Kathleen Pagan, 34
CEO & Creative Director, Endlessly Elated
Having jumped from corporate finance to lifestyle blogging, Kathleen Pagan knows a thing or two about building your own empire. With the goal of encouraging equality and helping women in the workplace achieve whatever they set their minds to, Pagan has launched an initiative called “The Fem Think Tank,” which allows women to come together and share their career ups and downs to learn for each other how to face them head on. “Don’t let the beliefs of others define you,” says Pagan. “We are strong women and we will always prevail.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I started my company after my dad’s passing in 2012, which was a defining moment, to say the least. It was the first time in my life that I stopped ‘doing’ and starting ‘questioning.’ My dad passed away at the age of 62 so for me it became a period of “am I?” I began to ask “am I doing what I want in life? Am I living to my fullest potential?” In search, I realized that although I was blessed with a supportive family, great friends, and an amazing boyfriend (then turned husband) something didn’t feel right. I felt like I wasn’t doing my life’s work. So, just weeks after my dad’s passing, I founded Endlessly Elated (a name I chose to ensure it was a daily reminder to live a fulfilled life) and the rest is history.
I’d say my greatest achievement came the day I decided that those three little words “believe in yourself” weren’t going to be words, but rather actions I lived by. It took me a long time to believe that I could do and be whatever I wanted to. I lived my whole life subconsciously putting limitations on myself, not because of the naysayers but because of my own preconceived notions. It’s my greatest triumph to have found my purpose and live life on my own terms.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
I was told I was ‘too agreeable’ to ever hold a leadership position let alone be a CEO.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
The biggest stereotype I’ve ever been faced with has been that as a woman in the workplace I need to be ‘bitchy.’ That people need to ‘fear me’ in order for me to be perceived as a suitable leader. A few years back, I sat in an office for a year-end review and was told that due to my lack of leadership qualities or how she verbalized it, “you’re just too nice, Kathleen,” I would deter myself from any career progression and due to this unfortunate fact, I either shaped up or would inevitably get fired. As I played the conversation in my head, I realized that my choices were either to become her or continue to be me. When in doubt, always choose yourself.
Needless to say, I never got fired, I moved onto various other positions, had the most amazing managers and after my recent resignation a beautifully, poised email from my current boss came out stating that although she was so sad to see me go, she was extremely proud of me and was fully supportive of all my endeavors. Now that’s a girl boss!
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
Simple. I created my own. I wasn’t going to let the opinions of those who wanted to categorize me into the “she’s too nice” or the “she’s not bossy enough” boxes write my narrative. I took a stance to ensure that no one mistaken my kindness for weakness or my “lack of bossiness” for self-confidence. My story is mine and mine only. No one gets to write it but me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?Believe it or not, I often think about this question and I always find myself asking the women around me the same thing. Limiting beliefs can come from the least expected places sadly sometimes from the people closest to. Don’t let the beliefs of others define you. Don’t let your circumstances limit you. Don’t let your skin color and ethnicity be a label for who you are. We are strong women and we will always prevail. In the great words of Shonda Rhimes “Not to get all Beyoncé on you, But [we] woke up like this!”
We're here. We're queer. Now that it's pride month, it feels like every store and corporation is flooding us with their best rainbow merchandise, capitalizing on a $917 billion dollar consumer market.
The rainbow flags are out. The mannequins are sporting pride tees. And corporate newsletters are full of interviews showcasing all their queer employees ("Look, we have a gay person here! We GET you!").
To me, this is blatant evidence that the future is queer.
These corporations follow the money, and with 20% of millennials and 31% of Gen Z openly identifying as queer, these businesses have to capitalize on the growing purchasing power of LGBTQIA+ consumers. With a recorded market size of $917 billion dollars in 2016, and a growing interest in socially conscious brands among young consumers, this is clearly a market opportunity that corporations cannot afford to ignore.
However, I'm always surprised by how little attention investors and the entrepreneurial community devotes to this undeniable trend, despite being constantly inundated with overwhelming statistics proving the importance of diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to women in 2018, less than .1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009, and only about 1% of venture-backed companies have a black founder or Latinx founder. These statistics are over-quoted but underacted upon.
This gender and diversity inequality significantly hinders economic growth, since 85% of all consumer purchases are controlled by women, and startups with higher ethnic diversity tend to produce financial returns above their industry norm.
The data is clearly leading to one direction: investing in women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, veterans, immigrants, and other minority groups in entrepreneurship leads to higher revenue and better business results.
As data-driven and forward-thinking as this industry claims to be, we haven't caught up to the queer founders, particularly queer women, who are rethinking the future. These founders understand and speak to a generation of increasing numbers of LGBTQIA+ people whose market share will only continue to grow exponentially. VCs and investors are already behind the curve.
SoGal Foundation, a non-profit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship, is helping bridge this divide between queer women founders and investors with the launch of applications for the second annual Global Pitch Competition for diverse entrepreneurs. Hosted in 25+ cities across five continents, and culminating in a final global pitch competition and 3-day immersive educational bootcamp in Silicon Valley, this is the first and only globally-focused pitch opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs.
Startups that are pre-Series A (raised less than $3M) with at least one woman or diverse founder, apply here to pitch! The top teams selected from each regional round will join SoGal's final global pitch competition and bootcamp in Silicon Valley for guaranteed face time with dozens of top Silicon Valley investors, curated educational programming, unparalleled 1:1 mentorship, press exposure, and a chance to win investment capital.
Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ founders: what's the best way to kick off pride? Apply to pitch!
Regional pitch rounds will be held August-November 2019; final pitch competition in Silicon Valley in February 2020. Details and additional cities to be announced.
SoGal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the largest global platform for diverse founders and funders in 40+ chapters across 5 continents; our mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. SoGal Foundation's global startup competition represents the first and largest opportunity for women and diverse entrepreneurs and investors to connect worldwide. Join the SoGal community & follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.