July 4, 2012
“I wish women would hurry up and take control of the World”
Interesting quote. I wish I knew who actually said the words because I love them! I heard this quote at last week’s We Own It Summit, held in New York. In its third year, the We Own It Summit is focused on building and supporting female entrepreneurs as they grow their companies. Summit attendees included representatives from over seventy organizations from around the world committed to increasing women’s participation in high-growth entrepreneurship – from CEO to investor to board member. Wow! How exciting!!
The Summit was a wonderful opportunity to be part of something that was significant, invigorating, exciting, and frankly, thrilling. As you might guess, there were the usual “successful” women - those who have made their professional mark and have the battle scars to prove it (Just for the record – many of these women were not just merely successful, but wildly successful - with many years of business accomplishments and several zeros behind their names.) I loved hearing their business advice and words of wisdom. I certainly learned from them and I am thankful that they were willing to participate in something that supports women entrepreneurs – to be an active part of the community and the conversation.
This is critical as Kauffman Foundation research shows that while the number of women-led firms continue to rise, the size of those firms do not. In other words, women start firms but often don’t grow the firms, choosing instead to run “lifestyle” businesses – solopreneurs. Don’t get me wrong – I think there is a place for the solopreneur but I also believe there are many, many women who have the capacity and strength to take their companies to higher levels and with a bit of encouragement, advice and support, they could build wildly successful high-growth companies.
That is exactly what several young female entrepreneurs are doing. Several of these young women attended the We Own It Summit and I have to say, for me, their stories were compelling, exciting and energizing. These women, most of whom are still in their 20’s are starting and growing some amazing companies – They are (in my words) killing it! Here are six to watch:
Danielle Weinblatt – founder and CEO, Take the Interview. Take the Interview is an online video interview software that allows employers to screen candidates, conduct job interviews online & reduce costs per hire. www.taketheinterview.com, @dweinblatt
Adriann Wanner – Founder and President, evoJets. At age 25, Adriann founded evoJets, a national provider of luxury jet charter services. Adriann was appointed to Inc Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list as one of the most promising entrepreneurs of 2011 and her company was voted the Best Private Jet Service in 2011 by Inc. www.evojets.com @AdrianneWanner
Alice Wang – Founder and CEO, Spark Box Toys. Spark box is a toy rental company that brings educational and learning toys to kids. Spark Box puts together personalized boxes of toys that are shipped to customers. Customers keep the toys for four or more weeks and then return them for a new box of toys. www.sparkboxtoys.com
Caren Maio, CEO and Co-Founder, Nestio. Nestio provides an easy way for renters to organize and share their apartment search. Carin was recently named one of the 15 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc.com. www.nestio.com
Melissa Millan, Founder, Androgyny. Androgyny offers premium button down shirts for those who love a classic look with a modern fit and flair. http://www.wearandrogyny.com
Elyse Petersen, Founder, Tealet. Tealet eliminates the middleman by connecting tea farmers directly to consumers. The Farmers post their stories and teas online which are then presented to the US market. Because there are fewer middlemen in the system Tealet is able to offer more value to the end customer. www.tealet.com
These are just a few of the success stories I heard at the Summit. I know there are many more. In my line of word, I am regularly surrounded by bright people many of whom have had tremendous success as founders of companies. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet such accomplished people. The reality is they are often men. Young. Male. Tech. Founder. Good for them but I want to see more women. More Adriann’s, more Melissa’s.
How do we make this happen? How do we build and support an environment that encourages more female founders? The conversation has started – It is up to us to continue to drive and support women to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career path. I plan to take an active role as a mentor, advisor, encourager and speaker. The decade of the female entrepreneur has started – What role will you play?
June 11, 2012
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I love that I have choices. Whether it is as simple as what car to drive, where to invest my money, or who to vote for, I am happy we live in a society that affords us with so many options. I, by nature, am a very decisive person – I don’t struggle with decisions. Things tend to be pretty black and white for me. Good, bad, right wrong, it is just who I am.
I recognize that isn’t the case with everyone. For some decision making is more a process of evaluation – Weighing pros and cons, seeing what feels right, considering all the options before reaching a decision. Even though this is very different then my decision-making style, I understand it works for many. I respect the process.
These were the thoughts going through my mind as I was discussing future career paths with my college age daughter. After one year at college, with a declared Business major, she is having second thoughts. She really didn’t enjoy many of her classes: Microeconomics, Finite Math, Business Law etc. In fact, she is considering changing her major. Truly, I don’t have a problem with that. Everyone needs to find what works best.
Still, I wonder… If I simply look at the mundaneness of the Business curriculum, I can see how things might be a bit boring (and it should be noted that I love business). The problem, at least in my mind, is the lack of application – The understanding of how the information in the courses applies to careers in the real world. How can a business degree be discounted if you don’t know the full spectrum of career opportunities afforded those with business degrees? Of course that is what internships are for – To expose students to the real world application of their newly acquired knowledge. Unfortunately, internships don’t typically occur until after the sophomore or junior year. By then I think, (at least I hope), you are pretty committed to your major. A bit late to turn around and start over.
This is where I see the disconnect… So many career paths that are laid before our kids by colleges are still pretty traditional. For example, many women still consider nursing, teaching, marketing, human resources, even law. Before I upset anyone, let me say that these are fine, fine fields. It is just that it seems many women make career decisions based on a limited number of choices. I would rather see many, many choices to be considered then a decision made.
My point is, to really encourage women to go in to non-traditional fields like say venture capital, business ownership or business leadership (aka board room)wouldn’t it be fabulous to have exposure early in their college careers to those fields? To see the full spectrum of choices? I wonder if Microeconomics or Business Law might have held more appeal for my daughter if she could see how they applied in real world situations. Her experience has given her a point of reference as to what it is to be a teacher. She understands (loosely) what it means to be a nurse. However, if I were to ask her – Do you know what a Venture Capitalist is? Do you know what they do? I am certain I would be rewarded with a blank stare. Perhaps if she did know and had an opportunity to work with a VC, some of her business classes might have seemed more relevant – More interesting.
I wish my daughter had more tangible knowledge; more points of reference to these unknown worlds. I think then, her decision making would be better informed. Then, if she chooses to leave the school of business, bravo. I want nothing more than for her to be happy.
For my part, I try to expose all of my children to things they might not otherwise see. So it is with that thought that tonight, my soon-to- be college sophomore and I will attend a women’s networking event “Women and Power. Transforming the World”. It will be a fun event, with a room full of successful, bright, accomplished women. I want my daughter to know that she deserves to be there. That someday she will be standing in a very similar room – whether she is a teacher, a nurse, venture capitalist, business owner or CEO.
The choice is hers and I’ll be right there smiling broadly and clapping for her.
June 8, 2012
“The biggest failure you can have in life is not trying at all.”
I am always happy to hear news that interest in entrepreneurship is growing. It wasn’t that long ago (and still may be true today) entrepreneurs were regarded as rebels, risk takers, and frankly, young men who are all at once brilliant and non-traditional. Think Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates. These men have been the poster children for successful entrepreneurship. Our “entrepreneurial role models”, if you will, have revolved around these young guns. As I was thinking about this, I found myself asking “Where are the women? Why don’t we hear about female founders?” The unfortunate truth is that there just haven’t been that many – certainly not in the creation of technology companies. In fact, just 3% of tech start-ups are led by women. This is not great news.
So when I recently read an article in USA Today (Front page no less!) entitled The New Faces of Tech, How Women, and Their Start-ups are Changing Silicon Valley, I became excited. Hmm – Perhaps the tide may be changing –perhaps the demographics are becoming a bit more level, or at least tipping the right direction. New names are popping up like Megan Gardner of Plum District, Leah Busque of TaskRabbit, Clara Shih of Hearsay Social and Amaryllis Fox of Mulu. Names of women founders! This is encouraging news.
After a bit more research, I learned that in 2010, MIT enrolled a freshman class that had more than 50 percent women and that in 2009 the number of women receiving doctoral degrees in all fields of life science surpassed men and continues to grow. This is good news!
The obvious question then is how do we encourage those female MIT students and doctoral students to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career path post-graduation? How do we encourage young women in our own lives to consider a future as a business founder? What can be done to support and encourage them to consider what might be a “non-traditional” path? How do we foster a new “young gun” persona that has more gender balance? How do we raise the numbers to be more than 3%?
These are critical questions for us all– the global economy depends of young business. Research tells us that all net new job creation in the US has come from firms that are 5 years young or younger – In other words young firms are the key to stimulating our economy. So as you can see, in defense of myself, this blog is not a feminist rant. It is a blog about encouraging all the brilliant minds – the talented people who are living within a framework dictated by our past societal norms, to break free – Change the paradigm from what should be done to what could be done. This is especially true for women.
I am excited to see women making significant strides in business ownership. Make no mistake – These strides have come about slowly and there is a tremendous way to go. Social revolutions take time especially when you are trying to break into a well-established boys club aka Silicon Valley. Yet, we are seeing some headway with a group of emerging female founders and technology company executive roles. This is great news.
The best is yet to come!
June 4, 2012
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand”
Welcome to the first SheVenture blog! I have considered writing this blog for a long time – Probably too long if the truth be told. I have thought about it, talked about it and even treated it (in my mind) as if it already existed. So what took so long? I guess, like many of us, I wanted to make sure what I have to say is of some significance, that someone will find it inspiring and important. It was when I read the quote by Woodrow Wilson, that I realized I needed to follow through on my commitment.
SheVenture is a blog for those women who have a dream of owning their own business – Those who have the desire to create their own future, to fulfill their passion through building a successful business. The exciting truth is there seems to be a growing interest in entrepreneurship among women. Women-owned business increased by over 50% between 1997 and 2012 which is one and a half times the national average. Studies show that by 2018, women-owned firms will account for a third of new jobs. So this is exciting news, right? Yes – Absolutely this is great news! But there is more work to be done in encouraging women to consider entrepreneurship.
Wilson’s words echo strong in my mind as I think about many women I know who never take the proverbial leap into business ownership. I understand that – life seems to get in the way. There are any number of priorities vying for our time whether it be family, jobs or just plain packed schedules. The reality is, time is a very valuable commodity. The thought that “I’ll do it someday” is one many of us have had only to realize that the “someday” never came. I am determined to put an end to as many of my “someday’ s” as possible. Hence the birth of SheVenture.
Do you have a dream? Have you ever thought maybe you could launch your own business? What’s stopping you? I have attached a link to an entrepreneurial assessment – go ahead – Take the assessment. Let your someday be today.