Alexis Fox is the Founder & CEO of The Muse marketplace, which connects female entrepreneurs with each other and with customers. In the following interview, Alexis connects with podcast host, Jummie Moses, to discuss the making of The Muse on her show, A Word to the Wise.
What is your story, where are you from?
I'm from New Jersey. That's where I grew up before I went to Loyola in Baltimore. Once I graduated from Loyola, I did consulting at Deloitte for three and a half years. Worked for a bunch of different clients, mostly in financial services, but also in media and tech companies as well. Lots of really great experiences, really great connections, just very intense. I think a lot of people felt that burnout. I was part of that mass resignation after I decided to quit my job and pursue entrepreneurship full time. Something I dabbled in the past, but wanted to really commit to it and give it my entire focus, dabbled in a few things.
The Muse definitely wasn't the first thing that came to mind, but it definitely was all stepping stones to get to this idea, which I definitely am super passionate and excited about. This marketplace for women owned founders is something really close to my heart. I think the biggest thing that I found through it that I wasn't finding at Deloitte is this type of fulfilment working with clients that I felt really passionate about. Rather than helping larger companies just make more money, I am working with smaller businesses, hopefully bringing them to that next level, really seeing the growth in their own lives.
Can you talk a little bit about the idea of being the only woman in the room throughout your different careers and different jobs that you had. What was that experience like for you?
I feel like I should say that it was really difficult being the only woman in the room, but honestly, my experience was that it was so easy and natural, which I think was part of the problem. I started to realise I did grow up with three older brothers in a very maledominated house, so I'm used to it, definitely. But I don't think I noticed until I was interning at Deloitte. One of my coworkers turned to me, and there were probably 15 of us in a conference room, and he was like, did you realise that you're the only girl here? And I hadn't even realised that he had to point it out to me.
And I started to sit back why I hadn’t noticed and also why there were no other women in the room and was I okay with being that not token woman in the room? I deserve to be there. But there were just a lot of question marks. I think I did work with some fabulous women at Deloitte. I think they do a great job. I think within the company, they do a really great job of gender equality or balance with their hiring. Not always the case amongst the industry that I worked in, which is I feel like it's fair with financial services male dominated in general industry. So that's kind of been my experience. I guess I also wondered where I could find the opposite extreme. Where can I find a room of 14 women and one man? And I knew that I likely could not find something like that. So I felt like creating one.
Can you talk about some of those ideas and why you decided to let them go and why they did not work out?
So I have dabbled in many things. I think I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur probably as early as I started at Deloitte as well. So just started dabbling in everything, which I think for anybody listening who's interested in pretty much anything, I'll try to convince you to make a business out of it. But just like micro trying things, it doesn't mean you invest $10,000 into your idea. I'm glad that I did not invest $10,000 into my first idea because it was not a smart one. But investing in a course or even just listening, free learning, just investing your time into an idea, trying different things, I think is important to rule them out, especially many things I learned from each of them. I went through product based businesses that I decided that wasn't necessarily for me.
I didn't want to do manufacturing and direct to consumers. I got more into Ecommerce and was doing Drop shipping, which taught me so many foundational pieces to be able to create The Muse. So many building blocks to get to this point, but could not have gotten here without them. So I think all those, I don't know, bumps, not failures, just maybe dropped ideas are really just stepping stones, I think.
So after trying all these other types of businesses or ideas out and just realising that's a dead end, that's probably not the direction I should be going down, were you ever discouraged or did you just have in your mind that I'm still going to create something.
I think every entrepreneur has moments, but I will say, I often say I'm either smart enough to keep trying or not smart enough to stop trying. And so I think I'm just going to keep running into the wall until I figure it out. At this point, I'm detached enough where I love this idea. I believe in it because I want to benefit other businesses, other people. If it comes to fruition that there's a different way that I can benefit them in a better way, I'm okay with that as well. So I think I've always taken that approach that I'll just pivot. This has been my favourite. I love doing it. I'll invest or make money in other ways, kind of figure it out. I know I want to own my own business.
Do you have any mentors that really have helped you along this journey so far?
So many and I think on a personal level, many people in my life, whether they were entrepreneurs or not, definitely made an impact. But I think it's really important to have those, those Muse almost whether they are just influencers that you follow on Instagram because you want to live a digital nomad life one day or that super successful multimillion dollar CEO that you want to be one day. I do think it's really important to have those role models in mind, especially on those days where you're like, what am I doing? Why? Who asked me to do this? Is this what I'm meant to be doing? Having those people who have 100% been there, listening to their beginner stories has helped me infinitely. How I built this and things like that, is just very humanising. I think it's easy to see people at their success level.
How were you able to find your mentors or the people that were able to guide you aside from family and friends?
I will say I was not very blessed with too many connections. I've made most of them myself and luckily the Internet is such a beautiful resource of networking opportunities and free resources. People are posting and having informational zoom calls and free lectures and attending, even podcasting, putting their information out there, being a face. And I think if you're interested in entrepreneurship specifically, I will say especially in the female entrepreneurial world, there are so many networking groups that you can join for free. I've joined many in New York, one of the New York Women in Business that I did an accelerator program with them completely for free, five weeks. I met so many mentors, so many other entrepreneurs. I know that was one opportunity, but I wasn't specifically seeking it.
I know Crosscountry Score is a huge entrepreneurial group across the country that has locations in almost every city. So there's definitely resources. And people in this space know how difficult it is especially to feel kind of alone in the beginning and have been more than willing to set up calls with me, support me, give me ideas, connect me to other people. I found so many welcome arms here. So I think even if you don't have someone to introduce you, if you just start introducing yourself, people are very willing to talk to you.
How was The Muse born?
In summary, it took me forever and then it took me 2 hours. So I've been toying with a name for more or less a year. That was like the holding piece before we could keep going with design and everything. And I had a name in mind that I was very convinced was going to be the one, but something just didn't 100% feel right. But there was some trademarking issue, and I could not use it.
So immediately I was back to square one and I did not really have a backup, but I knew that the project had to continue. So I was like, this is happening in the next 3 hours. I'm going to brainstorm. I'm going to go through the list I already made just to try to think of something and also let the universe kind of take over and just let it happen. I need to benefit women's businesses more than I need to be picking the perfect name. There's no such thing. And honestly, out of so many, just thoughts were written down, The Muse was born. I honestly can't believe I came up with that even in such a short time and that it worked out so well. I love it. I think it's perfect.
I think the concept behind it is, at least for me, like I was mentioning, these mentors, these women in our lives really can act as huge influences, almost as muses and be there in thought when we have hard days, if they did it, I can do it kind of thing. That was huge for me in the beginning and now that I am pursuing entrepreneurship full time, I've almost had to transition to becoming my own muse and really self-starting and waking up every day and motivating myself and telling myself I'm not crazy.
So I think I love the name in both senses, finding muses in your own life and really truly becoming your own.
So what is The Muse?
The Muse is a marketplace for women in businesses. So you will be able to go on there, everything that you see, you'll be able to shop from a female founder, you'll be able to see a little bit more in their back story, that the money you're spending is going towards a cause that you support.
Why is it just for women?
I think while I was at Deloitte, I think it's just with that room full of men, I think it's just a time for a room full of women where we can just have these conversations without male influence. Not that it's not valuable or needed. I think we absolutely do. And I've met incredible men and mentors that I need in this business. So definitely not that I don't think it's definitely not anti men, which is another comment that I get. It's really just pro women, which is not both.
The part of the mission of The Muse is to put wealth into women's hands. Why is that a passion and why is that part of your mission for The Muse?
I think on a personal level and what probably made me so passionate about supporting women, my parents went through a divorce. I feel like most people can relate to that. But I do think money was an influence, a factor of maybe control or power. Just an issue that I wish I hadn't seen my mom have to go through. I do think we could go into the wealth gap and all of that, but without even going there. I do think that the more women have control over their own finances in their own life, the more control, freedom, power, empowerment they feel to do whatever they want to do.
So I think with this business, I would love to see more women have more money for themselves, to leave their jobs if they want to, or have more money for their families, or just really control their own finances, make their own investments. I think it's time.
Do you have any advice that you could share with the young women who have all these dreams, all these ideas, and they don't necessarily have the right resources, whether that's mentorship or they're just not sure where they're going to get money from but they really have this dream that they want to pursue?
First off, reach out to me. I will support you if I can or connect or be there if you're like am I crazy with this? I will. But on a less personal level, it is totally valid to be nervous, to be scared. Even with all of the right resources, I face fear every day. I think that is one thing I realised, though, that fear, that nervousness, at least in my body, feels very similar to excitement, and they're usually intertwined. If we follow the fear, we let that fear control us and we won't get to that excitement.
I understand that obviously there will be obstacles no matter where you are in joining the entrepreneurial world or even just pursuing a new job or anything like that, but if we don't face that fear, we won't be able to reap that benefit.
What have been some of the most challenging parts of your journey? Building The Muse so far and what have been some of the most rewarding parts of it?
Many challenges. I will be 100% honest. I think the biggest challenge for me is social media. On a personal level, I never used it. I kept more or less like a very private life, I would say. So to now have to be so forward facing and trying new things and really just putting myself out there every day is definitely a challenge for me. And that is a fear I have to wake up and address pretty much every day. But it is a good one, it is a necessary one. And the more that I do that, the more that I make connections with women like yourself and have these amazing conversations. So I knew that was going to be probably my biggest challenge in entrepreneurship.
Have there been any moments that were like a big win, which you were looking for so far on your journey?
Many of those, I'm lucky to be working with such an amazing team. So just seeing all of the designs and the website and everything starts to come together is just such a fulfilling, beautiful moment. I think last week I was dancing around my room because I had like 15 applicants in one week to the marketplace, which just felt amazing. So I'm really excited about that and just the opportunities that come with all the women I get to meet and work with and the incredible products that they're creating are just amazing to me. So all of that opportunity just really lights me up. I'm excited to have more of that.
So any final words of wisdom to the readers. It could be about what we've been talking about or something else completely random that you keep in your back pocket throughout life.
I think a big one for me is always doing what's right for you, even if it's scary, it's difficult, and even if it makes other people maybe not the happiest. I think at the end of the day, I have put relationships or jobs or other people before myself a lot of times. And ultimately, if you're trying to please other people, but not pleasing yourself, you're really harming yourself and ultimately doing a disservice to the people around you. And I think ultimately, if you have that calling or desire to do something bigger, but it might be scary and it might be hard, it is still going to be worth it. And unfortunately, we have to go through that fear to get there. But I think the biggest thing is to listen to yourself.
If you're calling for a new place or a new person or a new job, listen to it.
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Have thoughts on this week’s topic or questions for me or Lizzie? Post your thoughts in the comments section.