One might not expect the head of two successful soft goods and drapery manufacturing and rental businesses (together grossing nearly $7 million in 2013), responsible for the working lives of 32 employees and supplying stage drapes for music legends like Sting, Elton John and Madonna’s tours, to have time for much else beyond minding the company’s bottom line. One would be wrong.
On Nov. 15, Megan Duckett, president of Sew What? Inc., a noted stage and theatrical drapery manufacturer, spent the morning giving a factory tour and inspiring talk on what it’s like to run a business to a very important group: Girl Scout Brownie Troop 15445. The 10 energetic and intelligent second-grade girls and their leaders were sponsored by the local Torrance YMCA. The YMCA’s director reached out after reading an article about Duckett in More Magazine. The piece described Duckett as having “stitched together her love of rock and roll and her talent with a sewing machine to launch what is now a dream business.”
Duckett regularly takes time out from running Sew What? Inc. and sister drapery rental company Rent What? Inc. to inspire and nurture others in southern California with budding entrepreneurial aspirations. Her calendar is regularly meshed with important tasks like tour guide and guest speaker for a wide swath of would-be entrepreneurs, including students in elementary, middle, high school, and college, as well as adults attending small business conferences. In October, Duckett enjoyed a new role: as one of three judges for “Get Started OC,” an Orange County business pitch event that garnered a small business candidate $10,000 in seed money to help drive new local entrepreneurship and product innovation.
Why take the time? Duckett says that working with groups that encourage youth entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship training, particularly in lower economic environments such as Compton, Calif., is a personal priority for her. She sees it as a means to improving not only their lives, but ultimately our communities and the nation.
“It’s so much fun working with kids and aspiring entrepreneurs, challenging them, involving them, and helping them realize their own potentials for success. It’s also tied to that ‘purpose beyond profits’ notion,” says Duckett. She sees her own purpose and by extension, that of her company, as one that goes beyond just the duty to make a profit.
Many company leaders believe that organizations have a responsibility that reaches beyond shareholders; it includes other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, customers and the communities within which they operate. It is a philosophy in ethics that persons (including ‘corporate persons’) who act to further the interests of others, or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong, ultimately serve their own self-interest.
What’s next for Megan Duckett? She’s looking forward to mentoring a local small business owner she discovered who is expanding into the digital marketplace. “It will be the opportunity to provide some actual one-on-one coaching,” Duckett adds. “I hope I can offer them some ‘best practice’ suggestions and possibly present a road map of potential hazards, having been there myself.”