The founders of Maggie are looking to create an online platform to empower women around the world, using the same practice they've developed in Edmonton to help themselves.
Dani Strang and Jennifer von Berendt founded Maggie, originally called The Magazine Club, in 2021. The idea was to convene women to have conversations about magazine articles in an effort to help them move "from suppression to expression."
The practice helps participants "unlearn" their response to the negative feedback they've received in the workplace, which they describe as a "better not reflex" — as in, "I better not speak up, or I'll be dismissed." The club became a safe place to share and be heard, offering a "positive corrective experience" (also called a "corrective emotional experience").
The need was great. As they were developing the idea, Strang and von Berendt conducted a "problem interview" — an idea they got from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. They asked 56 women, more than half of whom were women of colour, this question: "Do you feel comfortable or confident in your current work environment to express your innermost ideas, perspectives, or opinions in critical conversations?" Only two of 56 said yes, both of whom own their own businesses in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space.
They further developed their solution while filming a Telus Storyhive docuseries. The series, which was released earlier this year, follows Strang and von Berendt on their entrepreneurial journey, weaving in from participants and experts about their experiences of being suppressed and the discoveries they've made by talking to each other.
The company's 2022 was dedicated almost exclusively to the first pilot and the completion of the docuseries. Next, Maggie intends to launch further pilots where women from far and wide come together to discuss magazine articles. But 2023 will also be a year of "designing and building out the wireframe so that we can launch it as a public platform to women all over the world," Strang told Taproot.
In celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, Maggie will be spotlighting a clip where participating women are given permission to thank themselves, to profoundly emotional effect.
"The women said things that they wouldn't typically say in other situations or conversations in their lives," Strang said.
Photo: Dani Strang and Jennifer von Berendt read The Walrus during the filming of The Magazine Club, a docuseries about the development of an idea to empower women to speak authentically. (Supplied)