Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
Nancy Evans announced early in her life that she wanted to have a life full of multiple occupations and experiences, hence, the title of this podcast, the Serial Liver. Remarkably, she’s made this happen, going onto become a storied publisher, author, founder of iVillage, entrepreneur, farmer and mother. Today, Nancy is the host of the Confab podcast and partners with her daughter on the Women’s Wisdom Project, where she shares stories of extraordinary women whose wisdom we all need. On the podcast, Nancy shares her experience of the careers she’s had and the important stories she’s collected from women she’s met throughout the years. She highlights the importance of community for women who can be inspired by those who want them to succeed, no matter what setbacks they encounter. (02:29) Act 1: Wesleyan and the fork in the road (04:03) The Power of One (05:01) Publishing as a woman at Doubleday (08:02) Giving Jackie Onassis a raise (09:15) Family Life Magazine: feeding the hungry parenting market (10:48) Confidence is found in comfort, like writing a letter to a friend (12:29) The tech frontier in publishing (15:55) iVillage and the legacy of women entrepreneurs (18:25) Humanizing cyberspace (21:59) Community: the engine behind iVillage (24:28) Farming in Connecticut, with Evans Media as a side hustle (25:57) A changing sense of identity (27:29) Sharing stories through The Confab (31:20) Building an internet destination for women (33:32) Moving the room with humor (34:27) Mother daughter duo (36:15) Age is just a number (39:04) Time to write a book Read Vanity Fair’s Air Mail Newsletter, One Last Lunch, and Growing a Small Business for an enriched perspective on Nancy Evans’ inspiration and work. Listen to Nancy’s Confab Podcast at www.theconfabpodcast.com or sign up for the newsletter for more access to Nancy’s conversations with influential women. Hear more stories of people who found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life on Liz Tinkham’s Third Act podcast at thirdactpodcast.com.
Speaker 1 (00:14):
Liz Tinkham (00:18):
Hi. This is Liz Tinkham, and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your scrip ends, but your show’s just not finished.
Liz Tinkham (00:34):
Hi, and welcome to Third Act. Today I talk with Nancy Evans, who likes to think of herself as a serial liver. Early in Nancy’s career, she wrote a prescient article called Surviving my 20s, where she said that she wanted to be, among many other things, a magazine person, a teacher, and a farmer. Little did she know that she would get to live all these experiences along with so many more. Nancy went on to become a Storied publisher and founder of iVillage, the Internet’s first online destination for women. She’s also an author, entrepreneur, mother, consultant, and yes, a farmer. Today in the next adventure of Nancy’s life, she’s the host of the Confab podcast, where women tell their stories about how they defied the odds to create their own businesses and compose their lives. More importantly, through her work with the Women’s Wisdom Project, she’s collecting the important stories of women, including her own, who have paved the way for so many of us to succeed.
Liz Tinkham (01:35):
So Nancy, welcome to the Third Act podcast. What a pleasure to have a fellow podcaster, although I must say I’m a little intimidated.
Nancy Evans (01:43):
Oh please don’t be. I’m fun! I’m good.
Liz Tinkham (01:45):
Yeah, I know you are. So you’re an award-winning interviewer. And I’m just a former management consultant who likes to interview people. So please provide constructive criticism throughout the interview, if you would.
Nancy Evans (01:56):
I’ll be your sister. I’ll support you.
Liz Tinkham (01:59):
Thank you. So let’s get going. You have a terrific career, and I want to kind of take our audience through it a bit. So your career is in some ways historic because you’ve worked through and survived the change from traditional media publishing books and magazines to launching the first major internet site for women in iVillage, doing digital media consulting and now podcasting. So if I roll back, though, to what we call, or I call, on this show the first act, which is Wesleyan, what did you think you would be doing once you graduated?
Nancy Evans (02:29):
Well, I of course was at the fork in the road, and I had two mentors, fabulous mentors, women mentors at Wesleyan. And one was the first woman chairman of the English department. They’d never had women chairmen. And the other was the head of women’s studies. In fact, she’d created women’s studies at Cornell and was recruited to come to Wesleyan to create women’s studies. So I had these two women advising me what they thought I should do, and the head of the English department thought I should go become an academic and show that more women could rule the world in academia. And the other took me down to meet Gloria Steinem in New York and said, “What you should do is be the next Gloria Steinem and change the media and fight for women’s rights.” So because I was scared and because I needed to be supported, I went to graduate school at Columbia in English literature to get my doctorate to take that route, because I thought then I’ll be a professor, and in the summers I can write, which I was already doing by then. So writing was a big part of my life. So I was torn. I was torn which direction to go.
Liz Tinkham (03:50):
It’s funny because a number of people that I’ve interviewed started off going into academia, went on to get their doctorate, and then switched. So it sounds like you might’ve switched, because how’d you get into publishing?
Nancy Evans (04:03):
Yeah, well, then I’m at Columbia, and I was being photographed by the famous photographer for a book that Columbia was doing. And he looked from behind his camera and just stared at me and said, “What do you really want to do?” And I said, “Oh, well, what I really want to do is go into publishing and work at a magazine.” Then he went back behind the camera and then came out again, and he goes, “Well, why aren’t you doing that?” And I said, “Well, who would hire me?” And he goes, “Kid, just go try it.” And really, all it took… I mean, Gloria Steinem calls it the power of one, that one person can come into your life and you’re ready to hear the message, and I was. And I went home that night to my little huddle of a room, Columbia, and started writing letters to every magazine on the planet and created a resume and then proceeded to go on interviews.
Liz Tinkham (05:01):
You eventually become the president and publisher of Doubleday, so I think the whole publishing thing worked out pretty well for you. So this is late 80s, early 90s. What was it like for women in publishing at that time?
Nancy Evans (05:13):
There’ve always been women in publishing. What there weren’t necessarily were women up ahead running the companies. The bigger tableau, I think, is that when I had come from Book of the Month Club, where I had been the editor and chief of Book of the Month Club, which was a really big business at that time, owned by Time Inc. And I also had been doing a television show underwritten by Time Inc. on PBS. So I was beginning to get a profile out there in the media world. By the time it was announced I was going over to be president and publisher of Doubleday, the Wall Street Journal wrote up the announcement of my going there and did nothing but talk about my looks, how young I was, the way I looked. I hate to say this, because I hope it’s changing. It still isn’t as much as it should, but they never would’ve talked about a man going to run a company and talked about his ponch or his balding hair. But all they did was talk about my looks. And so that was pretty tough, and I just tried to… You got to just ignore it and barrel on.
Nancy Evans (06:31):
And that’s what I did. I mean, I took this behemoth that was kind of falling on hard times, and I had to lay off a lot of people, which is always hard. And then I began turning it around. And the good news was that I’d already had corporate experience at Time Inc., which does give you skillsets that you really do need to run a company, I think.
Liz Tinkham (06:51):
Yeah, I did go back, and some of the research, I mean, it was not a particularly… I don’t know if favorable is the right word, but I mean, was it the CEO who took some heat for hiring you from Book of the Month Club over to Doubleday?
Nancy Evans (07:04):
Yeah. I mean, any guy who hired me took heat. And then later when I succeeded at something, every guy who ever hired me said, “I found her in the gutter. I made her what she is today.” I mean, they all took credit for it. Yeah, they all took heat for it.
Liz Tinkham (07:23):
I’ve had that happen to me too, like, “Oh, I found her. Look how great she’s done.” I was sort of doing well before that too. All right, so you had a very famous person working for you, Jackie Onassis, when you were at Doubleday. And last year you published this great piece in Vanity Fair’s Air Mail newsletter… And we’ll reference that in the show notes… about working with her. And my favorite part of that whole story was about giving her a raise. So people can go and look at that piece, but I wanted you to tell us about what was it like to try and give Jackie… I’m going to laugh thinking about it.
Nancy Evans (07:57):
Liz Tinkham (07:57):
And it’s really early in the morning to laugh this hard… giving her a raise.
Nancy Evans (08:02):
Yeah, yeah. Well, first let me say that essay that was in Graydon Carter’s newsletter, it came from a book called One Last Lunch, where a lot of people were asked to write about if they could imagine one last meal with a friend of theirs who happened to be famous. So I was one of many in that book. But Jackie… Trying to get her to take a raise. Okay, so she had had a bunch of bestsellers, I mean, huge bestsellers, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk before all of his issues came out, a book called The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers. I mean, she was ruling the bestseller list. And I said, “Jackie, you are bringing in so much money to this company. You need that more money going to you.” And she said, “Oh, I don’t really need it.” And I said, “Jackie, it is so not about whether you need the money. You deserve the money. And it’s not good for women for you to say that. So it’s going to be in your next paycheck. So congratulations.” End of story, yeah.
Liz Tinkham (09:06):
She didn’t try to give it back or anything, did she?
Nancy Evans (09:08):
No, no, no. Yeah.
Liz Tinkham (09:11):
Oh gosh. Well, again, we’ll reference all of this in the show notes, but that’s a terrific article. We encourage people to go and read it. So after that, though, you go on to found Family Life Magazine. And I know you had a young child at the time. This is in the 90s. I did too. I remember when Family Life came online, and I thought oh my gosh. There’s actually a magazine that has something other than, like you said, white, everybody’s at home, sort of the 50s model of being a family.
Nancy Evans (09:38):
Liz Tinkham (09:38):
And I was working. You were working. I mean, what gave you the confidence… I mean, I understand the niche was open, but what gave you the confidence to found the magazine at that time?
Nancy Evans (09:47):
Confidence really is the key thing for, I think, anyone starting a business, but particularly for women. So what gave me the confidence was I marshaled tons of research. I mean, I am like the ultimate… I still work with paper, so I’m constantly clipping Fortune Magazine, New York Times. And there was so much in the business press pointing to the fact that there was this hungry parenting market. And of course parents themselves had changed so dramatically. I could just see that with my own eyes taking my daughter to school, that there were as many fathers taking their daughters to school as there were mothers, and that we were different colors. Our kids were playing outside now, they weren’t always in the house. And it just seemed to me so obvious that there needed to be another magazine beside the reigning king at the time, which was called Parents. And so I started writing it up in notes. I just would write down little riffs about what I imagine this magazine could be.
Nancy Evans (10:48):
And then you know where I got confidence? I read a book called Growing a Small Business by Paul Hawkin, who started Smith and Hawkin, and he said… “What stopped me was the business plan part. And I said how do I know what the numbers are going to be and what the ad revenue will be? And he said, “Forget the words business plan and just write up your project as if you’re writing a letter to a friend.” And that let the gates open so I can write it. And I wrote it and then went around to various media companies to pitch it. And I’ll tell you one other thing. Back to confidence. When I started falling apart and thinking who’s going to do this with me? Why would they take it on? I’d go for walks. I am really big on taking walks to get myself revved up again.
Liz Tinkham (11:42):
So the moral of that story is don’t just rely on your Excel spreadsheet?
Nancy Evans (11:49):
Really don’t, because almost anybody that you go to when you are starting a business and if you are going out, let’s say to raise money, invariably they’ll say, “Just throw out these numbers, because whatever numbers you’re coming up with are a best guess work.” And what is more of interest to almost anyone out there is the people pitching the idea. I mean, it’s you and your experience and your passion for the project that usually gets the yes.
Liz Tinkham (12:23):
When did you start to recognize that the internet was going to change the world of publishing?
Nancy Evans (12:29):
At Family Life. So I’m in my office in Manhattan, and there came a time when almost every day someone from the West Coast, including Paul Allen, Bill Gates, that whole crew, was coming to New York to meet with what they called then content providers. And content providers were all the mass magazines at the time. So these guys would come into my office, and they would set up a little computer, and then they would show me this really bad prototype of what the internet was going to look like. And usually it broke down and didn’t work. But they were saying to me, “The next big thing is the internet, so can we license your content to go on this thing called the web?” And I said, “Yeah, well, why would anyone go to the web when they can get this content within this beautiful magazine? And also where’s the money? What’s the business model here?” which was not answered at that time. So I learned a lot from all of these meetings of these guys… And they were all guys coming into my office and talking to me about what they thought the next frontier was. That’s how I learned.
Liz Tinkham (13:45):
Yeah, and so you go on and get involved in iVillage. What was iVillage?
Nancy Evans (13:52):
So Family Life was being used by… Do you remember QVC, which was like a-
Liz Tinkham (13:58):
Yes, of course.
Nancy Evans (13:59):
Liz Tinkham (14:00):
The Home Shopping Network, right.
Nancy Evans (14:00):
The Home Shopping Network. So Barry Diller, who owned it at the time, had just started something called QVC2, which was home shopping for people who wouldn’t be caught dead home shopping. A woman named Candace Carpenter was running that. And someone showed me one day that she was using all the art, the visuals from my magazine as the wraparound on her parenting content. So I thought well, compliment, but also not good that you’re taking my stuff.
Liz Tinkham (14:37):
A copyright violation too.
Nancy Evans (14:37):
We called a meeting, we being Jahn Wenner of Rolling Stone fame, who was my partner in Family Life, and Barry Diller and Candace came over, and the four of us had a meeting to kind of come to Jesus and cease and desist. But during that meeting, I just thought okay, Candace stole from me. But she’s also really smart. And I wrote her a note after that meeting and just said, “I think we should become friends.” And I did that in part because rarely was I in a room, a corporate room, with another woman. It was very rare in my life that there were women in the room. And so we became friends, and she started doing consulting work for America Online, AOL, back in dial-up days, and she sent me a disk, the AOL disk, those ubiquitous disks-
Liz Tinkham (15:31):
Yet, they used to send them in the mail, right?
Nancy Evans (15:33):
Exactly. So I put this thing in my computer, and I’m going, “Wow, this is really stupid.” I mean, I was not impressed. And she said, “Well, exactly. There’s the opportunity. We can make it better.” So that was the beginning.
Liz Tinkham (15:47):
I remember using iVillage, and it seemed early for what it was. So maybe explain for people who didn’t use it what the intent was and what it was.
Nancy Evans (15:55):
Yeah, well, the year was 1995, and in 1995 less than 11% of the people online were women.
Liz Tinkham (16:05):
Which is hard to imagine, right now. So hard to imagine.
Nancy Evans (16:09):
Yeah, so you really need to kind of lay down that number to understand what it was like. And AOL, which was then the premier portal, they were saying from the beginning of statistics for them that the primary users were people with high needs, which included gays who are looking for community, Army people, military, who were often different places and needed friends and family, and the third was parents, especially new parents who were looking for advice and information. So because I had the Family Life magazine, AOL asked if we could create a parenting site. And we said, “That’s interesting, but really we’d like to create something bigger.” So Steve Case, who was there then, and Ted Leonsis proceeded to give us $2 million to begin this larger thing that included parenting, but also would include other interests for women. And then with that money, yeah, we went out and raised more money than any other women ever had.
Liz Tinkham (17:23):
So I read a really interesting quote when I was doing some research on you from The New Yorker… And I’m going to read here… about the iVillage, because it went on to IPO. So here’s the quote: “It’s good fortune…” This is referring to your IPO, or the iVillage IPO… “however attracted an unusual amount of attention and hostility because Carpenter and Evans were neither webheads nor computer geeks, but two women in their 40s with controversial reputations rooted in the realm of books, magazines, and television. To their old media peers, their sudden windfall seemed to show that anyone with a few ideas and a lot of nerve could make a killing in cyberspace.” So I was reading that a couple of days ago, and it was so offensive to me. And it The New Yorker, October ’99. And I don’t think that would’ve been said, either then or now, about two young guys coming out of Stanford with a PowerPoint deck. So as you look back on it, so what legacy do you think you and your business partner, Candace Carpenter, left for women entrepreneurs?
Nancy Evans (18:25):
To go where no one has tread. You have to understand that that statistic I gave you earlier, that only 11% of the people online were women in 1995 meant that the web was largely dark, waterless, weird, not anywhere what I would call normal people would want to go. So the fact that we didn’t know anything about the internet or that we weren’t computer geeks was actually our credentials to go in there and try to consumerize it and make it habitable. I mean, we said our mission was to humanize cyberspace. So that is what we did. And they were all quite right. We knew nothing about tech. I mean, one day Candace and I were sitting on this white thing talking, and a tech came running over and said, “You’re sitting on the server.” We were about to blow up our whole company. But we didn’t know it was the server. But what we did know was what women wanted. And we were the ones who created what is now called community. We had millions of women breaking off into support groups, from new parents, parents of twins, to women who wanted to lose 20 pounds, 30 pounds, women who wanted to go into politics.
Nancy Evans (19:51):
The first women’s march in Washington had to do with gun control. Most of it was organized on iVillage, because of course we had this national network, and the women were in there saying, “I’ll meet you at the corner of Vine and Twig Road, and we’ll go to Washington.” I mean, it became this hub, this huge hub of incredible solution sharing among women. And it included…We interviewed almost every candidate for national office, and we always brought questions from the women of the country, literally had hundreds of questions, sometimes thousands of questions that were submitted to us from women all over. And we brought those questions to the big guys and a few women. And childcare, for instance, which in our polls always rose to the top of things that women cared about. And when I brought that up to some of the guys… Even John McCain, who’s one of the good guys, and I said, “Childcare is really important to women. In fact, it’s the number one thing that’s important to women,” and he just said, “Really? Gosh, I didn’t know that.” So it was a real turning point in time, and I think it took non-tech people to change what the internet could be.
Liz Tinkham (21:13):
Totally. And I mean, it was quite successful because you guys IPO’d.
Nancy Evans (21:18):
Yeah, when we IPO’d, we were the sixth largest IPO in the freaking history of the world. I mean, it was huge.
Liz Tinkham (21:25):
That is so cool.
Nancy Evans (21:28):
Yeah, and we also said from the beginning that we were a media company, which wasn’t the word on the street then among the computer geeks who were creating stuff. We said we were creating a media company. It wasn’t an internet thing. It was a media company. So that’s an important distinction. Later NBC bought the company, which was one of our initial investors, and they took it on.
Liz Tinkham (21:53):
Did you end up staying on when NBC bought iVillage?
Nancy Evans (21:59):
No, and too bad because one of the real tricks of learning the web program, I mean, how you do editorial and how you do community on the web, is that you listen to the consumer. You’re working from the down up, listening to women and then bringing back to them what they say they want. And NBC Universal came in and did it the old top-down media way and brought in their talent to create shows and to be the host of everything, and they completely forgot that the engine that drove iVillage and that to this day drives social media are the people, are the women. And they really forgot to listen to the women, and they lost their way.
Liz Tinkham (22:49):
Yeah, I kind of faded away, kind of got folded into the broader NBC and then yeah.
Nancy Evans (22:57):
But it’s important to know that in the wrong hands, not knowing how to really take advantage of what the web can do, I mean, that two-way conversation, which we also brought to advertising, which is another thing that was one of our milestones, was that there hadn’t been any blue chip companies advertising on the web because it was too scary for them to bring their treasured brands on there. And we brought the first blue chip companies on to advertise, but we said, “You’re not going to just advertise one way like you do on TV and magazines. This is going to be a two-way conversation. You’ve got to bring something to the party, because these are neighborhoods. That’s why we called it iVillage. So you need to bring something in your little store that you’re going to set up here.” So every one of our companies we brought in did something other than just advertise. That was that significant.
Liz Tinkham (24:00):
So after that, if I’ve got it right, you found your own consulting company, Evans Media?
Nancy Evans (24:04):
Like with that New Yorker quote about how easy it is to create a internet company and then cash out-
Liz Tinkham (24:10):
It’s not. That’s why the whole thing is so offensive.
Nancy Evans (24:13):
I had worked so hard. You know that whole 24/7?
Liz Tinkham (24:18):
Nancy Evans (24:20):
I mean, really, I would count the… Hearing the number of hours in a day and trying to figure out okay, can I sleep three hours and still do everything we’ve got to do?
Liz Tinkham (24:27):
Nancy Evans (24:28):
So when I came out of that, I was so tired. But the first thing I did was I just wanted to become a farmer, a simple farmer. And we bought a house in Connecticut, and that is what I did. I started moving… I mean, I just had a wonderful time being a farmer, a country woman. So that is really what I did. But as I was doing that, so many of the iVillage gang had gone on to start companies. And so they were still in my life, and so I was helping them do their decks, their business proposals, introducing them to people about raising money. And so that was like breathing air. I was doing that all the time. And it really was my wonderful daughter who said, “Mommy, you really ought to name this Evans Media or start creating an official thing because you’re doing this all the time for everybody.” So that’s how it started.
Liz Tinkham (25:31):
So you’re farming, and you’re consulting. So one of the things I like to ask people is how their sense of identity changed throughout their sort of career. And I mean, you had a very… You still do… I mean, but very, very big public personality and lots being written about you with iVillage as you kind of stepped back and retreated into farming. And so how did your sense of identity change?
Nancy Evans (25:57):
Okay, well, one day I looked at a calendar from the old days and then my calendar in the current days, and it was like I had meetings every 15 minutes in the old days, and then this calendar said deadhead flowers. Make stone wall. I mean, it was like… And I looked at it, and I said, “Wow, Nancy.” Yeah, this is a… And then I had on a Cartier watch, my one Cartier watch that I gave to myself on my 50th birthday, which I then proceeded to crunch under a boulder because I had forgotten to take it off. So I just thought yeah, you got a different life now. And then I just smiled at it because I remembered an article I wrote that’s called Surviving My 20s that I wrote for a magazine when I was in my 20s, and in it I was in angst about I want to be a magazine person, I want to do this, I want to be a teacher, I want to be a farmer one day. I had all these things I wanted to do. And I thought I’m doing one of them now. I’m freaking farming.
Nancy Evans (27:04):
So that was another thing. I really thought there’s so many things to do in a life, and I used to get boxed in, thinking well, if I don’t do that now, I’ll never get to do it. But if, God willing, you get a long life, you can do so many things, one at a time, over that lifespan. So that’s really been the thing that’s guided me.
Liz Tinkham (27:29):
So my sense is now as you did your consulting and farming, and now you’re doing… Or my sense is you’re giving your wisdom back to women entrepreneurs through the Women’s Media Lab, the Women’s Wisdom Project, and the Confab podcast. So what motivated you to start these initiatives?
Nancy Evans (27:50):
I’ll tell you. It used to just get me ticked off when I would go to one of those women’s lunches they have, especially in New York, but they have them in cities all over the country, where women are feted for being woman of the year. And there was one particular event every year that included big, boldface names. Martha was there, Oprah was there, that whole group. And they would get up in front of this room in a big hotel and tell wonderful stories about their lives, about failures, about trials and tribulations, also the good stuff, but they were personal. They were funny. They were inspiring. And I kept thinking if I could just tape these and get this stuff out to all the women. It shouldn’t just be the women in this room here. And that was my impetus. I wanted more women to hear stories of how women created their lives, how they started their business, how they moved something down the field that seemed impossible at the time.
Liz Tinkham (28:54):
How did you come up, then, with this Confab podcast?
Nancy Evans (28:58):
Yeah, well, my daughter. Okay, my daughter, who has inspired the magazine I started and then when we were doing iVillage, which we were doing out of our houses when we first started. So people were coming into the house every day. And Sam was a little kid. And she would stand at the front door giving out legal pads to everyone who came in.
Liz Tinkham (29:19):
Your early assistant.
Nancy Evans (29:21):
Yeah, so she sat in on a lot of meetings. And so the kid grew up just… I mean, she just had it in her blood that she was going to be starting things of her own. So she is the one who said we really should do a podcast. She is the one who came up with the name The Confab, which when I heard it, it means an intimate conversation where you’re telling the truth. It just struck me as completely the right thing. And also our partner is another iVillage alumn, Valerie ___-
Liz Tinkham (29:56):
Our friend, our mutual friend, who introduced us, right?
Nancy Evans (29:59):
Yes, because I don’t know that I would’ve… No, I can tell you for sure I wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t encouraged me. I wouldn’t have done it.
Liz Tinkham (30:08):
What do you want to do with the Women’s Wisdom Project?
Nancy Evans (30:12):
Collect all the wisdom from women, because there is a pretty thing, this thing at Columbia, called the Oral History Project, which has been going on for decades, where they’re collecting stories from people who had some impact on history. And I thought that’s what I want to do with women, because every time one of us tells our story, women out there go, “God, you were scared too? You didn’t think you knew what you were doing?” They go, “Well, gosh, if she accomplished all that and she felt that way, well, maybe I can do it too.” So I really feel that storytelling is the engine to get more women to think yeah, I can go out and do that too.
Liz Tinkham (30:58):
There’s that famous statistic that only what, 2%, 3% of Venture Capital money goes to women. And wouldn’t you have loved to have filmed all the interactions you and Candace had in raising money and then clip it all back as something to give to young women now to say if you think you have it bad, look what we went through? And you can do it, right?
Nancy Evans (31:20):
Absolutely. And that I’m going to start writing down, because I do remember so many of those meetings, which were almost two-person, men, white men, around those long conference tables and just looking at us clueless, going, “What? You want to create something on the internet for women? Women don’t even use computers.” They just wanted to throw us out of the room. And I kept saying… They would go, “My wife would never use that.” And I would just go, “Exactly, because there is freaking nothing there for your wife or your daughter or your sister. There is nothing there, and that is what we’re going to do. We’re going to create the stuff that will make women use it like the next best appliance since the refrigerator.”
Liz Tinkham (32:06):
I used to say when I was working, same timeframe, in the ’90s, early 2000s, I’d go, especially on my management team… I was on a global management team, and every time I’d open my mouth, especially since I had guys from all over the world, and I’d be talking, and I could just see in their faces them trying to put me in context with the women they knew in their lives, their mothers, their wives, their sisters. And for the most part, none of them worked. And you’d get this perplexed look. I mean, they accepted me, but I think they were like where did you come from?
Nancy Evans (32:39):
Liz, that is such a great description, that glaze that came over them because they couldn’t figure out who you are, yeah.
Liz Tinkham (32:48):
Who you were and they couldn’t put it in context of other women that they knew. And it took me a while to figure that out. They were always really nice to me, very polite, and they were in some ways amazed. And I had kids, and they’d look at me, and they’d say, “What’s going on?” And after a while, so many of them would come and share their stories about their wives and how proud they were of whatever their wives were doing or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it took some for me to realize that I was such an anomaly and that sometimes it took me… I had to explain two or three times to them. And it wasn’t because I was bad. They just have no context for it.
Nancy Evans (33:32):
That’s right. So you really had to think about how can I move this room? What can I do? And one of the things I started doing was I became really funny. That glazed look that they would have, if I just finally leaned into the table in the room and just said something that would get their attention and then they would start laughing, I would go, “Okay, so here’s the deal, guys.” Once I broke through that look they all had… The other thing is I changed my clothes. The way I wore clothes is I tried to wear clothes that looked probably the wife could’ve been wearing, to make myself more familiar to them and not wear some kind of power suit, which is what women were wearing at the time.
Liz Tinkham (34:17):
Right, the big shoulder pads and all of that. Isn’t that funny to think about?
Nancy Evans (34:21):
Liz Tinkham (34:21):
Isn’t that funny? I bet your daughter doesn’t do that. I bet your daughter wears whatever she wants to work.
Nancy Evans (34:26):
Liz Tinkham (34:27):
So let me just ask a question about your daughter and working with your daughter. So my kids, one day we had this conversation in the car about all working together, and I was like oh my God, we’d kill each other. So all three of them or one of them, how is that? And what are you guys doing together?
Nancy Evans (34:46):
Well, I just feel so lucky. She is just a match for me. When she was in law school, she started a magazine for the students and the faculty online, and it looked just like something that I would’ve started when I was younger. I mean, she just is a little…no, she’s now a bigger me. She has got great consumer chops, great design, great sense of wordsmithing. And she’s also my best deadline keeper. I mean, I don’t do anything until I know it’s due. Bad, bad, bad. But I hadn’t changed that habit of mine. And she’ll just send me notes like, “Mommy, you have to have it in by 5:00.” Like, “The intro you’ve got to write for today.” Well, I never write my intros until after I’ve done the interview. And if she didn’t tell me to do it, I don’t know that I would do it. And then she edits me, and I edit back. We edit together.
Liz Tinkham (35:50):
Oh, that’s great.
Nancy Evans (35:52):
And then between doing all that, she’s about to get married. So in between that, she’s sending me clothes from fashion sites. So the rest of it is talking about clothes. And then we go back to work. So it’s kind of pretty great that way.
Liz Tinkham (36:15):
So what advice do you have for women who are in their third act about launching in a business. Your Women’s Wisdom Project, The Confab, what keeps you going to do all this?
Nancy Evans (36:26):
I’d just say two things. One is the name of your show is Third Act, which is wonderful. On the other hand, I have never used the term third act because to me that means third act and you’re dead.
Liz Tinkham (36:38):
Yeah. No, you’re like in your tenth act.
Nancy Evans (36:41):
So that’s why I’ve always used the term serial living, because, I mean, I’ve got as many things to do as I’ve got years left. So that’s kind of my description of what is going on. And my number two thing is that the older cohort now is really driving a lot of the new entrepreneurship. I mean, even The New York Times business section had an article talking about the upswing, not just uptick, but upswing in older people starting business. And 25% of new entrepreneurs are 55 to 64. And even when it gets to 80 and above, they’re starting businesses. So one thing is people are… Just take 20 years off. If you’re 70, you’re really 50. Our ages are not as they used to be, so we’re much younger. It’s easier to start businesses now, in large part because of the internet and how we can get things up and running and beta testing and the rest of it. So I think that’s exciting. I’ll just keep doing. And I think what you just said about going back into those VC rooms where it was when we were trying to raise money, I think one of my projects is to get my own oral history down, to write about all those times.
Nancy Evans (38:07):
And I went down and gave a talk when Sam was in college to women at Wharton Business School. And they really soak up hearing from the women like us, what we had to go through. And one of the things that they’re most curious about and want to change is wanting to have a life while they do whatever they do in business.
Liz Tinkham (38:32):
So they want to get more than three hours of sleep?
Nancy Evans (38:35):
Yeah, they do. They do.
Liz Tinkham (38:36):
Yeah, yeah. I admire them. I see the same thing with my kids as well, like, “We’re not going to work until 11:00 every night like you did, Mom.”
Nancy Evans (38:45):
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I spent a lot of time in my closet. My husband would be asleep, and I’d be in the closet with my laptop. Right? I know.
Liz Tinkham (38:58):
It was on a long drive yesterday. I was thinking I was watching my husband on a conference call, then me on a conference call.
Nancy Evans (39:03):
Oh, conference call.
Liz Tinkham (39:04):
It’s just… Right, in the car and on Zoom now, because you can drive and be on video. And I thought oh boy. This just keeps going. So I love the serial living. Okay, so let’s just go with publisher, book author, interviewer, farmer. Clearly, you’re not done yet. What else is still on that list?
Nancy Evans (39:25):
Liz Tinkham (39:27):
Book, yes. Well, you should write a book. Books, you’ve already written one, another book, because you’ve written some books.
Nancy Evans (39:33):
Yeah, I’ve written a couple of books, but yes, it’s way over time for me to write a book, yeah.
Liz Tinkham (39:39):
And bundle all this up. You going to write a book from the Women’s Wisdom Project? I think you should.
Nancy Evans (39:44):
Yeah, thank you. Yes, yeah, good idea. Yes, yes.
Liz Tinkham (39:50):
The Confab podcast, so people should go out and listen to it. The stories are amazing. The first one on Madam CJ Walker was made into a movie, but a lot of those stories… I think you have in some ways like a TV show because it’s almost like every podcast is an episode of a woman doing something great. But there’s so many fascinating stories that you tell.
Nancy Evans (40:14):
My daughter goes, “It’s…” What’d she call it? Craft… is that craft business since they take a lot of time to make? Each of our episodes takes up so long because we’re both in the advanced prep work and then putting them together. So yeah, I hope they do stand some test of time. And our other mission is to bring the stories of women who are in some cases long gone, who we should know about. And when we did the Madam Walker episode… And my daughter is the one who discovered Madam Walker through her great granddaughter’s book… that story… I mean, most of my friends had never heard of Madam Walker. And she is just a freaking rock star, rock star. So we have an episode coming up about the woman who created Pepperidge Farm, who her family happened to be neighbors of ours when I was growing up. And she was a mom in Connecticut in the time when women didn’t even work, let alone start a business. And that’s a great story to tell.
Liz Tinkham (41:25):
So Nancy, thank you so much for joining us on my Third Act, although I’m also a bit of a serial liver. In addition to listening to The Confab podcast, where else can we find you online?
Nancy Evans (41:38):
Well, do go to theconfabpodacst.com website, because the website is full of content that comes out of our episodes.
Liz Tinkham (41:50):
And there’s a newsletter too? There’s a thing you can sign up for?
Nancy Evans (41:53):
There’s a newsletter you can sign up for. And I try to take out the very parts of each episode to have what I call the top takeaways. So we’re really trying to work so that this stuff will give women real value. And also we’re funny. I mean, Liz, as we have showed today. I mean, I think-
Liz Tinkham (42:12):
I would agree.
Nancy Evans (42:14):
You could not be an entrepreneur without having a sense of humor-
Liz Tinkham (42:17):
I totally agree with you.
Nancy Evans (42:18):
Because things happen.
Liz Tinkham (42:21):
Always my number one piece of advice to people, flexibility and sense of humor.
Nancy Evans (42:24):
Yeah, yeah. Right.
Liz Tinkham (42:26):
Thank you so much, Nancy.
Nancy Evans (42:27):
Thank you, Liz.
Liz Tinkham (42:30):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios, and more at thirdactpodcast.com. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.