5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before Becoming CEO: With Marci Nault, CEO of DreamsCo
“My vision became building a company geared on helping people use their dreams as a compass.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marci Nault, founder and CEO of DreamsCo and the Dare to Dream Festival. Ms. Nault is the author of The Lake House, Simon & Schuster, partner in Elegant Bridal Designs, and as of January 2018 will have completed an entire list of 101 dreams she wanted to accomplish in life.
Can you tell us a little about your backstory?
I have always been a dreamer. I think that to allow for true creativity and vision, you have to take time and allow the possibilities to speak to you. I was at my lowest point when I set out to complete my list of 101 dreams. I had no career, the house I was living in was being sold, I had gone through a drastic life change leaving behind friends and family, and my brother had been hospitalized for MRSA that nearly killed him. The list of 101 dreams ended up being my map to the life I was meant to live, and as I made each dream come true I realized life could be playful, ever-changing, and that anything is possible. I knew I’d found a different answer than the motivational self-help industry had been selling to people. My vision became building a company geared on helping people use their dreams as a compass.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I was asked to keynote for The Red Hat Society’s Leadership Conference. I wore a classy outfit to the conference, but the CEO stopped me before I walked on stage. In moments I was wearing a tiara with pink feathers, a boa, and I was handed a pixie wand. I did the entire keynote draped in feathers and sparkles as the cameras rolled.
Are you working on any meaningful nonprofit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve based the vision for DreamsCo and Dare to Dream on helping others. By creating a free program for small businesses, artists, teachers, and performers, I help them market themselves through my brand, and in turn, they share their knowledge through online free video courses that can have a global impact. A young girl who wants to dance but can’t afford lessons can begin from her bedroom. A mother who has always wanted to paint, but hasn’t had the time can begin with a simple sketch with the help of one of our artists. At the Dare to Dream Festival happening in Boston, MA in September 2018, each company that shares their talents online will be given free space to teach instead of paying to exhibit. My vision is to make it possible for everyone to explore their dreams no matter where they are in the world and in life.
Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
A woman who had left a bad relationship had been told many times that she wasn’t worth anything. At the end of our first festival she told me that for the first time in her life she felt like she was worth her dreams, and that she’d found her voice.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why.
- Trust in yourself. When I began DreamsCo and the festivals, I spent months looking for the right hires for CEO and project manager. I was an artist, not a businessperson. I hired highly qualified people only to learn after working with them, that the corporate world they’d thrived within was very different than the start-up community. Oftentimes they would say, “I thought it would be easier.” I wasted years working with people I assumed knew better, only to realize I was the only one who could activate my vision.
- Building a business is like writing a novel. I’ve always been able to see a grand picture for my business, and I’ve used the vision like a compass. To make it a reality, I’ve had to write the first draft, then the second and the third, and along the way I’ve seen things I couldn’t envision in the first draft.
- Stop and go forward. When I began this business, I was ultra-focused and pushed everything else to the side. This became detrimental to my health as I would drag myself to the office consumed with getting to a certain level of success. I’ve learned that daily breaks to do things I love like figure skating and dancing are just as important to my success as checking off tasks. First, they counteract stress and clear my mind. Second, they make me enjoy the journey instead of just focusing on the end point.
- Don’t multitask. This one is incredibly hard. I’ve learned that when I’m answering emails, doing two projects at once, stopping a creative project to get on a phone call, or taking care of that little thing so that it’s off my mind, the big projects—the ones that increase revenue—get pushed to the back burner. Creativity and multitasking don’t coincide. Now I hard schedule my time, taking one task at a time. My productivity has increased and I’m much more energized at the end of the day.
- Failure happens. In the winter of 2015, Boston had a blizzard every week, and sometimes twice per week. It crushed my company as event after event was cancelled. I remember walking past the ten-foot snow banks as more snow fell, realizing that I was out of money. I was exhausted and it was time to let it go. It was a crushing moment. Months later it was revived stronger and better than ever.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
It would be a dream to have dinner with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. They’ve built global businesses based on helping others, and I’d love to learn from these masters.