Marie Younger Blackburn Entrepreneur Spotlight

It’s Saturday, Cape Cod! So we have another entrepreneur of color for you to meet! All this Women's History Month, we'll be bringing you the stories of Women of Color who are Making new Histories.

March 13, 2023

5 min read

Amplify POC Cape Cod

Marie Younger Blackburn is a driven woman. As the founder, CEO, and president of Driven Cape Cod's Conference for Women, she’s been bringing women together to educate and inspire them to be the change in their own communities since 2016. She spoke with Amplify POC’s Tamora Israel.

Blackburn willed the Driven Women conference into fruition, and through networking and determination the idea continues to grow. “It was like divine confirmation that this was supposed to happen," she said.

Blackburn is the daughter of an organizer and hands-on mother. “If you’re kind and humble and you know that it’s not about you, I’ll be with you every step of the way,” she told her daughter. Blackburn has used those words to fuel her way forward in the world of organizing. “I would rather be a part of the solution,” she says.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Blackburn was raised in Boston and summered on Cape Cod. She moved here after college and has stayed for 34 years.

Amplify POC: What does the Driven Cape Cod Conference for Women offer?

Marie: Driven Women offers inspiration. Our vision and mission have always been to inspire, collaborate, and celebrate women’s growth and empowerment. We encourage and embolden women to do and be, the best they can be. And five years in, we’ve now created a network of women helping women.

Amplify POC: What inspired you to get into this business?

Marie: I come from a large family of community activists. Service is in my blood. It’s a way to shape the growth and strength of a community. By volunteering you gain access, a network of leaders and influence. It leads to business growth and opportunity. Strategic volunteering is very valuable. For several years, I volunteered with the Massachusetts Conference For Women [every January in Boston]. It’s a huge conference of 10,000 or more women. I would check in, make myself known, and get my assignment. Then I would take off my badge (I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone) and b-line it for the speaker room, where all the things were happening. I met a lot of really powerful women. I said, “I want to do that. I want to bring a conference for women to Cape Cod.” I was inspired and encouraged by the women in those rooms to build something great, and we did.

Amplify POC: How did you go about starting your business? What steps did you take?

Marie: After being inspired by the Massachusetts Conference For Women, I came home and started holding court in Panera Bread and other coffee shops. I started a thing called HOPP, Hour of Profitable Power. I would set up meetings in coffee shops and have conversations about people’s world view. During one of these meetings, I met with a business coach, I told her my idea about building a conference of Cape Cod for women. She pushed me on when; she had me nail down a date, time and plan of action. I got up from that particular meeting and drove over to Seacrest Hotel and walked out with a $21,000 contract that I had to make happen and fill. I got back in the car and the owner of BNI (Business Network International) called me. I told her what I just did. She said, “I believe in you. I’ll give you the seed money. Make it happen.” And then it began. I put out a call for more women to meet me at Panera bread in Mashpee to talk about building a conference on Cape Cod for women. These women came in droves. Women volunteered their time and talent. We got sponsors – Cape Cod Five was one of our first. Our first year, 2016, we had 300 women show up to the conference in a 12-inch snowstorm.

Amplify POC: What obstacles did you encounter when starting your business?

Marie: I didn’t know that putting Cape Cod in your brand name meant you had to get the nod from the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. I eventually got that nod, and then other Chambers came on board. That’s important when dealing in business. As I continued to build, I faced different organizations that felt like I was in their space. I was facing some animosity from people, I was shut down publicly and privately. I learned that some people don’t want to share the space or see other people be successful. I had to learn to stick to my lane and stick to my vision. In 2015, I attended Governor Deval Patick’s portrait unveiling event. I met him and I told him that I was creating this conference for women. I said, “I’m black, I’m female and I’m on the Cape and I’m afraid.” He said, “Let your fear fuel you.” I knew that I had to stick to my vision and my goal and know that I was doing the right thing for the right reasons. Remembering my mother’s message to me, “If you are kind in the beginning and humble and you know that it’s not about you, I’ll be with you every step of the way.” My mother is still with me in anything and everything I do. I use that as a guide. To be kind, to be humble and to know that the work isn’t about me. What I’m trying to accomplish isn’t just about me, it’s about inspiring and celebrating women, about empowering them to grow, and to collaborate.

Amplify POC: Have recent events and the country’s current financial climate affected your business?

Marie: I’m the queen of pivoting. I’ve had to pivot my entire life. I was a young mother. So we just pivoted. We do the show Conversations That Matter online. I have sponsorship for my show, so I can draw a paycheck from different things. I continue to support women in our community. I’m still Marie. I have different hats that I wear, and different things that I do, but I just pivot with everyone else. I think I’m in a better place because I can reach more people in this climate. Everyone’s working from home, everyone’s connected to technology. I have an opportunity to continue to build because when things open up again people are going to be ready to do some more networking, to get their footing back. So, I need to be ready too.

Amplify POC: Where do you see your business in five years?

Marie: As we age, as I age, I think about inspiring others, to be able to pass the baton to. And I do see some rising women in the community who are taking up pieces of the mantle. That’s my goal, to bring women together under one roof and encourage them to be the change in their own community. Part of what Driven Women does is service. We’re always looking for service projects to be available. Whatever the service is. During the pandemic we’ve given out gift bags and masks, raised money for all kinds of things. I think what I see is a continuation of a series throughout the year. It’s a pleasure doing this type of work. -- Tamora Israel

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It’s Saturday, Cape Cod! So we have another entrepreneur of color for you to meet! All this Women's History Month, we'll be bringing you the stories of Women of Color who are Making new Histories.

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