Maggie McGuire of Pinna: “You sleep differently”

…I think every child around the globe deserves access to an exceptional and equitable education. Let’s make this happen. As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie McGuire. Maggie is CEO of Pinna, an audio-first children’s media company offering the first and only ad-free, audio on-demand streaming service for kids. Pinna […]

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…I think every child around the globe deserves access to an exceptional and equitable education. Let’s make this happen.


As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie McGuire. Maggie is CEO of Pinna, an audio-first children’s media company offering the first and only ad-free, audio on-demand streaming service for kids. Pinna delivers breakthrough, original audio programming curated and created for kids that include podcasts, audio shows, music and audiobooks. A seasoned media executive with deep experience in cross-platform brand strategy, product & content development and innovation experience, McGuire most recently was vice president of eScholastic, the digital division of Scholastic.

Prior to her 15-year tenure with Scholastic, McGuire’s experience in children’s media included positions with Viacom, Cablevision and JP Kids. She began her career as a teacher recruiter for Teach for America and led the team that launched the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme in North America, an international curriculum designed for students aged 11 to 16, offered in schools worldwide. She holds an MA in Educational Theater from New York University and a BA in English Literature and Philosophy from Boston College.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have been in children’s media for 20+ years working for large media companies like Nickelodeon and Scholastic creating great content and products for kids prior to leading Pinna. Before moving into children’s media, where I’ve spent the majority of my career, I was an English Language Arts and History teacher. I’m passionate about both entertaining and educating kids and Pinna does both! Pinna launched in January 2019 as the first and only audio streaming service designed specifically for kids ages 3–12 that brings podcasts, audiobooks, and music into one safe space for them. We are creators of original audio programming and we search all over the world for the very best podcasts, stories, and songs that spark kids’ imagination and get them giggling, guessing, wondering, learning, puzzling, and participating.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful to so many people who have helped and guided me and provided me with opportunities to succeed throughout my life. I cannot boil it down to just one person. My parents laid the foundation when I was young. I am grateful for their love and belief in me. They believed I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard and didn’t give up. They provided me with support and wonderful educational opportunities, both in classrooms and out, that have had a significant influence on the path I chose. All of the teachers in my life cumulatively get enormous credit for sharing knowledge and nurturing my curiosity and encouraging me to go far. My husband and two boys have supported me at every step of my career and in my personal pursuits. We’ve worked as a team to balance our family life and the demands of my work life and I wouldn’t be where I am without their love, support, incredible encouragement, and faith in me. My friends, work colleagues, past and present, and the extended community within the children’s media world have all contributed, in innumerous ways, to my growth as a professional, a leader, and a person. I am grateful to all those who have shared their expertise, wisdom, and knowledge with me. The old adage that “it takes a village” is true for me. All of these people have helped me to become who I am today and have helped me achieve successes along the way. And to all of these people and so many more, I am grateful.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Girls at their earliest ages need to see Founder and CEO as an achievable goal. The more women founders and role models there are, the more girls will see this as a clear path. More women in the workforce need opportunities to advance to managerial levels within organizations. While having experience in management isn’t the only path to becoming a successful founder, it sure provides incredible background knowledge, skills and applied experience that can aid in successfully founding a company. Networks for women founders are key to supporting women through all of the tough stages of starting, growing and leading a successful business. No one can do it alone and a network of other women who can provide support and who can empathize and share knowledge is key. And finally, as the report you pointed to indicates, huge funding disparities exist between male-led and female-led ventures with far more funding being invested in male-led ventures.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

From the start, women need equitable opportunities and equitable pay to advance their careers across the board in every sector.

Better work/life balance policies within organizations will allow women to pursue both their career as well as care for family (and men want this work/life balance too!), as this often becomes the choice women are faced with as they advance in the workplace but also want to start a family and find achieving balance a challenge.

Companies and institutions need to create clear and measurable practices around unbiased hiring and promotional practices that give women equal opportunities at every level of the organization and that put women in managerial roles early on that set the stage for advancement and career growth.

More capital needs to be invested in women founded companies in order for women-led companies to get off the ground and ultimately succeed.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Founders are instrumental in shaping policies within their organization that can have an impact on all of the issues we’ve discussed so far — work/life balance, pay equity, hiring practices. As founders, women can start to make the change we want to see in the workplace and workforce from the ground up. Study after study also indicates that women are natural collaborators and that the best leaders and businesses are highly collaborative. Successful leaders know how to listen to many inputs and points of view to arrive at the best course of action. We need more women in leadership positions to move the dial forward and to build cultures of collaboration. There is also a tremendous joy in building teams and working toward a shared mission and great satisfaction that comes from the hard work that you invest to reach your goal and to realize your vision. These benefits and reasons cannot be undersold (for men or women).

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?

The myth that great businesses are born overnight by a singular founding “genius” is far from the truth. The greatest successes rely not only on a great idea but the recognition that teams of people bring significant expertise to the table to propel a business forward, and prototyping, testing, testing, testing, and an appetite to fail and keep on going, to iterate and pivot, are all part of building a successful business. The founder gets that started but cannot do it alone. It takes a team of committed, passionate people willing to roll up their sleeves and problem solve together.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I think a few of the key traits of successful founders are: a clear vision and passion for the mission of the organization, adaptability, ability to embrace change, a never give up attitude, persistence, humility and gratitude towards others. Humility and gratitude are key. A great founder needs to recognize that success comes from the hard work of teams of people who are working to achieve the shared goal. The people on your team are your business. They help make your business happen collectively. Thank them and be thankful for their contributions and never let arrogance get in the way of the work you have before you. As a founder, you are in the people business. You’ve got to love working with others and learning from others.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

· You sleep differently (less!). 🙂 I often spend hours in the middle of the night thinking about our next steps, about my team and their needs, about how to build a healthy work culture. I didn’t realize sleepless nights would be so reoccurring.

· It’s all encompassing. From the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, I’m thinking about the needs of the business. Trying to achieve work/life balance is a goal I strive for but don’t always achieve. I try to make sure I carve out time for my family every day. Morning routines allow us to start the day together and we always have dinner together. That is a commitment I keep, value and I look forward to each day.

· Embrace the rollercoaster ride of feelings you have from day to day, it’s all part of the process. Some days you get closer to your benchmarks for success and some days you experience setbacks. Curveballs are real. Some days are two steps forward, one step back. Focus on the steps forward.

· Building a company culture is not easy. A healthy company culture is a key component of success.Bringing many different people together to collaborate and build a shared vision is harder than it appears. It takes time and dedication. Involve the team in the evolution of the culture every step of the way. Don’t think you can build culture alone. Building culture is not a task that gets easily checked off of a to-do list. It’s ever-evolving. It’s a journey.

· Don’t have a fixed mindset about how to achieve success. Stay focused on your goal but be open about how to get there. I’ve found the greatest learning and innovation comes when our team is facing a hurdle. Look for, hire and lead great teams of problem-solvers.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

From teaching in the classroom in my early years to connecting with kids through the media & content I’ve been a part of making throughout my career, I’ve aimed to inspire kids and spark their curiosity. If through my work I can encourage a child to wonder, make them laugh, inspire them to question, help them to learn something new, or ignite their imagination, then I think I’ve left the world a better place. That’s what we aim to do at Pinna.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I think every child around the globe deserves access to an exceptional and equitable education. Let’s make this happen.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to meet with President Obama. He is a catalyst for positive change in the world and a leader I greatly admire. We both share a past as community organizers in the earliest years of our careers. I follow his post-presidential and ongoing work at the Obama Foundation to inspire, empower and connect people to change their world with a focus on civic innovation and community building. I believe we all have to be a part of the change we want to see. I would also love to meet with Malala Yousafza. She is courageous and committed. I believe in and admire her work as an education activist and would be honored to spend time learning more from her and thinking together about how I, and others in our industry, can contribute to her mission to make education available to all girls everywhere.

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