Let’s discuss that whole lemons-to-lemonade thing. Erin Bagwell fought verbal harassment at her 9 to 5 by starting empowering newsletter turned femme blog, Feminist Wednesday. Watching herself transform from “blogger” to “founder” and inspired by the plethora of women entrepreneurs she’d met along the way, Bagwell took an interest in spreading the feeling. The Digital Media Arts major decided to direct Dream, Girl, a documentary about women entrepreneurs.
Name: Erin Bagwell
Current location: Brooklyn, NY
Where are you from? I’m an army brat so I grew up moving all over the U.S. but I call Buffalo, NY my hometown.
Education: Digital Media Arts major at Canisius College
Tell us about Feminist Wednesday & Dream, Girl. How did they come to be?
My interest in feminism blossomed just as I was starting to get verbally harassed in my corporate job. So I used Feminist Wednesday as a creative outlet to “rebel against the man” while I was working a 9 to 5. It started out as an empowering newsletter and evolved into a blog which told the everyday feminist stories of incredible women. All our content is published on Wednesday hence our name Feminist Wednesday.
After I started the blog I started getting invited to all these networking events for founders and entrepreneurs. I have always been really interested in business so being around all these women who were running real companies with investors and employees was electric. All of a sudden I wasn’t just a blogger, I was a founder, and I wanted to share that feeling on a greater scale. I knew that if being around a couple of entrepreneurs could inspire me to start working for myself, it could inspire other people. So at about the same time I ended up quitting my corporate job to work freelance, and the idea hit me: I should make a documentary about female entrepreneurs. I studied film in school and was just passionate and naive enough to think I knew what I was doing. So after a couple months of brainstorming I hired a production crew lead by Mary Perrino. We interviewed four entrepreneurs and launched a Kickstarter campaign with a four minute film trailer. We made $100K on Kickstarter and are now currently in production on the feature length film.
What is your company slogan/mission? Dream, Girl: Let’s stop telling girls they can be anything they want to be, and show them what it means to be a leader.
Feminist Wednesday: Viva La Beaver! (our mascot is Betty the Beaver)
What did you do before launching Feminist Wednesday & Dream, Girl? At what point did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur instead? I think I have always wanted to work for myself. I started my video production company right out of college and have done freelance design and animation work since I was 18. There is something really fun about being able to fully be yourself at work and fully commit yourself to the work you are doing.
Whenever you decided that you were ready to take the leap, what were your next steps? While producing the trailer for Dream, Girl I was working freelance full time. I knew I wanted to make the film come hell or high water, so if the Kickstarter campaign didn’t work out I knew I would start pitching to investors. In the beginning I wasn’t so sure of what I was doing or how it would turn out but something really clicked inside of me when I started pitching the film to prospective entrepreneurs for interviews. I just knew it was what I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t know if we would make the Kickstarter or not but I knew I was going to make this film happen.
Tell us how it felt whenever you first decided to launch a second business. How does it feel now that you are in the thick of running Dream, Girl? Honestly, it has been the best couple of months of my life. And not to say that it’s been easy or I feel like I have any idea what I am doing. This is my first feature length film and so dealing with entertainment lawyers, release forms, budgets, a team, marketing, and actually producing a film has been the hardest job of my life. But once we hit the Kickstarter goal I felt my entire life changed. All of a sudden my dream, my little idea, was worth producing and I felt like I had the power of the entire universe behind me. I am so proud of this film, our mission, and the amazing group of women who helped me produce it (we have a bad ass all female crew!).
What was the biggest thing you overcame launching Feminist Wednesday & Dream, Girl? Feminist Wednesday has taught me a lot about the discipline it takes to launch a startup. For the first year we launched I did everything (copy editing, design, writing) so I was up til about three in the morning every Tuesday night so we could have a new newsletter and content to share. Now I have an amazing team of volunteers to help me with the site (Feminist Wednesday is totally volunteer run blog I run out of the insanity of my feminist heart).
The biggest thing I overcame launching Dream, Girl was not losing my mind during the Kickstarter campaign. We originally asked for $57K to produce the film and seven days before we ended we were at around $34K. I fought, networked, and hustled day and night the entire month to raise us that money. I took every meeting and got on any phone call I could. I would start the morning dancing to Kanye West then at the end of the day I’d be breaking down in tears because we had so much more money to go. My mother stopped answering my calls because I was making her so nervous. Then during our last week we ended up going viral and not only making it, but doubling our goal thanks to some amazing supporters (Marie Forleo, I love you). My friends took me out the Friday we made our goal and I don’t think I said two words the whole night. I was so in shock and so relieved and so grateful.
Would you describe Feminist Wednesday & Dream, Girl as your “dream jobs”? Why or why not? What constitutes a dream job for you? I would consider both endeavours to be dream jobs for sure. I wish I could monetize Feminist Wednesday to expand more, but for now I am really happy with the blog as it is. And to direct and edit a documentary is pretty much all I have ever wanted to do since I was a little girl. I just want to keep making films and creating meaningful content.
Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses. How do you balance work and life? Do you think that’s even possible? I think we need to stop looking at our work and personal life as separate. It’s all about making priorities and doing what works for you. I used to get bummed out about working weekends when I worked a corporate job but now that I am doing what I love, I enjoy spending a quiet Sunday editing or working on the blog. I also think it’s important to acknowledge that your personal life and your work life fluctuate. I know right now as I ramp up the Kickstarter rewards and put together our new website I am going to have more free time to spend with my fiance and our friends. Next month when I start editing my schedule will become more dependent on nights to focus on the film, so I won’t see my friends as much. It’s about understanding that your life is always changing and utilizing what works for you. I use to hate waking up early but now my fiance and I have coffee or do yoga together in the AM so we can spend time with each other. Everyone is busy, it’s just about setting your priorities.
What does your daily routine consist of? Well the last couple of months I have been on set at 7am and running all over Manhattan renting and returning gear so while I go into post production I am trying to stick to a routine. I get up at 6:30am and meditate for ten minutes then I do thirty mins of yoga off of my laptop with my fiance. Then we have coffee and hang out until he goes to work and I go through emails. I tend to answer emails in the beginning and the end of the day since in the middle I am usually designing or organizing our Kickstarter rewards. That will probably shift a little once I start editing (then I become a bit of a night owl).
You have to do it and you hate it – what is your least favorite task to do at Feminist Wednesday & Dream, Girl? Although I started a feminist blog I am not a great writer. It’s hard for me to find time and get into the zone. I much prefer publishing other people’s work so lately I have been trying to write more often so it feels less foreign.
For Dream, Girl there are a lot of logistics when it comes to making a film. There are Kickstarter rewards to ship, contracts to write, marketing to promote, distribution to worry about and staying within budget to consider day to day (on top of actually editing the film). And while I enjoy the business part of the film it makes me nervous since I am essentially doing two jobs: running a company and creating a feature length film. I have this fear that the business side is taking up too much time and will take away from the actual production value of the film. I wish I could turn off my email, live in a remote log cabin and just edit all day. But if something comes up or goes wrong I have to be accountable. It’s a lot of multitasking and I am hoping once I slip into editing I will zone out and the business pieces can fade slowly into the background.
How do you unwind from “business-lady-breakdowns”? A psychic once told me that every setback we face is the universe shifting to make room for a new opportunity. So that’s what I tend to tell myself when things go wrong. I am also trying really hard to listen to my gut and follow my intuition. There have been a couple of times where I have set myself up for failure because I failed to acknowledge a voice inside of me that was saying this isn’t a good fit. I read once that you should “make the small decisions with your head and the big ones with your heart”. I’m definitely trying to do that more but if I majorly fuck up, I’m not above sobbing about it, letting myself veg for an episode of Murder She Wrote or two, then putting another pot of coffee on. One can’t stay upset too long when there is a movie to be made.
What did you think you’d be doing now at age 10? I wanted to be the singer in a band or just be Gwen Steffani.
Top 5 favorite cities? Brooklyn, Buffalo, Playa Del Carmen, San Juan, Rome
Red, White, Sparkling or stronger? Sparkling sounds lovely right about now!
Tell us the best place to eat in NYC. If it’s your kitchen, share your best recipe. I think Chuko in Brooklyn is my favorite. I love miso ramen.
Words to live by: Give them hell (a quote my dad likes to tell me)
In 5 years you’ll be: Producing my third documentary or my first blockbuster film, and building my production company.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs interested in media? Start doing it. Write a plan, tell a friend, and get your feet wet. Modify, modify, modify. You aren’t going to get it right on the first try so don’t be afraid to pivot and evolve your message. That’s the best tool a startup has is it’s ability to change fast and recognize what’s working and what isn’t- then move on it. Also, there will be someone in your life who thinks you are crazy. Let them! Everyone we interviewed had people who wanted them to play it safe or stick to what they knew – I definitely did when I started this project but you never know what can happen if you invest in yourself and dream big.
Anything else to add? Spill it: If you are interested in sharing any feminist stories or experiences Feminist Wednesday loves a guest writer!