015: Dismissed English Major Turned Venture Capitalist with Marcella Allison

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015: Dismissed English Major Turned Venture Capitalist with Marcella Allison

Marcella Allison was told that a “glorified bookkeeper with an English degree” does not become a venture capitalist after she enthusiastically approached the guest speaker in her MBA class. He continued to tell her that since she didn’t get her MBA from Harvard, didn’t have a 4.0, wasn’t captain of the lacrosse team, this was never going to happen. Everything of this stereotypical profile she didn’t fit. But she refused to let some arrogant man determine her path or worth.

Through tenacity, grit, due diligence and a willingness to seek advice from people she knew (and who those individuals knew), Marcella found the right women to provide her direction, information and a clear roadmap that would land her multiple VC employment offers at the same time.

Marcella is the CEO of Copy Harvest and the founder of the Titanides Mentoring Collective, an organization dedicated to promoting female entrepreneurs, marketers and copywriters. As a copywriter, she currently works with some of the top direct companies in the industry. Her clients include the Motley Fool, Money Map Press, Metabolic Living and more. Her copy has generated over 100 million in sales for financial trading services, alternative health supplements and information products.

Today, Marcella joins the podcast to share her story of how she never took no for an answer and overcame many challenges to become a successful VC in a male dominated business world.

Overcomer Playlist Recommendation 

Pearls of Wisdom


“Underestimate me. That'll be fun.” - Arwen Becker Share on X “Challenges are what brings you the gifts that come afterwards, but you can't always see them in the moment.” - Marcella Allison Share on X “Do your due diligence, especially when you're making a big decision” - Marcella Allison Share on X “The business world is still in many ways dominated by men and having that women-only inner circle gives you that extra edge.” - Marcella Allison Share on X


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Connect with Arwen Becker



Arwen Becker: I'm a proud mom of three boys. My oldest son, Morgan, he's adopted. He was Randy's from a prior marriage. And then my other two boys came along after Randy and I got married. Well, Morgan was delivered cesarean section at one of the local hospitals in our area. And that was because his mom was 5’2” and he was 10 lbs, 9 ounces. Oh, yikes! It just makes me cringe.

And so as Randy and I got pregnant with Ashton I went to the OB/GYN to the first appointment and I just realized I didn't really feel that comfortable with this whole idea of delivering in a hospital, nor truthfully was I that excited about having a male doctor. All the experiences that I had ever had with hospitals were due to me having broken bones from sports or injuries and so I didn't really have a positive experience with this whole idea of being in hospital. So, to say that Randy was caught a little bit off guard because I wanted to deliver at home would pretty much be an understatement.

And as we think about the only experience that he had was Morgan being delivered cesarean in a hospital, that whole idea of delivering at home was a massive stretch for him and totally terrified him. So, fortunately we were able to come to a compromise. What we figured was, we could deliver in a birthing center. So there was actually a birthing center just a couple of blocks away from one of the major hospitals in Kirkland, and it would give you the experience of delivering at home and kind of this home like setting with a midwife, but also give him the peace of mind because it was so close to the hospital.

And as I think back on that experience, it was so beautiful. I remember going in for my exams, as I was leading up to, you know, the months before having Ashton. And I loved it because it always alternated between two midwives. And I thought about all these horror stories that I had heard from people where they had gone to the same OB/GYN over all these months leading up to their pregnancy or to delivery and then at the time of delivery, the doctor was on vacation. So not only is it a terrifying experience to deliver a child for the first time, I just didn't want to have that uncertainty of not having my doctor there. So, I'm just not really big on surprises.

And so what we did is we alternated these appointments with my midwife and then the assistant that they were working with. And so on the night of delivery, when I went into labor, I called and it just was which one of them happened to be on call that night would come and deliver the baby. And it just so happens that with Ashton, one of them delivered him and then two years later, the other one delivered Easton at our home in Newcastle. I look back on that experience and this relationship of this true connection that I had with both these midwives and their female assistants.

And Randy and I, we think about this time period just so positively because the whole experience was so low stress, it was so nurturing, and I just really think it was because this is what women have been doing across the globe for thousands of years. Talk about community support. You know, I even was given the opportunity, because I was, I guess what you would call a “super producer of milk” and I was actually able to donate over a month's worth of breast milk to one of my midwives when she adopted a little boy four days after Ashton was born. So many women collectively came together that for the first eight months of his life, we had breast milk donated, so he never had to end up using any formula. And I just saw as a mom the power of women working to support one another and using these God given talents of nurturing and caring for each other. Women are brilliant at doing this, and so is my guest today.

Marcella is the CEO of Copy Harvest and the founder of the Titanides Mentoring Collective, an organization dedicated to promoting female entrepreneurs, marketers and copywriters. As a copywriter, she currently works with some of the top direct companies in the industry. Her clients include the Motley Fool, Money Map Press, Metabolic Living and more. Her copy has generated over 100 million in sales for financial trading services, alternative health supplements and information products.

In 2018, Marcella was awarded Copywriter of the Year by American Writers and Artists for her outstanding performance record and impact on copywriting industry and as a prolific featured speaker at many, many industry events. Marcella is the co-author of Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me This Sh*t Before, a collection of wit and wisdom from women and business. Actually a book that I have a story also featured in as well, that's called A Man Is Not A Financial Plan. And as the founder of the Titanides Mentoring Collective she mentors over 600 women and is dedicated to building a new arena where dynamic, creative women mentor, elevate and support each other on the journey to success. Marcella and I met years ago when we were in a Mastermind group learning how to be better speakers and tell our personal stories and she made such an impression on me with her beautiful blue hair and this dynamic, vibrant attitude. I fell in love with this woman instantaneously and I know you will as well.


Arwen Becker: Marcella, I am so happy to have you on my show today.

Marcella Allison: I am just thrilled to be here, Arwen. I love that we get to just keep this conversation going between us. I love the work that you're doing and I love seeing how you are changing your industry for women just as I'm trying to do the same for mine. It just makes my whole day.

Arwen Becker: Well, I'm just thrilled because it's just it's so neat. I mean, some of the things that we're going to be talking about is really how women continue to support one another. And you have been such a tremendous support to me over the last few years so, thank you.

Marcella Allison: I’m glad to hear that.

Arwen Becker: Before we jump into today's episode, you said that you had a couple of favorite songs.

Marcella Allison: We do.

Arwen Becker: Yes. We've got this ever-growing overcomer playlist. That's what I call it.

Marcella Allison: I love it.

Arwen Becker: Yeah. So, why don't you tell us why you chose the couple that you had chosen? Are you going to sing them for us?

Marcella Allison: Oh, God, if I could do that. So, I chose the classic anthem, two classic anthems that I think of, Respect by Aretha Franklin and 9 to 5 by one of my favorites, Dolly Parton. And I picked them not only because I love the songs that I think they're great empowerment anthems but also because both Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton are very savvy, smart businesswomen. And I didn't know until she passed away the story about Aretha Franklin demanding to be paid in cash before she would sing because she knew that her contemporaries, men at that time and especially African Americans, black women and black men were being ripped off by the industry. So, she knew better than to trust that they were going to pay her afterwards. So, she would not start singing until they paid her and she demanded it was in cash. So, she didn't have to worry about the cheque clearing. So, they said she would put it in her handbag, this like clutch, and if you go back and you look at the footage, you see her walk that thing down on the top of the piano because it had like, what, $5,000 in cash or more in it.

She womp that thing down on the top of the piano, sit down, and play. And the other reason I picked Respect is that a couple of years ago, I was speaking at a conference in my industry. It was mostly men, probably all men on the stage at that point, and I was about to go up and join them for sort of a panel discussion and I was going to speak on finance. And the person running the AV equipment, lovely guy in the back said to me, "Hey, do you have a song you want me to play when you go up?” And I said, “No. Surprise me.” So, as I get out of my seat and they introduced me and I'm starting to walk up, and all these men are sitting on the stage, you know, with the little captain's chairs waiting for me to join them, he plays Respect. These guys are sitting there and all of a sudden blasting out of the speakers comes, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and I am laughing so hard. I'm walking up to the stage. It was like perfect and he's back there just sort of grinning with the volume like full-on and the men are like, "What?”

Arwen Becker: I bet that woke everybody up. If they weren't awake, they were like…

Marcella Allison: Oh yes, they were then…

Arwen Becker: Sitting up taller in their chair going, “Oh man, I think we better bring our A-game today.”

Marcella Allison: Yeah. The guy next to me said, “I guess I need to bring my own AV guy next time.” I was like, "Hey, he did it all on his own. I didn't have anything to do with it.” It was pretty cool.

Arwen Becker: Oh my gosh, that is hilarious. That is so good. I love that, both those songs and, of course, I can remember 9 to 5, watched the movie, and I think I would have been in elementary school at that time when that came out.

Marcella Allison: I’m a little older than that but yes.

Arwen Becker: Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living.

Marcella Allison: Oh my God, I love her and she's very generous. Dolly Parton has done so much for her community and just a super savvy businesswoman.

Arwen Becker: Yeah. And talk about a legacy.

Marcella Allison: Yeah.

Arwen Becker: She’s in her mid-70s?

Marcella Allison: It seems like it and, I mean, you would never know it, man. She's just so real and so funny and so out there.

Arwen Becker: And she’s still putting out good music and still got collaboration with an artist on a station that I listen to. And I was like kept thinking, "Is that Dolly Parton? Is that Dolly Parton?” because it sounds so much like her, but you're like, "How old is this woman?” You know what I'm saying?

Marcella Allison: Right. And she's still rocking it, man.

Arwen Becker: She is and still has such a beautiful voice.

Marcella Allison: Vibrant. Yeah. I love it.

Arwen Becker: Yeah. Amazing to have that kind of longevity is really remarkable. Yeah. And I know that her faith has been a huge part of that and I know very long-standing marriage. And you've been married for quite a number of years, haven't you?

Marcella Allison: It will be 30 years. Next year will be 30 years. Yeah, I think having that kind of commitment and vision to your partner, to your business, there are just some things that I think take a while to figure out. And I'm really glad that we stuck through some pretty tough times to make it through the other side because I think we have learned so much. And that's nothing against women who don't, who decide that this is not something that they can do. But for my husband, Tom and I, he's one of the biggest supporters of my business, of me working. He's never been threatened. There were years when I earned more than him. He could give a crap. And always cheering me on, always the first to say, “I think you should go for it even if it was a financial risk we are going to be taking,” and I've been really lucky that way.

Arwen Becker: Yeah. But when you and I were talking in the past and last couple of years, when Randy and I were going through some really difficult times, you were such a support to me because I think a lot of us as women, and that's my opening podcast, it's Episode 2, is talking about the hell that we went through and how I just I really did want to quit. And I think a lot of us do kind of throw in the towel in different situations just because it seems like it shouldn't be so hard for that long. You know what I’m saying?

Marcella Allison: Right. Oh, my God, it's so true. It's true in marriage. It's true in business. It's true in life. And there's something that happens, I think. I agree with you. There's something that happens when you stick through it. And again, I'm not saying you should stay in an abusive relationship or anything like that but when you're both willing and able to try to work through that together, I think it just can make you so much stronger. I mean, we have dealt with a lot of addiction and mental illness in our family, and the fact that Tom and I go through that together has just made a bond that's almost unbreakable in terms of how we get through life together. It's funny to say that you're grateful for the challenges but I know you talk a lot about that on the podcast here because the challenges are what brings you the gifts that come afterwards, but you can't always see them in the moment.

Arwen Becker: Right, exactly. Yeah. I don't know when I heard it but I heard it a lot of years ago that somebody said that marriage is like two people standing on the opposite sides of the Grand Canyon and every challenge that they go through and they make it through is like one rope being thrown across. And as you continue to progress, you build a stronger and stronger bond that makes it harder and harder to rip apart. You know what I'm saying? Just because you're like, “Hey, we got through this, we're going to be able to get through this new thing that we’re dealing with. It's not going to break us. If we were able to get through those years and I just thought that that's such a great word picture of working through the hard stuff.

Marcella Allison: I think it makes you very resilient in a way that you weren't before. I mean, now when Tom and I take a risk or we decide where we just moved to this beautiful new condo, it's a huge jump for us to do this. And we can jokingly say to each other like, "What's the worst that can happen? You know, we've survived all this stuff in our marriage, all this stuff in our life.” I'm like, "You know what, we'll be okay no matter what. So, why not just take the risk?” It gives you a little bit of that daredevil isn't the right word, but the faith or the confidence that you know what, even if the worst happens, we've already walked through that. We'll find a way. We'll be okay.

Arwen Becker: Yeah, totally. Totally. Very much agree. So, beautiful. So, why don't you take me back a few years? I know you and I we’re talking a little bit and you were talking about being 30 years old, working as a business manager for this international art gallery, and you were also earning your MBA and there was some stuff going on. What was that?

Marcella Allison: Yeah. So, it's almost 20 years now. Maybe not that far back but close. I was in my late 30s and I was working for my first mentor at the Carl Solway Art Gallery as a business manager and Carl was an amazing mentor. I was very blessed to have him. And I knew that I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next. And I loved working with artists. I love that creativity. I love the way their brains worked. I loved how they were always like looking for new solutions, shaking things up. I loved working with artists.

But I also knew I was not going to be a gallery owner. That was like not my career. I had kind of fallen into being a business manager at this art gallery, started out as a temp, ended up in the business manager, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do next. You get to those moments in your life, it was kind of a crossroad. I was like, “Okay, I don't think I'm going to be an Art Gallery,” like that's not really my calling. I'd love being here but I don't know what I'm going to do next.

So, I'm in my MBA class and one day, this guy, hotshot guy comes in. We'll call him John. So, John comes in and John is a venture capitalist, which I had never heard of. Didn't even know such a thing exists and he starts talking about all these deals he's doing with all these entrepreneurs and some are scientists, some are doing restaurants, like all these things these entrepreneurs are doing, and he's talking about how he's investing them and helping them grow this business. And I'm like, “Oh, my God. That's it. That's what I want to do. I want to become a venture capitalist. Those people are just as crazy as the artists, right? They're creating something but they're doing a business.”

And here I have this business background like, “Oh, my God, that's my next thing,” like when you just know, I'm like, "That's my next thing.” So, I go right up to John after class and I'm like, "Hey, John, how do I become a venture capitalist?” And he basically looks at me and goes, “Ah, look, art girl, you are a glorified bookkeeper with an English degree like that's not going to happen.” And then he does the list that they love to do. Did you go to Harvard? Do you have your MBA from Harvard? Do you have a 4.0? Were you captain of the lacrosse team? Like, everything you would think of right.

But I'm not easily deterred. So, I'm like, “Okay, fine.” And he says to me, “You know, and look, not only are these guys brilliant Harvard, 4.0, whatever, but they're telling me they'll sweep my floors for free. They're offering to scrub the toilets just to get a chance to learn how to be a venture capitalist.”

Arwen Becker: Yeah. But for a quick second, when he said that to you, did you instantly just brush it off?

Marcella Allison: Yeah. You know, it's funny because usually, I would be more of the like shock, kind of shut down person but in that moment for whatever reason, I think, maybe because I was just so excited and I just heard him talk and I was like, “This is what I want to do,” my reaction was more like, "Fine. I'll sweep your floors.” And then I was like, "Well, I went to the University of Chicago and you know it is called the Harvard of the Midwest.” Like, I just didn't stop. So, I said, "You need your floors swept in your bathroom, toilet scrub, chances are I'm going to do it better than those guys anyway.” So, here's my information. I'm like, "Those guys never cleaned a toilet in their life. Let's be serious.” So, he's like, "Okay.” I'm like, alright, so now I'm on a mission because there's nothing like a guy saying, "Aren't you cute little English major art girl? That's not for you,” to make me go, “Oh really? Watch this.” So, I'm like many times because I've had crazy careers in my life, whenever I go to change a career, I have a thing that I do, which is I reach out to everybody I know and I say, "Hey, do you know somebody who does this thing? And would they mind if I just interview them and talk to them about what they do?”

So, I'm not asking for a job. I'm not saying, "Would you pass my resume?” I'm just saying, "Hey, do you know someone?” So, I immediately tell everyone I know, "Hey, I think I want to be a venture capitalist. Do any of you know anyone in venture capital that I could talk to?” I have friends who are bankers. My dad's like, “Oh, I think I know somebody at this company you could talk,” like, people are starting to say, “Oh, you could talk to this person. You could talk to this person.” And at that time, a woman in my feminist creative writing class, Women Writing For Change was the name of the class, comes up to me because I'm like, I'm telling everybody, right? And she goes, “Oh, by the way, I'm the head of research for a venture capital firm.” Now, she's never written about this in class. I have no idea. I'm like, "Shut the hell up.” She's like, "Yeah, I'm the head of research for a venture capital firm. My girlfriend, you know, friend, friend, is in charge of the finance department. Would you like to interview her? She does all the financial analysis.”

And I'm like, “Yes. Would you ask her?” She goes, “Yeah, I'll ask her.” So, she emails her and says, “Yeah. Karen says she'd be happy to talk to you.” So, I'm like, oh my god. So, I go and I meet with Karen and this is where I love the women helping women because Karen goes, “Well, how good are you with Excel?” And I said, “Well, I've had to learn Microsoft Excel because I'm in this MBA program.” She goes, “Well, I'm swamped and I need help building these financial models that we're using to do due diligence on these companies. Would you like to start doing this just part-time as a freelancer to help me out?” And I said, “Yes.” So, she hires me and I just start building spreadsheets, basically, until my eyes bleed on the side and earning more than I'm earning per hour at the art gallery and, of course, I'm learning all about how she's looking at investments while I'm building cell after cell after cell to make these spreadsheets work. And she's paying me like I'm not sweeping her floors for free. She's actually paying me to do this.

And then out of the blue like a month after I was in the class, maybe more, I get an email from John at his Blue Ventures or whatever it was and he says, “Hey, so I've got this placement memorandum and I wondered if you could review it for us.” And you know from the financial world, it's this massive document for their next fund that they're raising because they go in and write these fund 1, fund 2, fund 3. So, basically, the dude remembers I'm an English major that I offered to do anything for free and thinks he’s going to get a bunch of editing for free. Meanwhile, Karen over at Medical Ventures is paying me cash and teaching me. There's a world of difference right there. Okay. But again, I'm like, “Okay, fine. Sounds great. I offered to clean toilets. Editing a placement memorandum is a lot better than cleaning toilets.” So, I say yes. So, he gives me this placement memorandum. So, there's like funds all over this document but they keep just saying things like “the fund” and I can't figure out if it's fund 1, fund 2. fund 3, fund 30 like I am all confused with this halfway through.

So, I'm having lunch with another girlfriend of mine who was a Latin scholar, and I'm sort of venting and she's an amazing editor. And of course, the funny thing is John doesn't know that while I'm an English major, I'm a terrible editor but I'm trying to solve this. I'm like, “Okay, I'm going to fix this.” So, I’m venting things to her. I'm like, “I don't know what to do,” and she says, I kid you not without dropping a beat, she says, “Oh, that's an indeterminant antecedent,” and I'm like, that's a who? She goes, “That's an indeterminant antecedent.” She goes, "You know, if someone says, ‘She walked the dog,’ but there were two women referred to in the sentence before and you're like, ‘Who walked the dog, Eleanor or Betty?’ because you can't tell.” So, indeterminant antecedent. I'm like, “Oh, that's brilliant. I'm going to use that.” So, I go through the document, I fixed all these funds so that you can actually understand what the hell they're talking about. And in the cover memorandum, I say, "You know, dear John, I believe you had a problem with your indeterminant antecedents. I have fixed this for you.” And I send it back to him and he is so blown away at this point that he asked me if I want to come in for an interview.

I’m like, “Sure, why not.” So, he has me come in for an interview and it is sort of like a continuation of that moment in class. He wants to know if I was captain of any team. I said, “Actually, I waterski. It's a solo sport.” He's like, “Did you play lacrosse? Did you…” So, he wants to know was I the captain of the team? He still hasn't quite adjusted his mind that the University of Chicago was not Harvard despite it being like, I'm sorry, Obama, right? Like, come on, give me a break. Then he wants to know how many children I have which is fine, illegal, but fine.

Arwen Becker: I was going to say that's not legal in an interview.

Marcella Allison: Oh, it gets better. Then he wants to know who picks them up from school. Then he wants to know what happens if I have to work late, who picks them up for school? Then he wants to know, what does my husband do. Then he wants to know what happens if I'm sick. Like, we're like five minutes into this, and like I've got my warning bells are like flashing overhead. Okay. Right after that, Karen at the medical startup calls me up and says, “Hey, good news. There's an opening in my department for an analyst. Would you like to interview?” So, I'm cracking up because now, of course, John, who has said, “Little art girl English major will never have an interview,” I've got two interviews. I got the one that I just did with John.

So, Kelly, the Latin scholar comes up with indeterminant antecedent and helps me impress him and my girlfriend, Carol, who's in the feminist writing class with me says, "Oh, by the way, I'm a librarian for a venture capital fund,” led me, introduced me to Karen, right? None of them with degrees from Harvard, none of them in the ol’ boy network, right? It's all the old girl network. So, at this point, Karen does what an amazing mentor would do, which is she sits me down. She's like, "Here's what's going to happen. You're going to be interviewed by five male partners and one woman and you're going to have to do an hour each. They're going to make you do it all in a day. They're going to try to stress you out.” She like told me everything that was going to happen so I was completely prepared when I went in.

Arwen Becker: Wow. That's so gracious of her to do that, by the way.

Marcella Allison: Oh, my God. But that's what has to happen like that's how the ol’ girl network works. Well, like she's telling me the stuff that I need to know like here's what's going to happen. I remember she said to me, “Look, this guy, he loves to do stress interviews. He's going to try to insult you. He's going to try to rattle you.” So, when I went in and he said something about my dress being hideous, I mean, literally, like… I burst out laughing and he looked at me and I said, “Steve. One: I know you. I've been helping build spreadsheets for you for a month and two: I already knew you were going to do a stress interview. So, try something else.”

And he just cracked up. He just cracked up. I'm like, yeah, oh, my God, these people are crazy. So, now, I have a decision to make and John's firm is very high profile. It does a lot of deals. He's very charismatic. It sounds very cool and exciting and I love the companies they're working with but I also love Karen and I love this idea of being mentored by her and doing all this financial work and really understanding and they do medical, which I also love. So, I'm in this bind and I still have this twinge of that was a very bizarre interview. So, I go back to my women and I'm asking everybody I know, "Does anybody know any woman who used to work for this Blue Venture place?” I finally find someone. She says, “Yes, I'll connect you.” So, I call her up, we'll call her Jill, out of the blue. I mean, we've been connected but I'm like, "Hey, how it’s like working for Blue Ventures?” and she won't say anything negative. She's like, "It was amazing. It was lovely. It was a great opportunity. Love them. Great place. You should take the job.” Like I cannot get her off the script.

And finally, I'm like, okay, somebody's going to have to take the first risk, right? So, I'm like, “Jill, let me tell you the kinds of questions I was asked during my interview,” and I go through all the questions. I'm like, one, I'm guessing 90% of those are illegal and, two, it made me think this is not a great environment for women. I will never repeat what you tell me to anyone. Will you please tell me if I - you can even just say yes like yes, you're right. Please tell me something. And that's when she finally stops, tells me about the other women who've been there, tells me that my instincts are right without going into too many details. And I say to her at the end, "Thank you. I cannot thank you enough because had you not done this, there's a good chance I probably would have gone with them because it was more money, it was very exciting.” So, again, it's this ol’ girls club, right? She steps in, takes a risk because she knows I could have gone back to John and said, “I'm not going to do this because so and so told me because Jill told me you guys are a bunch of misogynistic jerks.” I didn't. I was very gracious.

So, I get up the next morning. Now, I know. I'm very calm. I send my acceptance off to Karen, “Yes, I can't wait to work for you and be mentored by you. This is amazing.” I send my letter off to John like, “I'm very sorry. I've got another offer.” I don't think in his wildest imaginations he thought I was going to say, “I have another offer.” And I come home that night and this was my favorite. So, I get home and Tom says, “Hey, you'll never guess who called me at work,” and my husband is a building contractor. So, when you call him he's usually on a ladder, a roof like whatever. I’m like, “I had no idea. Who?” He goes, “So, John from Blue Ventures called me at work.” I said, “Called you?” He goes, “Yeah. He called me,” I'm like, "Why did he call you?” And Tom says, "He said to me, ‘What would it take to make your lovely wife change her mind?’” I said, “What did you tell him?” And Tom goes, “I said, ‘Have you met my wife?’” which was so perfect.

Arwen Becker: Oh my goodness. Man.

Marcella Allison: It was a wild ride. Just the thought that they called Tom.

Arwen Becker: I can’t believe that.

Marcella Allison: Oh my God.

Arwen Becker: The thing that I hear more than anything about what you're saying, Marcella, that for me is just such an important piece of this entire story as a through-line throughout the whole thing is the amount of questions you were willing to ask of other people and connecting and saying, “You don't have to do me a big favor. I just want to know, does anybody know anyone who is in this industry or who works for this company?” And I think, especially with that woman that you did have to kind of dig a little bit, she wanted to but she was so fearful that it could come back to bite her but you were willing to ask and that is huge.

Marcella Allison: Yes. Do your due diligence. I mean, to me, that is one of the, you know, especially when you're making a big decision like us, right? Like, yes, it's fine. I mean, I'm not saying that you shouldn't pray about it and think about it and do your own research and make your own list. Absolutely, you do all that. But you also have to get out of your own way and ask. Ask because you're right. So many people won't bother to do that step where they ask, they take the first recommendation that comes their way when it might not be the best fit for them.

Arwen Becker: Right. And a lot of times they do, especially for women, I mean, we really do have an amazing gift of women's intuition.

Marcella Allison: Absolutely. Don’t ignore it. I think also not falling in love with the shiny object was a thing because Blue Ventures was this amazing big-name firm, right? They had a reputation far beyond where they were based here in the Midwest. They were connected with lots of great people, right? So, on the surface, you're like, "That's the thing I should want. That's the bigger thing, the more prominent thing, the more famous. That's the one that I should want.” And then we convince ourselves, "That's what I should do,” either by telling ourselves because if I don't, this other thing is lesser or whatever story we make up but the truth is, it has to be right for you. It has to be right for you. Not just because someone else says, “This is the big shiny object and the gold ring that you should want to go after.”

Arwen Becker: Right. And that also comes down the ego.

Marcella Allison: You have to know what's right for you. Yes.

Arwen Becker: The ego, I mean, we all fall prey to that where we make the decision based on what strokes our ego a little bit more and then we look back, whether it's six months or two years, five years, ten years, and we go, “Gosh, why did I make that decision? I knew that I was selling myself short. I knew it wasn't the best place for me long-term. I knew that I didn't really like the culture.” In any sentence there, I knew that the company wasn't right. It didn't have the same mission that I did, whatever, but I got a great title or I got a great office or I got to prove through the good old boys club and basically just give them the middle finger and go, "Yeah, you didn't think the little art girl could do it? So, let me just prove to you I can,” and then be miserable. You know what I’m saying?

Marcella Allison: Right. I know. I agree. I totally agree. And I think that for me, what helped me the most was knowing not only doing my due diligence but knowing I could reach out to women who got me, who understood me, and that they would also help me know what was best for me because they weren't looking at it with only one lens. They weren't looking just at the prestige. They were also looking at fit and who I am and where they thought I would thrive.

Arwen Becker: Right. Yeah, absolutely. No question about it. So, when you look back on that whole experience and all the things that you learn from it, what would you say are two or three things that you really learned throughout that?

Marcella Allison: So, well, one, the funniest one is don't let any man tell you what you can and cannot do. So, never had a degree from Harvard, right? Don't have a penis but manage two offers from two different venture capital funds.

Arwen Becker: Yeah. My new shirt right now says, well, one of my new shirts says, "Underestimate me. That'll be fun.”

Marcella Allison: Yeah, right. Just go ahead and try. And then the second was the one that we've been talking about, do your due diligence. Make the phone calls. And it would be easy for me to say, “I don't know anyone in venture capital.” I didn't but you know people who know people. And again, I just asked.

Arwen Becker: Right. And think about how much easier that is now. I mean, you're talking 20 years ago or something like that. Now, you can basically ask your LinkedIn contacts, “Does anybody know anybody who’s going to…?” You know what I’m saying? And be able to get connected.

Marcella Allison: Yes. Absolutely. People want to help especially when you phrase it. I think this is key. When you phrase it as, “I would just like to interview them about what it's like to do this job.” Like you're not saying, when I talked to Karen, I was not asking her for a job. I was asking her all kinds of questions about being a woman in a venture capital field. She's the one who said, “Hey, I could use some help with some spreadsheets,” and sometimes that'll happen and sometimes it doesn't. The other thing you can do is ask that person for the next person. So, then you say, “Hey, is there someone else that you know in this industry that I should talk to?” and then that becomes a chain that takes you to the next person.

And the final thing I would say and this is something that I have become very passionate about, which is reach out to your women-only network. So, I kind of always suspected that women-only networks had power but I didn't really have any proof for that and they just did a study on recent MBA graduates and it was fascinating. It was in the Harvard Business Review. And they found out that women who are what you would think of the classic, they're super-connected, they have a co-ed network, those people are connected to everybody, they're like in the perfect sweet spot, versus a woman who has that. She has a super-connected network co-ed network but also has her own female-only inner circle like circle of girlfriends. Those women landed positions with 250% better pay and greater authority. Because they're like we suspect that women share information with each other, just as what happened to me with Jill and Karen and all the women who were sort of saying, "Hey, you should know this, you should know that, you should know this, here, that.”

And that is what makes the difference because let's face it, the business world is still in many ways dominated by men and having that women-only inner circle gives you that extra edge. And the women who did not have it, did not do as well. And it's not an either/or. It's not that you pick one or the other. It's that there's a value in that network of girlfriends, peers, women that you are close to. And for me, that was when I really saw that play out in a dramatic way that had a huge impact on my income and my career by doing that.

Arwen Becker: Okay. So, as we wrap up here, I've got my final three rapid-fire questions.

Marcella Allison: Lay it on me.

Arwen Becker: There you go. So, what is the best piece of financial wisdom?

Marcella Allison: You know, it's a quirky little one but it's something I hold close to my heart. So, when I first worked for that art gallery, of course, we had artwork on consignment like when you sold it then you pay the artist. And in the time in New York, many galleries were basically living on the artists' money. So, if they got paid for a piece and they didn't have enough cash to pay the artists and the electric bill, they pay the electric bill and screw the artists for a couple of months. And often the artists knew it because they know the painting had been delivered but they still have to pay. So, Carl and Lizzie Solway, my mentors, had this rule: always pay the artists first. And the rule was the day we got the check, the artists got the check, which may be very popular with artists, let me tell you, because I would write the checks. So, when I started my own copywriting agency and I had a bunch of freelancers writing copy and being mentored by me. I held that same rule the day I got paid, the freelancer got paid. So, if I was getting paid, they got paid. And it's just something about like integrity and honoring the people that work for you and caring and I had mostly women on my team, respecting them. So, it's a funny little thing but I think of that often, "Always pay the artists first.” Make sure you pay your people. Don’t live on their money.

Arwen Becker: You're taking care of the most important things and the rest of the stuff will get itself worked out. So, I think that's really, really good piece of advice, Marcella. And so, you had a book that you were talking about. Recommend a book and why?

Marcella Allison: So, one of the books that I have really loved the last couple years is called Give and Take by Adam Grant. And the reason I love it is because I like to operate in a world of generosity. I like to give freely of my mentoring time, of my resources. I like to connect to people. And the beauty of Give and Take is he talks about the research on there's givers, takers, and then what he calls matchers, the quid pro quo people, right? And the fascinating thing is he said, "Givers either come out on top or they come out on the bottom. They either are the best of all the groups or the bottom, and the difference is in how you give.” And I think so many of us as women can fall into the trap of selfless giving until there is nothing left. We're a doormat. We're wiped out. We're not even taking care of our own health. I mean, I have a friend who went to the pediatrician, and the pediatrician refused to see her son because my friend had not had a checkup in three years. And he literally held her hostage, which I thought was hysterical. He goes, “I will not see your child until you pick up that phone and make your own appointment,” which was perfect, right? Because he knew what she was doing.

So, what I love about Give and Take is he says, "Look, yes, as women, well, as people, in general, you should be generous, you should be giving. Yes, these are great qualities but you should manage to take care of yourself also like you have to think of yourself at the same time.” Yes, pay your employees, but pay your own retirement fund. Also, don't take care of them at the expense of not taking care of you. So, in Given and Take, he's like, "Think of this as other-ish giving.” Yes, you're giving, but it's not selfless. It's other-ish. You're keeping in mind something that can help you at the same time, your own self-care. And so, I've been leaning on this a lot to sort of like try to get myself in a better balance about how I give versus how I receive. So, for women, for me, that book has been really powerful. It's called Give and Take by Adam Grant.

Arwen Becker: Love it. And then what’s a favorite quote?

Marcella Allison: Oh, the quote I live by. It is by Albert Einstein and it's that saying that is attributed to him, that is basically the most important decision you make is whether you believe the universe is friendly or not. So, I choose to believe in a friendly universe and I choose to look for signs of God in everything, even in some of the darkest moments. And I shared with you that I often talk about my son's journey with mental illness and addiction and there's been some pretty low-bottom moments there but I have been blessed that I can always find some little glimpse of grace in those moments because I choose to believe in a friendly universe.

Arwen Becker: Absolutely. Amen, sister. I so agree with you on that. And so, how can our listeners get a hold of you?

Marcella Allison: Yeah. Absolutely. So, it's the Titanides Mentoring Collective, which nobody can spell. It's the female Titans or the Titanides. And so, it's spelled Titanides.com. So, you can find out all about the women co-mentoring collective there. And we have a special report that looks at a lot of the things we talked about on this call, the differences between male and female entrepreneurs and how your all-women's network can really help you succeed as a female entrepreneur. And you can find that at Titanides.com/Secrets. And then, of course, our book of which you have a fabulous letter is called Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before and it's a collection of wit and wisdom from women in business, oftentimes telling a story of how they went through some of the worst sh*t in their lives, and how they overcame it, and how that might help another woman. And our Facebook group has the same name at simply Titanides and we have a closed community but you can request to join. We just keep it private so that we can have these kinds of conversations in a safe and intimate container.

Arwen Becker: Well, you are such a joy to be, Marcella. I'm so grateful. People see women who appear to be at the top of their game and think that they're invincible and yet I thank God I have a woman like you who's going to be able to stand arm-to-arm with me and encourage me and you do that for so many women. So, I just appreciate it so much. Thank you for spending time with me today.

Marcella Allison: Thank you so much right back at you. I love having this conversation with you.


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