Nasdaq Interview: How Marissa Badgley Is Transforming Company Culture With Heart
This interview was originally published in Nasdaq on December 12, 2022
Marissa Badgley, Founder of Reloveution, is empowering employers to build organizations that are filled with engaged employees, powerful leaders, and heart-centered culture.
After personally experiencing burnout and trauma in the workplace, Marissa set out to create a company that would help ensure emerging leaders didn’t share her same hardships. Though she didn’t have a solidified plan after quitting her toxic job in early 2019, she had a clear vision for who she wanted to support and why. Thus, by the Fall of 2019, Reloveution was born. Its mission? To transform the workplace through the heart-centered power of compassion and community. To date, Reloveution has worked with more than 100 companies to simultaneously support the well-being of their employees and their business’ bottom line.
We asked Marissa about the problems Reloveution solves, what sets her company apart from others, and how her definition of success has evolved throughout her entrepreneurial journey.
Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Reloveution?
A: In early 2019, after battling through several bouts of burnout and struggling within harmful workplace systems for many years, I left my job without a plan. With the support of my wonderful partner, a magical therapist, and a life-saving coach, I was able to use the next several months to heal, rediscover my passions, and recommit to becoming the person I wanted to be in the world. By the Fall, I was ready to take a chance on myself as an entrepreneur, and Reloveution was born as a means to help prevent what happened to me in workplaces from happening to others.
In my time off, I realized just how much of myself I had to turn off and compromise on in order to “succeed” in my role and move up the ladder. I came to recognize that my code-switching, lack of boundaries, and tolerance for substandard working conditions were a form of violence to me as a human being. I resolved to create a business that was sustainable for me in a way that my former workplaces were not. I also committed to being a different kind of consultant and advisor than the ones I had grown accustomed to working with.
So what’s the special sauce? Everything we do at Reloveution is grounded in the values we teach—humanity, authenticity, empathy, relationships, trust, community, collaboration, reciprocity, justice, and love. Because our roots are firmly planted in this soil, and because we treat workplace problems with antibiotics and holistic medicine rather than band-aids and painkillers, our results in organizations are deeper and more sustainable.
Often, partners come to us having already spent tens of thousands of dollars on benefits, perks, and culture initiatives over years and years. They are reasonably skeptical about directing more resources to chronic challenges that just won’t go away. Almost always, when our work together is done, these same leaders comment on how different our approach is and and how much more impact our programs and services deliver. This is how we know we are succeeding at putting love in the center of the revolution. And this is how we know that our founding story is just the beginning of miraculous things to come.
Q: What problem does Reloveution solve?
A: Reloveution helps organizations systemically and sustainably address challenges related to work culture, employee engagement and well-being, and leadership/management effectiveness. We create deep impact by moving beyond surface-level measurement and band-aid fixes and by collaborating with our partners to create workplaces that support the wellbeing of human beings and their bottom line.
In our first three years, we worked with dozens of organizations and thousands of people to reimagine work culture and leadership. Through our Work Culture Jumpstart program, we helped a company significantly improve female employees’ feelings of belonging, translating to stronger collaboration and lower attrition in the organization at large. Our BEAT Burnout Program helped one of our nonprofit partners reduce the number of people experiencing burnout by nearly 50 percent over six months. And in just the last year, we have facilitated several retreats and offsites, helping large and small teams foster meaningful and authentic human connections after a long and hard few years apart. We love it when people bring their problems to us and when we are able to use our unique tools and perspective to solve those problems for good!
Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?
A: I grew up in a small town supported by an incredible family and a strong core group of friends who showed me firsthand the transformational power of love and community. I spent most of my childhood bouncing between a fort in the woods and softball fields. As the self-proclaimed president of our neighborhood fort society, I learned how to lead, mediate conflict, create camaraderie, and balance love and accountability to get results. As a softball pitcher, I learned how to center myself in moments of stress, be a part of a team, and motivate others to show up as their best. I also was partially raised as a Quaker, which has pretty dramatically influenced the way I see and interact with the world. I credit my spiritual mentors with seeing and nurturing my gifts of leadership early in my life, and teaching me how to have faith and trust even in the hardest and darkest moments. Quakerism also introduced me to many untraditional constructs and processes related to power, decision-making, and community that easily and powerfully translate into my work in the secular world.
Q: What’s been the hardest and most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?
A: Every day of entrepreneurship has been a test of courage for me—the courage to believe in myself and quiet my inner critic; the courage to push against the status quo and challenge the naysayers; the courage to have faith that the seeds I’m planting will grow; and the courage to create my own path and just keep going. Before going out on my own, I always had a pretty clear idea about where I was going, what the next job was “supposed to be,” and how to reach my goals. Leaving my full-time role without a plan was one of the least Marissa-y things I ever did, and not “knowing” or being able to fully control the entrepreneurship journey has been incredibly hard. That said, discovering my own resilience and learning, and leaning into my power as an influencer from “the outside” has been unbelievably rewarding. And being able to see the impact we create with our partners and for humans around the world helps quell the fear that would have stopped previous versions of myself from moving forward.
Q: Has your definition of success evolved throughout your journey as a founder?
A: Since founding Reloveution, several words have taken on new, more evolved, or more authentic definitions. Throughout college, graduate school, and the first decade of my career, being successful meant being the best, doing/having the most, and being externally recognized for my accomplishments. I was driven by extrinsic motivators like grades, scores, awards, job titles, and praise. While I am still very much a words-of-affirmation girl and I love a good award, I have worked hard to redefine success as a human, as a founder, and for my business. Today, success for me is much more about living and leading with alignment, authenticity, and integrity. It is about creating a deep impact for humans and the world. And it is about building a business that sustains me as much as I sustain it.
Q: We dare you to brag. What achievements are you most proud of?
A: I have a spreadsheet of over 250 testimonials from former clients and partners. I get choked up every time I go in there and read the stories of personal, professional, organizational, and cultural transformation that I and Reloveution have had a role in creating. There’s nothing that makes me more proud than knowing that I have used my authentic gifts to catalyze change that matters for humans and workplaces alike.
With the help of my current coach, I am working hard to celebrate myself more, so I’ll also mention that I am very proud to be “doing the thing” despite all of the people and circumstances that I could have let get in my way. I am proud of how far I have come in releasing the expectations of others, and how much closer I have moved toward truly becoming the best version of myself.
Q: What resources or people have contributed the most to your successes?
A: When I told my partner I needed to quit my job, he said, “I’ve got your back. We’ll make it work.” When I told him several months later that I was turning down my dream job, he said, “I’ve got your back. What do you want to do instead?” When I shakily said in the same breath that I thought I wanted to start my own business, he said, “I’ve got your back. I believe in you.” And throughout this entire journey—through the triumphs and the meltdowns, the good days and the horrible days, the celebrations and the complaints—he has never once backed down on that belief in me and my vision. I wish for every entrepreneur the sort of unwavering and steadfast support that allows you to fall apart and still feel strong. That’s what his love has given me and I could not be more grateful.
Of course, there are so many other people to thank for shaping me into the person that I am today. I owe everything to my wonderful parents and sister, grounded grandparents, thoughtful support committee, fabulous teachers and professors, loyal friends, faithful spiritual mentors, courageous colleagues, compassionate supervisors, spirited former students, and inspiring former program participants. If one of you is reading this, please know that I am the sum of the love, wisdom, and belief you have poured into me, and my impact is multiplied because you touched my life. Thank you.
Q: How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences? Would you do it all over again?
A: The list of reasons not to go into business for yourself is endless. But for me, it has been the best decision I could have made for both myself and the larger world. For me, Reloveution is the starting point, the destination, and the miraculous, bumpy, awesome, confusing, terrifying, and magical journey in between. I wouldn’t trade my experiences so far for anything and am truly enjoying the ride.
Q: What’s next for you and Reloveution?
A: In the next year, Reloveution will continue to help organizations and humans reimagine and rebuild the world of work and leadership. We are excited to be continuously updating and improving our programs and services to add value and deepen impact. We are also grateful to have intentional spaciousness for creativity and dreaming with others about what leaders and workplaces truly need. We hope to always have this flexibility in our business model and can’t wait to see what the universe has in store for us in 2023 and beyond!
Marissa is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.