YPs to Watch: Megan Watt, Founder of Dream Catalyst Labs

Megan photo
Megan photo

As we approach YPWeek, let’s be reminded that our city is full of talented young professionals! To catch up with one of Madison’s own talented YPs, Magnet Board Member, Jess Parker sits down with Megan Watt, Founder of Dream Catalyst Labs, to discuss entrepreneurship in Madison. Megan Watt is a highly sought after Facilitator, Speaker, and Career Coach. She speaks to audiences such as AT&T, American Family Insurance, University of Iowa, WARF, and Alpha Chi Omega, on the power of strengths and the power of connections in the pursuit of one’s dreams. Megan currently serves as the Chief Dream Maker of Dream Catalyst Labs, based in Madison. Before starting her own company she taught Career and Leadership Development at three BigTen universities, and served as the VP of Innovation & Strategy for a local startup. In 2015, she was an Athena Young Professional Awards nominee. Megan is a lover of fun and random facts. A fun fact about her is that she’s ridden the world’s largest skateboard while working for ESPN’s X Games. Megan’s mission is to inspire others to dream big, and to tenaciously pursue those dreams daily.

Learn more about Megan and Dream Catalyst Labs in the interview below.

What is the mission of Dream Catalyst Labs?

The mission of DCL is to empower and inspire individuals and organizations to identify and pursue their dreams through speaking, training, and coaching. We believe that when you have self-confidence, know your purpose, and leverage your strengths, you can achieve your someday goals, positively impact your community, and create lasting change.

How was Dream Catalyst Labs born?

DCL started with family and friends asking for help finding a job, reviewing a resume, or preparing for an upcoming interview. Dream Catalyst Creator, Ilsa May and I both participated in two years of training in Career Advising and teaching at Indiana University's Career Development Center. We realized that it’s not only new professionals who need career advice, but individuals of all ages and we sought a way to formally offer our knowledge and expertise to those in need of help fulfilling their personal, professional, and educational goals. What really motivated us to create and formalize Dream Catalyst Labs were our own career development experiences. Finding a dream job and doing what you love is attainable and we hope to empower and assist people to achieve their dream and/or dream job. We think of DCL as the catalyst to helping people achieve their dreams through speaking, coaching, and training.

What resources in the Madison area have allowed you to embark on this journey as a business owner?Are there any under-utilized services that you feel other YPs should know about?

There are two resources in Madison that have had the greatest impact on me and my journey as a business owner. First is the DreamBank. Personally, I believe it is the greatest thing in Madison and one of the coolest, most inspiring spaces in town (and this includes the Terrace). The DreamBank and one of its staff members, Chris Rudolph have been a part of my journey from higher education, to a local startup, to starting my own company. From the incredible programming and events to the AMAZING people I've met there, the DreamBank has provided me with the tools and skills to go after my dream, but most importantly a community of dreamers that support me.

Second is the UpStart program which is an awesome resource. I cannot say enough good things about that program. And it's all free! If you are a woman or minority who has an idea for a business or is already working on one...You MUST APPLY for UpStart. :)

If you don't fit the criteria for UpStart I recommend the DreamBank, Small Business Development Center, and the Capital Entrepreneurs Resource page.

What are some of your favorite ways to build your network locally?

I participate in an entrepreneur book club through the DreamBank. Additionally, each week I try to make at least one new connection and set one follow-up meeting with a current connection. No matter my schedule I always try to meet as many people as possible, and FOLLOW UP! Also, I'm not afraid to ask for an introduction when needed, and I always try to make introductions for other people. At DCL we feel incredibly grateful that all of our business has come from networking and referrals; we’ve not done any outbound marketing to date.

Where do you see the business in five years and what are your long-term goals for the company?

Our future will be based on the needs of our clientele. As we grow alongside our clients, we want to continuously develop new offerings and expand our team to reach a broader range of clientele. This includes speaking at more conferences, hosting live events (including Brainstorm Gatherings, workshops, and retreats for organizations), creating online courses, and other digital resources.

How did you decide to transition into self-employment and what advice to you have to other young professionals regarding entrepreneurship?

I watched this clip of Oprah at Stanford for the first time mid-December 2014. At the time, I was wrestling with the idea of leaving the startup I was at, and what to do next with my life. I ended up watching the entire interview (see it here) and no joke... I decided then that I was going to go out on my own and start my company full time. Two days later this decision was confirmed when I was given an opportunity to help a friend for two months and earn $1000 (which was enough of a "cushion" that I could justify getting rid of any security and start being 100% responsible for my income). That was my next ‘right’ move. The DreamBank and my amazing, supportive partner/co-founder played a critical role in believing that I could do this full time; they were my dream catalyst. And in all reality, I have wanted to be a speaker since I was 15 years old. It just took a while for me to realize that it didn't have to be a daydream any more, and I could fearlessly chase my dream!

To learn more about Dream Catalyst Labs, visit www.dreamgatalyst.org and stay in the know by signing up for for exclusive updates here.