Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madame C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet Maureen Murat, J.D., CEO of Crowdie Advisors, LLC
One thing is sure about women: we are resilient. Through life’s wins and losses, we always find a way to keep moving forward with our eyes on the prize. In this Women’s History Month edition, Maureen Murat, J.D. talks to us about her role models that paved the way for her to attain her success; the barriers that are often imposed upon aspiring attorneys; and the importance of women taking ownership of their dreams and not letting statistics deter them.
1. Tell us a little about your background and what drew you to the field of law.
I am a child of Haitian immigrants and grew up in Miami, FL. I always thought I would be in the medical field like most of [my] family members and started off my undergraduate studies as a nursing major. Then, I got a part-time job at a law office that helped people with bankruptcy matters and really enjoyed it.
My mom passed away in my sophomore year of college (2002), and I dropped out of school. I had two younger siblings and I needed to work to help support us (I held 3 jobs at one time). It took me 4 years to go back to college at the urging of my uncle.
When I finally decided to go back to school, it had already been 5 years since I was working as a legal assistant and realized that I could help make lives better with the law as well. The first attorney I worked for was also instrumental in me being drawn to the legal field. She was smart, fiery and passionate, and I wanted to be just like her.
Women before have put several cracks in the ceiling, and now it is our turn to shatter it.Maureen Murat
2. Are there any other women of color that personally paved the way for you to get where you are? If so, who were they, and how did you cross paths with them?
The first woman of color that personally paved the way for me is my mother. I could not have accomplished anything had she not sacrificed to ensure that her children had a better life than she did. She left all she knew in Haiti and did her best to instill a work ethic that could not be easily destroyed.
Another woman of color that paved the way for me is Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Her passion is contagious. She is gracious and her story about growing up under trying times resonated with me. I have had the opportunity to meet Justice Sotomayor, and she is just as amazing in person as she is on television.
And yet another woman of color that I believe paved the way for me is Michelle Obama. If you looked up self-love and self-affirmation, you would see Mrs. Obama’s face. With her elegance, style, and grace, Michelle Obama definitely showed me what it looks like to love the skin you are in. Confidence is definitely key when you’re a woman of color trying to navigate this world, and I am so grateful that I could witness it from such a phenomenal woman. I have not crossed paths with Mrs. Obama (yet), but I hope to soon!
3. You went to law school in D.C., but took the bar exam in New York in order to better position yourself to practice law internationally. Now you’re back in D.C., helping small business owners. Was this an easy shift of focus for you?
The shift of focus was not difficult for me. I know that my strength is in helping others see the world through a different lens, and so regardless of what I am doing, my goal does not change. I do want to practice law, so I am not limiting myself to just one career goal. That is what is so great about having other interests, I can pivot focus from time to time and still do something I love.
4. Do you find that most aspiring attorneys of color are aware of the full scope of “job titles,” if you will, that can come along with a J.D.?
I think having a J.D. tends to limit most aspiring attorneys. We are taught in law school that if you have a J.D., for whatever reason, there are only a few things one can do – that there is only one journey to success. However, I learned that this is not the case. I have met attorneys who are in fields I didn’t know attorneys succeeded in, such as cyber security.
5. As CEO of Crowdie Advisors, LLC, your mission is to “demystify” what it takes to start, organize and grow a small business. Talk to us about the legalities involved in launching a business.
Launching a new business is very much about overcoming bureaucratic hurdles. I am wary of the fact that issues may arise even if everything is done correctly. Although the procedures to launch a business are state-specific, as a new business owner it is beneficial to know what is required. At the minimum, states require the name of the company, the type of business being conducted and the company’s registered agent. Additionally, business owners have to consider the license requirements required to operate their business. Depending on the type of business, a checklist is a good way to help keep things organized.
6. You are pursuing both law and entrepreneurship. I can imagine that you’re constantly battling your creative/ risk-taking side and your safe, risk-averse side. What is the most challenging part of walking in these roles? The most rewarding?
I actually do struggle from time to time with my sensible/careful side versus my creative/risk-taking side. Going through law school, and being taught to think a certain [way] has certainly diffused my creative side in certain ways, but has also enhanced the way I see a situation. Many times, the big cases are decided within the gray area and so I try to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in those gray areas where a perspective could go either way.
7. What are ways for young women of color to better prepare themselves before they decide to start a business venture?
The first thing young women should do to better prepare themselves for business is to try to find a mentor. Even if the mentor is not in business herself, it is a great way to get some perspective on what a young woman’s plans are.
Another way young women can better prepare themselves to start a business venture is to do some research about the service or product she is trying to sell. She would want to know her who her target audience is and where she can find them. She also wants to know who her competition is, and how they are getting clients.
Lastly, she should just do it! There is no perfect way to run a business. And, although we are always confronted with the dismal statistics related to the number of businesses that fail within the first few years or the less than 1% of women who receive funding, it is imperative that young women work to disrupt this narrative. Women before have put several cracks in the ceiling, and now it is our turn to shatter it.
8. How can we reach you if we want to know more?
I can be reached at:
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @CrowdieAdvisors