Community//

Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls: “Give yourself permission to say no”

Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. You can fill a calendar to stay busy but what matters most is having impact on people’s lives and that has nothing to do with volume of activity, it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.


Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing interviewing Paige Arnof-Fenn.

Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and digital branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in the Deep South. I am the oldest of 3 and was always a good student and athlete growing up, responsible and hard working. My father and both grandfathers were in business so I always thought I would go that route too. From a young age I loved sports, movies, TV and travel. I was an exchange student in France in high school and Italy in college. As an adult I have lived and worked in NYC, LA, Bay Area, Atlanta, DC, Cincinnati, etc. but have been in Boston for the past 20+ years. I love being an entrepreneur.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It has been attributed to many people including Teddy Roosevelt. I like it and find it inspiring because it is a simple reminder to listen more than talk, show empathy and try to look at the situation from another perspective. The goal is not to wear them down or impress them with your smarts. The goal is to connect, communicate clearly, solve the problem and move on.

How would your best friend describe you?

Fun to hang out with, witty, loyal, direct/brutally honest and comfortable in my skin.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?

In my experience the most important qualities for effective leaders are:

Strong moral compass — you cannot compromise on ethics and values

Good communicator — able to rally the troops and keep them on the critical path

Smarts — technically competent and they work hard to earn the respect of their team

Bonus — great sense humor and fun to work with

The current crisis has provided a stage for our leaders to rise to the occasion. Between the pandemic and the possible recession, leaders have an opportunity to further connect with anxious people and focus on the true relevance of their message. We have to acknowledge that now things are different so we need to communicate in a way that will give our audiences better focus, helping them to create a bridge from today to the future. We need to communicate in a way that combines information and need, synthesizing feeling and facts. I feel leaders have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now. Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind, but also the heart and soul. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I was an Economics major in college and started my career on Wall Street in the 80s. I always wanted to go work for a large multi-national business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When I was a student I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I got an MBA and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola doing marketing for big established household name brands with large budgets.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I did not plan on starting a company. I got bitten by the Internet bug in 1997 as the tech world was heating up and worked at 3 consecutive startups as the head of marketing. All 3 companies had positive exits so I took the leap into entrepreneurship right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. I am so much happier in a career that allows me to use both sides of my brain, explore a more creative path and use my business acumen in all sizes and types of businesses from the very largest public companies to venture-backed startups and now running my own firm. If you are not excited by your job, I am a big fan of finding ways to bridge to another track to find something you truly enjoy spending time doing that shares your talents and gifts.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

I started my business right after 9/11 when marketing got cut across the board. My job was eliminated and all the best people I had worked with in my career were available too. I knew lots of businesses that still needed help though and because I had run marketing at 3 successful venture-backed startups before that all had positive exits, several investors with portfolio companies in need of marketing tracked me down. It was like a red flashing sign in front of me. The epiphany was that I had people and projects and knew if I put them together I could help lot of people so that is what I did. I called the women in the group the marketing mavens and the guys the marketing moguls. We have been at it ever since and are still having fun. If you have a good idea and are solving a real problem you will get market feedback quickly and can be up & running in no time. I had clients before I was able to admit I was starting a company. It is easy to pivot if you need to, just listen to the market. You have nothing to lose. Have fun with it.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

My first client came from a talk I gave to a professional networking group. Someone from the audience came up to me after and made an introduction which resulted in my first project a few weeks later. I felt great that my talk was so well received and generated meetings and referrals as follow up, I knew I had a real business. I still give lots of talks and it is a great way to generate leads and business. I think having a good reputation is incredibly important to building a strong B2B business. I had always done public speaking and enjoyed networking as an employee but when you are the brand it can be daunting. That experience taught me several important lessons as an entrepreneur:

* Do great work that people will talk about

* Give lots of talks even virtually and use examples from your experience, I do a lot of public speaking online and offline when not social distancing, host podcasts and webinars which leads to people talking about me online, tweeting, etc.

* Join networking groups to meet people who are the multipliers in your industry, they talk to everybody and know everyone, they have large followings so you need to connect with them online too

* Be active on social media so you can share your talks and content and your followers can help spread the word

* Generate lots of fresh content that will push down any potential bad comments online

* Monitor your online data to shut down trolls and misinformation, there are several online tools to alert you of potential problems (some are free others are for a fee)

It continues to be a great source of leads and has served me well.

How are things going with this new initiative?

We have had delayed projects and things have slowed, but activity is starting to pick up now which is exciting. For professional service firms like mine we will recover even if our revenues slow from the crisis. I continued to plant seeds during lockdown, pivoted to online meetings, podcasts, webinars, etc. and just stayed connected to my network which I think always pays off in the long term. I am measuring productivity now by what I get done, it is based on accomplishing goals not activity. People need more downtime now we are all under a lot of stress with so many moving parts. Our job is to get through this period together intact, that will make us all feel we have been productive. When this crisis is over if I remain healthy and have stayed tight with my inner circle of people who mean the most to me and we all find a way to incorporate the lessons of gratitude, simplicity, friendship and love into the new normal I will be incredibly happy that we did not waste the crisis. If we can hold on to the very best parts of this lockdown the world will be a better place for it.

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 have been so fortunate to have great mentors, champions and role models throughout my career including former bosses, my father, senior women in organizations where I worked but the person who has always encouraged and supported me as an entrepreneur and has my back every day is my husband. He started a company too so understands the journey of an entrepreneur and has been my sanity check and thinking partner every step of the way. He is both a cheerleader and butt kicker depending on the situation and I trust his judgment and advice because I know he always has my best interests in mind. I am very fortunate to have him in my corner.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

In the first few years of my business I had pitched a CEO about a month before I ran into her at a networking event where she was the keynote speaker and her topic was about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated business. I had followed up after sending my proposal several times via e-mail and voice mail but the CEO never returned any of my messages or even acknowledged receipt of the proposal requested. You can imagine my shock when she announced at this event as part of her speech that she believes it is important to put your money where your mouth is and for women CEOs to support other respected & well-run women’s businesses and that is why she has hired my firm to handle all her company’s marketing & PR! Everyone congratulated me after, it was a better endorsement than the New York Times because she was very well known and had the reputation of being very tough with high standards so I got a LOT of business from people in the room that night because they thought if I was able to impress her I must be very good 😉

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

I always had a clear vision for the business but in my experience the key traits that kept me on a path to success were:

Persistence/determination — a lot of people tell you no (investors, board, customers, etc.) so you have to be driven

Focused — learn to say no to distractions you cannot pursue every opportunity so be selective and concentrate on only those ideas with the greatest potential say no to everything else

Learning — be intensely curious and always look for the next way to make something better

Listening — to customers, critics, feedback, the market and your team to show respect for great talent and ideas

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

Finding a mentor, coach, mastermind group, etc. gives you support and a thinking partner/tribe/ecosystem to help navigate challenges along the way especially when you are first staring out. I have had great champions throughout my career. As an entrepreneur these people and networks can also be invaluable sources of inspiration, advice, encouragement and can help you avoid rookie mistakes (with hiring, fundraising, etc.) in particular at the beginning They can also make key introductions so that you avoid getting burned by service providers or potential investors who have mixed reputations. I have seen several situations where a lot of time and money could have been wasted but was not. There are times when you need cheerleaders, butt kickers, people who can be counted on for tough love and others to help expand your footprint and elevate your profile in the community. Accountability is so important as an entrepreneur. Having friends and family to keep you grounded and humble is critical too, it is easy to lose perspective when you are launching a new business. Entrepreneurship can be consuming if you aren’t careful. In my experience it takes a village to launch a successful business.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

To get out of my comfort zone I do a few things:

* Attend different events outside of my industry to gain a new perspective on topics I am not familiar with

* Meet new people with different areas of expertise outside of my network

* Read books/articles and watch videos about topics I am curious about but do not have any background in just for the pleasure of learning not mastery

To think differently I have to shake up my routine by reading different blogs, visiting new websites, listening to alternative music genres, eating other ethnic foods, shopping in different neighborhoods, listening to new podcasts and taking new routes home from activities. Basically you have to open your mind and be exposed to a fresh perspective so you get the synapses firing and connect the dots in new and exciting ways. Disruption requires getting out of your comfort zone and considering new possibilities.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Like most small business owners and entrepreneurs there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise or just relax. A mentor once told me and I have come to appreciate and realize is that to stay sane and be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance! The mentor shared that respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do for self care because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either, specifically I have encouraged my team to:

Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. You can fill a calendar to stay busy but what matters most is having impact on people’s lives and that has nothing to do with volume of activity, it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.

Disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships (when not social distancing). Even meeting for virtual coffee or drinks can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time. I used get out of the office 3–5 days a week which was a great way to stay connected, shake up my routine and get going before the virus hit.

Taking breaks with exercise — I do something active every day to stay healthy and break up my day.

Practice gratitude — I am so grateful I can work productively in my home office now with no commute.

As an entrepreneur it is easy to get overwhelmed. Staying healthy for me is about finding ways to unwind and relax as part of my day. It is about balance. I am a big fan of Tai Chi, but I also do Qigong, massage, acupuncture, knitting, reading, hanging out with friends, and watching TV to de-stress. I started learning Tai Chi >15 years ago and have gotten progressively addicted over the years. I now know the choreography of 2 different forms and I absolutely love it. It is a way to both relax and focus. I even guest teach when the regular backup cannot be there. I have met great people, it has helped my balance, improved my bone density and helped calm my mind. I just love it. I even wrote an article on it for Entrepreneur magazine a few years ago.

The key is to focus and prioritize, you cannot do everything so pick no more than 2–3 things that you can accomplish and delegate the rest. Learn to say no. Leadership is about making choices and tough decisions, pivoting is an option when you get more information or the situation changes so keep moving forward.

It takes effort and a commitment to excellence to continually improve as you move up the ladder and especially when you get to lead. I do not think there is one silver bullet, I use a combination of reading and learning online and off, attending conferences and talks (virtually now), online networking, finding mentors and listening to all feedback good and bad. I have found that I learn more from the bad and tough situations in my career than when things go smoothly.

Great leaders are confident and humble enough to bring onboard people who are smarter, more experienced, and capable of executing the vision. Empowered people to take more initiative and they overwhelmingly rise to the occasion.

Providing the team with autonomy and the opportunity to collaborate on tactics generates creative solutions so hire well and get out of the way.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love to spark a movement or create change through a new (domestic) Peace Corps (2021 version) and suggest we are all in it no application required. We have so many opportunities now across every state. We need our roads and bridges fixed, clean water in our communities, tutors, day care, senior care, teachers, healthcare workers, there is no need to pay people to stay home or send them abroad to build infrastructure overseas we need it here right now across all 50 states! We also need peace to prevail and I think if we work together side by side to fix these problems in our communities we will all be on the same team.

What do you want to be remembered for the most?

Quite simply I want to leave the world better than I found it and be remembered by the people whose lives I touched as a force for good in their lives. I lost 7 people very close to me in 6 years and know first hand no one on their deathbed wishes they worked more, made more money or won more awards. They just want to be with the ones they love most to tell them they mattered. I think of those people often and the roles they played in my life. I want to be remembered for passing along the very best in me to others so their lives are better and happier in some way because I was part of it. That’s pretty much it. I try not to sweat the small stuff, it is just a distraction.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.MavensAndMoguls.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thanks so much it’s been my pleasure! Stay well.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    Becky Robbins: “Create some rituals and practices that you commit to”

    by Pirie Jones Grossman
    Community//

    Riya Aarini: “Be authentic”

    by Pirie Jones Grossman
    Community//

    Katia Stern: “Clarity is the new Self-Charity”

    by Pirie Jones Grossman
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.