Unlocking Potential Through Curiosity with TomboyX’s Fran Dunaway
Adam Bryant, author of the bestselling book, Corner Office, asked over 700 CEOs, “What qualities do you see most often in those who succeed?”. The number one answer: Curiosity.
Most of the ingenious inventions and extraordinary ideas throughout history all have something in common. From Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone to self-driving cars, they are all a result of curiosity.
Meet our guest and Forbes 50 over 50 winner, Fran Dunaway, who is the co-founder of TomboyX, a gender-neutral underwear and apparel brand.
TomboyX started as a passion project in collaboration with her wife and co-founder Naomi Gonzalez to create the perfect button-up shirt, but then pivoted to focus on underwear based on the overwhelming demand for their first boxer brief for women.
Under Fran’s leadership, TomboyX doubled in YoY growth and was recognized on Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies for 4 consecutive years.
In this episode, Fran shares how she followed her curiosity to entrepreneurial success; what techniques have helped her navigate risk and uncertainty; and why it’s important for brands to be a force for positive change and inspire conversation about gender, confidence, acceptance, and inclusion.
[03:01] Taking the leap into entrepreneurship
[05:51] Discovering your strengths
[07:53] Open yourself up to Rainbow Unicorn Moments
[10:51] Asking for help
[12:55] Don’t take rejection personally
[14:51] Fran’s approach to risk-taking
[18:12] Overcoming setbacks
[21:02] Staying ahead of the curve
[22:32] A Day in the life of Fran
[24:22] Lightning round questions
[29:08] What’s next for Fran
“When something goes right or the day is saved, remember that it is because of all of the things that you do that open yourself up to those magical moments.” – Fran Dunaway
“Be careful with the stories that you're telling yourself about why a rejection occurred. You may not have full insight into the why.” – Fran Dunaway
“Find those people in your network and be specific in your ask for where you are and what you need right now to help you.” - Fran Dunaway
Lightning Round Questions:
What book has greatly influenced you?
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
What is your favorite inspiring quote or saying?
- Can't Never Could.
What is one word or moniker you would use to describe yourself?
What is one change you've implanted that made your life better?
- Trusting my gut would be the big thing along the way and following it and knowing that it's right and believing in myself in that way.
What power song would you want playing as you walk out onto a stage?
- “Good as Hell” by Lizzo
About Fran Dunaway:
One of the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50, Fran Dunaway is a media executive-turned-fashion entrepreneur and co-founder of TomboyX, a Seattle-based gender neutral underwear and apparel brand launched in 2013. The brand started as a passion project in collaboration with her wife and co-founder Naomi Gonzalez to create the perfect button-up shirt, pivoting to focus on underwear based on the overwhelming demand for their first boxer brief for women.
Fran and TomboyX are driven by a belief that brands can be a force for positive change, and their messaging promotes a human agenda to inspire conversation about gender, confidence, acceptance, and inclusion.
As CEO, Fran has led TomboyX to doubled YoY growth and industry recognition that has included four consecutive years on Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies and being named Small Business of the Year for King County and Fastest Growing Minority-Owned Company by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Prior to founding TomboyX, Fran spent over 15 years in media production including Director-level roles with political consulting firms. Her work included managing multi-million dollar budgets and large teams in production of TV/radio ads and animations for congressional candidates and social causes. She has also produced TV episodes for PBS and independent films, with festival showings at Sundance and DigiDance.
Fran is active in social causes and served as Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ rights successfully advocated for passage of anti-discrimination legislation (Washington House Bill 2661) in 2006. She also served on the Steering Committee and Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign’s Seattle chapter.
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