As they say in Hollywood (or any other industry of aspiring professionals), there's no such thing as a free lunch in this town. Advice seeking and giving isn't always fair for each side of the table, but a new online networking platform is here to change the way we wine and dine mentors — and normalize how career pros are compensated for their intel.
Meet Margot, an inclusive women-focused network founded by Emmy-winning producer Joss Richard. Launched in beta mode yesterday, the platform allows members to get one-on-one virtual sessions with mentors across business development, education, food and hospitality, healthcare, marketing, online media and publishing, philanthropy, public relations, STEM, television and film, and more.
You can sort by prospective mentors' number of years of experience and industry, and you can book single 20- or 45-minute sessions or in a series of three 45-minute meetings.
You'll be in good hands, too: Mentors have logged time at independently-owned businesses as well as blue-chip companies such as Amazon, Blue Shield, NBCUniversal, Popsugar, Teen Vogue, O magazine, St. Jude's Research Hospital, Walt Disney Company, and many others. For those who are on the fence, some mentors also offer 10-minute discovery calls to determine if you're the right match.
In addition to connecting women and non-binary people with the right mentors, Margot also aims to fill the gender wage gap by providing a platform where experts are paid to get their brains picked.
The Center for American Progress points out that a 2018 Census Bureau report found that women on average are paid 82 cents per every dollar earned by men. The numbers are even lower for women of color: Hispanic or Latina women earn 54 cents per dollar, American Indian or Alaska native women earn 57 cents, and Black women earn 62 cents.
White women earn 79 cents per dollar, and the study shows that Asian women tend to earn the most at 90 cents, although it "likely underestimates the wage gap experienced by women belonging to many Asian subgroups."
Richard has had her fair share of "pick your brain" coffee meetups. The Toronto-bred, L.A.-based entrepreneur previously worked as a digital producer The Ellen Show and is currently at the Walt Disney Company as a manager of digital marketing and content strategy. At Disney, Richard was paired with a mentor and saw first-hand the value of a career coach.
Her own experience in the entertainment industry has prompted "an influx of women to reach out to me LinkedIn. I did all of these 'pick your brain' sessions and met up with other women or did a phone call," Richard tells UncoverLA. Some of those connections led to meaningful mentorship relationships, but some ghosted her after their meeting. "I don't mind helping someone, but [when] I never hear from them again, [I think], 'I could have charged for that.'"
"My time and my knowledge are valuable, and I think that's a conversation that has yet to be normalized," Richard continues. "It's an uncomfortable conversation to have. You're not asking someone to Venmo you before a call."
Margot allows members to be clear about what they're getting and giving in mentorship relationships, which eliminates any potential false hope that might come when budding professionals reach out to seasoned (and time-pressed) execs.
Margot also has a give-back program built into its business model. "I don't want people to see mentorship as a privilege," says Richard. That's why she's partnering with nonprofit organizations Girls For a Change and Global G.L.O.W. to provide free access to girls in underserved communities.
We recently got to know Richard to learn more about her own experiences seeking mentors, and how her professional and personal skills helped inform her new venture, and more. Read on below, and join the community here (and don't forget to use the code LAUNCH10 to get 10% off your first session).
What challenges did you encounter in your career that sparked the idea to create Margot?
From my personal experience, I was always afraid to ask for help because I didn't want to bother anyone. I think that is rooted in me not understanding my self-worth. When you're younger, you're not confident in yourself which is why you're trying to ask people questions.
You've got extensive experience as a producer in media. How has that benefitted Margot?
Producing is something that has been incredibly beneficial to me. I learned to talk to a lot of people. I think that skill is something that helped me with Margot. All of our mentors I had to reach out to, I had to pitch the idea.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset? And how has that played a role in your newest venture?
I'm very much an entrepreneurial person, I've had a lot of ideas that were not successful in the past — I've tried to do a blog, YouTube channel. They didn't make any revenue. But I always had the drive to have a side-hustle, [though] I'm not crazy about that word. From those things, I have made a lot of contacts.
When they say networking is key, you never know who you're going to reach out to. I'm very surprised at the small relationships or quick interactions I've had [who] see on my LinkedIn that I started [Margot] and they congratulate me.
A lot of people feel "icky" about networking. Why do you think that is, and how do you approach it?
Networking doesn't always have to be intentional; that's only one side of networking. It doesn't have to be intimidating as cold-emailing or adding someone on LinkedIn. It can be listening to people who talk to you at a coffee shop or at work with co-workers. You just don't know what people are doing [beyond what you know] and how that can come back around. It [can be as simple as] just day-to-day interaction. It doesn't have to be as scary about talking about long-term career goals.
Back to building Margot, what are some of the challenges you faced?
And building the website; I thought this was something I could do on Squarespace, but I ended up hiring a web developer — but I didn't know how to post that job listing, and I didn't know what those qualifications needed to be. I also realized that with a web designer, you have to be very detailed in a sense of the specific colors you want, for example. Those things were a big hurdle.
What resources have helped you on the path of being a business owner?
I honestly would say talking to people who have started businesses has been beneficial to me. I have friends who started businesses in a very different space [who told me], 'These are things that you need to think of, [such as] money to set aside for taxes.' I wish I could have found a mentor! And I found my website designer through UpWork.
It's hard to find balance as a business owner, much less as a new one. How do you find work-life balance right now?
I have lived off my calendar; I have an actual paper agenda. I have to block out time to not work, otherwise I will work for 12 hours straight. Not working is one of those things you also have to be diligent with.