when there are challenges inside of a community that you’re a part of, one of the things that you mentioned too is just there is no perfect community. There are going, there will always be these things that come up. So if you are, if you were to leave every space that you’ve been a part of where there’s been some problem that’s happened, some problematic issue that’s come up, then you would be without community. Part of it sounds like, I think from you, is that sometimes you just have to pick and choose your battles and where you’re going to be and how egregious something is for you.

 

Mai Moore:

To make it clear, and thank you for bringing that up, is that I’m not saying leave your community just because some instant comes up. I mean, you have to really weigh your options and see where you’re at. I’ve been lucky to be a part of a lot of different kinds of communities, very, very diverse communities. Again, I think it goes back to where you are in life and how much bandwidth you have and what’s good for you? What is good for you? What makes sense for you in that moment too?

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

When you talk about community and finding community, you’ve created communities, you’ve been a part of communities, as you said, and when you’re thinking about trying to find these safer, I’ll say safer spaces than safe spaces and inclusive communities, it can be really challenging. When I’ve searched in the past, like ‘feminist community’ or ‘feminist networking,’ Google thinks ‘feminist’ and ‘female’ are synonyms, which are very much not true. There’s plenty of harmful females who are not feminists. So what are the things that you would say, like, what have you looked for, or what do you recommend people look for, or questions to ask to really gauge whether a community you’re thinking about being part of is really walking the talk around inclusivity?

 

Mai Moore:

You’re definitely a leader because you just gave your own answer that you couldn’t find the community that you needed, so you created it. Boom. That’s magic right there, right? So that’s one kind of tactic. Like if you’re not getting what you need, like create it, right? You know that people are seeking it, people are curious, and it’s not there, and you have the answer, so create it. But to answer your question, God, that’s a big question again too, is to be open. And I think that desire to find community is in a lot of us. And I think for me, my background is I grew up, my mom left Japan at age 13 and came to Cleveland to become an assistant concertmaster. And so I grew up with a single mom who was Japanese and I was in a community that was very diverse. There weren’t a lot of Asians. So why I’m bringing this up is that I knew that I was unique and I also wanted to find my own community, right? And so how I did that, again, it goes back to what I said before is just authentically being myself because those communities honestly will come to you or you can create them. EYEJ, created that, Boss Me In, created that. Or there are, again, us women and all of us, we have different interest areas. There might be, I am interested in being part of my church community or I want to be part of a book club community because I have a desire and passion for books. So again, being more true with yourself and what your desires are then you can take the steps to say, okay, I’m looking for X or a book club, or I’m looking for a feminist founder community, or I’m looking for Y. It will appear. I don’t know if that’s the right answer or not, but it will appear. But you have to also make the effort to look, right? And search and see what’s out there and being open and listening and having conversations with people because I promise you like, you have a conversation with a person and you say, I’m interested in X, Y, and Z, it will appear. People wanna help. They naturally wanna help you.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Well, speaking of helping you mentoring, I wanna go back to that as well as far as finding mentors because obviously if you’re a fresh-out-of-college kid, maybe Boss Me In is a great place to explore finding a mentorship. But I think people of all ages in the professional world benefit from having mentors. I don’t think that ends just because you’ve made it farther in your career, right? We can learn from someone. So for people who aren’t sure about how to even go about finding a mentor, do you have any advice for that? 

 

Mai Moore:

BMI, we have a couple of products, but one of them is the BMI Mentorship Program. And obviously, if you’re interested, you can go inquire whatever. But that’s a great question because I think one of the reasons why we actually created this, even this program, is because I, like you, when I was growing up in college, I didn’t have a mentor. I had no idea. And I think Gen Z, they’re getting their mentorship from like YouTube, right? I think about my daughter, yeah, she has an advisor in college, but does she have a real mentor? No. And so to answer your question, I mean, obviously Google is great. There are a lot of amazing nonprofits that have straight mentorship program. BMI is a little bit different. We’re not a nonprofit. But I think it’s also about asking. Again, asking and networking, talking to people and say, hey I need a mentor and not being afraid. I think us women, at any age, are sometimes nervous to say I need a mentor because it seems like, oh, I’m inadequate or I need help or I’m defunct in an area. No, we all need mentors in many different capacities in ways. Everybody deserves to be supported and empowered, right? So I think it’s really about stepping up to the plate and also asking or you know, whatever, putting a social media post on LinkedIn, like I’m looking for a mentor in X, Y, and Z in this field or this experience. So vocalizing and saying it, it will come to you.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You just mentioned with the mentoring and I think also with networking that you have found women, and I’m assuming probably also folks with other marginalized identities, have a lot of fears around, allowing themselves these things, the fears of how they’ll be perceived or what people will think, ‘I’m deficient, so I shouldn’t have a mentor.’ I’m wondering around networking, what are some of the things that you’ve noticed that maybe keeps people from feeling empowered to be visible and to get out and network?

 

Mai Moore:

Practice. You may not, you know, you may ask somebody not get it right the first time, keep going, ask another person. And, you know, it’s just like public speaking, practice. You may not get it the first time and that’s okay, but it’s about practice. And that’s the best advice I can give and don’t give up. Right? If you know in your heart and your gut that like you, you know, want to be in x industry and x career and you know you need a mentor and why like stay true to that straight stay true to yourself and perseverance and not giving up is key. And O think it takes courage i will admit especially in this world where they to your point the cancel culture i can’t even keep up with all the things you get judged, criticized, but I think the more solid you are in that internal confidence, who cares. Stay true to yourself and what you need for yourself. And I know it’s not always easy. And I know we don’t always don’t have the answer. Sometimes we’re just trying to figure out, what is my passion? What am I into? I don’t know what career I want. But then you know that you need support and a mentor would help you maybe guide you in the right direction. So you know that you can ask for maybe a general mentor. Maybe it’s a woman with experience and to guide you help just help you decide on what career or what pathway you wanna take or you wanna become a founder or whatever, right? So that would be my advice.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

We’re talking here about people who hold marginalized identities and in the professional space, you know, you work with a lot of executives, women executives. And I know that I don’t have to tell you the statistics around how many women are in the C-suite and how many then if we start to break it down even more, how many women of color are in C-suites, how many LGBTQ women or LGBTQ people, in general, are in C-suites, or just in leadership positions in general, the challenges that those folks hold or have and face in trying to advance. And so I’m wondering with all that you’ve been doing with those people who have made it into those ranks, I’m assuming that if they’re part of Boss Me In, they wanna be change agents, they wanna create change. What is the change that they’re trying to create?

 

Mai Moore:

I think people just want fairness ultimately, and they want to be able to do what they were meant to do, called to do, or what their passion is ultimately. I don’t think that, you know, and so if you break it down, yes, of course, like, people want the same access as a white male for a board seat or they want, you know, equitable pay or they don’t want to be discriminated against or oppressed because they are a person of color. They want a fair chance. Or a person of color doesn’t want to have to do double the amount of degrees and work just to prove themselves as a white woman. I mean, it goes on and on and on and on and on and on. But ultimately, if I was to summarize that, it’s just fairness and there’s enough space for everybody. I don’t think there should be fear that women are going to take over. It’s not like that. It’s that women are amazing and bright and great business executives and founders and simply want to do their calling just like anybody else. And why should we have to fight more than other people just to get us to where we need to be, to thrive? It’s not fair. So I just think that it’s not that women are complaining. It’s not that women are being disruptive, in my eyes. It’s just, we just simply want to be who we’re meant to be.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And you’re preaching to the choir with this audience because these are all folks who, you know, listening, if you’re listening to Feminist Founders, you’re somebody who wants a more equitable world and wants business to reflect that and be a part of that change. And as somebody who cares about community, I’d love to hear what you think about, you know, you talk about creating change agents, change is important if we’re trying to create this new world. How important is community in doing that?

 

Mai Moore:

Look, I’ll put it this way. You know, I grew up as a BIPOC kid, single child, single mom, you know, and I didn’t always feel like I belonged. And hence why I think I was blessed to be able to experience a lot of different kinds of communities. And I think community is really, really important and ultimately people just want to belong. And again, it’s a safe place. It’s a way to be yourself, but also learn from people and collaborate and brainstorm and like-minded individuals for growth. And so community is incredibly important, especially in this new world. I think the pandemic really showed us that too as well. Right? So it empowers us.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

In Season 1, first episode of the show exactly actually was with CV Harquail, who is a feminist scholar. And she talked about feminism needing to be inclusive, transformational, and collective. And that collective piece really sits with me because I just think how many of us are trying to go it alone, whether we’re solopreneurs or we’re leaders, but we’re working from home or we’re leaders, but everyone else in the company looks different than us. We feel, we can feel very alone and you burn out that way. You can’t stay engaged in the fight for change. So I think community is so important. So I’m glad you’re out there creating communities. Yeah.

 

Mai Moore:

I definitely relate in those moments that you are really alone in leadership. Hence I think why mentors also help and community also helps, but, you know, there is, there’s a special, there’s a special element of leadership for founders in my heart because the truth is, I think at the end of the day, founders do sometimes need that alone time to be able to create and innovate and come up with what is that secret sauce or that mission. And so it’s tricky. But I was just at an event last week in Detroit and there was a bunch of founders and it was just refreshing. Like to be like, hey, founder to founder, like I feel you.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Well, I want to talk about your own experience with founding and where you’re at now, but maybe in the past as well. But I’m just curious, like when you think about running a business and how you go about it, what are the things that you’re trying to do that maybe push back against, I heard another podcast episode with you where you talked a lot about capitalism. We haven’t really gotten into that, but clearly, capitalism is a thing that’s very much at play in all of the reasons for oppression and exclusion. And so what are the things that you do as a business owner, as a founder to push back against that, to try and change these systems, even if it’s in the smallest of ways, how are you rethinking how business should be done?

 

Mai Moore:

I do that on a daily basis because I mean, that’s part of the reform work of Boss Me In. And as we know, as founders, there are so many different paradigms to businesses, especially with Boss Me In, just with our circle of influence and who we’re partnering with and who we’re selling to and our team and, you know, funders and all that. So I think what’s different is, we’ve been very different. You know, I think one thing that’s been very different is that we internally were our own incubator, right? Because I have startup experience and I brought on a lot of executives, which is not typical for startups. You know, startups, they usually say, oh, you need a founder or you need a co-founder. But what I did is I brought on a lot of founding members and I made it so that it’s fair that they got shares and they have ownership in the company. So I had that expertise and we incubated ourselves. And that creates a lot of innovation and creativity, you know, impacts, you know, product or marketing or finance, whatever. I think the other thing that’s different is culture. You know, we put culture first every single day. It is really about people at Boss Me In, which I feel so blessed to do this work. I mean, this has been absolutely the best team I’ve ever had in my working career because we are constantly again in tune with each other every single day and like what are the goals and everybody’s really Responsible for what they work on and we’re just a team where there’s hardly any politics at Boss Me In, if you can believe it even with all these executives and Gen Z like we are just a team. So I think that’s different. And then thirdly funding as us all founders are very aware of. We are very diversified in the way that our strategy for funding is to be open to what works best and is mission-aligned with Boss Me In. So what I mean by that, you talk about capitalism, is, woo, the VCs. Talk about capitalism. You know, 2% out of the whole pie is going to women and minority funding. And then the KPI demands that they put on businesses. Literally, I’ve talked to many VCs and I said, you are literally killing entrepreneurs, including myself. The burnout is real, right? And, you know, and just to get, you know, to that pre-seed amount, you’ve spent all the energy and time and change and updates and blah, blah, blah. And then you got to go back at it for seed, right? And it’s not, we’re not talking, even if you’re raising, you know, everyone’s different, raising a million dollars or whatever, that’s not a gigantic amount of money when you have to think about the ROI and how much time you’ve spent you know, with the sweat equity, and then you’re literally borrowing dollars against yourself, which is wrong, and then you have to go back into the fundraising cycle while meeting the KPI goals. And it’s just, I’ll tell you, women are not into that. We’re like, we want to authentically create to create real impact. Can you just give us the dollars cleanly with no stipulations and let us do our work? We’re committed, we are responsible. We will deliver for you. We are, you know, we are kick ass, but kind of leave us alone a little bit, you know?

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And so you’re opting out of that funding?

 

Mai Moore:

No, we’re not opting out. We are open. So we’ve…

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

What’s your thoughts around how to do that differently? Because I didn’t mention before, but you were a part of two IPOs and eight startups. So like, you’ve, as you mentioned, been in that turn and burn environment and know how it like literally can kill you. So how are you approaching things differently?

 

Mai Moore:

What’s different about us is that part of our funding strategy is angel investors because that’s a way to get support without so many stipulations and criteria and just be authentically supportive. So that’s definitely, I see a lot of movement too with a lot of VCs and angel funds that are really trying to build out their impact investing there. And so that’s one strategy. I think with VCs too, it’s about having the conversation with them and really like making sure that you’re on the same page. And so you can obviously negotiate your term sheets and all that, but really making sure that, you know, being clear, like, this is, this is what we need. You got to hold the control, right? I know us founders, we can get very desperate. Trust me. I haven’t been paid in a year. But we have to also not settle. We have to stay true to our values and have integrity. So you can have those conversations. I mean, we’re aligned with many different VCs who are supporting women led businesses who completely understand the paradigm change that needs to happen in VCs. So again, it goes back to aligning yourself, staying true to yourself. What are you about and communicating having that conversation to then you’ll know immediately if someone’s a match or not, you’ll know.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And I love that you are helping mentor Gen Z because I hope they’re hearing that. And from what I hear you saying is it sounds like maybe Gen Z is getting that in a way that it took us a lot longer to get to. Like they’re coming out of the gate saying, no, what I care about matters here, how I feel matters.

 

Mai Moore:

Yeah, they are lucky in some ways because they’ve gotten, you know, 20, 30 years of our pain to get to an answer. So there is definitely positives about being Gen Z.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Is there anything else that I didn’t ask you about what you’re doing with Boss Me In or anything else that you want to make sure that we touch on before we wrap things up?

 

Mai Moore:

We are building out our community if you want to be part of it. We’d love to have you. There is power in numbers. We really believe at Boss Me In that everyone can win together. And you see that throughout our business model about even how with our sales, we have referrals just empowering our team, elevating our team members. We have a Gen Z team. If you’re a Gen Z, you wanna be part of our Gen Z leadership team. It is an awesome, awesome team, but always open because time is, every day is a new day and very open to feedback and collaboration as well.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Well, I like to wrap things up by asking for a resource. I think it’s always nice to learn what other people have found helpful to them in their own journey, whether that’s a book or a podcast or just an educator, but something that’s been helpful for you.

 

Mai Moore:

I’ll give a couple different things. I’ll give a book. I always go back to The Four Agreements. That’s like a staple for me to follow when things get hard or you need guidance. I want to give a shout out to my mentors and coaches. They’ve been very diverse. Asanda McKinney, she’s very focused on self-awareness. And got another resource. Go outside, smell the fresh air, look at nature, breathe. Huge, that’s the answer right there, breathing.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Thanks for recommending The Four Agreements. I always forget, but I think it is such a beautiful place when we talk about community. I’ve used the four agreements before inside of community as sort of a foundational piece of shared understanding of how we show up and how we behave together. And when we talk about how do you create those safe spaces and communities, it’s a really great place to start.

 

Mai Moore:

Definitely can help build kind of the mission alignment of the community for sure.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And then the last thing I always say is I want to know an organization that I can give to as a way to say thank you for your time and to shine the light on an organization that’s doing good work. In your case, I think I know what it’s probably going to be because it’s probably yours, Empowering Youth Exploring Justice. Is that correct?

 

Mai Moore:

If you want to do nonprofit, definitely EYEJ.org. If you want to become a minority stakeholder investor or contributor, then bossmein.com.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I will be making a donation to EYEJ to say thank you for your time, and I would love for people who’ve enjoyed this conversation to do the same. Maybe you can just give us a little more because we didn’t go as much into EYEJ in this conversation because we’re talking more around business. But I would love to know just a little more for people what the organization does.

 

Mai Moore:

EYEJ is all about empowering young advocates for change. So teaching young people, how do you actually create the change? And they have two different programs. One is YDJ, Youth Discussing Justice, which is really about having discussions around different injustice areas between adults and youth. And then they have the EYEJ Youth Council, which is focused on creating the change. So they’re the ones who actually implement different tactics around different injustice areas. And they’ve worked from anything from digital divide, racial equity, police youth relationships, climate change. They’ve done a lot of different things.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love the sound of that. I’m very excited to learn more. I know it’s in quite a few schools. I don’t know if it’s made its way to where I live, but I’m gonna learn more and find out about that because it’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Mai. We’re going to pause this and then have a separate short conversation about networking tips without being a sleazy bro, how to bring your feminist values into your networking. So we’re gonna discuss that. If you’re interested in hearing that extra piece, then make sure you go sign up for the Feminist Founders Newsletter. The link for that is in the show notes. Thank you, Mai, for your time. I appreciate it.

 

Mai Moore:

Thank you so much, Becky. Grateful.

Recent Episodes

Recent Episodes

Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman FF

Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 15Fighting for Accessibility with Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman Nichole Alcántara Beiner Powell-Newman (she/her) is...

Elisa Camahort FF

Elisa Camahort FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 13Revolutionizing Business with Elisa Camahort-Page Elisa Camahort Page (she/her) is a fractional executive and...

Catharine Montgomery – FF

Catharine Montgomery – FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 12Making an Impact with Catharine Montgomery Catharine Montgomery (she/her)  is the founder and CEO of Better...

Recent Episodes

Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman FF

Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 15Fighting for Accessibility with Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman Nichole Alcántara Beiner Powell-Newman (she/her) is...

Elisa Camahort FF

Elisa Camahort FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 13Revolutionizing Business with Elisa Camahort-Page Elisa Camahort Page (she/her) is a fractional executive and...

Catharine Montgomery – FF

Catharine Montgomery – FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 12Making an Impact with Catharine Montgomery Catharine Montgomery (she/her)  is the founder and CEO of Better...