The Upside of Failure
Maci Peterson is a serial entrepreneur. Not in a hopeless way. In a viable, know-when-to-quit and when-to-stick kind of way. The 27 year old resides in Washington, DC (by way of Oak Park, Illinois) and credits her God-fearing parents and two brothers for the stick-to-itiveness she has refined over the years.
“Growing up I was into everything,” says Maci. “Tennis, softball, Girl Scouts… the list goes on. When I was nine my cousin and I started washing cars when it was hot outside; then we sold friendship bracelets. I guess you can say that was the beginning of my entrepreneurship.
I always thought if I’m going to be bored, I might as well make some money.
Since I can remember, my family has been involved in Jack and Jill— a social club for black families. In high school I served as Regional Secretary and learned a lot about leadership and being a woman and being black and what all of that means.
Throughout the traveling I realized there weren’t really many magazines that spoke to me. I was on a plane sitting next to a woman and a 14 year old boy when I took out a magazine stored in the back seat that read 100 Ways To Please Your Man.
I was so embarrassed.
I thought, what if there was a magazine that spoke to me as young woman and intellectual; and that I wasn't ashamed for someone to see me reading? That's when I had the idea for Mwari Magazine.
Mwari means young woman in Swahili. Typically, before I actually work on any ideas I have, it has to hit me twice. So I enrolled in school– Chapman University— and started learning film. But I quickly realized that film was not what I wanted to do, so I changed my major to PR and Advertising.
It was around that time that the Mwari bug kicked in. I converted my closet into an office and started working on Mwari every waking moment.
After graduating I moved to DC and my parents graciously gave me one year to sink or swim.
The business started out great. But although we eventually grew to 130,000 subscriptions and produced 3 issues, by that summer no funds were raised.
I realized it was time to make money, so we closed the magazine.
It was the first time I had to deal with failure in such a real way and it changed the way I spoke to myself. Instead of talking myself up, I tore myself down.
The next business I went into was a platform for mentorship called My Mentor Life. The goal was to provide digital mentors to young professional women. Mentee's could ask questions anytime online or over the phone during office hours. I soon realized it was difficult to get funding for a mentorship platform.
Around that same time in the day-to-day hustle and bustle I sent an accidental text to a friend and wished I could undo it. I searched Google for apps that did that and realized there weren't any. So I naturally thought what if there was an app that did do that. That New Years I went out to San Francisco and met up with a friend of mine. I told him my idea and he said it was brilliant.
I didn’t have a firm idea on what On Second Thought was going to be, I just knew that I had an idea.
Fast forward a few months later and I'm on my way to SXSW for a pitch competition. I wrote the pitch on the way in a cab with 5 other people.
I was the first to pitch and others went up and talked about how they have a huge user base and are already making money. So when On Second Thought won, everyone including me was surprised. After that we got lots of access. We’ve had our ups and downs like every start up. But we’ve had an audience of great investors.
With Mwari Magazine I was always chasing funding but now individual angels and venture firms approach me.
The real work starts after its launched of course. Before I was really young and didn’t understand what it takes to lead a team. I was just in a very different place. I always thought, you have to fake it till you make it. The truth is being transparent and genuine is the only way to lead.
This app is not about me. It's about my team and what we can do together.”