It only takes a few minutes of talking to #Levo100 honoree Michelle Edgar to know that you are speaking with a remarkably passionate and driven person. Whether she is opening up about her seamless transition from journalism to music or her reasoning behind starting not one, but two organizations, we’re not quite sure when she finds time for sleep. But apparently she doesn’t really need it. “You can always have a day off, but I generally don’t. I love what I do,” she admits.
In addition to being the strategic business development director for FRUKT, a creative agency, Michelle is the founder and CEO of The XX Project, an invitation-only group for professional women who are leaders and mentors in various industries. She is also founder of the non-profit organization Music Unites, which brings music education to inner-city kids.
Perhaps it was her training as a professional pianist from a young age that instilled a need to pursue excellence and an overwhelming love of music. It helped her land a coveted stint at Vanity Fair while she was an undergrad at Northwestern. “I reached out to the publisher and said I will do anything to come work for you in London,” she says. Her dedicated work was recognized, as the publisher there helped her get a job at Women’s Wear Daily, and that eventually led to her running the beauty department at OK! magazine.
Edgar was kicking butt in journalism, but her passion and desire to work in the music industry would not subside. Using those same skills that got her the gig at Vanity Fair, she talked her way into a job at Warner Brothers Music. She continued to climb the ladder with prominent positions at Quest Management, KIDinaKORNER, Redlight Management and eventually her current job at Frukt, but she also wanted to give something back to this industry she loved, which led to the launch of Music Unites.
Ever the overachiever, she didn’t stop there. Edgar came up with the idea for The XX Project because she “wanted to take [her] career to the next level and I wanted to have a place where women could come, collaborate and create businesses to help further one another. The idea was to create something where I could really hear from women both personally and professionally. So I started throwing these TED-like talks,” she says.
Through over 25 events in the past two years, The XX Project has featured speakers including Soledad O’Brien and Eve, and just completed its first women’s empowerment retreat in partnership with Equinox, which featured speakers including Christine Hassler, spiritual counselor; life coach and author Damona Hoffman; and Allison Hagendorf, health and lifestyle coach. “It is just really exciting to see women get excited, empowered and support one another,” Edgar says.
Clearly, Edgar knows how to follow her passion and stay hungry. Lucky for us, she’s not stingy with sharing her secrets to success. Here are here three top tips to becoming a #Boss.
1. Do your homework.
“It’s about identifying your passions and I’ve always been really resourceful and did my due diligence. I always became as knowledgeable about the industry and researched it to death. You need to find out the major tentpoles and who are the best leaders. It was that knowledge that helped me get my jobs without the exact experience they were looking for.”
2. Avoid idleness.
“My mom taught me always be nice to everyone, because you never knows who has the secrets. Be open to listening and learning and doing different things that power you as an executive. I’m always furthering my education. Go to conferences, go to networking events, look for gaps in your skills and see how to fill them.”
3. Take risks.
“I went from doing sales at Vanity Fair to being an editor. They would ask, ‘Do you have experience?’ and I would say ‘No, but I can do it.’ If I couldn’t get through through with common ground or a connection, I would do whatever I had to do. I would find the assistant or the right access person. I thought, ‘How can I add value to this person?’ and with that attitude they think you’re either crazy or an eager beaver. And then in the in the music business I did the same thing. I was never scared.”
If you take away anything from Edgar, it is this: “Dream big, take risks, create your legacy and let passion drive your journey.”