Episode Number: 216

Episode 216- Building a Media Empire, Raising Millions in Capital and Achieving Financial Freedom Her Own Way with Morgan DeBaun

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Building a Media Empire, Raising Millions in Capital and Achieving Financial Freedom Her Own Way with Morgan DeBaun

Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch podcast, Building a Media Empire, Raising Millions in Capital and Achieving Financial Freedom Her Own Way with Morgan DeBaun.

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the Journey to Launch podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant, as a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave Journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom.

Jamila Souffrant 0:38

Hey, hey, hey journeyers Welcome to the journey to launch podcast. That's right. You are now a journeyer if you are not aware yet, a journeyer is someone on the path with me and tons. I would like to save millions because there will be one day millions of journeyers on the path to financial freedom and independence, to live the life of your dreams. And we're not talking about living it years and years from now. Right? We're talking about gaining freedom today. There's so many forms of freedom that you can unlock right from where you are, even if you're in debt. Even if you You're still figuring out your finances. My goal is to help you figure out this freedom in your life right now and enjoying the journey to financial independence. With that I am excited for you to hear the conversation. In this week's episode I'm talking to Morgan DeBaun. And let me tell you a little bit more about Morgan. Morgan DeBaun is the founder and CEO of Blavity Inc, the leading media company for black culture and millennials. Since Blavity Inc's launch in 2014. Morgan has led the company to successfully acquired Travel Noire, a travel platform for black millennials and Shadow and Act, a black entertainment news site. Under her leadership Blavity Inc has launched several leading consumer summit including summit 21 for black woman creators and Bay Area's Afro tech, the largest tech conference for black innovators and founders. As of today, Blavity Inc has raised over $11 million from top Silicon Valley venture firms. She's also passionate about advocating for small businesses and teaching early stage entrepreneurs how to scale their business through her work smart advising program and her work smart podcast. I'm excited for you to hear this conversation with Morgan because we yes talk about her building her business and the sacrifices she made to get to where she is today. But also peeling back the layers of how she's doing personally with her finances. Now just because you are an owner or you build a million dollar business meaning your business is making a lot of money does not mean that you have a lot of money right there is something behind the scenes that I believe a lot of entrepreneurs and successful people are going through like just because it says that I raised a million dollars in the paper does not mean I have a million dollars of net worth and or income myself. And so we get to talk a little bit about that. We talked about Morgan's journey to buying her first home, how she could not see a solution when it came to really being able to afford the lifestyle she wanted and how she just had to let go of her ego to think bigger and so I really think you're gonna get a lot out of this episode. So if something hits you and you're like wow, screenshot me at journey to launch and Morgan at Morgan DeBaun on Instagram so we can see what you enjoyed about this episode.

This podcast is sponsored by DCU digital Federal Credit Union. I wanted to debunk a couple myths about credit unions that you may have heard before myth one, credit unions are hard to join. Credit unions are not as hard to join as you may think. While all credit unions have some type of requirement to join each credit union is different. Sometimes all you need to do is live work, worship or volunteer in the neighborhood that the credit union serves some of the ways that you can join DCU are through a family relation employment at select companies membership at select associations, or if you reside in a particular geographic area. Myth number two, money at a credit union is more at risk. If you think your money is safer at a traditional bank versus a credit union think again. Your money is no more safe at a traditional bank than it is at your local credit union. Just like the FDIC insurance deposits up to $250,000 at a traditional bank deposits up to $250,000 at a credit union are insured by the NCUA, the FDIC and NCUA are both federally backed agencies. To learn more, check out dcu.org

If you want the episode Show Notes for this episode, go to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. in the show notes. You'll get the transcribed version of the conversation. The links that we mentioned and so much more. Also, whether you are in OG journeyer or are brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes, so listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources and so much more. You can go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's happen to the episode.

Okay, journeyers, I am super excited to have Morgan DeBaun in the rocket seat. Morgan, welcome to the podcast.

Morgan DeBaun 5:37

Thank you so much for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 5:39

Now, I already did your full introduction before we officially started this conversation. So people know you from that. But there may be some of my listeners who we call journeyers over here, who don't know who you are. And you have an extensive resume and receipts on building businesses, raising capital and just being in an entrepreneurial space as someone that you know, if you're trying to get in and do well I you should follow. So I want to kind of just start really briefly with some of the businesses that you built, acquired, which to me like another level, what you've done so far, and then I want to get into some money talk with you. So can you just say a little bit about your Blavity Inc and what you've been able to do with that?

Morgan DeBaun 6:22

Yeah, so I started Blavity Inc, seven years ago with my co founders, Jonathan, Jeff and Aaron. And we went to college together. And Blavity Inc is a media company for black millennials. And now Gen Z as they've gotten older and have taken our spot and this one is and we create experiences, we create content, we create and build platforms for us. And the business owns a variety of brands. So we're basically a portfolio business. So we have brands that speak to the lifestyle of black millennials, like travels to travel to our health and wellness and beauty with 2190. tech innovation, financial literacy by cryptocurrency raising money, that's Afro tech. And it goes on and on. And I started the business. Basically, a couple years out of college, I was working in Silicon Valley at the time, and then was like, oh, y'all out here really building these things. And no one was building anything for us. And I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually take advantage of the wealth creation happening in the Bay Area, and also building a brand that spoke to the issues in the conversations that I cared about. And that I felt like many other black millennials cared about, but maybe hadn't kind of rose to the top of mainstream media, and legacy black media was very focused, especially seven years ago, on entertainment and celebrity and not necessarily on news and issues, which we know is the number one thing that it's driving even the younger generation than us, it's like they want to know what you think about whatever they're passionate about, right? Like, what do you think about the environment? What do you think about black lives matter? And it's actually at the forefront of their decision making, is I wanted to build brands that spoke to that change and movement within the black community.

Jamila Souffrant 8:12

And you're doing that and you know, I love for what you want to do you have to think outside the box, but not really like you saw that there was a need in our culture, for just a variety of topics that we could relate to and talk to, because like you said, even I've even seen in podcasting. So I know you have a podcast on the worksmart podcast, but I find that a lot of the mainstream, like mainstream popular black podcasts are more entertainment based, but there are so many like black podcasters talking more about just entertainment, right, like money entrepreneurship. And, you know, so I think it's really important to create brands, and it be authentic to what we want to hear. So you're doing that still with Blavity. So I want to know, like also about just thinking outside the box to when growing it to the capacity that you have to raise capital, right? Because like as an entrepreneur right now myself, I'm self funding everything. So you know, there's no outside capital. I don't know if I want to go that route. But a lot of us kind of like it's more not only can we not get capital, maybe. But what does that look like for you in terms of encouraging people to think bigger than maybe just being a solo entrepreneur or Freelancer?

Morgan DeBaun 9:23

Yeah, I mean, it's something that I work on a lot in terms of advising entrepreneurs on how to scale their business. And raising venture funding isn't for everybody. So I've raised a little under 13 million to about 12.8, I think. And I did that over three to four years. The reason I raised money was because the vision that I have, and the vision and mission that we set out to to create requires a influx of capital so we can move quickly. I could have built what I built but it would have taken much longer if I hadn't raised venture capital. It gave me the wiggle room to do things like make acquisitions. It gave me the wiggle room to hire executive that costs way more than I could ever have imagined spending on a person. And it also gave me the wiggle room to build a company in a corporate culture that could attract the best talent. So thinking about having 401 K's, everybody gets equity in the business, if they're a full time employee, your health insurance and really building a business, and a company, which is different than building a lifestyle business. And I have a lifestyle business. On the side, I run a company called the bonding CO, which is my business that runs the worksmart program, the worksmart podcast, which you all should go and subscribe to. And also does any like brand deals that I work on are consulting, when I do advisor ship with other companies and businesses. And so that I will never raise venture funding for that, because it's not designed to be at scale. That doesn't mean we're not profitable. And I'm you know, we're not taking home a ton of money every year, it just means that the business growth plan does not require outside capital, because then I have to give up equity. And I don't want to do that. And when you give up equity in a business, you're also oftentimes required or should be required to give a return on that investment. And so when someone gives you $1, in Silicon Valley, they expect $10, back in five to seven years. And if your business doesn't have a plan for that, or that doesn't seem realistic for the type of business, you're starting the category, or how much how much hard work you want to put into it. If it doesn't meet your lifestyle goals, then you probably shouldn't raise venture finance as someone gives you a million dollars, they want 10 million back and five to seven years. That's it? Or else they're gonna start knocking on your door.

Jamila Souffrant 11:34

Yes, yes. So I love that you brought that up, like who should consider or not like we've seen the whole, we work on fiasco playout. And I mean, apart from not under knowing really, the motivations behind everyone, you can see or tell from the documentaries, and just from the top that a lot of that was like trying to live up to the expectations of returning capital and growing at a faster rate to basically grow this company at scale, right in a way that was not sustainable to the exact business like the underlying principles weren't there. So I find that even like, in my case, so recently, and this wasn't like a big thing, but someone reached out and was like, Oh, we can invest like percentage of equity to help you and to envision what journey to launch can be that can go into hiring, development of projects. And in my head, I'm just like, well, I've actually never thought about accepting any type of investment, right? Like I was, I'm okay with kind of going the slow pace. So that way, I'm making sure it's sustainable. And so for someone like myself, right, it's like more of like, a media company, per se. There's some other aspects to it, like, what would you say? Am I thinking too small by not, you know, saying, hey, why not go big and thick about you know, production and the TV, things you can do and develop versus you know, what steady and slow, you don't want to turn out like said company that can't sustain what they're doing?

Morgan DeBaun 12:53

Yeah, I mean, so many media businesses go under most media, businesses go out of business, it's very difficult to grow media business. And I think times have also changed. So I don't know that anyone could try to look at my pathway and try to duplicate it today, because the world has changed and technology has changed. And it's a creator driven economy. In other words, it's about the brand of the person and not necessarily the brand of the entity moving forward. So, you know, I think for you, you have two separate businesses, you have you the person the personal brand, right? And then you have you your business, which has the brand that's public facing, for your podcast for your programs, etc. Right. And both are media companies. Right. And both can be monetized in different ways. And my recommendation generally, for any entrepreneur or creator, really, truly creator person with something to say, someone who has some value that they're providing to a community of people, is to find your superfans, find those 1000 people who are going to like, mess with you, no matter what you drop, they're going to download the podcast, we're going to sign up for the newsletter, they're going to subscribe on Patreon, and figure out how to Super serve those people. And then once you're successful at that, and add another group of people that you're super serving, I don't think that there's anything wrong with the vision being to really get specific. And at the time, when I was starting blabbity, I was being specific in a way that people thought I was too specific. You're saying black millennials, people were just accepting millennials as a as a demographic, right? And I said, people I mean, like, you know, the white people in power that give out the money. Right, right. They're like Millennials are, what percent of the population This is our conversations Millennials are what percent of the population and I'll give them the numbers and they say, okay, and black Millennials are, what percentage of the millennial population and I would give them the numbers and like, so you're gonna start off with this total market, right? So they already thought that I was being small. And I was like, cool, you keep thinking that and you can pass on this investment. And that's fine, because because I know I know that this is big and universal, and so you have to also believe that starting small is can be your competitive advantage to not getting distracted and not trying to serve everybody and then result in serving nobody. Right?

Jamila Souffrant 15:09

And you proved your concept before you went to try to raise capital. Right? So you knew that you had something there. So, okay, we talked about millions that you've raised for your companies, you acquired a couple companies to, and I want to talk about just also have the optics of that for people who like are not in your real life, right? So someone can look at you and your brand and be like, Wow, she like must have a lot of money, or she is personally wealthy. And I do want to talk about like, the separation between like your business wealth and income and raising capital versus like personal wealth. I because this podcast, like what I talk about is financial independence. And so the levers to that are building a business entrepreneurship, working in a job, right, you can still work in a job and build wealth, maybe the slower way. But with that comes, what do you do with that money that you get now like, personally, to build actual wealth, where you're not on a treadmill, having to continue to raise capital work for someone else if you don't want to? So can we explore that side of you in terms of that transition between raising millions? And then where is Morgan at in terms of her financial independence journey?

Morgan DeBaun 16:12

Yeah, you know, starting a business is actually a bit of a financial hit, especially when you quit your job. So when I started my business, I was working full time, and then investing any like, basically extra income outside of my expenses in the business itself. And I did that for over a year, because I wanted to bootstrap the business for the first year without taking outside, which means not taking outside investors. And so I had to be very financially disciplined for the first four or five years of growing Blavity and not included, even when I started Blavity. And quit my job, eventually, I then took a consulting contract on the side, so that I could not take a salary in the business and then reinvest, you know, every single dollar that we were making back into my employees into hiring people. And even when we raised money, I took a very, I don't even think I took a salary I like paid for my housing. And so you know, I already raised maybe a million dollars and hadn't taken a salary yet, which is really bad for my taxes. IRS is still coming after me because it's very complicated. But then I gave myself a real salary during my series A, which was only in 2018. And I think that I am more conservative than a lot of venture backed companies. And I have right reasons to be conservative, because I'm a black woman, building a company for black people run by majority people of color. And it wasn't necessarily guaranteed that the capital markets were going to continue to invest in us. And so I wanted to make the money that I did raise last as long as possible, and build sustainable business models so that we could be cashflow positive eventually, and not have to depend on venture capital to be able to grow and invest in new projects and new things. So it was painful, though, right? I mean, to your point, if you had looked at the headlines, you might say, oh, wow, like her company's valued over $10 million. This is, you know, a while ago, were way bigger than that now. But it's like, oh, you know, well, she must be worth $5 million. And it's like, I mean, I'm rich on paper. But yeah, k cash is equity, right? The only way that you liquidate like liquid, that's the key word when it comes to having some wealth is it's not just the assets that you own, but also what is your liquid flexibility, because then you can actually pull equity out of the business and turn it into a house, turn it into stocks, and crypto, turn it into art, investments, and things that will appreciate and diversifying your assets. So I have started to do that now. But I also full disclosure on the personal side, I have been investing in the stock market since I was 13. So I was an early investor and lots of stocks. And so I used I didn't have a lot of capital when I first started investing, or as I would be probably not even working right now with the returns that I've had. But I was able to use that initial money as a safety net, mentally so that I could quit my job. So it's like push come to shove, I can sell my Facebook stock, right. And also, I did use some of the money to invest in Blavity. So we could grow faster without bootstrapping, without raising money while we were bootstrapping. And so I do think it's important for anyone listening right now, to start to learn about the stock market. It's a great way to get passive income. If you do dividend based stocks and you reinvest your dividends over time and the compounding interest and time you were so young. The younger you start the better you know and don't try to pick stocks start off in mutual funds start off in you know, ETFs etc. But you don't have to try to pick one or two winners or else you probably are going to pick wrong it's very difficult to turn the market.

Jamila Souffrant 19:54

Yes, yes. And okay, so you just dropped. I felt like some nuggets here or some things that I feel like You should explore. So 13 you're already investing in the stock market. So how did you know to do that? What did you get taught that by your parents? Was it some internal kind of curiosity that you saw a news headline, and did it because as a parent myself, I mean, I know this, and I'm going to teach my kids this. But I just love when I hear people talk about what they did when they were really young, because I'm like, Okay, how did you how did that happen? Because I want my kids to have interest and self motivation to want to do things like that, too. So what was that for you?

Morgan DeBaun 20:29

I come from a family, like ancestry of black families that always prioritized ownership and equity and stocks, and owning things like houses and things of that nature. When we weren't rich growing up, we were middle class, and my grandparents were all working class teachers, and factory workers. And so yet, we lived a rich life, you know, like, I never felt like money was a thing. I work, goodwill, I didn't care, you know, and yet, my dad and my mom wanted to really make sure that I could be financially independent. And they really raised me as like a strong woman and someone who they wanted to make sure that as I was growing up, that I never felt dependent on a man for my freedom, financially. And so I think that they were very intentional about me, learning about business learning about stock market at a young age. And the game that we used to play, my dad would match whatever money I would put into the stock market. So let's say, you know, every year my grandma gave me $100, you know, no matter what it was, it was always $100 check. And the rule was, you can spend 50%, on whatever you want, like bubble gum money, is what we should call it, if you want to go and spend $50 on bubble gum, how about it, but you have to save the other 50%? Do you have to save the other 50% or if you invest the other 50%, we will then match it. So grandma gives me 100 and I put in 50 into the stock market, I actually get another 50 right. So I got 150 from Grandma, basically from grandma and my parents. And I could do that math. But you know, I was like, Oh, that's lit, right. And so that's that was the motivator for me. Basically, my parents could basically pay me I think I like peed in the bed. So I was three. And then at one point, they're like, we'll pay you a quarter every time you don't be in the bed done and gone. I was collecting those quarters. So I've always been motivated by transactions and returns on investments.

Jamila Souffrant 22:27

Yeah, that's fascinating. And great. I mean, the other thing you said, which is really important, you said you had a mental safety net. And I find that like people, even if it's liquid in certain ways, like you know, it's harder to like cash in, even if it's like a house, we have equity in or you know, just other things like stocks where you're naturally if you did get into a bind, that's the last thing you want to really sell. But the fact that you know, that you have it gives you a level of confidence that is really important that, you know, if you don't have that, you most likely won't take the risks. So one of the things that you said and I was saying Okay, so if you weren't paying yourself really until 2018 like how did you sustain your like life? Like Where were the personal finance decisions that you had to make to be okay

Morgan DeBaun 23:11

Blavity was my life so what I would challenge is, well, what what expenses do I have? And I focused on that so housing, okay, well, I lived in the office, the office was my apartment. Literally, we had a studio, two apartments one was the office the other one my bedroom. Okay, what am I eating? Well, frankly, anytime I'm eating, I'm working. So I had some groceries, but a lot of it was business expenses. I had no car. I paid for my, you know, my cell phone bill. But I wasn't like on vacation. I think a lot of people just can't get too much. I wasn't going on vacation. He wasn't gonna see me in the club. You weren't gonna see me running around with red bottoms. Like No, that was not my focus. And most of you I've never met me or if you have it's been in the last two to three years why because I was not trying to be out here I was working it wasn't a Morgan show it was a build the business time frame and building the business required for me to have my head down that was really critical to the foundation of Blavity and the culture that we've built at the company and being a company of people who work hard and people who care about the work itself and not necessarily the ego of being a part of this cool you know sexy black startup yet.

Jamila Souffrant 24:21

you know ego and people do and things putting the cart before the horse per se because I feel like now in our world like people will see you and right now they're like well I want to be that and so they're starting the buying or the flexing earlier than they should without the foundation and it's very appealing like you know I feel like I'm you know, I'm old I'm in my like, I'm an older millennial myself and but I have younger siblings and just people in my life where they want to flex already before the work is done because they because the message is you deserve it. And I get it like black woman like you need to go treat yourself and all these things which I understand but also Feel like in a day and age, like what you need to pay yourself, pay yourself first and I get it. But I just like everyone that I've spoken to including my own story that has made something like they actually, there was some sacrifice upfront, like it was not pretty. Like it was work.

Morgan DeBaun 25:15

Yeah, completely. And I also think that youth was on my side, one of the reasons I started the business at 24 was because I knew that a 33 year old me is not, you know, going to be in the mud as much as 23 year old me, right? You know, by the time I'm 35, I'd be married with kids, I'm not going to be up all night, I want to look good, I want to get my hair done, I want to spend money on things. And that was a lifestyle choice that I made. Other people start the businesses later after they've already had children or after they've already gotten married, or they've, they wanted to make sure that they could pay off their student loans. So they kept that corporate job a little bit longer. But also now your quality of life, and your golden handcuffs are much much stronger because you're used to spending a ton of money. You live in a house or you live in an apartment. That's not cheap. You know, I had three roommates when I first started the company, right? So that's tough. That means that you got to be making a lot more money just to break even.

Jamila Souffrant 26:10

And your mindset like you said that you already fixed into this mindset is more rich, it can be more rigid. I want to put that on. Yeah.

Morgan DeBaun 26:16

And you have more to lose. If you mess up you lose a lot more because you have a lot more I messed up out the worst I was gonna happen to me as I was moving in my parents basement, I was the worst thing that could happen to me at that point in my life

Jamila Souffrant 26:26

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Jamila Souffrant 28:02

It's so interesting to think back and for people like you listening right now. You may be in that position. Maybe you are especially if you are in your early 20s with not a lot of responsibilities like right now no kids no mortgage like now is the time to take risk and go for it. Okay. But I don't want to discourage you know, the later the late bloomers or the you know, just people who are in their 30s 40s who got the mortgage already who have the kids like you are your life is not over. Okay, like you can still do something.

Morgan DeBaun 28:30

No, but I would recommend, I would recommend instead of quitting, figuring out how you can reduce your expenses, get more cash flow from your income from your corporate job or from your husband's corporate job or whatever your finances are, so that you can invest in the business. You don't have to be full time in your business necessarily to have a strong business. And also you could use that money to hire someone else who's full time or someone else who's part time while you still have your corporate gig. There's just it's just a different mindset. But it's all about how much money at the end of the day. Do you have to invest?

Jamila Souffrant 29:02

Yes, yes. Okay, so one of your posts I was referring to before we started recording which I really love your personal Instagram, you talked about buying a house and how one like the process for buying houses entrepreneur, you kind of alluded to that like with the IRS like it was not easy. So can you talk about that process like you know that you did get the house but what that was like for you to have to prove income as entrepreneur.

Morgan DeBaun 29:27

Yeah, buying house is tough, I think for everybody. So being a first time home owner and also being an entrepreneur who's full time in my business at this point, it's was difficult because I didn't know that they were going to look at my business finances and take that in consideration for my kind of like debt to income ratio. And so I felt like what do you need to know about Blavity's revenue like this has nothing to do with me. We've been in business for seven years, but because I still own a large equity stake it is actually a factor in the risk profile of me and because venture backed business, it's very difficult for Mortgage Bankers and underwriters to understand me, they don't see that every day, especially not Nashville, which is where I live now. And so there was a lot of negotiation back and forth, there's a lot of frustrated moments where I kind of was like, you don't get me, this is racist, like, it's not racist. It's just difficult, you know, and, yeah, it was very vulnerable time period, for me very stressful. And I'm also doing it alone, like, I'm not married. So there's not like, you know, I have someone else's income that is very stable that as a corporate job for 15 years that they can look at their seven day or whatever, we'll just use his as the profile was really just me. And so if it didn't work out, then, you know, I wasn't gonna be able to get the house that I wanted. And I was unwilling to accept that you have worked very hard and been very conservative. And I also felt like the house, I can afford this, like my paycheck can get this out, right. But it wasn't about my income, it was about the full profile of including Blavity, which, again, venture backed startups, we're not turning a profit every year. Why would you do that? That's not the point. Right? So if you look four years back, you're like, Whoa, you were spending a lot millions and millions of dollars. And like, that's what we're supposed to do. So it was very difficult to explain that stay level headed, because they still held the power so that I could get the mortgage. And I just didn't know anything. So I was learning in the moment. And I didn't know what was normal versus just person. But what felt personal was actually normal. And so it was a tough time period for me. But ultimately, you know, we're recording this in my my new house with no furniture because everything is backordered, because of COVID. And I'm really grateful to have gone through the experience, and now to be able to share it with other people who maybe going through the same thing or thinking about it. And so my tips for someone who is an entrepreneur who's full time, right?

One is to make sure that you pay yourself even because they're going to look at your income over time. And because I wasn't paying myself early on in the business, it looked like I had no like stable income. And it was like why couldn't the business afford to pay you. So that was tough. And I know that goes counterintuitive to the entire conversation we just had. But this would be my advice for people who want to buy houses. And there's other ways you can probably do the owner's draw. There's different types of ways that you pay yourself. That's one thing because you need to show your W2s, over time. And then the second is, you know, it is likely that you're going to have to pay your full 20% down. And so make sure that you have that ready. It's not like you're going to get crazy, great terms as an entrepreneur, you're not a doctor, you're not a lawyer, they're not going to necessarily believe that you have a lot of earning potential over time, then also they don't care about your net worth on paper. Right? So they don't care that I'm worth a lot of money. On paper. They don't care, because not liquid and it could change the business go under? And then what, right from their perspective flat, but he's not going anywhere. But I don't know that you don't know that.

Jamila Souffrant 33:05

They say they're like, we don't know that. Yeah.

Morgan DeBaun 33:07

They don't know that we don't care. And we can't put that in our little calculator. So we have to assume that if the business goes under, you have no income and you're not worth any. Yeah. Right. And I'm like Rue talking about a Edo head. So that's the second thing. And then the third thing is your credit score. So I wasn't paying attention to my credit score, because I didn't really need credit. And I didn't have a car and I don't have any debt. And I use credit cards very conservatively, I mostly pay for things in cash or use a debit card, so I wasn't paying attention to my credit score. And then I looked at it and said, Oh, I need to work on my credit, which was the easy thing to fix. I just wasn't paying attention to it. And because my credit was sub 700, it also added another layer of them not necessarily given me the benefit of the doubt. Now I got my credit score up to 740 plus in less than two and a half months, because it was easy stuff to adjust and fix.

Jamila Souffrant 34:05

Okay, so I have to ask you, because someone's listening, like Wait, how do you do that because they're like maybe thinking about their credit score.

Morgan DeBaun 34:10

Or but also, I don't have any debt. So it's easy to then show, you know, so I call my credit cards got more credit under my name, right, I added a secured credit card, it was all about just increasing the total number amount of credit under my name, I then called an added like my cell phone bills and some bills that I had been paying for over a long period of time, so that my credit profile showed a longer time with credit cards because again, I didn't have that many and I just maybe started in my 20s It's not like I had a credit card for 25 years or whatever. And then there were some credit like I had a TJ Maxx card straight out of undergrad and the teeth they cancelled the TJ Maxx card because they actually just cancelled the card type itself, but it showed off as it showed up as like a canceled account. So when you have these dealings and you don't have a lot of credit it has a disproportionate amount of impact on your score. And so I went and kind of did all the contesting of all the things. I'm like, this was 15 years ago or 12 years ago, you dropped this off, which then everybody did. And so Boom, 740. Plus, you just got to do the work. You got to follow all the things my girl Tiffany budget, nice. I was like, always doing okay, what do I need to do? And I did all the things and it works because they weren't real. It wasn't real stuff. You know, it was just Bs, credit, bureaucracy, basically.

Jamila Souffrant 35:33

Yeah, but those are good tips. I mean, you just gave tips on just entrepreneurs what to in even if you're not an entrepreneur, like to prepare for buying a house like you pay to your credit, if you're not already, make sure you have the downpayment, the necessary downpayment, and the income part of it, like you said, like it's nuanced. It's like, first of all success. To me, it's a cliche word. But you know, no, one rule to me works in every scenario, and you as the leader, the person driving your car, man in your ship, like you have to decide when to deploy, what option that's going to work in what scenario and sometimes it is not black and white, it's very grey, especially just as entrepreneur, figuring out what works, when and why. So I love that you share that. So thank you. But one of the other things you mentioned, is that like your now house hacking, right, so I just again, I love like showing that, even though on paper, you're rich, now you're paying yourself and you you were able to afford yourself a lifestyle that you bought this house and you can say the story but you intended to live in the bigger part, like what you want the part you wanted to and tell everyone kind of your thought process into switching into doing something different.

Morgan DeBaun 36:44

Yeah, so actually, what I'm not doing it, but I'll tell you all the story. So after I bought the house, and I gave them my ridiculous downpayment, and then got all the fees and got the quotes for drapes for $15,000. And just crazy, the crazy cost of setting up a brand new It was a new build house. So it was like we don't have any window treatments. You know, like, I gotta do landscaping. I got a tree like, you know, so once you go through it, I'm like, Oh, that was a lot of zeros out the bank account, right? And so I was like, I'm feeling very poor cash for which I don't like as someone who's worked very hard to be financially secure. So I was complaining to my mom, I was like, Mom, the furniture like this is the law. This is a lot going on. And I also bought my first rental property so the house is a house that has a main house plus an apartment, a full one bedroom, one bath, it's got its own washer dryer, its own kitchen, its own entrance and everything. Because I my intention was to rent that out. Because you know, I'm an entrepreneur, I could never just buy a house, you know, I gotta buy a house with the rental property attached. I was like, ah, I don't know. And then so I was starting to do the research on the rent for the rental unit, the one bedroom and she was like, Well, why don't you rent out the full house and you live in the apartment I said

I have never considered that all these little fake tears I was crying and stress I did my brain with my brain could not even consider that I would let some random family live in mine big part of my house that I just bought to offset the cost because the rent would have been you know, two extra mortgages mortgage because of the rates right now and for this side of the house and I just couldn't even conceptualize that. Like my brain wouldn't even let me brainstorm there because it go contrary to my ego.

Jamila Souffrant 38:34

That's what I was gonna ask you Is it because you know, you're a smart woman? And like, Is it more of your ego? It was ego like that was blinding and that decision or you just couldn't see it? Because I know there are people right now who are in situations they're like, this is my life. I can't like this is my situation and it's like, done and it's like there's an opportunity right in front of you that you just cannot see it

Morgan DeBaun 38:53

completely. I was like I worked very hard for this locking closet. How dare you suggest I give it away before I even get to use it? So yeah, it was definitely ego

Jamila Souffrant 39:03

but it's valid. it's valid. That's not even on it like to me that's normal. Like why wouldn't you feel that way? Like you bought it so you can let that was what you wanted to do.

Morgan DeBaun 39:10

Okay, yeah. But I was also very frustrated and felt annoyed by the cashflow situation. So it's like which one is bigger, right? Which one was the more priority? Ultimately what I've done is I haven't moved it into the apartment I live in the main house but I then said to myself okay, this is actually really awesome because if I ever want to buy another house or if I ever want to leave I don't need to sell this house I can just rent out the main stuff move my my stuff to the apartment and it just gave me more freedom to think through okay this house as an asset and you know as I grow as the business continues to grow, you know, I may want to come condo want to spend a couple years in another city, right? But now, my brain is like, Oh yes, that's fine. You're not locked into any location.

Because you can always rent out the main house, that's going to pay for the mortgage, and then some, which can always find your lifestyle and another city, or it can be money that you invest in another property. And so it is a really freeing point of view. And then the second thing is, because I chose to not rent out the main house, I did I often make negotiations with myself, which is if you're going to leave money on the table, how are you going to make money in a different way to offset the money left on the table, it's like a weird mind trick that I played with myself, right? It's like when you're like, Oh, I want to buy this shoe. Okay, well, if you want to buy the shoe, then you gotta do this workout, right? Like, I make that transaction. So I then have delayed buying some furniture, and I spent some of my more recent, most recent salary in and put it back in the stock market. So instead of taking some of the liquidation that I had, and put it back into the market, because the idea is, you know, the market is going to continue to grow, that's going to offset the total worth, you know, deficit that I'm taking by not renting out the house. And that made me feel better, at least,

Jamila Souffrant 40:58

yeah, but that is actually a good consideration for anyone can like thinking of, Okay, if I'm going to take this thing, and maybe it's more expensive, or it's going to be more out of pocket, what am I going to do to replenish that on the other end to make me feel better about this situation. And then the other thing I just wanted to highlight was, you know, it's even good, just do the exercise. So you didn't go through yet with it. But now that you've considered it, you now have a wide option, like your brain has now considered not just that as an option to run out the main house. But there's other things that have come from that. So if you are listening, and you know, I would say, let your ego like, think about things your ego does not want you to think about because I've been there, I'm still there. In some ways. I'm just like, I didn't want to think of that like thing. But think it through doesn't mean you have to do it just because you think it doesn't mean it's gonna happen, right? Like you're thinking it through and you're planning out things because maybe that's not the thing. But the next thought that it leads to and leads to is what is opening up your mind for expansion.

Morgan DeBaun 41:51

Exactly. Exactly. That.

Jamila Souffrant 41:53

So now you are so the other thing question. I'm just being now nosy here, Nashville. Why Nashville when you know your tech person, why not on one of the coasts where you know, all where everything's happening. Yeah, well, I used to live in San Francisco. I started the business, San Francisco. I lived there for four years. And then I moved to LA and live live there until January and 2021. My parents live here in Nashville. They lived here for seven plus years. I'm from St. Louis originally, so I'm a Midwest, Southern girl at heart. If you had asked me like, 18 year old me where I was living, I would have said, I got a big ass house on Lindell, in the middle of St. Louis. I'm the mayor, like I have never leaving through and forward to the day I die. Okay, yeah.

Morgan DeBaun 42:37

That's my life. Right. So it's always been important to me to stay grounded and to stay humble, and to be closer to my family. And you know, because of COVID, that was very clear to me the absence of family in my life, and how that impacted me because of not being able to travel and see them. My brother and his wife just had a baby. And so and they're moving closer to the south, they live in Seattle right now. So for me, it's just a better balance. It's a better balance on the day to day. And when I think about joy and happiness, I think about how can I incrementally improve my happiness on a day to day basis, there's nothing that makes me happier than my dad being like, Hey, I'm outside. You know, what are we eating for dinner? Right? Or my mom being like, hey, do you need anything from Costco, I don't take that for granted. Because I didn't have that I was really out here in California on my own, which I know so many people do. And it's just part of the dream of, you know, going into Silicon Valley or moving for Hollywood. And yet, I was at a point in my career where I could make that decision to to be closer to home as my home base. Now, I was just in LA for two weeks now. So I'm gonna be back and forth and doing my thing and thought and unboxing just like everybody else, but at least my home is grounded in my family and accessibility. And it doesn't hurt that Tennessee has no state income tax.

Jamila Souffrant 43:58

Yeah, right.

Morgan DeBaun 43:59

pushed me over the edge.

Jamila Souffrant 44:01

And your money could go a lot. Further right and buying so yeah, so smart.

Morgan DeBaun 44:06

You know, California, more importantly, has the highest state income tax, I think, between California New York, so 13%. So that means every single week, I'm making 13% more just existing?

Jamila Souffrant 44:16

Yeah, well, my tax person said he was like, Well, you know, this this, like, you're getting double tax, but she has an entity that I currently am, like, you know, if you moved from New York, you won't have this tax on my IRA. Well, that I don't know. Well, maybe right. But I love that. You're thinking about what lifestyle do I want to live today? and family is important, right? That's like a form of wealth like that, that that you have this community that's a family community around you. You can't necessarily measure how that also impacts the way you work and how you bring in, you know, income to your, your different businesses. So I love that. So tell us in general now, like where you are, what's next for Morgan and Blavity? What are some of the exciting projects that you're working on that we should know about?

Morgan DeBaun 45:00

Yeah, so Blavity is growing like crazy. All of our brands are doing incredibly well. Coming up, we have Summit 21, which is a woman's conference for entrepreneurs, hustlers, people who are aspiring to live an incredible life. So that's free. So you guys can check that out at Summit 20 one.com, or on 21 ninety.com. And traveling again, you know, travel noir is up and running. And it had a rough year, although people were doing a lot of domestic travel, so that content increased quite a bit, but I think everyone's planning their getaway. And so travel Noir, we just released a new website, so you can like type into loom and you'll get all the places to say all the black owned restaurants, every single things, we just did this huge new kind of like data infrastructure for travel noire to make it easier for people. So I'm super excited to get back on the road. And then let's see what else my podcast I've been loving, talking more instead of just like the fleeting Instagram story, you know, there's something about podcasts where you can actually have a conversation, get into the weeds, tell the story, and explain. And it's not just a little sound bites, you know, so I'm really enjoying the worksmart podcast and helping people scale their businesses and think of through some of this financial stuff of like hiring your first team member, what does that look like? How much do you pay them? Or what is an organizational chart? Why should you have one or Okay, you want to get into the stock market? Here's how I did it. So it's been a really fun experience. But we the podcasting business is very, very different.

Jamila Souffrant 46:27

It's so particular and the people who listen and how it spreads and grows, it's really interesting,

Morgan DeBaun 46:32

completely different. So I'm learning a ton. And it's kicking my butt. But I'm having a lot of fun doing it.

Jamila Souffrant 46:38

Yeah. And also, the other thing I was gonna just like as it came up, as you were talking about the events, and the businesses and what's going on, and like, obviously, you have a team, you're hiring people, you have people who are competent and invested in the success. So why do I need to listen to the whatever episode you had on hiring teams, because I feel like that's my next level of that is actually hiring people to help get things off my plate. But what would you say then for someone who's at this level, wants to do more, maybe not necessarily the next Morgan, but the they want to step in more into what they can do and be the visionary, the CEO, and not necessarily be all always in the business? What would be some of the things that you would just like as a takeaway tell them to do right now?

Morgan DeBaun 47:16

Yeah, so one of the methods I teach in the worksmart program, it's the first thing that I have everybody to do is that you have to start with you like you have to start with mastering your own time. And you have to understand what you actually do on a day to day basis. So I do this exercise, I'll give it to you all. Now, you make a list of all the tasks that you do on a weekly basis on a daily basis. And then you separate those tasks into your operating task, which are tasks that you just somebody somewhere has got to do it, right is sending out invoices, it's posting on Instagram, it's coming up with content ideas, it's right, it's just the nitty gritty of the day to day. And then you come up with your task and you move task over into your CEO task, which are tasks only you can do, only you can set the vision only you can maybe close that sales deal, which I'd argue is probably an operating task because you can hire a salesperson, but let's just play this game. Right? There's certain things that like for me, only, I can come up with a vision of what Afro tech is in five years from now. Right? Only I can decided Blavity Inc is going to move into long form content and start to make TV shows and documentaries and things. Only I can decide if we're going to come back into the office and be remote or go back into the office, there's certain things that only I can decide. And only I have to it's part of my responsibility as the CEO. So once you make those two lists, what will likely happen is you'll see that there's a ton of things that are in your operating tasks, then you start to group them into Well, what kind of person could do these different types of tasks. So like, maybe you need a bookkeeper or an accountant, because you don't really enjoy that and you don't really enjoy any of your invoices. And you could probably get somebody else to do that. And then the question is, what do you do when you replace those tasks? Well, you go and you do more CEO tasks that are tied to revenue, so that you're not losing money, right? So your CEO tasks should offset the cost of delegating and hiring some of those buckets in your operating tasks. But the first thing is self awareness and understanding where you're starting from and I go into all this all the time in the podcast, but that's just a little bit of a preview.

Jamila Souffrant 49:17

Yes, love it. And I just gave a great exercise for everyone to do. I'm I'm really thinking of Yeah, I know my some of the things I need to do this needs to get off my plate. I just need to find the people to do it. Again, Morgan, thank you so much. Just final thing, tell everyone where they can catch up with you or follow your work.

Morgan DeBaun 49:33

Yeah, so you can find me on the worksmart podcast, anywhere you listen to podcasts. You can also follow me on Instagram I give a very unfiltered behind the scenes of my life, whether that's my peloton or my flexitarian diet or my mom, whatever it is, and that's just at Morgan Debaun and then gravity. You can learn more about the company at gravity inc.com and that'll show you all of our brands and get you to where you want to go.

Jamila Souffrant 49:59

Love it. Thanks for Morgan for joining us.

Morgan DeBaun 50:01

You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 50:06

Okay, I really hope you enjoyed that conversation with Morgan. And I'll tell you this, the journey to becoming wealthy to building a business to reaching your financial dreams, whatever they may be to paying off debt. It takes some work upfront. And there's so many nuggets in this conversation that Morgan dropped that we discussed, and I hope you were taking notes. And I hope you're able to apply something you heard here to your life. Again, if you enjoyed something, share it with me on social I'm mostly on Instagram, but I'm on Facebook and Twitter too, at journey to launch and at Morgan Debaun if there was something that she said or we talked about the to really like, take that screenshot, share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, wherever so other people can see and check out the episode and then I can see and I can repost it out Don't forget, it's not too late actually to sign up for the teachable Q2 to challenge I talked about it more in last week's episode, but you have time to sign up for this challenge. It's a launch accelerator four week challenge where you'll learn to build out your own course in 30 days, it'll be ready to pre sell in 30 days using teachables platform. So I'm really excited about it and you can join by going to teachable comm slash journey. The challenge begins on June 2 and ends on July 1. So if you're listening to this in real time, there's still time to sign up. You get all the details over@ teachable.com/journey you can get your full course built out in four weeks ready to pre sell to make money to earn some money from your gifts and strengths.

Don't forget you can get the episode Show Notes for this episode by going tojourneytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this and you can still grab your jumpstart guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart.

If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this in Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review. Number two follow me on my social media accounts. I'm at journey to launch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers their three support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl for And last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of journey to launch. Alright, that's it until next week, keep on journeying journeyers

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What does it take to build a multi-million dollar business and raise millions in capital as a Black woman in Silicon Valley? You’ll find out from this week’s guest, Morgan DeBaun, Founder & CEO of Blavity Inc., the leading media company for Black culture and millennials. 

Morgan shares the behind the scenes of starting Blavity Inc. and her own personal finance journey from not being able to pay herself a salary in the early stages of her company to recently buying her first home. 

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear tips on how to build a business with or without outside capital, the CEO decisions it takes to get to the next level & managing your finances as an entrepreneur. 

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Morgan founded Blavity Inc. 
  • The sacrifices & key decisions it took for her to make it to the next level
  • What it takes to raise outside capital & scale a business
  • The importance of owning equity & having liquidity in your business 
  • Tips on managing your finances & buying a house as an entrepreneur and much more…
I'm Listening to Episode 216 of the Journey to Launch Podcast, Building a Media Empire, Raising Millions in Capital and Achieving Financial Freedom Her Own Way with Morgan DeBaun Share on X

Watch this interview on youtube by clicking here.


Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

  • There’s still time to join Teachable’s Launch Accelerator 4 week challenge where you’ll learn how to build out the foundation and key marketing assets of your course in 30 days so that it’s ready to pre-sell. The last day to enter the challenge is 6/1 and the challenge begins on 6/2, running through 7/1. Find out more and join here
  • If you missed enrollment, join the waitlist for my FI course.
  • Join The Weekly Newsletter List
  • Leave me a voicemail– Leave me a question on the Journey To Launch voicemail and have it answered on the podcast!
  • Watch me on News12  Watch my latest segments on News12
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