Maci Peterson is the CEO and co-founder of On Second Thought, a revolutionary company helping you never regret another text message. She's recently been included in Inc. magazine's 30 under 30. In this interview, Maci and I talk about first jobs, mentors, and how mentors catapulted her career.
The Mentor Method (TMM): Congratulations on all of the awards and recognition that you've got in addition to Washington Business Journal’s 40 under 40. How does that feel getting such awards and accolades for the hard work you've put in?
Maci: I would say that it's flattering and humbling of course, but I view it as a byproduct of putting in the long hours giving the hard work. So I kind of view it as an “attagirl”.
Of course it's humbling and I'm appreciative of all of the recognition that we've received for the work that we're doing but at the same time our focus is really just on keeping our head down, and continue innovate the product and provide our customers the best experience we can.
TMM: That's how you do it?
Maci: That's the only way. Also when you look at the amount of work that it takes to run this company or any start-up, or any company that you start, coupled with the emotional impact of it, it’s the impact on time. If anyone was doing it just for accolades, it wouldn't be worth it.
TMM: So I would like to know more about your first job out of college. How did you get it? Tell me about your first job experience.
Maci: Sure! So I graduated into the 2009 recession and I worked in publishing which was perhaps the worst industry to work in during the recession. And my first job was advertising sales for Washington Life magazine and it was hard. Selling not only magazine ads, but print magazine ads for a local publication that was luxury, was one of the more challenging things that I've done in my career prior to running this company.
With that first job well, it paid close to nothing and it was very stressful and hard. It really set me up for my life in Washington that I lived in DC for 6 years. That job really made Washington my oyster. I had access to pretty much anyone in the city and to have that foundation at 22 years old is invaluable. So for instance any A-list event, anyone I need to talk to, I could and that network that I built while I was there I continued to have now so that when I left Washington Life to focus on my own magazine full time, I was able to leverage those relationships and contacts and get great visibility but also make and continue to foster those meaningful relationships so that we could grow our readership fairly easily to a hundred thirty thousand readers.
TMM: You were saying that building that network really helped you with your own magazine to have 100,000 plus followers. Do you think that having gone through the recession and learning what it takes to stay on top even through a hard time like that, was helpful for you now as a CEO?
Maci: I would say yeah, I learned a ton of lessons while running the magazine that has been valuable to me even today. It taught me that it’s not about me and my ego. It's about the work. Running my magazine, ultimately not having the success that I wanted, I was extremely humbled.
I learned that it's not about Maci Peterson and I am not my business. We're two separate identities, we're two separate entities. And because the business is a failure doesn't mean that I'm a failure and that was probably one of the biggest takeaways because obviously running your first business and not taking off the way you want it to can really impact yourself and self-worth. I was really glad that I learned that lesson.
Something else that I learned was the importance of surrounding myself really smart people. Everyone on the team was more experienced than me. They were all much older. And they were all experts in their fields.
TMM: Let’s talk about On Second Thought and being a co-founder and CEO there. What does your day-to-day look like?
Maci: It is always changing. I get that question a lot and still don't have a consistent day-to-day. So the things that are the same every morning are that I wake up, do my routine and all, like read my Bible and pray, check my calendar and get showered. That is the only thing that's consistent.
Other than that, I travel a lot. I don't travel as much as I used to. I used to travel 50-75% of the month. Now, it's about 25 to 50. But I don't necessarily go into the office every day and because of meetings with investors or conferences or speaking engagements. So yeah, I wish I could say that. Actually no, I don't. I just really don't have like a regular schedule. Everyday isn't the same, running the company.
TMM: What's the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far in your career? What would you consider the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Maci: I think the hardest thing I've ever done is around what I'm still doing. There are really high highs and low lows and the low lows can make you second guess what you're doing. And it's really my faith and prayer life that keeps me going. Every time that I do have second thoughts, no pun intended, God always rises you up like a little miracle or a micro moment where it's like 'No this is right, this happens. Ok we're still on track.'
But I would say, what is helping me persevere is my drive and perseverance and patience and tenacity. I view this whole fundraising process as a kind of like Olive oil, and the olives are literally pressed into the oil. And that's what this has been. It's been a pressing season but because of it, we are a stronger company. We're building a stronger product - two stronger products actually. We have the right investors.
Something that's actually really interesting is, coming out of this round of fundraising, most of our investors will be black or brown or women. And I think that's just incredible to see people investing in minority businesses because that's how we move the needle. That engagement is so crucial for women in minorities raising money. I'm really appreciative of the communities who are really investing in us so that we can be one of those success stories.
TMM: Has having a mentor helped you in your career? Is there someone that you consider a great mentor?
Maci: I have always had amazing mentors. It's one of the biggest blessings in my life, I've had amazing mentors in high school and people who are just mind-blowing. What's interesting, my first mentor experience turned out to be really horrible. I was in high school and I was into photography and I was a junior intern for the cool radio station. But my mentor stole my pictures and sold them on the Internet. And that was a big big burn.
My relationship with my current mentor was completely organic. We met, went for coffee, and have regular get-togethers for coffee or drinks or dinners and then overtime, it evolved into a mentoring relationship. It's a relationship that I take so seriously and so personally. These people are, for a lack of a better term, my ride or die people. You know? I can call them at anytime about anything.