…People who foster a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, recognizing that brains and talent are just the starting point.
As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Wall-Andrews (MA, MBA, CCIP). Charlie draws on a huge range of experience: as an academic, a sought-after speaker, and prolific program designer, and on years of hands-on collaboration with various communities. In essence, she is an entrepreneur who uses her talents to aid others in developing and applying similar skills to their work. Nowhere is that more evident than her efforts as the founder of Music&Brands, which fosters a creative community and supports artists by helping them build a brand identity, navigate the music industry ecosystem effectively, and enhance their business acumen. As a global influencer, she will represent Canada at the G20 Summit (Young Entrepreneurs Alliance) in 2021 to discuss policies that support entrepreneurship globally. With over a decade of executive leadership experience in Canada’s creative industries, Wall-Andrews is working on a Ph.D. in Management at Ted Rogers School of Management (specializing in Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship). She also serves as a faculty member at the University of Toronto. Also, she spearheaded the creation of The TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship, Women in Music Accelerator Program, among other incubator programs.
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?
After my post-secondary studies in music, I found it difficult to navigate the industry and establish a sustainable career as a performing artist and composer. Ultimately, I pursued a different career path by working as a professional in the creative and cultural sectors. I started Music&Brands, Inc. because I wanted to help artists understand the ecosystem of the music industry and develop themselves as entrepreneurs. We aim for artists to look as good as they sound by providing a variety of services and foster a community of artists aspiring to scale their creative careers.
Can you share the most exciting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I launched my company shortly before the pandemic started, which of course proved unusually challenging especially because Toronto, Canada, was under lockdown for most of the pandemic beginning in March 2020. Lockdown forced me to pursue new ways of collaborating online and engaging and fostering our Music&Brands community. Also, like all leaders, we had to rapidly find ways to prioritize health and safety when offering professional services in person, which proved to be a challenge initially. Fundamentally, I learned to embrace the unknown and be more patient than ever as a founder — especially with government policies changing and not being disseminated clearly to the public and business owners.
None of us can 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?
There are so many amazing people who have supported and empowered me in my career, but I need first and foremost to acknowledge my mother. She instilled in me, from a young age, the values of respect, resiliency, and hard work.
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 excellent 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?
Women are underrepresented as founders of companies for many reasons: structural, societal, individual (including psychological) barriers. For instance, imposter syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. As reported in Harvard Business Review, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women only become candidates if they meet 100%. For entrepreneurs, this personal lack of faith in oneself, despite being more than capable, poses a barrier to kickstarting. This fear of not being good enough prevents many women from starting businesses. I experienced this mental block myself for many years and ended up being an intrapreneur for most of my career (intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization). Additionally, the demands of caregiving — especially childcare and eldercare — often fall on women, who still perform most of the unpaid work in households. There are a variety of factors that hold back women to be entrepreneurs and founders, and further research and work must be done to enable more women to turn their ideas into ventures.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, society, or the government to help overcome those obstacles?
Governments should create policies and programs that support women in becoming entrepreneurs. Incubators, accelerators, and mentorships offering educational opportunities and supportive professional communities can help women overcome imposter syndrome. Access to capital is essential (in the form of micro-loans and grants, for example), as are government programs that provide affordable childcare and support services for other dependents. Regional governments also have the power to create women or diverse, focused entrepreneurial capacity building. Most of all, policymakers should look at research that’s been done or conduct research (e.g. needs assessment) among women in their respected community to ensure they can provide relevant support to empower more women as founders.
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?
If more women become founders, the status quo will change. Women need to be more visible as leaders, empowering and inspiring the next generation of young women to think differently about themselves as entrepreneurs. With more women as entrepreneurs and founders, government policies are likely to evolve more rapidly and align with the needs of diverse business owners. Representation matters as a way for women to amplify our voices and raise our shared concerns about creating and sustaining a more equitable entrepreneurial environment.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
There’s a myth that you’ll feel lonely and unsupported as a founder, but I’ve discovered a network of people (especially women) who have been incredibly supportive. Honestly, I wish I had started my business a decade ago, knowing that I could join communities like Start-Up Toronto or access support through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub at Ryerson University. Now given the pandemic, so many of these supportive communities are online, making it possible for founders to connect with like-minded people across the globe. The bottom line is support exists for founders and can be quickly accessed by researching keywords online for communities that share personal or professional interests.
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?
Yes, everyone and anyone willing to take risks can be a founder. Risk-averse people may prefer a sustainable income from a regular job, because founders need to be economically and emotionally prepared to take on the stress of financial debt and possible failure. Resiliency increases the likelihood of success.
Ok super. Here is the central question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Peer-Support: Joining a community of like-minded people will help you find safety in sharing ideas and support for overcoming the barriers that will emerge in your career. Communities can be online or offline. In 2021, I collaborated with Women in Music Canada and the Diversity Insitute to create a Women in Music Accelerator for women founders seeking professional education to launch businesses in the music industry. Beyond the information and instruction, the collaborations and friendships that emerged within the community led to ongoing peer support. You can find communities like this at business development centers in community centers and even through social media.
2. Mentorship: Finding a mentor can be instrumental in your professional development. A mentor can help focus your efforts by helping you set goals and giving essential, honest feedback. I would suggest all founders cultivate several mentors with different approaches (e.g., the Coach, the Connector, the Cheerleader, the Challenger). I’ve always maintained a roster of mentors who can help me develop in different areas of my life personally and professionally. When looking for a mentor, you’ll want to know your goals short and long term, do research on various possibilities and have a pitch ready when you request to form a relationship. Online platforms like Ten Thousand Coffees, Meetups, and even using LinkedIn or Mastering Groups can help you access support. Some entrepreneurs will even hire life or business coaches.
3. Growth Mindset: People who foster a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, recognizing that brains and talent are just the starting point. Thus, the growth mindset creates a passion for learning and cultivates the resilience essential to achieving your goals. Books and videos can help you learn more about this mindset. Embracing growth allows me to see at failure as a learning opportunity and harness the power of education as a life-long journey in my personal and professional life. Often local business development centers, or post-secondary institutions offer community bases educational workshops for entrepreneurs.
4. Have a Hobby: Research shows that people who have hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress and depression. As founders, we find ourselves potentially challenged with managing a work-life balance. Regardless of your circumstances, finding a hobby can be an excellent and therapeutic outlet from all the personal and professional stresses of life. For me, it’s music. I love playing instruments, writing, and listening to music, and (pre-pandemic) going to concerts. Others might enjoy athletic activities, dancing, or crafting. Finding a hobby is a great way to take a break and reconnect with yourself.
5. Authentic Networking: “Your network is your net worth,” my classmates would say during my MBA at Ivey Business School. That language always struck me as entitled, as though your network is built transactionally. Instead, I believe that you must develop authentic relationships and meaningful connections within people to cultivate opportunities personally and professionally. Build relationships with peers and mentors by listening and offering to help, rather than extracting information and resources from others. You should endeavor to generate sustainable, reliable, and invaluable connections founded on mutual respect.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I often mentor emerging leaders to reach their full potential, and teaching for me is a form of service. I’m a lecturer at the University of Toronto, which allows me to help the next generation leaders exercise their creativity to empower their communities. Also, I’m representing Canada at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance, so shape policies in collaboration with other business owners worldwide. My priority is to advance inclusion in policy design and impact, especially for underrepresented women who face barriers to kickstarting their ventures, including affordable child care, dependent support, and access to low-risk financings like loans and grants.
You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most good for the most important number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d like to spread awareness about what Canada must do to reconcile its relationship with Indigenous peoples. A devastating number of Indigenous children in Canada sent to residential schools never returned home. Some ran away, while others died at the schools. The exact number of children who died at school may never be known, but the death rates for many schools, particularly during times of epidemic or disease, were very high. In 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves were discovered at the sites of four former residential schools in western Canada. All Canadian settlers, and anyone who plans to live or work in Canada, need to demonstrate responsible citizenship by reading and taking action based on the 2015 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The reconciliation process defines the fundamentals of how we treat each other as fellow human beings and the kind of relationships and communities we want to build for the future.
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.
There are so many people to consider for such an experience! I would be delighted to meet with Taylor Swift. Her entrepreneurial spirit as an artist and resiliency are inspiring, and I would learn so much from their experiences, and believe we share a similar certain value when it comes to community, creative, and innovation.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.