Meet Kathleen Hilton, Jennifer Ramsey and Megan Senese, co-founders & principals of stage LLC, a women-owned business development & marketing venture focused on relationships, revenue and growth for legal services. 

Their collaboration originated in 2017 in Big Law. With 5+ years as a unified team and 55+ years of collective professional services, business development and marketing experience, they each bring complementary attributes via stage. They are one of the first in-house legal business development and marketing teams to launch a women-owned BD venture. Learn more about them.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self?

Jen: I would tell my younger self to RELAX. Put a little more faith in me. Looking back over my life, I have achieved every major goal I have set for myself, like studying abroad and learning a new language, moving from the Midwest to California out of college, meeting my soulmate and getting into my dream school of UCLA (spoiler alert: I dropped out which is a story for a different day!). I would tell my younger self – and truth be told, my present day self – to relax and trust the process as it unfolds. 

Megan:  I would tell my younger self, “Buckle up.” You cannot plan everything the way you want, and sometimes those plans shift and change in ways that will be better than you would have ever hoped.

Kathleen: You are enough. Three beautiful words that hold so much space and quietude. Not to unpack my personal family trauma for all on the platform to see…I carry heavy childhood baggage. As Brene Brown frames self-love…”true belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our younger selves could realize the truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. Doing so is powerful in the world of Big Law, nay imperative.  

How has the pandemic changed you?

Megan: The pandemic shed light on what was important and how I wanted to continue to spend my time between work and home. It shifted my perception of success and allowed me to rethink the narrative surrounding my career. I wanted to connect with people, help lawyers, and form deeper relationships.  It was during this time that I decided that I wanted “more,” it just took three more years to figure out what that “more” looked like.

Jen: Interestingly, I think the pandemic made me more of an introvert. Before the pandemic, I considered myself to be an extrovert. I had boundless energy and ambition to attend all the networking events, surround myself with as many people as possible and pack my calendar full with social events. Stating the obvious, the pandemic caused a slow down in all aspects of life. I grew quite comfortable spending time with myself, my husband and a few close friends. To this day, I would rather stay home than be out and about!

Kathleen: I took a beautiful silver lining from the pandemic – the galvanization for a pivot.  Candidly, 30 years in Big Law had made me a bit complacent. While I tried to keep an open mind around continuous improvement, there was a fair amount of let’s just do these things…they work. The pace of the pandemic helped me realize I could better serve lawyers (and myself) by creating a boutique consultancy. I am grateful to be on this journey with Jen and Megan.

What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?

Jen: Someone else more clever than I strung together these three adjectives, but I love alliteration so I have to go with grace, grit and gratitude. I think these are key to success. I certainly found this to be true when I was BD director at an Am Law 100 firm and now that I am running my own business. I’ve had to grit it out working in challenging, fast-paced environments like corporate finance and law (and now a startup!); I’ve had to give myself grace when it’s not always easy, and I’ve embraced the daily practice of gratitude for what’s really important in this short but sweet life – my family and friends, my health, and doing good work that makes me proud at the end of the day.

Megan: As a newly minted business owner, I would echo the three adjective alliteration and go with dedication, discipline, and determination. Everything can be solved with one of those words.

Kathleen: Resilience and flexibility – to round out our game of alliteration: Empathy, Equality, Excitement. Importantly, asking questions and really “hearing” the response – so that you develop an understanding of how OTHERS define success.

How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field

How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?

Megan: Launching stage, we joined the ranks of women-owned businesses, women co-founders and entrepreneurs. We are changing the script of business development and marketing through our co-sourced model, filling a gap in the market by providing extra resources, strategy and support where needed. We lead our clients with empathy, guiding them through a relationship-centered approach to developing revenue and maybe even having fun.

Jen: There’s a mantra that has stuck with me since I heard it while going through yoga teacher training, which is “how you do anything is how you do everything.” When we women consistently show up as who we are and what we believe in, we can break down barriers, even if it takes longer than we would like. I am a big believer in the power of numbers, so when we all band together with a sense of belief, empathy, support, opportunity, perseverance and desire to make sh*t happen, the sky’s the limit.

Kathleen: Through the founding of stage, we knocked down the barrier of occupational segregation for three women. We are using stage and our relationships to lift up other women facing similar challenges, including lack of access to land, capital, financial resources, technology and gender-based violence. All three of us donate to organizations dedicated to mitigating gun violence. We are conscious that we lack racial diversity and envision the composition of stage evolving as we grow. On a daily basis we amplify other womens’ voices on social media and in our hometowns.