Skeleton CrewBlog

Bringing people together, breaking down barriers, finding and exploring opportunities for collaboration and understanding that business get done when people have funMichael Donnelly | Founder/CEO FWD Collective & Red Suede Shoes

Michael Donnelly has been planning memorable experiences since her 7th birthday party at Leaps n’ Bounds. As CEO of FWD Collective and her consulting firm Red Suede Shoes, she carries the same tenacity as her 7-year-old self, and leads her events and team with the idea that “business gets done when people have fun.”

Michael has been the force behind some of the country’s most popular large-scale tech and business events, including Techweek, FUND Conference, and her most recent endeavor, the VentureFWD (For Women & Diversity) Summit which has expanded into the FWD Collective. FWD Collective is dedicated to professional inclusion, hosting summits internationally featuring women, P.O.C., and under-represented communities. FWD Collective events connect emerging entrepreneurs to established business professionals by facilitating discussions on business development, venture capital, and building teams. Popping up events in as many cities as possible over the next few years, expanding conversations, opening up opportunities, and creating an international community dedicated to professional inclusion and diversity.

What is your greatest fear?

Spending my life zig zagging through the abyss rather than finding my true purpose. Failing to be passionate and driven. Regret.

Why have you chosen your professional path?

It’s what I’m supposed to do, I can feel it in my bones.  There are levels of uncertainty that come into play but I’m constantly reminded of a scene from the movie The Family Stone – there’s a story of a man in a remote village that felt as if there was a hole in his heart, a hole he couldn’t fill and he continued to feel an emptiness. That emptiness continued to prevail until he came across a massive log. He spent months carving that log into a glorious totem pole. Once the totem pole was done – he felt fulfilled.  I get that same sensation when I connect with a client or build an experience that brings people together.

What drives you?

People. Bringing people together, breaking down barriers, finding and exploring opportunities for collaboration and understanding that business get done when people have fun.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken professionally?

Quitting my job to start my company, and then not taking job offers to continue to strive towards building Red Suede Shoes and the FWD Collective. Who knows what the future brings, but there are great things ahead and my clients and our community at FWD Collective are a great reason to keep on this amazing adventure.

How did that risk serve you? 

It makes me work my ass off everyday to get to the next level and keep going!

What excites you the most about attending/participating in the Fear Paradox Summit?

Engaging with a community of bosses, people I can connect with, learn with, learn form, and building new relationships.

What do you hope to leave with or hope to share with others as part of your participation?

A new nugget of knowledge, a piece of wisdom, a source of inspiration, and a friend or two 🙂 Which, I’m lucky, having joined Nicole Yeary and Jessica Zweig on the journey of producing this event I believe I’ve already made two new friends and am looking forward to many more!

Any parting words of wisdom?

Don’t be afraid to be scrappy in the beginning, and then don’t be afraid to be savvy when the time comes.

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Get closer to your fear with us and join Michael by becoming a member of the Fear Paradox #TakeHeartTribe.