Name: Maura Sheedy
Location: New York, NY / London, UK / Pittsburgh, PA
Education: Fordham University
How did you determine what to study in college?
I study a combination of business, marketing, and media. Technically, I’m pursuing a business administration degree with concentrations in marketing and media, complemented by a minor in digital tech & emerging media.
I definitely was someone who struggled to decide exactly what I wanted to study. Growing up, I was interested in writing and often told people that I wanted to be a reporter when I was older. As I progressed into high school, the idea of college began to seem more real, making me question what I wanted to do, especially as I began to think about real-life things like money and careers. I was back and forth between communications, psychology, marketing, or potentially medicine (for a bit, I thought I’d be an obstetrician, as I used to volunteer in the birthing department at the local women’s hospital).
Ultimately, I decided that business would be a good route to go. I looked for schools that also had strong communications programs, as I knew I wanted to potentially minor in an area of communications. I entered college as a marketing major, but throughout my first two years, I also explored finance as a career option. During my freshman and sophomore years, I did two internships (one in marketing and one in finance) and was involved in many clubs (including a student magazine and a women in finance organization). During my sophomore year, I also began Make Muse. Through all of these experiences, I ultimately decided that I preferred media and marketing and officially declared my major and minor.
Tell me about “makeupless Maura” and how Make Muse was born?
When I was 16, I decided to spend a year without wearing makeup when my friends claimed I would not be actually able to spend a whole year without blush, mascara, and eyeliner as a female high schooler. I set out to prove them wrong and prove that you did not makeup to have a fun and fulfilling life at our age, debuting an Instagram account called @makeuplessmaura that I posted on every day during the duration of the year. The experience allowed me to not only learn about myself and acquire a great deal of confidence, but also prompted my personal discernment on societal beauty standards for women. On the account, I spoke out about makeup, body, skin, and hair on the account, developing my voice with the platform. After the project ended, I continued to think about these issues, as well as all of the many other societal standards for women. When I held my first corporate internships and watched Trump get elected, gender roles in our world and culture were constantly reinforced and the collection of experiences inspired me to speak out about it.
I had a goal of doing some of kind closure project on my makeup-free year. At the time, I was thinking maybe I would make a documentary (I actually made a mini-series at the end of the makeup-free year) or write a book. Instead, I started the media platform Make Muse to move this conversation beyond me.
What was the hardest part of getting it up and running? Any failures or doubts along the way and if so, what did you learn from them?
Make Muse was definitely in the making for a while and was a slower process than people may realize. As I mentioned, my makeup-less year project was during my junior year of high school and laid the groundwork for Make Muse. At the end of my makeup-free year, I knew that I wanted to do some sort of cumulative project. After all, the experience was, in essence, a year-long research study on the beauty industry, and a period of personal growth for myself. I was thinking maybe I’d make a documentary or potentially write a book.
Fast forward to two years after I finished the project and it was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I started writing the book I had always thought I’d write. When I began to write it, however, it began to cover not only the expectations that the beauty industry perpetuates, but the societal standards existent in the many areas of life—career, politics, fashion, art, and more. After having held my first corporate internship, watching the 2016 presidential election unfold, and living in our world, it was pretty evident that this was a larger conversation.
A few weeks later, I started to work on creating the website and began posting on social media accounts. I then began uploading news related to gender and feminism, with an emphasis on those shattering the norm. By January, the site took submissions and anyone could submit work related to the themes of Make Muse and we began a monthly interview series. However, I don’t officially feel like Make Muse launched until International Women’s Day 2018. I officially changed the name to Make Muse (Prior to that, it was MAKE by makeup-less in the interlude). In May, our first content team was inaugurated, and we began publishing content on a regular schedule. That content (along with some new pieces) was turned into our first print magazine. Since then, we’ve been continuing to publish more and more content and have been working on future issues.
I honestly don’t have a lot of doubts about Make Muse. I believe in all of the media we put out and oftentimes marvel in the fact that I’m a part of this amazing platform. I believe strongly in print media and the future of independent magazines. I believe strongly in the power of young women and the need to create a place that values and promotes equality, diversity, and authenticity. I’ve learned that it’s necessary to adapt, but keeping these values and my vision at the forefront has aided Make Muse’s development most.
Where do you want to take it in 5 years? 10 years?
Right now, Make Muse publishes daily online articles, our twice-yearly print magazine, and a weekly newsletter. We’ve been actively working on video initiatives and are potentially exploring a podcast. In the future, I’d like to continue to publish as much quality content as we can in as many mediums as we can. Increasing our online audience, print readership, and community events are definite goals. I’d like to see us producing more columns on the website and potentially turning those into books. Real-life experiences (such as a Make Muse-themed art exhibit) are also something on the horizon.
In media, it’s hard to predict where we’ll be at in 5-10 years, as it’s such a changing industry. I want us to stick to our roots and traditional mediums, while still being innovative. I think the media industry is going to see a lot of changes and regulations over the next few years. GDR requirements, the potential dissolution of big tech companies, and paywall successes will have a huge impact on what media companies are going to make it in the future.
If Make Muse could eventually become a full-time thing, that would be great. I love working with the team—who do so, so much for Make Muse—and am doing everything I can so we can continue to create work for Make Muse.
How do you balance running Make Muse (and managed 15 team members) and your schoolwork?
I get this question a lot and I credit my organizational abilities as the main way I can do it all. If you think about it, all of the things Make Muse does build on each other. At first, we were doing less content, so it took less time to manage. Incrementally, the content (and time required) built up. I also got better and fast at some of the tasks I’d been doing for a while, so more time was devoted to new things we were working on.
I have always been an extremely organized and motivated person who has been called “intense” more than once. I don’t think I’m intense—I think I’m good at sticking to a schedule. Everyday week and day, I write out the things I need to get done, lumping Make Muse, schoolwork, and any other job-related work I have together. I’m a big fan of the sticky notes on Mac, so I keep lists for all of my school assignments (written out in upcoming date order), all of the things I want to do Make Muse-wise, ideas I have, etc. I then have lists for my daily and weekly tasks. I assess these at the end and beginning of each day and make shifts if I have to. Basically, I commit myself to my lists and work efficiently. Additionally, I’m a big fan of google calendar and use that keep track of my classes, calls, events, etc.
Having a great team definitely distributes the workload and allows me to have a hand in almost everything Make Muse does. It can be difficult when you create something to allow others to have so much control in areas. However, I chose great people to be apart of Make Muse and their inputs and decisions have shaped Make Muse into what it is today for the better. I cannot thank them enough for their work.
I read that you might be launching an interview series. If you could go back in time and interview any woman in history, who would it be and why?
Great question! At Make Muse, we try to elevate the stories of everyday people doing extraordinary. Therefore, we interview a lot of interesting and amazing young women who may not be *household names* but are insanely cool, nonetheless. I feel like I would apply the same ideology if I could choose anyone from the past. I think, given our current political climate, it would be interesting to interview a young woman who immigrated to the US through Ellis Island in the 20the century. As many of the current US population have ancestors who they can trace to these roots, I think this would put an interesting perspective on what it means to be an immigrant. I can only imagine how hard it is to be someone who gets up and leaves their home country (now or then). It requires being daring and smashing societal standards.
This month’s we are talking a lot about passion and purpose on the blog. What do they mean to you as they relate to your work with Make Muse?
Passion is everything. Starting something is hard. The experience is up and down; some days I feel proud of myself, the next I feel like everything is out of control, and then the next day I’m wondering how I can fix a mistake that’s been made. However, I would not have it any other way. I love working on pretty much every aspect of Make Muse. I get to promote an ideology that I strongly believe in, create content, and work on advancing the destiny of something. It’s everything I love doing.
I feel so in my element when I’m working on Make Muse. I’m surrounding and supported by great people on the Make Muse team that share my ideals, care so much about Make Muse, and inspire me to be a better person. It all adds up to making me feel like it’s my purpose in life to be doing this.
Pursuing something that you’re passionate about is great. Most of us may not get that opportunity, however, I think it’s better to focus on doing what you feel your purpose is. Knowing what tasks you like doing is key. You can take these skills to any organization and feel like you have a stake in your career. I know that I love managing projects, communicating with others, and creating content. This work makes me happy and leaves me feeling fulfilled.
What advice do you have for young women who want to launch their own venture, big or small?
Prove them wrong. I could list pages and pages of names who have said that I wouldn’t be able to do half of the things I have done, including people close to me. I am someone who rises to a challenge. After all, I only embarked on my makeup-free year when my friends doubted I could *actually* do that.
They tell you that you can do anything when you’re a child. As we get older, we can find plenty of excuses why we can’t do something. That’s not true. In the age of the internet, you can learn how to do your taxes from a YouTube video, how to code from a blog, or how to pitch a business from a podcast. It just takes time and commitment. If you really want to do something, you can. Nothing is impossible.
I get a thrill from the feeling knowing that you’re accomplishing something.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
Yes! I’m so lucky to have many great mentors who inspire me and believe in me. Without them, I definitely wouldn’t have done half of the things that I have done.
I understand how much of a struggle it can be to find a mentor as a young person- we actually published a piece in the first issue of the Make Muse magazine called, “Are You There Mentor? It’s Me, A Struggling Young Adult” by Kelly Friday.
I also have a formal mentor assigned to me by Project Mentor, a platform that connects women mentors and mentees in creative fields. My mentor works at Facebook in Menlo Park (all the way across the country!!) and makes time to talk to me on my way to work. When she’s in the New York office, we always meet up. She’s been nothing but supportive, encouraging, and helpful. I am often turned off by formal mentorship programs, as sometimes the relationships can feel too forced or there can be a disconnect. I’d encourage any young women seeking a mentor to try this program (or another like it). You may be surprised as to how great it is.
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their education, career, and wellness goals?
I live by the first stanza of the poem Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. It goes:
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams; —
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
These lines speak to my ideals of going out and making the world the place you want it to be. You are in control of the world and your destiny. Be daring, take action, and smash societal standards.
Connect with Maura via Make Muse! Thank you, Maura.
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