This post was originally published here and is written by Anne Ravanona, Founder and CEO of Global Invest Her – catalysts for getting Women Entrepreneurs Funded faster and building Gender-Inclusive Workplaces.
“Women shouldn’t be afraid to be seen as experts. Sometimes we are too shy and too humble. Humility is good, but if it keeps you from thinking that you can be or are an expert in a field, then that’s bad. Women should really invest in deciding what they are good at and how they can help other people.”
Deborah Rippol is the Director of UP Europe, the organization behind Startup Weekend, Startup Digest and NEXT. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Economics and HR in the UK, Deborah studied law and graduated with a Master’s in Management from Toulouse Business School. She worked as a recruiter at IBM before moving to London to open Startup Weekend’s first international office.
In the past 4 years Startup Weekend has grown into UP Global, an organization with a global presence, and has organized more than 1500 action- and innovation-oriented programmes and events in 120 countries. As the director of the European branch, Deborah’s mission is to grow UP into the largest provider of experiential education throughout Europe by connecting entrepreneurs and building sustainable startup ecosystems.
Who is your role model as an entrepreneur?
I am very inspired by the CEO and Founder of Startup Weekend, Marc Nager, and what he has achieved. Just like a lot of us, he wasn’t necessarily destined to be an entrepreneur and it didn’t come to him on a plate. He fell in love with the concept of Startup weekend, turned it into a non-profit and really brought it to life. He is only 29 but he is a very wise person and brilliantly runs a 50-people company. He doesn’t show any sign of weakness even when he is under pressure and always manages to inspire the team with his vision. I really admire that about him.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
That’s a hard question. I think it’s not one thing in particular but more a series of personal choices that I made that I feel proud of. I feel proud that I took the leap, moved to a new country and opened the European office of Startup Weekend. That was a challenge (mainly because I was by myself at first, working from coffee shops or my couch, things can get lonely). But because it was tough, it makes me proud.
I do think women tend to look back and ask ourselves ‘is that what we should be doing?
What has been your biggest challenge as a Women Entrepreneur?
It may be a bit cliché, but I do think women tend to look back and ask ourselves ‘is that what we should be doing? What’s going to happen with my relationships? What about a family? Should I give up a bit of my career just in case?’ I don’t think men really ask themselves that – they have a career opportunity and just go for it.
I think women do question and doubt themselves too much. A typical example is when I look back at my first opportunity to attend a Startup Weekend. I didn’t want to go because I thought I wasn’t an entrepreneur and would only be capable of helping out for coffee. That makes me angry to think I had that in mind.I was already qualified, I had a Masters and a Bachelors in Business and I could do it just like anybody else. Sometimes women put themselves in position where they don’t think they are good enough and men are the exact opposite! We need to get more confident, that’s the first step.
What in your opinion, is the key to your success?
For our success as an organization, I think that at UP Global, we all have the same vision and passion and that’s what we have in common. Whatever happens, we know we are driven by the same things and that pushes us really far. We understand the organization’s vision that it comes from inside and we are easily able to convey it to other people. UP is a driver for experiential education and supports local community leaders in building their communities. We are convinced about the impact our community leaders have and the rest of the world sees that I think.
What would you do differently? “I would not have allowed myself to work on my own for more than a year.”
If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
If I could go back in time, I would not have allowed myself to work on my own for more than a year. I think I should have taken a step back, had a more strategic view, realized what roles were needed and tried to get those filled long-term. It’s so different in big corporations, where you have one person for each task and whole departments serving other departments where you don’t even know who the real end customer is. In small organization, it’s often hard to see the forest for the trees and split responsibilities.
Being an entrepreneur is a wonderful opportunity to push your own boundaries and work on something you love.
What would you say to others to encourage them to become entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur is a wonderful opportunity to push your own boundaries and work on something you love. Being an entrepreneur is identifying a problem you are passionate about that you want to solve but it’s also a mindset. Everybody is capable of having that mindset, even with a normal job. Being an entrepreneur is simply the option where you create that opportunity for yourself.
A lot of people think it’s impossible to have a great team that you love to hang around all the time, but when you find that, it’s not something you want to compromise on anymore.
What is your leadership style?
I think I do have a bit of a mother/friend style. I try my best to fill in the gaps when someone is in trouble, to see if I can help them. I think that comes from the fact that most of the positions in the team were things I was doing at some point myself, so I think I can help. But that might be overwhelming for my team as well, so I’m working on doing that a bit less. I’m also lucky that I’m surrounded with a wonderful team that loves their jobs. Not everyone has that chance and that makes everything a lot easier. A lot of people think it’s impossible to have a great team that you love to hang around all the time, but when you find that, it’s not something you want to compromise on anymore.
Advice to my younger self: “I would tell myself not to be afraid [in business negotiations], that’s business and that’s how it works, there is nothing wrong with being direct.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to be a bit more blunt, opportunistic and straightforward in business negotiations. I personally have a hard time talking about money and when you are in position where you need to move and shake some things to achieve it, in my case, I would almost feel guilty about asking directly, ‘How much money can you invest in our organization?, What can we do for you in return?’. I would tell myself not to be afraid, that’s business and that’s how it works, there is nothing wrong with being direct.
Pampering yourself is important. We work hard, we deserve it. Ultimately, when you are kind to yourself, you are kinder to others too
What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
I want to help more communities grow and support more entrepreneurs.
I also want to achieve more of a work-life balance and invest in myself more, in skills that are not so work-related, because I think there are so many beautiful crazy things to discover! Being open-minded in that sense is important for what it does to you and your beloved ones. Pampering yourself is important. We work hard, we deserve it. Ultimately, when you are kind to yourself, you are kinder to others too.
3 key words to describe yourself: