Young Change Makers: Tom McGowan
Young Change Makers: Why and How Tom McGowan of All Things Good Co. Is Helping To Change Our World
By Penny Bauder
Block out the haters — No matter what you do in life there will always be someone hating. Take it as a compliment. They’re just mad they didn’t think of the idea first. I’ve learned this is even more true in entrepreneurship. People will continue to judge you and your business until it’s a success. Then they will claim that they were supporting you all along. Don’t let them get to you and follow your inner belief.
Aspart of our “Young Change Makers: Why and How They Are Helping To Change Our World” Series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom McGowan. As the Founder and CEO of All Things Good Co., Tom leads the organization’s every move. All Things Good Co. is a one-of-a-kind social impact company set out to find uplifting content and share it with the world to simply spread good news. They aim to provide only positive, knowledgeable stories that others can learn from and better themselves…hence the name, #AllThingsGood. All Things Good Co. shares their smile-worthy good news across their Instagram, which currently boasts over 157,000 followers, as well as on their podcasts.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Thanks for having me. I grew up in Southern Maine, about a half hour outside Portland in Windham. Ever since I could walk, I was intrigued by basketball and entrepreneurship. Although I didn’t know what entrepreneurship was when I was 5 years old, I still think I had a knack for it. I loved trying to sell everything from rocks to painted paper plates to just about anyone I could find to make some money. I don’t know exactly why, but I just loved it. I’d even take it a step further and dress up in a suit — thinking I looked cool. As I grew older those passions continued to develop. I was a multi sport athlete in high school and college. I loved the competition of sports, which is why I think I love business and entrepreneurship. Both have their similarities such as getting knocked down and having to get back up. I had a great childhood and was raised by great parents who encouraged me to pursue my passions, so I’m very appreciative of that as I get older.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book that helped shape me was “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’’ by Stephen Covey. It was a great read and was even voted as one of the top books to change your life. It really resonated with me because during the time I read it, I was definitely feeling overconfident (some may even say cocky) and thought I was almost always right. This book is big on paradigm shift and teaches you how to understand different perspectives. It really taught me a lot about giving and receiving. One of my favorite notes from the book is about the idea of an emotional bank account. Everyone has an emotional bank account that you can deposit or withdraw from. If you are always withdrawing from a friend or someone’s emotional bank account, but not depositing, that will come back to bite you. This emphasized the need for a healthy balance of how to treat the people in my life
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, making a difference is causing a ripple effect in society. It’s not just about you or making yourself feel good, it has an even bigger meaning and impact than that. It’s bigger than yourself. It’s sticking up for things that don’t just impact your surroundings, but can impact people you’ve never even met before. Making a difference can be hard at first because you might feel backlash in the beginning since it’s new or disrupts the norm, but eventually humanity will realize the importance of what you’re doing.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
My social impact organization is called ‘All Things Good Co.’ We aim to provide good news and smiles worldwide. Our goal is to show the good side of humanity and that there are more good people than bad. I think we can all get caught up in the general media stories that often consist of negativity and politics. It can be tough when you only get that perspective of humanity. Your brain will literally start to rewire itself to think that humanity in general is bad and evil. In reality, humanity is powerful. There are so many people out there that would do anything for anyone. Pull over to the side of the road to help you fix your tire, giving free haircuts to the homeless, you name it. The problem is, that general media and new outlets don’t show that side enough. We want to be that outlet for people and hopefully it inspires others to go out and do something good.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I was in college/grad school when I came up with the idea. I was looking for an industry to start a business in. There was a quote that really spoke to me, which was “If you want to create a very successful business, solve a problem in society.” I took that quote to heart and started analyzing every industry. I came across the media industry and realized all the news was one sided towards politics, negativity and more. It seemed like the news was never showing the feel good stories that we need as humans. If you ask me, the media industry is the most powerful industry in the world. It controls the narrative that humanity pushes forward. A lot of people base their thoughts on what the media tells them and it can become very chaotic if there isn’t any positive news or stories to balance it out. I think this has only become more apparent as the years go on.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I’ve always been very driven and determined when it comes to my goals and dreams so I don’t think there was ever a real “Aha moment”, but rather something that built up inside me as I grew up. I learned manifestation at a young age. If you believe in something, show the universe how bad you want it and act on it, you can achieve anything you want. I tell this story a lot because I don’t think I’d be the same person if it didn’t happen. I grew up obsessed with basketball. That was the only thing I wanted to do and I was pretty good at it. In 7th grade, I had my first heartbreak when I got cut from the team. When I got cut, I had to hear my peers talk about big games and basically bully me because I “wasn’t good enough” to be on the team. So, that year I found a way to be the waterboy for the Varsity High School team. I got to pick their brains about being a good basketball player and even challenge some of them, 1 versus 1. I didn’t care that they were a lot better and taller than me. I just wanted to get better. 8th grade basketball rolled around and I made the team! The only problem was I broke my arm before the season even started. I was out the whole year, which was tough because I worked so hard to make the team. Then 9th grade came and I was finally in high school. I made the team, but sat on the bench the whole year… I was lucky if I got a single minute of game time. After the season I was pretty upset because I hadn’t really played organized basketball in over 3 years and it was the biggest passion in my life. My dad took me out to eat because he knew how upset I was. I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad asked what I was going to do next and I told him I was done being average and riding the bench. I wanted to be great and start varsity. At the time, it seemed like a big reach considering I hadn’t played much the past 3 years and wasn’t looked at as a top prospect by any means. That offseason before 10th grade I worked harder than anyone I knew. I was in the gym at 4:30 every morning before school working on my game. At one point, I had to ask the janitor for keys because he was tired of having to let me in so early. But against all odds, I was starting varsity next year in the best league in the state. I think that was a powerful experience for me. When people say “you can achieve anything you put your mind to” it just sounds like a cliche, but when you actually experience manifestation, your life will change. As a senior, I would talk to kids who got cut from the 7th grade team to show them that if I could do it, they can too. I think that helped a lot of kids hearing it from me and not just their parents.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I think the most important thing is just doing it. A lot of people are scared of starting or experiencing failure. Don’t be afraid, no one in entrepreneurship just hits a home run on the first pitch of their first at bat. I went to college for business, went to grad school to get my MBA, but I learned the most about business and entrepreneurship through All Things Good Co. I’ve fallen on my face plenty of times as most entrepreneurs do but as long as you get up it doesn’t matter. You will learn and innovate as you go. What also helped me was not being afraid to ask questions to mentors or people I knew running businesses themselves. I wanted to learn as much as possible because in entrepreneurship you are never done learning. So, if you know anyone running a business or who has started a business, ask them plenty of questions. What did they do wrong that they regret? How did they transform it from an idea to an actual business? Questions are the stepping stones of brilliance.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The people that I’ve been able to talk to and connect with through All Things Good Co. are pretty cool. I’ve been able to chat and message with people like Kaley Cuoco from Big Bang Theory as she follows us on Instagram. Wayne Brady who gave us a shoutout on one of his Instagram live streams. P!nk who has shouted us a few times. It’s just so amazing to see something you built from nothing be well received and shared by celebrities and people you watched growing up.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I don’t know if it was necessarily a mistake, but a funny story. When I first started a podcast with All Things Good Co. me and my buddy, Tyler Adams, (who was the audio producer and engineer) were recording out of the garage at our apartment. We were getting some big name interviews for the podcast too, including David Meltzer who is a big name entrepreneur. Little did he know we were recording out of our garage in a makeshift setup. It was really cool that he came on the podcast and we actually developed a great relationship from it. At the time I was new to podcasting and didn’t really know what I was doing. I was messing up some words, audio quality was in and out… but thanks to Tyler it sounded good and we made it work. We eventually learned from that setup and transitioned to something better with a different environment and mics. At the beginning we were just faking it until we made it, but we turned it into something awesome that now secures some really awesome guests.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I’ve had some great mentors in business that have helped me along the way and they deserve all the praise and recognition. First is Waleck Dalpour, my professor at undergrad (University of Maine at Farmington). He really helped me develop my business skills. He also taught me a lot about accountability, owning your word, and working hard. He was great for me as an immature freshman. If you showed up to his class in sweatpants you would be kicked out immediately. He knew my passion for business so he always helped me towards my goals and understood me. We are friends to this day and get lunch whenever possible to talk business. Another great mentor and someone who has helped me along the way is Abbey Davies. She’s a lifelong friend of my mom who owns her own business. She’s given me a lot of great advice over the years and even helped me in the early years by paying for me to get a website and kickstart the business. She essentially helped me rip the bandaid off and go for it. My business partner Andrew Fox has also been a great mentor and friend to me. We connected last year and decided to partner with All Things Good Co. It’s been great having a successful entrepreneur like him in my corner. I’m really excited to see where we take this company.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
This is probably one of the coolest parts about All Things Good Co. I get messages all the time from people about how the organization has impacted their life or saved them. One in particular really resonated with me and reminded me why I do this. I had someone message me on the @allthingsgoodco Instagram page telling me that at one point they had lost all hope in humanity and was actually contemplating suicide. She said the week that she was thinking about killing herself she came across our page and it totally changed her perspective on humanity and changed her life. She said she would continue to come to our page for some daily inspiration and positivity, which led to helping with her depression. True story… and the crazy thing is that happens all the time, so I’m glad we can be a source of positivity for so many people.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I think we as a society need to stop using the media as a weapon. It’s okay to disagree with people but you don’t need to destroy someone if they don’t agree with your opinion. We also need to get better at consuming news in moderation and holding media companies accountable for inaccurate news or manipulation. Some media companies are notorious for pushing an agenda that quite simply isn’t true or is manipulating people into pushing their ideology. It needs to be factual, not an opinionated brainwash.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
1. Don’t take failure as an entrepreneur personally — There was a study in 2019 that showed around 90% of startups and entrepreneurs failed. That’s a staggering amount of failure in the industry. Don’t take it personally if you or your first business doesn’t work out. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad entrepreneur. It’s just really hard to be a successful entrepreneur and just because you don’t get a hit the first time doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. In baseball, an above .300 hitter is considered really good… but that means that hitter still fails 70% of the time. Don’t take it personally, your time will come if you continue to work hard.
2. Block out the haters — No matter what you do in life there will always be someone hating. Take it as a compliment. They’re just mad they didn’t think of the idea first. I’ve learned this is even more true in entrepreneurship. People will continue to judge you and your business until it’s a success. Then they will claim that they were supporting you all along. Don’t let them get to you and follow your inner belief.
3. Surround yourself with good people — When building a business or organization it is important to surround yourself with good people. I was fortunate enough to have some great friends that helped me with anything I needed. They all wanted to see me succeed and were willing to help. If you don’t have a support system it can almost feel like you’re climbing a mountain by yourself with no help.
4. Don’t be afraid to innovate or change paths — I’ve learned along the way that it’s okay to change paths or do something different with your business. In the early days I changed my logo a few times and that’s okay. A lot of successful businesses have made changes to their logos over the years. If you see a new opportunity or path you want to pursue, don’t be afraid to try it.
5. Enjoy the moment — As an entrepreneur you can sometimes get caught up living in the future. You’re constantly thinking about the next move or what your company could be in the years to come. Enjoy the moment you’re in and have fun. I used to be really hard on myself and constantly pursue the next big thing, but sometimes you just have to enjoy the process.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
For me, it’s about making an impact on humanity. A business can be temporary, but a positive impact on humanity is forever. There’s something to be said about people who chase goals that impact others and not just themselves.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Definitely Elon Musk. He’s my favorite entrepreneur and visionary. I look up to him not only from an entrepreneurial standpoint of running multiple successful businesses, but what he is doing for humanity. Like I touched on above, Elon Musk will be remembered forever for the things he’s doing. He could potentially put humans on Mars, develop Neuralink chips that help with disease, and so much more. You have to appreciate anyone that tries to progress humans forward. I know some people are mixed on how they feel about him because, like I stated earlier, everything he’s doing is new and disruptive so some people don’t like that… but at the end of his life I believe people will appreciate everything he’s done.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram: @allthingsgoodco, my personal is @allthingstomm — feel free to ask me any questions or advice there!
Tik Tok: @allthingsgoodco
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thanks for having me!