With her compass pointed to the big, wide world, Dawn Bournand’s life trajectory is nothing short of fabulous. Years of experience in the corporate, non-profit, and start-up worlds, from beauty to fashion, the medical world to telecommunications, technology, even authorship, have all been linked by a common denominator: success. You might think she’s done it all but she’s just getting started. Most recently, Dawn channeled her coaching enterprise into a broader network of professionals and entrepreneurs – the Paris Women of Success – which is poised to go global in 2016.
Tell us about the origins of the Paris Women of Success network. What inspired the idea?
I was working with a group to organize recruitment expos for the world’s top business schools when I started to notice that many MBA candidates felt lost in the wave of ideas and questions that come with choosing a new life path. So, I developed my coaching business, Fabulously Successful, on the side. A few years in, I was surprised to find that my international client base did not include one single French person. To study the market, I put together a Meetup for Paris-based professionals. I thought 8-10 people might show up. Instead, over thirty attended that first meeting and it has been growing ever since.
How has the group evolved?
At that very first meeting I knew I was on to something special. Though each woman had her own unique and compelling story, what struck me most were the many common threads woven across their experiences. And the atmosphere was at once energizing and supportive, the kind of energy worth sharing with the world. At the second meeting, I proposed the idea of writing a collaborative book. Though it must have seemed a crazy idea, I knew this group could pull it off. I’d participated in four other collaborative books and had been a lead writer and magazine editor within the MBA organization.
Twenty-one women stepped up and, a year later, we released “My Paris Story”, which achieved Amazon bestseller status! This exciting first step for our fledgling group demonstrated how actively invested people can pursue and achieve their dreams. That’s what gave me the courage and inspiration to carry on. As a group, we have made course adjustments along the way but collaboration is at the heart of all our efforts. I deeply believe that collaboration, not competition, creates success. When win-win is so much more fulfilling, the win-lose mentality just doesn’t make sense.
Many of the members have achieved their goals, some of them lifelong dreams, since the group started: launching a magazine; photographing the Queen of England; traveling the world; producing a first film; opening online and offline businesses; getting married, to name just a few. As gratifying as it is to watch the evolution of the group, it’s perhaps even more gratifying to see the individuals evolve.
What makes a woman successful?
Any woman who chooses to celebrate all that she has done – or will do – instead of looking at everything she hasn’t done, is successful in my eyes. I’ve heard from some members that they were hesitant to join the group because they didn’t consider themselves a “success”. If that frame of mind is still holding some women back, what a shame! I believe we are all successful in our own ways, we just fail to realize it most of the time. That’s why it is so important to me that our members support each other, share tools, tips and techniques to take their dreams further, and create a broad and robust network that can lead to new and fulfilling paths.
You are poised to expand the network outside of Paris – where are you taking this and why?
Creating an international version of the network, The Women of Success, is an important evolutionary step. First, having the support and wisdom of like-minded entrepreneurs is critical no matter who or where you are. Second, an expanded network brings a greater number of connections, potential partners, and inherent client sources for all involved. Third, because at least 70% of our group are expats, our members are in motion around the globe. It is natural to expand beyond France to stay connected with these amazing women.
No matter where we go, I want to stay true to the goal of ensuring that every woman in our network finds a way to live her dream!