Cait Fitzpatrick of BWB: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That…

Posted on

Cait Fitzpatrick of BWB: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That Happen

… More representation leads to diversity of thinking, more potent creativity, more balanced communication, and ultimately new and improved ways of doing business. We believe that non–hierarchical leadership and decentralized power will expand the possibilities in business (and in life!) beyond our wildest imaginations. Not to mention that when young women see women in positions of leadership, they can begin to envision themselves as leaders, too.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cait Fitzpatrick.

Cait Fitzpatrick believes that “business is usual” is old news. She and her business partner, Casey Carroll, run BWB and are committed to revolutionary growth, and helping clients see the possibility and potential of their business ideas. Cait combines her love of writing, creativity, and improv to her life and work, and is endlessly curious.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

BWB was formed because we believe in women, and in the power of women supporting each other. We are a holistic marketing and creative agency for/by women with a little revolution in their hearts. Doing our part to empower women in business through sound strategic counsel, coaching, and soulful creative. In other words, we are a creative agency dedicated to personal agency.

While working at a global communications agency, BWB owners Cait and Casey forged a mutual respect for one another during a stressful agency new business pitch. They bonded over the desire to build a different type of workplace. One day, a few agency rebels held a “blue sky thinking” brainstorm about their ideal careers and professional identities. This truly connected them and got them thinking about how they could create something new. Cait and Casey were often told their vision and ideas were “impossible,” so they decided to make the impossible possible.

In previous work environments, they found little room for personal growth, emotional intelligence, body-based intuition, or imagination. There was often a narrow focus on productivity and the bottom line, paired with egos and power dynamics, performative leadership, and the worst one of all: ignoring our identities. The brand development industry was all about image, but in all the wrong ways. Think: repeating patterns, recycling old creative, focus on sales instead of social change. We were limited, not limitless. Enter BWB.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The global pandemic. In our careers, we’ve faced recessions, layoffs, and a number of other industry ebbs and flows, but when the world shut down, that really changed everything.

There was so much uncertainty around the future and we were navigating all of this, and supporting our clients while they did the same. We made a lot of shifts, including some of our offerings and how we offer them. We began running online communities, canceled many in-person retreats and workshops, and found ways to offer our time to clients through open office hours, online meetups, etc.

We have always been a remote team, so felt prepared for how to handle and navigate the digital landscape (early Zoom adopters here), but this was not the case for everyone.

I remember writing an email in April 2020 to our clients, offering mini brainstorm sessions to ensure we were supporting their business transitions and changes. People were scared, including us.

Of course, the pandemic shifted business for the whole world, and many of its impacts are long lasting. It caused us to rethink our roles, client relationships, and reminded us to think on our feet and quickly pivot when needed (thanks, improv training!).

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Can it still be funny if it was incredibly stressful at the time? I am going to go with “yes.”

One of the biggest mistakes we made early on was not having a firm process around project timing. We would estimate that a project might take two months, and nine months later, we’d still be working on it. This negatively impacts our revenue, and the creative process for many reasons, including the fact that a lot can change in a few months (please see previous answer about the global pandemic!).

However, one of the best things about being a small business is that we have the luxury of implementing changes really quickly. We make a decision and then we put it into action. We can experiment and try new things.

Because of this, we implemented a creative momentum agreement in our contract, which includes a pause policy. If a project gets stalled for more than 30 days, the project is put on pause and then rescoped entirely. We found that this can help support forward momentum, and save us from having contracts that never end!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When we first decided to go into partnership, the first question others would ask was about the business side of things. Questions about how that “really” works contractually, or what our separate roles would be.

What very few people talked about is how partnership can be one of the most beautiful relationships in business. Growing a business from scratch is very hard. It takes a lot of work and commitment everyday to keep growing. We rely on trust, open communication, and genuine respect for one another. I truly could not (and would not) do this if I wasn’t having fun and working with my best friend! There is no greater gift than that.

Two of our BWB designers, Kelley Stangl and Grecia Cherry, are also owed so much gratitude for how they’ve helped build BWB. They are true artists and helped us create BWB as it lives today, and continue to support many of our client endeavors. We would be nothing without them, and definitely not look as good!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has challenged us to continue nurturing our inner artist. It is fun, it is messy, and it is something that can be revisited over and over again, especially if you are feeling stuck or uninspired.

Emergent Strategies by adrienne marie brown reminds us that change is constant, and teaches us how to get into right relationship with change. Through analyzing simple interactions within complex systems, this book is brilliant and offers a framework for resistance, and a lot more wisdom about transformation.

No Shame is the first book that we helped launch for a client. We were able to witness the book writing process and support the vision and mission of Dr. Lea Lis in a variety of ways (e.g. website, branding, partnership building). Thanks to Dr. Lis for trusting us and continuing to trust us in partnership.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

We believe affirmations have the power to transform. We choose an affirmation each year, and share it with our clients, team, and friends. This year, our affirmation is “let your light shine.” Last year, it was “creative energy is limitless.”

We are also extremely proud of the launch of our new podcast, Questions to Hold. The podcast has been an exciting way to grow our reach beyond our own network, in hopes of reaching folks without relying on social media. In this podcast, we explore the intersection of life’s biggest inquiries and our personal and professional worlds. We address questions like “whose story are you telling?,” and “what impact are you having?”

We hold honest, thought provoking conversations with progressive leaders and entrepreneurs questioning our institutions, igniting change, and realizing new realities. We’ve held a dozen interviews so far and look forward to using this channel to help spread the BWB message and the messages of our guests.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Everything we do is in service to making the world a better place. That may sound cliche or altruistic, but we actually believe this is possible and live it through our business.

BWB is our activism. Branding, marketing, and personal development practices often center and reproduce harmful dominant systems, ideologies, and oppressive norms. This is one of the main reasons we started BWB, and why we are committed to midwifing, not manufacturing brands. We continuously do our own unpacking and unlearning, and have designed a transformation creative process that puts this at the heart of brand building.

One of our main business initiatives is our 3% equity fund, where we donate 3% of our proceeds to BIPOC organizations and non-profits that we believe in. This is really important to us, and will continue to be at the core of how we run our business.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

There are many factors that contribute to this statistic, including gender roles and unequal pay, sexism, power dynamics, and masculine defaults in the workplace.

Historically women have less access to capital. And on top of that, monopolies like Amazon and Facebook make selling and gaining exposure even more complicated and difficult for small businesses to keep up and expand, especially if they don’t agree with their business models and practices.

These all underpin the reality that being a small business owner is a lot of work. A lot of hard work with a lot of responsibility! Running a business is an act of devotion; something we need to nurture and attend to every day. There are realities of things like financial responsibilities, the cost of healthcare, taxes, retirement accounts, etc.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

We believe that women deserve access to alternative ways of being and doing business that liberates — rather than perpetuates — the status quo. We don’t manufacture brands. We midwife them. Our approach is not about fitting in, conforming or tidying up your business or creative idea into some predetermined ‘market ready’ box. We’re all about blowing up the box and bringing life to the unique spirit that’s ready to be born.

BWB offers holistic branding and alternative approaches to marketing through intentional growth. Whether someone is preparing to launch a brand, or an established business looking to grow and evolve, our signature processes call folks into aligned vision and action. We offer packages in coaching, branding, website creation, and ongoing brand building support, providing services such as strategy, design, and copywriting. BWB also hosts events, workshops, and retreats that help midwife business ideas into realities.

Our guiding mantra is: When One Of Us Rises, All Of Us Rise. This isn’t some marketing speak we throw around because it sounds good. This is our rally call and the compass by which we guide our actions. We are constantly asking the questions: how can we be more equitable, honest, authentic? Is our intention in line with our impact? How is our privilege and power showing up? And, how can we, individually and collectively, get more free? We are not perfect, but we are committed to doing our work.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

More representation leads to diversity of thinking, more potent creativity, more balanced communication, and ultimately new and improved ways of doing business. We believe that non–hierarchical leadership and decentralized power will expand the possibilities in business (and in life!) beyond our wildest imaginations. Not to mention that when young women see women in positions of leadership, they can begin to envision themselves as leaders, too.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Reimagining our work in traditionally dominant spaces. Clare Monteau is an organizational scientist specializing in neuroscience with heart — a signature approach to productivity, leadership and fulfillment in the workplace. BWB has worked with Clare to reimagine training and development, and bring in more heart centric, emotional intelligence–based practices and research with leaders, small businesses, and within the corporate environment.
  2. Following our big gorgeous goals. Julie Ellis wrote Big Gorgeous Goals for women entrepreneurs who want to step out of the small box they find themselves in, and set world domination in their sights. She shares stories and lessons from women leaders, helping readers reach new levels of success for ourselves and our businesses.
  3. Be the role model you wish you had. Randi Matthews started multi-hyphen media “out of necessity.” As a veteran of the entertainment and influencer marketing world with over a decade of practical experience, she reflects on the lack of representation throughout her career (specifically, women of color). Randi is paving the way for underrepresented executives and talent to have a voice across new media and marketing industries, owning the intersection of media, technology, entertainment, and culture.
  4. Stay true to yourself and your values. Be a zigger even when everyone else is zagging. We’ve worked with Kim Wylder, a therapist in the Bay Area, who has grown her business without digital and social media. Business building through word of mouth and intentional business investments is an extremely viable way to grow a business!
  5. Growth by intention. Right at Home of Essex County (RaH) provides in-home care for seniors in Essex County, NJ, and is a family–owned business with a strong legacy and deep roots in the community. We’ve supported them in telling their story intentionally, finding their voice and brand story in a crowded space that often looks and sounds the same. BWB created the “Let’s Talk About It” campaign to help normalize aging, discuss difficult topics, and break down the stigmas around aging through design, strategic counsel, and the creation of thought-provoking stories.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

In a world that praises answers over questions, the act of holding a question is an act of resistance, presence, and devotion. Holding questions invites you to build a more meaningful relationship with yourself and the world around you through the simple, yet profound practice of holding questions. Oftentimes, those are the questions right in front of us, such as “what is my why?” or “what is calling me forward?” and “how is my creative spirit?”

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Hands down: adrienne maree brown. She is an amazing leader revolutionizing the way we think and talk about important topics like social justice, liberation, pleasure, and so much more.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit our website and check out the Questions to Hold podcast.

We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter to continually be updated about BWB news. Our newsletter announces new podcast episodes, news about ongoing workshops and retreats, and thoughts about alternative ways to brand build.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Cait Fitzpatrick of BWB: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.