• Dr. Karen Bartuch

Where Tech, Fashion and Family Intersect: Mavely Founder Peggy O’Flaherty

Shopping platform Mavely is Peggy O’Flaherty’s fourth business, and it probably won’t be her last. One of the few women to found companies on venture capital, Peggy is a valuable source of insight for other women with big aspirations in business. Her book Living Your Calling vs. Chasing Your Craving is a reflection of times in her life when she was really struggling with the elusive work/life balance: busy, but not fulfilled.

Family, faith, community and leadership are closely related for this serial entrepreneur: as the youngest of 10 children, she started learning leadership skills from her mother at a young age and now has 5 of kids of her own, who often get involved with her business ventures. Her leadership philosophy is all about recognizing her own strengths and the strengths of others around her to solve problems and lift each other up.

The Original Mavely Maven

Peggy’s big family and strength-finding skills both had a direct influence on her current role as the CCO and co-founder of Mavely. She always relied on her 7 older sisters for clothes and accessories, recommendations on household goods, cooking ideas and even advice on bigger purchases like buying a home. From her own experience, Peggy knew that women understand their own needs better than anyone else; thus, the “Everyday Influencer” became the core of Mavely’s revolutionary “communal shopping” model.

The online shopping platform is made up of over 200 direct-to-consumer brands, almost all of which are women-owned and focused on sustainability, philanthropy or some kind of social impact. Women who shop on the platform become partners who earn cash back on their own purchases and any purchases their friends make on the platform, which combines elements from both influencer marketing and multi-level marketing with a more value-oriented goal. It can also be used for fundraisers, which harks back to one of Peggy’s previous businesses, OneParish, an app that connects church congregations with service projects.

“When you’re really ready to solve a problem that you see that can benefit other people, that’s where my heart gets set on fire.”

At its very beginnings, Mavely came about to solve the problem of customer acquisition cost for direct-to-consumer retailers who were having trouble reaching their target buyers from their position outside the traditional retail model. When the concept was solidified, Peggy went about assembling her business model: a “three-sided marketplace” made up of users, brands and technology. She then found leaders in each area to partner on the business. (Strength-finding leadership for the win!) While Peggy is a tried-and-true female tech founder, she is not a coder. She sees her strengths as building communities and empowering women.

Finding Joy in the Chaos

Peggy believes the natural-born entrepreneur has a combination of grit, a desire to solve problems and a desire to think outside the box. Her first company was a women’s coaching business focused on balancing their life, faith, family and strengths. Peggy has been blessed with mentors who have been generous with their time, and she tries to pay it forward by opening the door and reaching out to help other women on their journeys.

Peggy’s experience with venture capital funding has been focused on building relationships: she built relationships with investors for both OneParish and Mavely before pitching her ideas. Communicating with her VCs to not only report on metrics and building momentum but also ask for help, has played a large part in the success of both companies. Her VCs have given great feedback and stepped in to help with strategy.

One of her recent reads is Scott Belcher’s The Messy Middle, which warns of the time between the romantic beginnings and happy endings when businesses are started and sold. In the “messy middle,” entrepreneurs encounter a lot of closed doors, sticky situations and hard days. Peggy’s word of advice to women is not to worry about work-life balance. Rather, “expect that the middle’s going to be messy, but try to find some joy in that chaos.” She also urges women to connect with other female founders and find out what worked for them and how they found supporters.

Family Business

Peggy’s kids have all participated in both OneParish and Mavely. All 5 of them traveled around the country to help teach congregations how to download and use the OneParish app, and her daughters have jumped into shopping and sharing on Mavely. The family sat down and had a long discussion about what it would look like before Peggy started building Mavely in earnest, which resulted in the kids (happily) helping out more around the house. A college ambassador program is in the works to teach young women how to create an extra stream of income with Mavely.

“I think that when you’re passionate about your startup and you’re passionate about your family, the best that you can do is get really good at saying no.”

To working mothers, Peggy says “I think that when you’re passionate about your startup and you’re passionate about your family, the best that you can do is get really good at saying no.” She prioritizes things her kids care about the most and usually finds a strong connection with them during those activities. Saying no to the lowest priorities has helped Peggy build businesses her whole family is incredibly proud of. When we recorded the episode, Mavely was getting ready for another growth spurt with 300+ new brands including fashion, beauty, cooking, travel and home goods.

For more wisdom from Peggy, check out her website or her book Living Your Calling vs. Chasing Your Craving.

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© 2020 by Karen Bartuch