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You are not small: a Women Entrepreneur Festival Roundup

Yesterday, we had the rare pleasure of attending ITP’s Women Entrepreneur Festival, organized by Joanne Wilson and Nancy Hechinger, and hosted at NYU.

This is the third year that Joanne and Nancy have hosted the festival and every year the two-day event is an opportunity to meet amazing ladies who are making it happen (or on the brink of making it happen) and a chance to discuss our collective challenges and triumphs. The conference is inspiring, challenging, interesting, and always educational.

We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the amazing women we met yesterday, and also, use the experience as a launch pad to discuss some of the thornier issues that arose.

Even if you couldn’t make it, you can enjoy the livestreams!
One of the coolest things that Joanne and Nancy did this year is that they taped all of the sessions and made them available via Livestream. Go take a look!

So many incredible women doing such cool things
Yesterday we met an amazing number of women doing an amazing number of things. Their ventures ranged from nonprofit to for-profit, from social mission driven to consumer focused to health care tech to large-scale, environmental sculpture. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to meet every single woman at the conference, but here is a list of some of the companies we did learn about:

  • PopVox: Your Voice. Verified. Quantified. Amplified.
  • Don’t Panic Management: We can help you organize and execute so you can focus on growing your business.
  • Seventh Reach Media: Our mission is to develop and produce media products that foster meaningful collaboration and innovative thinking
  • Mahzedahr Bakery: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery transports the curious on a delectable journey of mystery and desire that will elevate the baked good to a piece of comforting decadence that can be experienced every day.
  • It’s A Dog’s Life: NYC’s premier pet care and training service.
  • Videolicious: Make great videos! Just talk and tap.
  • Clear Health Costs: Your Source for Finding Health Care Prices
  • Roomscraper: a product discovery site and marketplace for local, independent furniture designers
  • CookBook Create: With Cookbook Create, you’ll have all the tools you need to make your own cookbook, whether you’re making a family cookbook, a community cookbook, personalized wedding gift, or turning your blog into a published volume.
  • Little Borrowed Dress: Rent a bridesmaid’s dress
  • Artisan Kitchen: we curate the increasingly popular world of handcrafted food, share unique stories and bring artisan goods from kitchens all over the country right to your table.
  • Tilonia: a non-profit organization established to provide marketing and business development assistance to the crafts section of the Barefoot College, in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India.
  • The Modern Village: A Continuing Education Series for Parents
  • The Megawatt Hour: An energy decision platform
  • VitaminW: Your Daily Dose of Women’s News, Philanthropy & Business
  • myPlanit: Connecting your life across time and place
  • Lady & Lara: Lady & Lara is the online luxury destination for our adorable companions, where you will find high-end, branded pet accessories.
  • Brunch Critic: New York’s only ALL brunch resource
  • Willa: Natural skincare for girls, developed by girls
  • Plum Alley: Shop products of substance and beauty from female founded companies.
  • Out Think Inc: We are launching the next generation of super scientists with a series of game based apps, starting with Tornado Maker and Tornado Masters.
  • The Fashion Hoop: Mapping, Fashion, fit, and style to busy women
  • Butterbeans: seasonal school meals + fun food and cooking classes
  • Global Good Fund: Empowering Leaders for Exponential Impact
  • Shkatulka Jewelry Designs: When diamonds just won’t work.
  • The Difference Engine: We’re digital innovation & design strategists

For a more complete list of attendees, go here.

Are you a woman entrepreneur? Tell us about your company in the comments!

Of course, no women’s conference is complete without controversy
One neat thing about the conference is that every attendees is added to an email list where we are able to connect before and after the conference.

Last night, after we all went home an investor who had attended the conference sent an email out saying that he had loved the conference but that he wanted to give a word of advice to all the women entrepreneurs.

What he said, in short, was that women need to make sure not to undersell themselves. As he put it, it’s not a “lemonade stand,” it’s a “beverage distribution platform.” His concern was that he felt like too many of the women entrepreneurs were talking about their ventures in a manner that didn’t adequately project the big opportunity they were attacking. His most important piece of advice: remember, “you are not small.”

As you might imagine, these comments were a bit controversial. After all, who’s to say that calling a “lemonade stand” a “beverage distribution platform” is either appropriate or indicative of a better business person?

What do you think? Are women too quick to downplay their accomplishments? Or to undervalue their own ideas? Is this uniquely feminine affliction?

We want to know what you think!

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  • http://www.about.me/jenmcfadden Jennifer McFadden

    Hi,
    I’ve gotta say that I agree. I think that some–not all–women have a hard time with the concept of “fake it till you make it” and that it can be detrimental to their businesses in the long run. There is nothing wrong with deciding that you want to run a lifestyle business–and understand that this still means that you will be putting in some serious hours to get up and running, and to maintain your business over the long-run. But I think that there is an issue when women downplay the potential of the ventures that they have created when they are in sectors where the potential for rocket-powered growth is high or when they are out fundraising (whether that means angel or VC fundraising). I also wonder if there isn’t a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy thing that might go own when women downplay the size or potential for their ventures. It’s like great athletes who visual getting a gold medal–if you’re not able to visualize that you belong at the top of the podium, you’re not likely to ever get there. I’ve seen this time and again with some of my friends who are female founders and I think that it’s something that all of us should think about before we meet with potential investors, customers, employees, or others and try to sell our vision.

    Just my $0.02.
    Best,
    Jennifer

    • karensd

      Something I’ve learned from some early leadership development courses as well, that it’s only women that mitigate their opinions by ending comments with “just my two cents”.

      • Adda

        To be honest, I thought his points were just really accurate. I don’t know if women’s propensity to downplay their accomplishments or be humble is good or bad in general, good or bad for business, but I think it’s just plain TRUE that women DO do it, and it does hurt them when it comes to fundraising.

        And I speak from experience. I am the biggest perpetrator of calling my company “small,” my reach “small,” revenue “small.” I was shocked when I read the comments because I was, oh crap! I do that, ALL THE TIME.

        Now, I think there is a bigger question about whether humility is good or bad for business. And I think, like all things, it’s complicated! Obviously, it can be good, it can be bad. I think the biggest takeaway I have is that (like it or not) it’s really important to know your audience, know your context, and be humble when appropriate and NOT when not.

  • karensd

    The arrogance of an investor to email the entire conference to give them a lesson says a lot about him. Investors vary greatly, and many times it’s a personality/emotional connection that joins founders and investors. The fact that he’s telling everyone how to do things “the right way” shows just what type of investor he is. There is NO right way to do anything as far as I’m concerned. Everyone approaches sales, marketing, team building, etc. differently, so as a sweeping statement, that’s a fail. Caveat emptor.

    On the other hand, I would have to say that it is a particular female trait to underplay one’s successes or achievements. It’s like women are all too Canadian; too damned modest! Many women I’ve met call themselves “small business owners”, not “entrepreneurs”, and as a lover of language, I find that that also says a lot.

    With all that being said, some people WANT to be a lemonade stand and not a “beverage distribution platform” (which sounds just too douchey to not comment on).

    • http://www.about.me/jenmcfadden Jennifer McFadden

      Karen,
      I know Charlie and I actually don’t think that his intention was to offend in any way. From my experience, he is really interested in seeing female founders succeed–which is why he had the chutzpah to apply to attend WEF in the first place. I don’t think that he was issuing a blanket, “you’re doing this wrong in every way” statement; but, rather, was trying to say that if you’re going to go for venture funding, you need to be aware of the vocabulary and bravado that is part of the process of fundraising. I think it took some courage to put this info out there.

      Again, just my $0.02.
      Best,
      Jennifer