MEGAN WATT KNOWS IT TAKES A TEAM
By Meg Rothstein
Years ago, Megan Watt was treated to a bit of coffee break philosophy by an old colleague and friend, who told her that you can never have all three of the “big things” in life: a relationship, the ideal place to live and a perfect career. At least not all at once, anyway.
“My immediate response was, ‘Well. That’s crap!’” Watt says, letting loose peals of laughter. “Some people think it’s naive to think that you can have it all but I think of myself as an optimist. The world can be depressing. If I don’t think that I can have an amazing life, then why try at all?” For Watt, an amazing life includes ample time to invest in her passion trifecta: teaching, leadership and dreaming big—the groundwork of her business, Dream Catalyst Labs.
Dream Catalyst Labs, offers speaking, training and coaching services for business, nonprofit, education and professional association clients. Watt, known for her wit and liveliness as a speaker, launched Dream Catalyst as a side gig with her wife and co-founder Ilsa May in 2014 while each kept their separate, full-time careers. The duo made the leap, and made Dream Catalyst Watt’s full-time work as of January 2015.
“We talked about the risks involved in me quitting my job to run Dream Catalyst full time. We looked at our finances and realized we really could live on just Ilsa’s income if we had to. Taking the leap in 2015 really felt right.”
They were methodical about it. “We reviewed and thought through our business plan. I talked to a lot of professional speaker friends and those in business.” Watt enrolled in Upstart—a program for entrepreneurially minded women and people of color starting their own businesses in the Madison area that’s offered through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and UW. “It’s a phenomenal program,” Watt says.
“We did all of this before I fully quit my startup job. It wasn’t risky. It was a risk. But I bet on myself and Ilsa bet on me,” she says.
The duo operates as a dream team, a manifestation of her best lessons from childhood. “I’ve had a team around me since I was a little kid.” Raised by her single mother with unconditional love, Watt learned about collaborative strength as her mother created a powerful team with Megan’s best interests at its core. Their nurturing allowed Watt to dream big from the start. “My mother set aside any ego and pride in order to surround me with great coaches and adults who really cared. I’m the quintessential example of the child who was raised by a village.”
Watt went on to intentionally build teams through her work in career and leadership services for University of Wisconsin, University of Iowa and Indiana University; beta testing for LinkedIn’s University Pages product; and a stint as vice president of Madison-based e-commerce start up, ILC. Now, she’s engaged her pinnacle dream team: Dream Catalyst Labs.
“Ilsa and I are really lucky together. We have really complementary strengths and personality styles. We’re different in that I’m a bit more outgoing, fast-paced. I’m thinking only about the present moment a lot of times. Ilsa is constantly thinking through the ‘what ifs.’ She is a little more risk averse overall. So we counterbalance each other in a good way. When we make a decision, I’ll feel confidence based on the information I have. But I’m also very well aware that I might have to take a step back or pivot.”
That pivot is a core part of Watt’s dream methodology. So is intentionally seeking out the people who can help us do that— the people who will bet on us—by sharing feedback and helping us take risks, free our creativity, flourish and grow. Her debut book, “Discover. Act. Engage: A 60-Day Catalyst Guide on Accomplishing Your Someday Goals,” is part of Watt’s mission to help the rest of us build our own rock solid dream teams. In it, she lays out a plan and method to help us take risks and to assemble the just-right team that’ll help us catch those dreams. “Not only can everyone create a dream team, everyone should. I would not credit myself for anything without crediting the people in my life. You can’t do everything alone.”
Why do you need a Dream Team—and how do you build one? Megan Watt tells us at BRAVA’s THRIVE Luncheon Aug. 31.
For details and to register, click here.