Paving the Way: Entrepreneur Helps Women Following in Her Footsteps

When Leigh Goodwyn ’88 graduated from Carolina, becoming a business owner wasn’t necessarily part of the plan.

The innovative entrepreneur began her career as a producer with CNN after earning her degree in journalism. She transitioned from what she described as a “noble calling” to the sales and marketing side for Turner Broadcasting. She then served as the head of international marketing at Discovery Channel and went on to be vice president of marketing and communications for Discovery Place, the regional science center based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Leigh Goodwyn, left, and her dorm-furnishings company, LeighDeux, provide scholarships and mentoring for young women, such as Mary McCall Leland, Kelly Allen and Kyra Harbert, left to right, who aspire to be entrepreneurs.

But it was a life-change for her daughter that brought about her career shift as an entrepreneur. When daughter Carson ’20, was heading to boarding school, there weren’t a lot of options for quality, fashionable bedding for dorm rooms, and the idea for her company LeighDeux was born.

As a business owner and president of the upscale dorm furnishings company, Goodwyn wears many hats—from running day-to-day operations, to product design, to marketing and public relations, to directing photoshoots, to social media. But that is the nature of an entrepreneur.

She credits her journalism background for preparing her to handle the many facets of running her own company.

“The media business is an ever-changing, fast-paced environment, and because I was in that industry for 20 years, it prepared me for a lot of things,” Goodwyn said.

Her career change wasn’t entirely unexpected, however.

“The media is also a very creative business, so for me, I was able to foster a lot of creativity and had some things percolating all along with design, artistry and things that I enjoy that I hadn’t been able to focus on because I had a heavy corporate career. Once I was able to start my own company, a lot of those creative juices came out.”

When they founded the company, Goodwyn knew there would be a social mission involved. Very active in philanthropy in Charlotte, she wanted to continue that work through LeighDeux. As the company produces bedding and décor for college dorm rooms, a scholarship fund was the perfect fit. The company provides support for students in the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship who are interested in starting their own ventures.

“Because I was a female-owned startup, I really appreciated how difficult it was to start a business as a woman,” she said. “I wanted to be able to create resources and funding for young women who might also want to do the same thing but might not have the wherewithal to make that happen. I wanted to make it easier for women who have an idea to see it come to fruition.”

The funding is already making a difference for the four recipients who have received the scholarship since its establishment.

Mary McCall Leland ’20, a business and public policy double major and entrepreneurship minor from Tarboro, North Carolina, co-founded Connect252, a website that seeks to connect the eastern region of the state by highlighting the many cultural events each town and area has to offer.

“Being awarded the LeighDeux grant was an exciting and critical step in making Connect252 a reality,” Leland said. “It is a lifelong goal to give back to the rural communities that have given me so much. This website is a way to start giving back, and I am so grateful for the funding that the LeighDeux scholarship has provided in supporting me and making my goals a reality.”

As someone who has gone before, Goodwyn is able to serve as a valuable resource in offering advice and guidance.

“Mentoring is a huge part of what we do. It’s one of the more rewarding parts of what I do with that program.”

In terms of giving back to her alma mater, whether that be as a donor of a scholarship, as a member of the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship Working Group, through her involvement with the School of Media and Journalism or as a member of the Board of Visitors, Goodwyn said, “It means everything! To be able to work with a university that is so open to creative ideas and to building curriculum around interests their alumni have is incredible.”

As Goodwyn continues to pave the way in business and in service to UNC, one thing is certain: she sets an example that many will want to follow.

By Mary Moorefield