Look up Morgan DeBaun’s name and you’ll find a litany of successes to follow.
In 2014 at the age of 24, she founded Blavity, a digital media platform that centers Black experiences. Less than 10 years later, the company’s portfolio now includes Gen-z focused 21Ninety, travel site TravelNoire and most recently, lifestyle and commerce brand Home + Texture.
Collectively, the Blavity’s sister platforms reach more than 250 million monthly consumers across all verticals and continue to break barriers, including being named the most popular site among Black users.
With that, it’s safe to say that DeBaun is pretty qualified to offer advice to the young, Black and ambitious, especially since she didn’t have much formal mentorship on her journey.
“I had a lot of peer mentors, but not a mentor in the traditional sense I would say,” she tells ESSENCE. “I’m a huge advocate of building relationships with the people that are sitting to your left and to your right, because those are going to be the people who are able to help you accomplish your dreams because they’re going to be working and have the same incentive structure as you.”
She continues: “There weren’t many Black women in technology that were visible at the time, and there were very few women, even, that were venture-backed and visible at the time. And so I did have to figure out my own identity and my own flavor on my own. And I think now with social media and different platforms, there’s more stories of people doing incredible things that you can kind of emulate. But my best advice to young professionals is to really get to know your peer group, because those are going to be the people who are rising with you throughout the rest of your life.”
This is just one of the gems she plans to dole out, as she recently launched a podcast aimed at having candid conversations with people from all walks of life, about the success journey.
“I feel like I have tried to live very publicly with the ups and the downs and left and the right,” she tells ESSENCE. “I tell people when I think I’ve made a mistake, I’m open to feedback. My employees give me feedback all the time and I’ve also grown a lot and I wanted to share more of the nuance of being a person who is in this world trying to do something significant and also acknowledging that I am a human. And I think a lot of times that when you’re interacting on social media, it’s a bit of surface level kind of picture book of what life looks like for that person—that can be dangerous. So I felt like a podcast was something where for people who genuinely wanted to understand and learn and figure out how they could build their dream life, this was a place where I could actually talk about it.”
“I was looking for a brand I could work with in a long term capacity to share more of my thoughts and ideas around how people can take their dreams and their visions and bring them to life,” she tells ESSENCE. “And Sharpie as a brand is iconic. It’s a brand that we’re all really familiar with. And then the Sharpie S•Gel specifically is a tool that I use in my personal life and for work to help me write down my ideas, my thoughts. Every single thing that I’ve created has started with me writing something down in my notebook or on a whiteboard.”
She shared that the partnership took on a deeper meaning that she didn’t anticipate.
“Sharpies have been a part of my manifestation process,” she said. “Nearly every goal I have, I write down. It’s really a testament that you can do anything, and as long as you can dream it, you can use the tools around you to achieve it.”