Marty McDonald worked in marketing for over a decade in corporate America. As a Black woman, she says she never saw herself in a C Suite-level position. She also knew she wasn’t alone.
In 2016, she hosted a group of 25 women for brunch at Neiman Marcus, where they discussed ways to elevate their careers and find the resources to do so. That brunch, McDonald says, exploded into her passion project, and eventually full-time business, Boss Women Media.
“[My] big dream of being the CMO seemed somewhat impossible, because no one looked like me who was doing what I desired,” she explains. “And the world told me that’s what success look like.”
Seeing the demand for these services, she quit her marketing job in 2018. With an emphasis on storytelling, Boss Women Media supports women in their late 20s and 30s as they navigate the corporate world and starting their own businesses. The company broadcasts success stories. It organizes networking opportunities and events, like its 58,000-person Black Girl Magic digital summit from last August. There are funding opportunities, like their Boss Business Showers.
McDonald had her first child early last year, a daughter named Elle Olivia, and she saw an opportunity to support little girls at the start of their journey, too.
Last week, McDonald launched Elle Olivia, an online children’s apparel and book brand that encourages diverse girls “to see themselves in spaces and places so that they know that their possibility is endless, no matter where they go.” McDonald says that as Elle Olivia grows, they will also develop educational TV shows and cartoons to teach girls about different careers, like doctors, lawyers, and engineers, with characters in these roles that look like them. It’s all about showing them the pathways to success, she explains.
“It’s an exposure to those pathways and in allowing them to see that they belong in this world, that’s how we’re going to create a more equitable society for our Black and Brown little girls,” McDonald says.
We chatted with McDonald about Elle Olivia, Boss Women Media, and the power of storytelling and representation.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Elle Olivia focuses on ages 0–4. Why was it so important for you to instill representation at such a young age?
I think it’s so important that [little girls] see themselves in books, right? I remember myself growing up and not really seeing books of anybody who looked like me. When you don’t see it, you don’t know it’s possible. And so creating and instilling the foundation early on that they are seen, they are heard, they’re not alone, that they belong, and that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to is really the overarching goal of the brand.
One thing I love about your store is that you’re featuring clothing for both little girls and their mothers. Why did you choose to do that?
I think it’s just so important for little girls to see. You know, the first Black woman a little girl is going to encounter is her Black mama. I think it was really important for me to showcase to her that we are in this together and that she is not alone.
How did your work at Boss Women Media shape Elle Olivia?
I wish someone would have taken the time to put me on my pathway of seeing all the possibilities that worked for me. But unfortunately, we live in a time and a space where there still are the “firsts.” There still are the “only womans.” And me creating an equitable society for [my daughter]—that responsibility to me is for her not to be in a position and place where she’s only looking at “the first,” but it’s that others have paved the way before her. That she knows that it’s a possibility for her, too, because they have, and I am a part of telling those stories for her. And that’s really why I decided to merge the two. It’s still a storytelling company, just like Boss Women Media. We’re just storytelling in a way that kids can connect with versus adults.
In your work, you emphasize the power of positive affirmation. Can you explain how that impacts your life and your career?
The words that you speak are the most powerful thing that can come from your body, right? If you don’t believe that you can, then you won’t. If you believe that you can, then you will. It’s just that simple, right? And so having confidence through the words that you speak plays such a huge part in the success of your life.
You’ve built a second career of women supporting women, and now you’re building a third. Can you tell me why that’s so important to you?
You know, it doesn’t matter what your race is, what your ethnical background is, what your socio economic [background is], the commonality to women is that the end of the day, we’re still not in a lot of spaces and places. And we’re working our way up, right? Because of that, a woman can relate to another woman, right? I can relate to my voice being diminished somewhat along the way. I can relate to being the only one [in the room]. I think it’s so powerful when women unite together and say, I have risen, I am bringing others along, I am lifting as I rise because I know that it’s not easy. I know that it’s not easy to get to the pathway of success, but I want to help you along your way.
What are your hopes for each of your companies?
My hope is that we normalize Black women stories that are positive. My hope is that we normalize giving Black women access to funds to help them expand and grow their businesses and careers. And my hope is that in all things that we do under the umbrella of Boss Women Media and Elle Olivia is showing positive images, so that Black and Brown little girls and White allies can see themselves through what we are creating and doing to change the world.