Natalie MacNeil was traveling in the Czech Republic when she saw a giant globe bearing the legend, “The World is Yours.” MacNeil took that to heart and created the highly successful She Takes on the World blog.
“It’s a mind-set more than anything else,” she says. “Dream big, act big — and do things that serve the world. I talk to so many women who think too small.”
That’s not MacNeil’s problem. MacNeil is the founder of the digital media company Imaginarius. The company won an Emmy recently for its “Out My Window” project, a 360-degree interactive documentary. In addition, MacNeil is co-founder and serves on the board of Treehaus Collaborative Workspace, a not-for-profit co-working space. She is also an inaugural member of the Young Entrepreneur Council, which mentors and assists young entrepreneurs. Forbes named She Takes on the World among the 10 best career blogs for women, and it was the Blog of the Year at the 2010 Stevie Awards.
MacNeil’s upcoming book, which bears the same title as her She Takes on the World blog, is due out in February. She calls it “a guide to being your own boss. It speaks to that woman who wants her work to serve a larger purpose. It’s a map that helps you formulate a plan.”
MacNeil’s own plan is to make She Takes on the World the leading online magazine for women entrepreneurs, ambitious women around the world and young women trying to figure out what they’re passionate about. She envisions the blog as a multimedia brand that encompasses events as well as a television or internet show.
A proponent of “living on purpose,” MacNeil says, “If I am doing what I want to do, how can my work serve a larger purpose and serve more women?” MacNeil’s philosophy encompasses three pillars: education, entrepreneurship and empowerment for women.
- Education: She wants to see girls worldwide receive an education. “Too many countries still ignore half their population,” says the world traveler, who has sojourned in more than 60 countries.
- Entrepreneurship: MacNeil champions microloans, so women entrepreneurs in developing countries have the opportunity to start a business.
- Empowerment: That involves making sure women are empowered to become their fullest selves and reach their fullest potential, no matter where they live
With so much going on, how does MacNeil balance her business, the blog and her volunteerism?
“Having the right support system in place and having a great team you can trust” is MacNeil’s answer to that question. “You have to figure out your weaknesses early on and figure out who can bridge those gaps. For me, it’s all about having the right team on board.” She cautions that you need people around you who share your vision. She’s been burned in the past, she says. “Now if I get the feeling something or someone isn’t right, I proceed cautiously.” On the other hand, with the right people, “There’s nothing you can’t do,” she says.
MacNeil believes entrepreneurs have to learn to delegate early on.” If you don’t have the revenue right now to hire employees, you still can hire contractors, she says. “If you are spending hours and hours doing all the little things — those tasks that aren’t bringing in revenue — then you’re working in the business, not on your business.”
She recommends Elance.com and oDesk.com for finding extra help at affordable prices. “It doesn’t have to be 20 hours a week. It could be one to five hours a week. Try it for a month,” she advises.
Other tips for entrepreneurial individuals:
- Find the right business partners and mentors to work with. Consider why you need that person and what role they’re filling. Find your complement – don’t look for another person with a similar skill set.
- Make sure you have a contract. Everything is wonderful in the beginning. Later on, the lack of a contract “can come back and bite you in the butt,” she says.
- Go for it. “There is not a perfect time to start a business — or anything else, really. Get past the fear and excuses. Jump off the cliff into the water and start swimming. Once you get started, it’s not so bad.”
- Look at your current situation and ask yourself if you are happy and fulfilled. “If you’re not,” she says, “it’s possible to create a job you really enjoy doing.”
- Volunteer. “The time is always difficult to find, but I think you have to make it.” Find something you’re passionate about. “I like helping people to start businesses. Most organizations I work with fall into those categories,” she says.