Continuing with our theme of young leaders, in this Podcast we explore what it means to be a young business owner, and how to deal with potential clients that may making false assumptions about you based on what you look like. We mustn’t be afraid to call out the elephant, and to stop and remind ourselves, ‘I’m capable, I’ve seen this before, I can overcome this. Resilience, facts and persistance can sway the most challenging of minds.
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Read the Show Notes Here: Being Bold To Change Perceptions With Chelsea Meggitt
Welcome back for another exciting episode of the Leading Ladies podcast. Today, we have Chelsea Meggitt joining us. She is the CEO of Collaborative Compositions, she’s a business strategist and a government contracting expert with more than a decade in the industry. She works with small businesses well, small to medium-sized businesses, to launch or expand their government contracts. She firmly believes that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cumbersome bureaucracy should not stand in the way of providing critical products or services to our government. She puts her passion for small business into her work by finding ways of cutting through the red tape to make the government more accessible. And she’s actually secured contracts valued at over 6 billion for her clients in just her first year of business. So it sounds to me like we’re dealing with just a little bit of a badass, welcome Chelsea!
Hey, great to be here. We are excited to have you,
And do you want to tell our listeners where in the world you are Chelsea.
I am in Washington state. So just about 30 minutes north of Seattle.
Ah, excellent. So not too far from me. For our listeners, I’m also based in the Seattle area. And Chelsea has joined us today to talk about being bold in order to change perceptions, which is something that I know will be important to all of you, because there’s a lot of perceptions out there about women, about young people, about older people, about pretty much everybody. We are like judgment making machines really aren’t we, and, you know, we’ve got to make sure that those judgments and those perceptions that others might have don’t hold us back. So I’m really, really excited to talk about this topic today.
So Chelsea, the first question that I always ask my guests is, what are your thoughts on the glass ceiling, does it still exist?
Absolutely. It still exists. It’s a huge problem. It’s getting to be more industry specific, which I feel like is progress, but in the major industries, it’s still a huge problem.
Say more about that.
Well, when you’ve got companies that have grown to be basically vertically integrated machines, they just don’t tend to change that quick play. So when you’re talking about a glass ceiling, that’s something that we as a society have just recently started talking about, maybe within the past five to ten years, really seriously. And so that’s not enough time really for those industries that have built themselves up in that amount of time to shift their perspective on where, you know, women and where, you know, different perspectives belong in the workplace.
So tell me a little bit about your journey into starting your own business and some of the maybe glass ceiling moments that you faced along the way.
Sure. So I was basically born into a government contracting family. I had parents that worked for two large government contractors in aerospace, giants Northrup Grumman, and Raytheon Industries at that time. And basically they decided that they didn’t want to work for such large companies and be subject to moving all the time anymore. And so they just decided to break away and start their own company. So when I say I grew up in a small business, I literally grew up in a small business from, you know, eight years old up. So I have watched my mom, who actually was the woman behind the woman owned small business of their company, basically enter the industry and smash through glass ceilings become one of the biggest women owned small businesses in Seattle area, and a huge government contractor. So it was, it was really, that basically was an instruction book for my life of how to, you know, form a successful company and how to provide some successful and some valuable services to the government.
Excellent. And you say that it was a family business, so I assume that both your mom and your dad were involved. Did you see some differences in the way that your mom was treated, compared to your dad?
A hundred percent! It was oftentimes a kind of an assumption that my mom was just sort of there for the certification, which oftentimes I saw as, ‘Isn’t that hurtful, doesn’t that, you know, impact you? And my mom’s confidence level in this was just unbelievable throughout. And she just walked in there and she would speak the contract language and she would, you know, negotiate for terms and conditions. And she really earned her spot at the table. And it was really clear by the end of any conversation that, she really was the one who was in charge of the business. And my dad was really honestly the technical.
Yeah, yeah. It’s not the first time that I’ve heard somebody say that when it comes to the woman and the man – there’s a couple of people that I’ve either had in my conferences, or they’ve been on my podcast, where it’s a man and a woman who own the business and yeah, they do assume that the woman’s there for the certification, it’s quite common. It’s kind of similar to you know, in companies where there’s not many women and suddenly a woman appears in the management team of all men and they think, ‘oh yeah, that’s a diversity hire.’ Not every company, but you know, sometimes that does happen, and it takes a little longer to earn people’s respect. And what you were saying about your mom going in there and showing that she knows her stuff and she is confident… You almost have to work a little bit harder to get people’s respect and you do absolutely have to make sure you know what you’re talking about.
Absolutely. And the way that she was able to command a room with leadership, it wasn’t aggressive and it wasn’t demanding, it was confident and it was knowledgeable and it was, you know, you really felt that she was the one who was the expert in the room. And that really gave me so much, I guess, hope from a young age that it didn’t have to just be for a certification. Like she can go and do it, so I can go and do it.
Yeah. I hear you, I hear you.
And so what inspired you to break free of the family business and go start out on your own.
Now I ended up getting my MBA, and I got that and graduated in 2018. And at that point I helped my parents sell their company because they’re at the point where they’re at retirement. And so I wanted them to be able to retire and enjoy that. And so I really felt that having them sell the company would be more beneficial than having me just take it over and try to run with it. It’s been a successful 20-year company and it ended up being sold for a really great price to a really great company. And I was able to help merge that into the other company. So you know, I really felt that my time there it was done, you know,
I hope that was a really great price for your parents rather than the really good one for the company who was buying it!
My parents got a great deal out of it.
Good! It’s their their legacy!
And so Chelsea, if you don’t mind sharing with our audience how old are you?
I am 29 years old, no 29 years young!
So for our audience, who are thinking ‘I wonder why has Fiona just asked Chelsea how old she is?’ Well, there’s actually a reason for that. Before Chelsea came on my podcast today, we were talking about, ‘what is it that you would like to talk about?’ What would be the defining thing for you in your career? And she talked about the fact that, ‘well, I am young and I’m badass, but I’m young and that affects how I’m perceived sometimes.’ And so that’s why I asked her the question. And so I’m really curious Chelsea, what are some of the challenging perceptions that you’ve had to deal with? What are some examples? What are some stories about what you’ve encountered during your first year in business, or even before that, when you were working with your parents?
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I started my business during, during a pandemic. And so that was kind of iffy territory to begin with. And everyone was, you know, adjusting to a virtual world. So basically when I started, it was, ‘hi, I’m this young blonde on camera and I’d like your business.’ And it’s in a business where most folks that are, have been in it for, for any given number of years, we’ll typically look for people that have retired from the industry to give them suggestions, or to consult with them. folks that have, have pretty much moved past their career points in life and are ready to start consulting or, or getting some, some advice in that sense too, to really connect them with people that are higher up in those industries. And so when I’m this young woman that just comes on camera and says, ’hi, nice to meet you, I know all these people, all these things, I would love to connect you and get you in the right position,’ there’s oftentimes a little bit of skepticism there. They get the sense that, ‘how could she possibly know what she’s talking about?’
How can you tell they are thinking that?
Thank goodness for cameras. Cause if we weren’t in this digital virtual world where we can see each other on camera, it would be a different scenario, but the change, there’s a change in body language, there’s a change in the way they look, there’s changing the way they sound. They’ve said, ‘Well, I thought you might have technical experts that you might have on the call today, or you might have a point of contact to a higher up in the industry that’s about to retire that you might be able to suggest us to.’ And I say, no, that’s me.’
It sounds like they’re assuming that you’re there to the salesperson. They don’t realize that you are the whole package.
Yeah. I do it all, from shaking the hand to getting the contract. It’s, it’s pretty much all under my belt, oftentimes that’s definitely not perceived.
And so in that moment where you’re sensing that, or they’ve even made those comments, how do you snap yourself out of that? What would be a good tip for some of our listeners that might be experiencing the same thing?
You know, having the sense of, I constantly tell myself, ‘I’ve been doing this for over a decade. That’s a long time. I know what I’m talking about. I know what I’m doing. I belong here. I belong at the table, I’ve earned a seat,’ and I really have to get mental in my game. And right in the middle of that conversation I think to myself, ‘okay, well, I’ve seen this before, this is a situation that happens all the time.’ And so it’s my job to shift the way he’s viewing the way I can help him, and the way that I can add value to the business.
I’m hearing, ‘I’m capable. I’ve seen this before. I can overcome this. It’s like a three step process, Yeah! I’m capable. I’ve seen this before. I can deal with it. I love it, I love it! And do you need, any visual reminders for that? Or is it just second nature for you now?
It’s started to become pretty much second nature. And if anything, maybe it’s an auditory cue. Cause when I talk to people on the phone and I hear a tone change, or if I’m in a meeting and I hear a tone change, I kind of think, ‘Oh, okay, wait, let’s, you know, let’s stop. Have I seen this before? Can I can deal with this? Let’s just shift the perspective.
Yeah. I like that. And so then what do you do?
I explain a little bit of how these things tend to work for folks that have come out of the industry. They’re retired, they’re older. Yes, they have connections, but it’s different when you’ve got a lot of room to grow and you come into it with connections at that point. If you are still getting to know people in the industry and they are still in the middle of their careers and they’re still growing and advancing, you really start to develop some confidence and connections within the industry that, that you can share. Once you’re retired, those connections tend to sort of all fall away over the years. And so me being, you know, as young as I am and as involved in the industry as I am, I really bring that, that longevity and lifetime value of my connections.
I like that. So you’re essentially like calling out the elephant and explaining why, ‘hey, what you think is best, it might not always be best.
I know that we’ve spoken a lot about changing perceptions in the business environment. What about other areas of your life? Where else have you had to take on tackling perceptions?
There isn’t really necessarily any area of my life where I haven’t had to take on different perceptions of me at different times in my life. I’m young, I’m blonde, I’m a woman, I’m boisterous, I’m enthusiastic. And oftentimes that’s seen as a little overwhelming or overbearing or obnoxious or misdirected. And really having to beat down the imposter syndrome in myself to say, ‘this is how I’m going to make it. This is how it’s going to, you know, this is how I’m going to get there.’ This is how other people get there. This is how a man would get there. So there’s no reason that I can’t follow that same sort of growth trajectory that I’ve set in my head of this is where I want to go and I want to get there.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So what I’m hearing is that its aa little bit of changing your perception of yourself.
You know, absolutely. Like imposter syndrome is something that I battle every single day. Like still saying I’m a CEO is weird and different and hard. Like I make my own job. That’s a new thing for me. So it’s, you know, it’s really like I have earned my seat at the table and now here’s let me show you how I can bring you more value. Here’s how I can bring you more value. And you know this is how it’s going to be even better. And it’s just really been sort of an exercise in positive thinking, if you will, starting this.
I like that.
So I’m thinking that we probably have listeners right now thinking, ‘well, I wouldn’t mind starting my own business.’ What advice would you give to young women in the industry that I thinking of going down the same path as you?
Go for it! It’s not hard. It’s really like a few forms and you have an idea and you can go for it. There’s absolutely nothing holding you back. I feel like there’s a lot of perceptions that starting a business is really expensive or requires a lot of money to be put down. And, it is, in some cases, very low overhead and you don’t really have to have a lot of startup costs and you can really take off from very little and, and just kind of jump and make it, make it your goal, you know, and, and run with it. And, once you’ve had a success or two under your belt, or under your company’s belt, it gives you the confidence to really say, ‘this is right, this is okay, it’s going right.’ And to really just stick with it, don’t give up, you can do it.
And how, how some of your friends and family responded to seeing you do your own thing?
There’s been a lot of sort of surprise that I went off and just kind of, sort of decided to, I started this kind of as a side hustle and end of December, I made it my full-time gig. I’m now making my own job and my family is, like my family couldn’t be prouder. They’re really thrilled that they were able to, essentially my mom and dad is, they were able to be an example for me to grow and to really have the confidence to just kind of go do this. And my friends are also really enthusiastic about it. I mean they do not necessarily know what I do, but they’re definitely thrilled that I’m out there doing my own thing, trying to make it work and then giving it a go.
I love that. I love that.
Now last couple of questions. ‘Cause I know that you are a busy CEO. What do you think that some of the perceptions are out there about women that need to be changed?
I think there’s still a lot of misconceptions that women are sort of on the administrative side of things. They’re still sort of, you know, ‘here, would you mind making a copy or editing this paper?’ And in reality, you move beyond that. There no reason that that should be a perception that’s put upon you, especially when you enter a new workplace. I mean, I feel like there’s so many women that are just afraid to claim their seat at the table. And, and that’s really what I think I need to see more of is some claiming some seat the table.
Yeah, going back to the being bold thing, if somebody says to you, ‘will you take notes? will you will you go and take copies of this, or make me a cup of coffee, say, no. You don’t have to be rude about it, I remember somebody once came into an office and said, ‘hey, can you make me a cup of tea?’ And I said, ‘the kitchen’s over there.’ Make your own cup of tea it’s not my job. Or if you find that as the woman, you’re always the one taking the notes in a meeting, there is nothing wrong – you don’t have to go in and say, ‘I shouldn’t be taking notes because I’m a woman’ – you go in and say, ‘I’ve been taking notes the last few sessions I’d really appreciate it if somebody else could do that today.’
You know, it’s, it’s about sharing responsibility, not demanding responsibility.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And where do you think you get your boldness from to do some of that?
Probably a mix of, of my parents and, and my own upbringing, I kind of have always been a strong minded, thought forming individual, who’s just always spoke my mind. So and my parents always encouraged that. Thank goodness!
Oh, I like that. I like that. Yeah. I was quite mouthy too, as a kid, – and probably as an adult too! For me, it’s learning to speak my mind in the right way. I think I’m getting much better right now.
Absolutely. And that’s a lifelong lesson. I have no doubt. I will always be learning.
Well, Chelsea, before we leave, is there any final nuggets of knowledge that you would like to leave our audience with today?
Don’t be afraid to just go after that thing that you’ve been wanting to go after. Just, just make the jump and it’s, I can guarantee you, it’s not going to be nearly as scary as you thought it was because it’s, it’s worth it. There’s so little time. Just do it.
Yeah, so little time, you don’t know if you’re going to make it to retirement, you know, there’s so little time, so just go after your dreams. Now I love that.
Thank you for being here, Chelsea. And if people want to learn more about you, where should they go to connect with you?
Thank you. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or my website is www.collaborativecompositions.com.
So we have any companies listening that want to get into defense, please call Chelsea. Call somebody, different call somebody who is not already in your address book. I’m pretty sure at 6 billion, you won’t regret it. Thanks for listening everybody. We’ll see you soon.
Chelsea Meggitt, CEO of Collaborative Compositions, is a business strategist and government contracting expert with more than a decade in the industry, who works with small and mid-size businesses to launch or expand their government contracting business. Chelsea firmly believes small businesses are the backbone of our economy and that cumbersome bureaucracy should not stand in the way of providing critical products or services to our government. Chelsea puts her passion for small businesses to work by finding ways of cutting through red tape to make the government more accessible. Chelsea has secured contracts valued at over $6 Billion for her clients, just in her first year of business. She has helped her clients expand their government business with new customers, develop stronger teaming relationships, and build revenue generating government contracting programs. Chelsea holds an MBA in Leadership from the University of Washington and is a self-proclaimed Husky for life!