What’s it like at an all female entrepreneurs’ conference?
Yesterday was the third annual Women Entrepreneurs Festival from ITP. Having attended many male dominated entrepreneurship events, I noticed many interesting differences in the unfolding atmosphere of this conference. Most notably the format of the conference and the traits of the entrepreneurs I met.
The usual business networking event is structured in a way that is reminiscent of a hunt for game. Each entrepreneur fends for themselves as they zigzag their way through the crowd, armed with business cards and conversation starters. Aggressive is the rule in play. No time to hesitate.
At WeFestival, the organizers, Midori, Joanne and Nancy, were very thoughtful and attentive in catering to their particular audience, creating a comfortable, inviting environment for new entrepreneurs timidly looking to step out.
The centerpiece of the event was clustered seating arrangements with other females you’d have things in common with and a thought-provoking prompt to get the conversation started. I was surprised by how open and honest everyone was. These entrepreneurs were willing to admit and share their challenges, and the community encouraged it.
A side note: My takeaway from this interaction was conferences organized by women who understand how to create the right atmosphere will attract more women, not necessarily more women on speaking panels.
Then came the pitches. The ideas came from different verticals like skin care, civic engagement, social good, wedding, food, healthcare and media. There was no flaunting of shiny new apps, or flaunting the latest technology. Their businesses were less tied to technology as a platform, but rather used the websites to reach a wider audience. It’s fine, because not all problems must be solved with a website or mobile app.
I was impressed by how customer focused they all were. Each of them were operating close to the ground, getting constant customer feedback. They knew their customers well and told their stories. Each demonstrated a transparent thought process and were refreshingly honest in their pitch, even admitting flaws, challenges, and things they needed to look out for.
These were raw founders who didn’t go through accelerators or have perfect pitches, but were building revenue generating businesses from the ground up because there was demand for their services and they were answering and solving that real human need. Technology was almost an after thought in some cases. Each idea was realistic and practical, even bootstrapped.
There were no lofty claims of taking over the world with an app, rather, a quiet knowing that their work has already changed their customer’s lives and impacted the world.
As the conference drew to a close, with the last speaker finishing up her final sentence, Charlie shot straight for the VC judges, while the women patiently waited for the full close. “That’s how men do it,” my friend, Farrah, remarked.