Starting Up a Network of Local Women Entrepreneurs

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 7:30 AM on June 25, 2010:

A network offers collective knowledge, experience and wisdom In the New York Times article Women and Technology and Myth, Adriana Gardella interviews Cindy Padnos, founding managing director of Illuminate Ventures, about the presence - and absence - of women-founded companies in technology.  According to Padnos's research, "women recently gained less than 10 percent of venture investment in the high-tech sector."  Part of the Q and A in the interview goes like this:

Q. What accounts for the funding gap?

A.  ...Women face a challenge that is similar to the one Indian immigrant entrepreneurs - at least the male ones -  have overcome. In the early ’80s, talented, well-trained and entrepreneurial Indians came to the United States to fill positions created by our shortage of I.T. professionals. Back then, they were viewed as cannon fodder for tech start-ups, typically holding junior, low-level engineering positions but rarely sitting at the controls. That’s changed dramatically, particularly in the last five years.

Q. What happened?

A.  I asked these guys how they did it, and they told me it took 30 years. Many of them were part of successful teams. Eventually, they attained management positions and gained equity and wealth. Motivated by a strong belief that they had been treated like second-class citizens, one successful Indian entrepreneur turned around and helped finance another. In many ways, they’ve mapped the road for women. Although women don’t generally share the immigrant mentality, which pushes foreign-born groups to band together and help one another.

I cited this source in Your Local Women Entrepreneurs, an expression of regret that a mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs does not exist in my locale.  Lively comments on the post ensued, some asking in so many words, "How do we create a network for women entrepreneurs?"

My plan is to follow the Indian entrepreneur model.  I'm going to do my very best to become a successful entrepreneur that turns around and helps finance another.  Ideally, the one I fund will fund the next one, and so on.  In the meantime, I am meeting in small groups with the women entrepreneurs I do know, attempting to begin the process of "banding together and helping one another." 

My plan has its challenges.  The great power of a network is its collective knowledge, experience and wisdom.  As the founder of a two-year old company, I have little experience to offer a network and, therefore, little power to give it. 

That said, I have drive and passion and determination.  So do the women entrepreneurs I know.  That's the kind of power that gets enterprises started.

A local mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs is in enterprise start-up mode.  For more information, please contact Handshake 2.0.

Your Local Women Entrepreneurs

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 8:30 AM on June 22, 2010:

As Handshake 2.0 approaches its second anniversary, I have been reflecting on my two-year passage as a woman entrepreneur. 

Anne Giles ClellandWhen I wrote ten questions for aspiring women entrepreneurs to ask on college visits for SmartCollegeVisit and included "Is there a mentoring and support network specifically for women entrepreneurs in the local community?", I was wistfully citing research from the Kauffman Foundation on how to foster success among women entrepreneurs, particularly in technology and high-growth industries: 

“Efforts to provide women the types of mentoring and support networks that they view as especially critical to their success should be a priority for entrepreneurship support organizations. The high-growth marketplace - and the U.S. economy - could only benefit from increased gender diversity."

Is there a mentoring and support network specifically for women entrepreneurs in my local community?

No.  There is not.

My memberships in VT KnowledgeWorks, Presidents’ Council, and the technology council, NCTC, have been invaluable.  At times, though, I would like to have conferred with another woman entrepreneur.  Among those memberships and in my locale, women entrepreneurs are hard to find.  Experienced women entrepreneurs with proven business models with salaries they’ve created from creating their own companies?  In “the high-growth marketplace,” I know of one.

I would seek from a local mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs:

  • A make-it-happen commitment. Buy a round of my products or services, or find someone who will. Give me feedback on the entire process, from pitch, to sales, to delivery. No sales, no company. No feedback, no growth. Help me grow a company and help me grow in leadership.
  • Listening. In speaking my thoughts and concerns, I often generate ideas that match my talents and vision. Interrupted with advice, problem-solving, or brainstorming in new directions, I lose my creative process and where it might have taken me. From a support network for women entrepreneurs, I would welcome help discovering my best ideas.
  • Post-listening advising. Once I have expressed who I am, what I’m doing and why - and had insights as a result of that process - I am ready for my turn to listen. Tell me everything.

According to The Wall Street Journal, lack of networks is a restraint holding back women entrepreneurs:

“Networks are a vital source of business and industry knowledge, leads on contracts, and access to decision makers in finance, purchasing and the community…we find that most women don't have the connections for credible introductions into industry associations, chambers of commerce, venture-capital groups and other key networks.  When women venture into diverse networks, they too often are not taken seriously and frequently are shut out of conversations and deals."

Time to band together and help one another.  This two-year passage has been harder than it needed to be.  Enough.

A local mentoring and support network for women entrepreneurs is forming.  For more information, please contact Handshake 2.0.

***

These posts may be of interest:

Bank Loans and Women
My Hometown's Women Angel Investors

VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

There's Something About Her - From Visionary to Entrepreneur

Posted by Sylvia Parsons at 7:34 AM on July 2, 2009:

From Sylvia Parsons:

So how does a woman with entrepreneurial spirit and vision become a successful entrepreneur?

T’aiya Shiner, Founder, Executive Director, Better Agreements, Inc. The first stop on my quest for answers was non-profit organization, Better Agreements, Inc. (BAI); where I spoke with Founder and Executive Director, T’aiya Shiner

Shiner is driven by a passion to make mediation accessible to all communitymembers. Currently, BAI serves primarily court-referred clients who cannot afford legal services, or seek to avoid the stress of trial. In order to support pro bono and low-cost services however, Shiner must “crack the code and make mediation profitable on a community level." She says, "I want to succeed where others have failed.” While she has a knack for the "artistic" aspect of envisioning programs, she has struggled (as do many entrepreneurs) to actualize her ideas and create demand for mediation. Everyone has conflict, but not all are aware of or accessing mediation as a solution.

Despite struggles, Shiner has found success from lessons learned over the past seven years. Reflecting on the process, she offered three insights: 

  1. Know where you’re going: Resist the urge to dive in with blind passion without considering the environment. Develop a plan so more time can be spent on proactive rather than reactive activities.  
  2. Take someone with you: As a passionate visionary, be sure to leverage talents of “actualizers” and create a diverse network of support. In the nonprofit context, this translates to donors, volunteers, staff and a Board of Directors
  3. Be sure your destination can be reached: You must be able to translate your vision into reality, and, more importantly, a reality that appeals to others. A performance is lost if no audience attends.

Shiner states, "After three years of primarily court mediations, Better Agreements is prepared for greater expansion into private markets." As she leads BAI through restructuring, she is focused on communicating her passion. As a budding social entrepreneur, she hopes her local success will catalyze structural change across the conflict resolution industry.
 
Mediation and Ms. Shiner’s entrepreneurial spirit can be summed up in a statement printed on an office mug: “What once was a ripple is now the wave of the future.”

Entrepreneurial ripples can turn to waves.

***

Sylvia Parsons will complete her Master's Degree from Virginia Tech in Human Development in the fall of 2009.  She is an intern with Handshake Media, Inc., and with Better Agreements, Inc. "There's Something About Her," the series by Sylvia Parsons, can be found on Handshake 2.0 under
Women Entrepreneurs.  Feel free to follow Sylvia Parsons on Twitter.

There’s Something About Her - Today’s Woman Entrepreneur

Posted by Sylvia Parsons at 6:20 AM on June 30, 2009:

From: Sylvia Parsons:

Opportunities about for today's woman entrepreneur In today’s self-starting market of business owners, the self-employed, and entrepreneurs, it is difficult to know where one stands. As a woman, it can be even more difficult to not only find, but prove oneself in the entrepreneurial market.

Research and testimonies from successful woman entrepreneurs show that in addition to being innovative risk-takers who demonstrate rapid growth in wealth, today’s woman entrepreneur possesses the following attributes: 

  1. She seeks control over work-family balance: The woman entrepreneur is driven to not only be innovative in business; but to develop creative solutions to balancing family needs. Many women built their enterprises in response to the economic or emotional needs of their families. 
  2. She is determined and persistent: Entrepreneurs are able to see potential and opportunity where others see gaps or emptiness. In the face of work and family demands, inequality in the workplace and greater rates of entrepreneurial failure than men; the woman entrepreneur must be relentless and skillful in pursuit of the opportunity; without taking "no" for an answer. 
  3. She is diplomatic and inclusive: The woman entrepreneur is an inclusive leader. She maintains power while eliciting opinions and sharing decisions with stakeholders. She must be diplomatic as she faces the unique challenge of including without being a “people-pleaser” or “push-over," or conversely, becoming the character Meryl Streep played in “The Devil Wears Prada."
  4. She can ask for help without inhibition: Nobody knows everything. The woman entrepreneur develops a network of competent support and is confident and willing to request help when needed without viewing it as a sign of weakness
  5. She develops the human aspect of business: The woman entrepreneur recognizes that success is not possible without people. She is empathetic and able to develop relationships and effectively persuade and motivate others. This is a powerful tool in business where “it’s still who you know.” 
  6. Finally, and most importantly--She is confident in herself and her ability as an entrepreneur and leader!

***

Sylvia Parsons will complete her Master's Degree from Virginia Tech in Human Development in the fall of 2009.  She is an intern with Handshake Media, Inc., and with Better Agreements, Inc. "There's Something About Her," the series by Sylvia Parsons, can be found on Handshake 2.0 under
Women Entrepreneurs.

There's Something About Her - Defining the Entrepreneur

Posted by Sylvia Parsons at 7:20 AM on June 27, 2009:

From Sylvia Parsons:

By definition, entrepreneurs blaze new paths.Before I can seek out women entrepreneurs for my series, "There's Something About Her," I must know  for whom I am looking.  Is the in-home child care provider as entrepreneurial as the founding CEO of an international corporation?  What is an entrepreneur in the first place? I took to the Internet, and the lonely shelves of Newman Library, in search of insight.

“Entrepreneurship” derives from the French word, entreprendre, which means “to undertake.” The dictionary definition of an entrepreneur is: “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, esp. a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Many, such as Schwartz, argue that entrepreneurs must “create a business that did not previously exist.” As Paul C. Light outlines in The Search for Social Entrepreneurship, some seek evidence of “basic motivations for achievement, autonomy, and affiliation.”  Others just view this as “entrepreneurial spirit” which must be actualized into entrepreneurship.

 

Quickmba.com shows entrepreneurship as characterized by rapid growth and significant wealth creation. This excludes many non-profit leaders, small business owners, and self-employed individuals. That conflicts with many popular sites and resources. And what of solopreneurs and creators of new, inventive small businesses?

 

So, what sets entrepreneurs apart? I offer these three characteristics:

  1. Risk: Entrepreneurial risk is high and entrepreneurs knowingly “undertake” the costs in pursuit of their vision and profits.
  2. Innovation: Entrepreneurs blaze new paths; invent new markets, create new products and implement new strategies. 
  3. Speed of growth (wealth creation): Many agree that entrepreneurial ventures result in great wealth, in excess of millions, often within 5 years. With growing concepts of social entrepreneurship, however, growth in market awareness and systematic change can be considered as well. Whatever the entrepreneur's goal, it is important that he or she make rapid progress toward that end and that others buy into the vision quickly.

Without visibility, expansion and wealth, entrepreneurs remain small-business owners and self-employed individuals. Entrepreneurs set themselves apart.

 

Whether one is an aspiring or existing entrepreneur, one message is clear:

 

True success is not only a result of who you know, but who knows you.

***

Sylvia Parsons will complete her Master's Degree from Virginia Tech in Human Development in the fall of 2009.  She is an intern with Handshake Media, Incorporated. "There's Something About Her," the series by Sylvia Parsons can be found on Handshake 2.0 under Women Entrepreneurs.

There's Something About Her

Posted by Sylvia Parsons at 8:25 AM on June 25, 2009:

From Sylvia Parsons:

Since childhood, I have been surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit.

As the eldest of three girls and daughter of an in-home daycare provider, I enjoyed the creative curriculum and activities designed by my mother, or the methods I invented on my own to amuse (or torture) my sisters. As I grew older, I was more and more inspired by my mother’s entrepreneurial spirit as I learned how she paved her own path, graduated college, came to the United States from Puerto Rico, built a family, and developed her own small business to support us as we grew older. While her endeavors did not result in millions of dollars, I admired her determination, and recognize the potential power of that entrepreneurial drive in innovative markets.

Sylvia Parsons and her mother, an inspiring woman and entrepreneur Now, with my own entrepreneurial drive and armed with a B.S. in Business and a pending Master’s in Human Development from Virginia Tech, I am preparing to embark on a journey into the “real world.”

As a woman and hopeful entrepreneur I, like others of all ages, question where I am going and how I am going to use these tools to get there. I have found many theories on the "keys to success" and have read about successful woman entrepreneurs who have reached high profitability, while balancing family life and keeping fit.  I can’t help but think, “What if I’m not superwoman?”
 
In entrepreneurship, “failure” is more common than success, especially for women, so how do women, in the face of such risk, get up each morning and pursue their dreams?

For a true image of women entrepreneurs, I will research current literature and media on entrepreneurship and speak with diverse women, across industries, at all stages of organizational development. I want to know:  What is it about her that makes people engage as customers and clients? That mobilizes new markets and consumers? And, what are the secrets of successful woman entrepreneurship? And how do women make entrepreneurial ventures a personal success, regardless of the financial outcomes?

If you’re like I am, when you see entrepreneurial women (like my mother), you think:  “There’s just something about her..."

I’m on a quest to find out what that is.

***

Sylvia Parsons will complete her Master's Degree from Virginia Tech in Human Development in the fall of 2009.  She is an intern with Handshake Media, Incorporated.