Meet 5 Women Breaking New Ground in Health Tech

Healthcare has seen impressive advances in technology but what might come as a surprise is the number of women whose research and investment lies behind them. Here are just five.

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This post is written by Bonnie Boglioli-Randall and originally published on Women 2.0.

Women in technology may remain a minority, but that hasn’t stopped them from flocking to the fast-evolving landscape of health tech. Bringing their own brand of savoir-faire to address a variety of issues old and new, they innovate, problem-solve and collaborate to create uncommon opportunities.

Given their penchant for helping others and the voids to be filled that an industry in flux presents, it’s little wonder that there are more female-owned businesses in healthcare than any other single industry.

The women below represent a slice of those tackling obstacles in wide-ranging areas including digital health, wearables and biotech. Though they are as diverse as the technologies they stand behind, their shared passions urged them into new frontiers – carving out pathways for themselves, their peers and ultimately for healthcare consumers.

Monisha Perkash

Co-Founder & CEO of Lumo BodyTech

http://www.lumobodytech.com/

Avid athlete and veteran entrepreneur Monisha Perkash has long known the benefits of a healthy posture. It wasn’t until technologist and back pain sufferer Andrew Chang discovered the rewards while taking classes from Perkash’s spinal physician husband that the light bulb went off in her head. “When I saw the profound impact that postural movement had on Andrew’s life,” she says, “I knew that Lumo BodyTech would be my next calling.”

Perkash and Chang joined forces with physician-turned-entrepreneur Charles Wang to found the company in Palo Alto in 2012. Following the success of a stellar crowdfunding campaign and its first wearable postural feedback product, the company’s second gen wearable – the sleeker, design-savvy and feature-laden Lumo Lift – is due out later this summer.

Like many women innovating in the health space, Perkash places an emphasis on heterogeneity. “I seek talent from a pool that extends beyond the typical start-up jockeys,” she explains. “Having a diversity of people is a competitive advantage because people who are different from one another bring more ideas to the table and challenge each other’s thinking.”1

Caitlin Collins

VP of Operations at Mango Health

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Leveraging her experience in the mobile gaming space, Caitlin Collins risked leaving an industry she knew well to join a budding health and wellness app targeting patients on a prescription and supplement regimen. She cites the diverse consortium of former game industry veterans, Googlers and healthcare platform developers as her biggest lure.

At Mango Health, Collins and crew whip up their gaming-meets-healthcare recipe to encourage deeper user engagement with medications vis-à-vis a slick smartphone app1. Seeking to decrease staggering prescription non-adherence rates with classic gaming incentives, Collins cites better patient outcomes as the inspiration behind everything she and her fellow Mangos do.

“We believe that if you are taking medication or supplements, you should be both motivated and proud to take them correctly,” says Collins. “That’s where better health starts for millions of us.”

Michelle Dipp

M.D., Ph.D., CEO of OvaScience

Coupling scientific know-how with entrepreneurial acumen, Dr. Michelle Dipp may be young, but she is one of biotech’s leading female innovators. A decade ago while Dipp was still pursuing her degrees at Oxford University, the discovery of egg precursor cells challenged the consensus on women’s biological clocks.

Following a successful track record in R&D at GlaxoSmithKline, Dipp leveraged her entrepreneurial skills to co-found OvaScience in 2011. The company’s patented technology (which is still in development) utilizes a woman’s own precursor cells to greatly improve IVF success rates, particularly for women over the age of 35.

In addition to her role at OvaScience, Dipp thrives off the many hats she wears. Offering her insight to several healthcare advisory boards, she serves as a founding partner of the Longwood Fund which invests in healthcare companies.

Dipp is bullish on what her female counterparts can offer to science and biotechnology. “The list of female CEOs is growing within and outside of our industry,” says Dipp. “I believe that speaks to the wide-spread recognition of the abilities and accomplishments of so many women today.”

Ronda Colliers

Co-Founder & CEO of SweetWater Health

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Ronda Colliers pivoted away from her career as a senior director of engineering in the high tech sector in search of something fresh, challenging and altruistic. Cashing out old stock money to earn an M.A. in Psychology, Colliers studied the direct correlation between stress and our biochemistry. “Stress is the weak link in our chain,” explains Colliers. “90 percent of chronic diseases are related to it.”

Together with two fellow women geeks-turned-entrepreneurs, Colliers co-founded SweetWater Health in 2011. The company’s smartphone app helps uber athletes and everyday Janes alike monitor and manage their stress by tracking heart rate variability (HRV).

Colliers and others believe that HRV sheds light onto how we cope with stress, and may be a key indicator for a range of additional health issues. To Colliers, SweetWater Health’s bottom line extends beyond their financials. “We know we’re going to be successful any way we look at it,” she says. “We’re doing something good for people.”

Elizabeth Holmes

Founder & CEO of Theranos

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The tale of the 19-year-old prodigy Stanford dropout who applied for a patent on a wearable patch that administered drugs and monitored the bloodstream is fast becoming Silicon Valley lore. Recognizing that advancements in old-fashioned phlebotomy could provide early diagnosis and detection along with greatly reduced healthcare costs and increased consumer access, Elizabeth Holmes is turning health diagnostics on its head.

Now 30, Holmes leads the helm of the company she founded in 2003 with technology that is considered revolutionary. Using infinitesimal amounts of blood compared to traditional draws, Theranos provides quick, efficient and full bloodwork results for hundreds of tests that can be run in combination, thus eliminating trips to the lab. The company also provides full cost transparency along with price tags that are a small fraction of typical hospital lab charges.

“We’re building the first consumer healthcare technology company,” Holmes told the Wall Street Journal last year. “Patients are empowered by having better access to their own health information, and then by owning their own data.” Expect to see Holmes’ brainchild at a Walgreens near you soon, where Americans from coast to coast will have access to fast, affordable lab testing for the first time ever.

What other women should we keep an eye on in healthcare tech?








How One Startup Founder is Making the First Year Easier for New Moms

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Women 2.0 talks to Rachel Blumenthal, mother of one and founder and CEO of e-commerce platform Cricket’s Circle, about management, motherhood and marriage.

Article By Tanwi Nandini 

Women seeking each other’s advice, support and community seems more important than ever after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. That’s exactly what Cricket’s Circle, an e-commerce platform for new and expecting mothers, aims to do: Help women connect and discover tried and true products. With the daunting array of blogs, classic parenting guides and millions of pieces of advice from family and friends, it can feel impossible to know how to prepare and what to buy.

RACHEL_BLUMENTHAL“When I was pregnant with my son, Griffin, what I craved more than anything was one master list,” says Cricket Circle Founder and CEO, Rachel Blumenthal. “Instead, I received dozens of spreadsheets and brain-dump emails passed from experienced moms to newbies like me.”

When one of Rachel’s close friends gave her that streamlined, to-the-point list, she became her “Cricket.”

Blumenthal realized she wanted to help new mothers navigate the plethora of baby goods in the market. Her entrepreneurial edge started with fine-tuned curation in the fashion industry, as part of the inimitable Yves Saint Laurent’s publicity team. She went on to start a highly successful jewelry line, Rachel Leigh, which she exited two years ago.

We caught up with Rachel to learn more about how motherhood propelled her toward this new phase in her career and how she gives and gets support from her husband, Neil Blumenthal, a co-founder of Warby Parker.

Women 2.0: Cricket’s Circle seems like a perfect marriage between social and e-commerce. How is this particularly effective in the niche of motherhood and childrearing?

Rachel Blumenthal: With Cricket’s Circle, we’re bringing something entirely new to the market.

Parenting websites and blogs are a fantastic resource for parents to learn about all sorts of things, including news, trends, broader parenting topics, medical advice and more. We’re different, in that we focus on simplified and streamlined product recommendations for expectant and new parents.

During a time in your life that can be completely overwhelming, we want to provide trusted and honest recommendations with the added support and advice from friends. This is why we incorporated social aspects and built tools for our community to weigh in with their firsthand experience with various products.

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The public discourse around women balancing career and family has largely said that women must sacrifice one for the other, but it is very difficult to have both. What have you sacrificed, and what have you gained in starting Cricket’s Circle?

RB: It’s certainly true that trying to balance career and family can be a daunting challenge, but I believe it can be done. What comes first in my life is family, then career, so I would say what I’ve sacrificed is time for myself.

I try to carve out a few hours a week just for working out or a manicure but it’s tough – I certainly can’t remember the last time I leisurely popped into a few stores. You have to set boundaries and priorities – definitely easier said than done, but I try to live by that motto as best as I possibly can.

Every day is different and you’re going to have to be flexible to that.What I’ve gained though, far outweighs that small sacrifice. I love what I do and believe I’m solving a problem that new moms encounter everyday.

Your husband Neil is also a startup entrepreneur – how do you two support each other’s work?

RB: We’ve known each other since college and have always supported each other’s work and passions since we met. This is my second entrepreneurial venture – I formerly built and ran the jewelry brand Rachel Leigh. Neil very much encouraged me to take that first risk when I was 23 and I’m forever appreciative.

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Neil has certainly taught me the virtue of patience. He’s probably the most patient person I know. I wouldn’t be the parent or CEO I am without him.

Specifically, when it comes to business, Neil and one of his Warby Parker co-founders, Dave Gilboa, gave me a valuable piece of advice when I was starting Cricket’s Circle: There is nothing more powerful or memorable than an authentic story. Not knowing or understanding what to buy for [our] baby when I was pregnant was a true, personal frustration that many of our friends have experienced.

I hope that I’ve had an impact on Warby Parker – I’ve certainly shared plenty of unsolicited (and solicited) ideas and feedback! When Warby first launched, the early team worked out of my office at Rachel Leigh. They’re now graciously doing the same for my Cricket’s Circle.

Your support of Healthy Child, Healthy World and HELP USA, reveal your commitment to social justice. Do you think it is a responsibility for tech entrepreneurs to advance social causes?

RB: I think it’s important for all entrepreneurs, not just those in the tech industry, to explore opportunities where their expertise and/or business can make an impact, help those in need or solve a problem. Even if its a small amount of time or resources that they can dedicate.

I’m just a small part of Healthy Child, Healthy World, HELP USA and Baby Buggy, but the more that each and every one of us can do for these organizations and others, the more we can bring attention to issues affecting our society.

What’s your curation process like? Do you focus on your personal experience or product reviews by other mothers? Or well-crafted luxury products?

RB: We have curated what we believe are the best products based on our experiences, those of our friends and numerous focus groups with other moms. They may not always be the newest products to market, but rather what we believe are tried, true, and simply the best available.

We only recommend products we personally have used and feel passionate about. The products we recommend are practical, durable, versatile and well designed. No brands have paid or incentivized us to recommend their products.

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Any favorite products you want to suggest to mothers or friends of mothers in search of a great gift?

RB: These recommendations as my top three usually stay consistent. Again, I believe it doesn’t have to necessarily be the newest on the market to be the best. These are lifesavers that no new mom should be without.

  • Fisher Price Little Lamb Swing: I couldn’t have survived the first six months without it. My living room could have done without the eyesore but it was well worth it. I cried when my son, Griffin, grew out of it.
  • Magnificent Baby onesies:  These are covered magnets instead of a zillion annoying snaps and are simply magical and life-changing when you’re in the unpleasant throes of changing a dirty diaper at 3 a.m.
  • Baby Jogger Vue stroller : The least expensive, most versatile infant to toddler stroller on the market. Brilliant.

Want to keep tabs on what Rachel and Cricket’s Circle are up to? Follow Rachel and CricketsCircle on Twitter!








Sahro Hassan: The Somali Teen Fashion Designer Talks Muslim Role Models and Feminist Aspirations

This article was originally published on Moda & Estilo – Global Lifestyle & Emerging Fashion Magazine. 

Sahro Hassan is an 18 year old fashion designer, whose family immigrated to the United States in order to escape the violence of their native Somalia. Sahro, an ambitious and talented young woman, is already in the process of designing her third collection designed for young Muslim women. After hearing about Sahro’s inspirational story, we reached out to her to get her take on her own style, the importance of Muslim role models for women, her feminist aspirations, and why to not, as she says, “use the present as an excuse.”

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Designer, Sahro Hassan, wearing one of her own designs.

Moda & Estilo: Tell me a little bit about your experience growing up.

Sahro Hassan: Sure. Growing up back home was really hard, but it didn’t look that way at the time because everybody around us was living the tough life. It was really, really difficult, especially for women because we did not have a way of expressing ourselves; men mostly dominated. When I came here with my parents when I was ten or eleven years old, I found so many ways for women to express themselves and the freedom to do what they want. I found that I am really passionate about fashion and expressing myself through that.

M&E: What was the ultimate reason for your family’s emigration to the United States?

SH: Mostly for safety reasons, but also to better our education, because we did not have a good education system and there was a war going on. My parents thought it would be a better choice for us to be in America, get a good education, and have a better future.

M&E: How did you first become interested in fashion?

SH: When I was in eighth grade, I was shopping for a formal dress. I went to the store with both of my parents, and I would try something on, and they would be like, “No, no, you can’t wear that. We don’t like it.” I got very frustrated, so I decided to make my own dresses. That’s how I got started. Before that I really loved art, but I really capitalized on fashion, and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to give the same opportunities to young, Muslim girls. There are a growing number a Muslim girls in the United States, but when you look in the magazines, you don’t see any Muslim women that you can look up to. I want to be that figure so young girls can look up to me and say, “I can do this as well.”

M&E: So you said you were interested in art. What kinds of art were you attracted to?

SH: I was just drawing and writing a lot of poetry.

M&E: When did you start working on your own collections?

SH: I started working on them last year (2013 in October). I got started in an academy that was for young business students to write a business plan, but what I didn’t know was that we actually had to make a prototype for our business. I did that, and ever since it has been an ongoing journey.

M&E: How would you describe your collections? What words come to mind when you think about them?

SH: I’d say modesty, different, vibrant, unique, and really expressive, but telling a story in a way.

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M&E: What inspires when you are making your own collections?

SH: I look through magazines for inspiration, but that rests less with what I see in them than what I don’tsee. As I am looking at magazines, I think, “Ok. How can I make this work? How can this be reassembled so that a Muslim girl can wear this? How can I style this in a way that is appropriate for me to wear and still be stylish and expressive?” I also draw a lot of inspiration from the TV that I watch.

M&E: What kind of magazines do you like to read and what TV shows are you watching?

SH: I watch America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, and What Not to Wear. I read Marie Claire and Vogue. The list just keeps going.

M&E: Would you like to see yourself in Marie Claire or Vogue someday?

SH: Absolutely! I mean that’s my dream—to one day be in a magazine for something that I love doing and to be that role model that young Muslim girls can look up to. We need a Muslim advocate on the covers and in the pages of magazines, and would love to be that.

M&E: Where have you exhibited your clothes? Have you been in any runways or anything like that?

SH: I have had two fashion shows, and am working on my third one. Eventually, I am going to be trying to sell my clothes to the community. I also do a trade show at a local business.

M&E: How would you describe your personal style?

SH: It matches my mood: I love having fun and I love animal print. Whatever I wear depends on my mood. Like, if I’m not feeling good, I like smoky eye shadow. But I also like to be comfortable.

M&E: You said that you want to create a space for young Muslim women. How does that affect how you design your clothes? Do you see your clothes differently than those of other designers?

SH: Absolutely, I am trying to not follow other people’s designs. I am trying to use “Muslim” as my edge, and instead of just fitting into a style, I’m trying to make that style fit me.

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M&E: Do you see yourself as a feminist?

SH: Yes, I do see myself as feminist advocating for women and young girls to not be afraid to share their thoughts and express their creativity. I also believe that women are very underestimated while men dominate, especially in developing countries like Africa. It is very normal in Africa where I grew up for a 12 year old to get married and have children without having any plans for the future. The creativeness of women is locked up in cage, and they have no freedom to speak their minds or take any leadership roles. I believe in challenging tradition in respectful ways. Right now, I am facing against the odds because it’s culturally looked down upon for a girl that’s not married to travel or to further her education. By going to college, I hope to inspire Muslimahs (Muslim girls) to seek a future for themselves and demand their rights as women.

M&E: You are 18 now, so you are still in high school?

SH: I just recently graduated actually.

M&E: Congratulations! What is your plan for the next year or so then? What does the future hold for you?

SH: My plan is to go to school next year. I’m going to Mount Ida College for Fashion Design. I’m still going to be working on my collections on the side as well.

M&E: What was being a young designer in high school like?

SH: In a way it was challenging, because I have had a lot of people criticize me and I didn’t have the confidence that I do now. Now, I just do what I want to do and say what I want to say. It was also difficult in the sense that I had to balance school, chores, work, and sports. But fashion was a way that I could get away from all of that. That’s why I love it.

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M&E: Where do you find your confidence now? Where does it come from?

SH: It comes from all of the hard work I’ve put into my collections, once I ignored what people were saying about them and just did what I wanted to. People recognize my drive for it, and have started to come support me.

M&E: Do you have motto that you live by?

SH: I tell myself to use myself as an inspiration and not as an excuse. My family use to think that I wouldn’t be able to go to college because we couldn’t afford it, but I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to use that as an excuse, I didn’t want to use the present as an excuse. I’m just going to use it as an inspiration for why I need to be here and why I need to better myself.

M&E: What advice would you have for other young women, especially young Muslim women, who are interested in designing their own clothes?

SH: I think that you just need to be yourself. Don’t be afraid. “Muslim” is a name and a label, but many people will tell you that you can’t do this because the religion says this. Challenge tradition and just do what you love doing, and don’t be afraid to be different. Every designer has their story and don’t be afraid to tell your story through your designs.

Follow Sahro:
Facebook: Fashionuji
Twitter: @SahroUji
Instagram: @fashionuji
Youtube: Sahro J








Women in Entrepreneurship Emerging Globally From Gaza to Kiev

On June 19th, 150 Gazan women and men gathered for the fourth Startup Weekend Gaza – but this particular event promised the presence of at least 50% women, as one of the events participating in this year’s Startup Women initiative.

One woman in attendance was Mariam Abultewi, winner of the previous Startup Weekend event for her startup Wasselni, a taxi-ordering/carpooling app. Notably, Mariam is the first Gazan woman to receive startup funding– a feat that may offer inspiration to other young women evaluating the entrepreneurial leap.

The journey of the entrepreneur is a difficult one, and though her startup has been moving forward actively for about four months, she continues to face unique challenges including the eight-year, international blockade of the region following Hamas’ ascension to de-facto political control of the Gaza strip.

Additionally, Mariam has also faced difficulties that are largely tied to the basic fact that she is female; it took a long time to convince her father to approve of her decision to focus on her startup, but Mariam’s persistence led her to have her first solo traveling experience and convinced her father of the value of entrepreneurship – so much so that he is now considering starting his own venture, and has encouraged Mariam’s siblings to do so as well.

Startup Women, Startup Weekend, UP Global

The Organizing team for Gaza Startup Weekend 4.0 (Mohammed AlAfranji, Nadine Badereddine, Alaa Saqer, Said Hassan, Iliana Montauk, and Mohammed Skaik) focused on marketing and outreach that welcomed more women to the event, and their efforts were successful: over 650 applications were received with 150 attendees selected, 71 people pitched and 26 were women, 25 startup teams formed, and 16 were led by women.

Startup Women, Startup Weekend, UP Global

Since the launch of the Startup Women initiative, we’ve seen “Womens Edition” events take shape in communities all around the world; from Tokyo, to Kansas City, to Kiev. This year’s Startup Weekend Womens Edition in Kiev was made possible by a dedicated Organizing team who dealt with ongoing political upheaval and violent protest in the midst of preparation for the event.

“My story is about how one weekend changed my life,” Tetiana Siyanko, Co-Organizer of the Kiev event, said. “I want to help others make this leap.”

Equally encouraging is the constant support from men in communities around the world for a greater emphasis on welcoming women into the world of startups – or simply highlighting the stories of female entrepreneurs more intentionally. As Akram Dweikat, Gazan Startup Weekend Organizer, says: “My top priority is empowering women in my community.”

Stories like Tetiana and Mariam’s have altered the scope and potential of the Startup Women initiative significantly. Given the demand and passion of women in the entrepreneurial space, UP Global aims to seed 1,000 thriving startup communities internationally by 2016, and to focus on the unique barriers to women throughout this growth.

Taking on this goal also means that we are working to define thriving in tangible terms. Through initiatives like Startup Women, UP Global recognizes the critical challenge of ensuring that early-stage communities integrate diversity into their conception of “thriving.” This challenge demands an evolving dialogue around the value of diversity in innovation, and its solution stands to solidify the socio-economic legacy of start-up communities internationally.

SOURCES








Startup Women: Walk the “Lean In” Talk

This article is written by Gina O’Reilly – COO at Nitro and champion of having more women working in technology via a ‘complementary collaboration’ approach. 

I’m a huge champion of women in tech (especially in startups), so events like Startup Weekend Melbourne Women (#WOMENSWMELB) really get me jazzed. As host of the very first pre-event bootcamp and a sponsor of the main event, we at Nitro were lucky to get a front row seat to the action.

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We’re most impressed by the winning team, First Curled Problems, for successfully pitching a fun, innovative concept that took the house down. And a big congrats to Michele McArdle, who recently won our Nitro #PopUpOffice for a year at our Melbourne office, we hope this prize will help launch your education startup in bigger, better ways.

I’m not really surprised that these awesome Aussie entrepreneurs are kicking butt, because Nitro’s been reaping the benefits of a strong female presence for years. In fact, 30% of our employees are women, and I can’t tell you how refreshing that is in Silicon Valley where the bulk of the workforce is men. This gender imbalance means that most companies are severely lacking the complementary talents that ladies bring
to the table.

So what can women do to bridge this gender gap? We should embrace our unique characteristics and engage in complementary collaboration with the men in our workplaces, by:

Being Authentic: Women often feel they have to act a certain way in the workplace. This is particularly common in leadership roles because people assume you need a hard ass attitude to get ahead. But a lack of sincerity can be felt a mile away and just perpetuates the problem.

Playing to our Strengths: Rather than worrying about the skills you might be lacking, recognize your talents and double down on them. Most women, irrespective of their position, bring perceptiveness and emotional IQ that’s critical for leading teams and growing a business.

Rising above the B.S.: It’s simply not true that all women enjoy gossip. By establishing a zero tolerance policy for this unnecessary, unhealthy and unproductive behavior, we can help to quash that stereotype.

Supporting One Another: It’s important for female colleagues to have each other’s backs, and avoid contributing to a competitive environment. Connect with other women in your company and industry by organizing your own casual meetups, or attending a powerful skill-building event like #WOMENSWMELB.

Introducing and Leading Change: Don’t complain about something that you could absolutely lay a hand in improving. Instead, take the bull by the horns and pave the way for change. In my opinion, women are natural born leaders and the “matriarch mentality” can be a strong driving
force within a business.

What else can women do to bridge the gender gap?








Community for curly-haired women takes out top Startup Weekend prize

This article is written by Bronwen Clune and was originally published on Startup Smart.

The first all-female (bar one male) Startup Weekend successfully concluded Sunday night with First Curled Problems capturing the attention of judges for the originality of their idea and points for the execution of their MVP.

The idea behind First Curled Problems is a community for curly-haired women to embrace their hair. The site is populated with user-generated styling advice and information on localised weather conditions. The site would then be monetised by relationships with local salons and affiliate sales through hair products.

The joint runners-up were Handlebar, a cycling app targeted at travellers which hoped to include local businesses in their suggested rides, and Flushed, an app that used government data plus community recommendations to allow people to find the nearest toilet that met their requirements (disabled, baby change table, etc).

Three startups created over the weekend sought to solve the problem of work flexibility that students and women with young children need. Very Flexi is aimed at professional women who want to maintain their skills when at home with a baby, and Connect the Dots is aimed at helping students find intern work.

three out of 7 pitches at #womenSWMelb about flexible working/work experience. Are you listening, Australia?

— Antonia Mochan (EMA) (@antoniam) May 18, 2014

The judges noted that My Job Share, which sought to pair up applicants to apply for one position was the most original of the solutions around flexible work arrangements, noting that while the problem around job flexibility was an obvious one, more work needed to be done by these fledgling startups in coming up with solutions that worked for businesses as much as the people they were trying to help.

The other startup created over the weekend was Go Sprout, which empowered local communities to advocate for events they wanted to see with the option of businesses then sponsoring them to make it happen.

Startup hackathons aimed at women seem to be a welcome trend, with many commenting that they found the experience less intimidating than other startup events.

Later this month Create-a-thon, a two-and-a half-day mobile app development workshop for non-tech women entrepreneurs is being held in Sydney.

Starting Friday, May 30, the event aims to appeal to women with great ideas, but without the tech skills to take their insight to the next stage. It will have a mobile-app focus.

The event is organised by TiE-Women, a part of TiE Sydney (not-for-profit supporting entrepreneurs around the world). Women wanting to take part in the event can apply.

Bronwen Clune was a judge at Startup Weekend.








Screw This Game of Thrones

This article was originally published on What Now Exactly? 

I am a mother.

And I’m a small business owner.

There are days when I manage my creative projects like a U.N. Ambassador while making sack lunches and folding laundry — as if I had six arms and spoke five languages.

And then there are days when the kids are late to school, I work in my pajamas, and I wonder if I will ever write anything that makes sense ever again.

At my core, I wish I was more like Daenerys Targaryen.

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She remains calm at all times, even when her dragons are kidnapped. She is confident and knows what her purpose is and doesn’t seem to doubt she can fulfill that purpose.

And she always looks amazing.

But deep down I wonder if I’m more like Cersei Lannister.

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Do I play my children like they’re puppets of power? Do I love what my heart wants to love, no matter the consequences? Do I destroy anything and anyone that won’t let me have my way?

I’ve read many articles about how you can have it all, or you can’t have it all; that running a business is like raising a family, or maybe having kids will drive the nail into the coffin of your career. There are tips to succeed as a woman in business and tips on what every woman can learn from men.

Well guess what. I don’t want to be successful like a man. I don’t even want to be successful as a woman. I want to be successful in the purpose that is given tome, which can’t be compared to anyone else, man or woman.

One of the most poisonous habits I’ve carried over from mothering into business leadership is that of comparing myself — successes, failures, opportunities, whathaveyou — to other people in our industry.

Why can’t we do what they’re doing? is the same poisonous discontentment asWhy can’t my kid behave like her kid? and will kill the creative momentum of my team as much as motherhood jealousies stole my joy as a mom for a season.

In the recent weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I woke up to the reality of my own strengths, and instead of lamenting All The Things I’m not good at, I started to make a plan for how to fill those gaps.

I’m learning how to be me.

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Finally resting in my purpose and not taking on someone else’s purpose was the best gift I gave myself and my team this Mother’s Day.

I encourage you, whether you’re a man, woman, mother, father, employee, business owner, student or [fill in the blank], know your gifting, your calling, your purpose — and follow that.








Women Show Up To Create Companies In Kyiv, Ukraine.

This article is written by Tatiana Siyanko, Organizer for SW Kiev Women.

When Vika Zhurbas-Litvin, our Kyiv events geek, approached me in July 2013 proposing to make a leap of faith and organize something unprecedented in Ukraine – a Startup Weekend for women, I considered it, to put it mildly, an incredibly courageous idea.

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In September (as luck would have it) I happened to be in San Francisco witnessing Vika’s hypothesis being validated. If San Francisco can have a Startup Weekend for Women so can Kyiv! The benchmark was set high (Kyiv is not San Francisco) but who cares!? Challenge accepted.

We soon found out that our ambitions to inspire women entrepreneurs in Ukraine were more challenging that we had originally thought. We had to postpone the event twice because of:

  • Local sponsor skepticism (this was the first event of it’s kind in Kyiv)
  • Strenuous searches for a  location
  • A hard time finding enough tech savvy and startup oriented female participants (we ended up including men as well)
  • Massive amounts of political instability ( a revolution took place 3 days before the planned dates)

Read UP Global’s coverage of the political instability in Kyiv.

In the end, the Startup Weekend went off without a hitch and Kateryna Degtyar, our third event organizer, helped tremendously in making this event a success.

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Here is quick video-summary of the 54 hour marathon and a recap of the startup weekend winners (featured below).

Winner: Art Poster www.artplakat.co

Polina Omelchenko, Founder & CEO:

“Art poster is an online service that helps create event posters in just a few seconds based on predesigned templates. With Art Poster all you need is to choose the template, upload images and add the information. You can print it at home, share on social media or send to printing house. Our startup will help our customers save time, money, and will make our city more visually neat.”

First runner-up: Kim Budu http://kimbudu.com

Lena Khil, Founder & CEO:

“Kim Budu (translation: what I will become), is an educational project aimed at helping kids discover the professional world of adults. During such online and offline trips, real companies, factories, hospitals will open their doors for children to inspire and entertain them with  stories of people who find joy in their work. We want kids to be happy with their life choices, especially the most important decisions of their grown up life – their occupation.”

Second runner-up: BoreBlender http://www.BoreBlender.com

Marina Podstrigich, Founder & CEO

“Our service BoreBlender – a spontaneous meetup organizer – is a tool that allows users to find spontaneous company in any location; meet new people with similar interests; get inspiration from friends’ activity ideas; and receive discount deals. We truly believe such a service can be a new standard of social discovery.

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Two Detroit Women Turn Their Dreams Into Action.

Compiled by Claire Topalian and Lauren Sauser. 

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Natalia Petraszczuk and Stephanie Dionne are the founders behind Visionboards.co, the startup idea that lead them to become the champions of the 2013 Global Startup Battle’s “Innovation Circle” and the winners of Startup Weekend Detroit (November 2013).  Since then, Visionboards has become much more than a concept: the two founders have met with mentors, high profile advisors, gone to LAUNCH festival in San Francisco, and have intrigued potential investors along the way. We decided to catch up with Natalia and Stephanie amidst the chaos of their newfound entrepreneurial lifestyles to learn about the highs, lows, and learning experiences of their journey.

Share a bit about your company and some of the highs/lows associated with your entrepreneurial journey — biggest learning curve?

Natalia:  After brewing the idea of Visionboards.co in my mind and on paper for over 6 months, I decided to pitch the idea at Detroit Startup weekend.  I happened to catch a local news story about Startup weekend, and realized it was an opportunity to make this concept a true reality. At some point, you need to take the plunge.

Stephanie: As it happened, I had been setting the groundwork for several months prior to open an Ann Arbor-based marketing agency focused on (surprise, surprise) helping technology startups define their brand, develop a business plan, and take their product to market. November 15 was my last day at my former employer, and I left my office and drove straight to downtown Detroit to participate in Startup Weekend as a potential networking opportunity. Out of 50 pitches, Natalia’s concept immediately resonated with me because of my background as a sports coach and a huge proponent of visualization techniques. With two other people, we formed a team that worked 54 straight hours to bring the idea to fruition, then went on to take first place.

Natalia: Through winning the competition, we were connected to support from local Detroit organizations like Grand Circus (a Google Tech hub) which gave us 2 months of co-working space, branding consultation from Lowe Campbell Ewald, and a meeting with the Director of the Michigan Women’s Foundation – who also serves as a managing director for a local VC firm.  Other forms of mentorship and support have followed, and it’s truly been a significant help in this process.  We also went on to compete and win the Up Global “Innovators Circle” Start Up championship, beating out over 200 cities worldwide.  We were the only US City to win one of the global contests (awww yeah, Detroit!).

Since Nov. 15, 2013 (Startup Weekend), we formally founded and established a C-Corp and are poised to go-to market by April 2014 with over 1,000 people registered for our beta product line.  Furthermore, we have cultivated a variety of prospects for a first round of seed funding – ranging from the First Step Fund in Detroit, to heavyweight Angel investors and VC firms.  Finally, we have garnered a variety of endorsements and testimonials from all market segments we intend to approach – most notably, NBC’s Biggest Loser – Pete Thomas, and NFL Wide Receiver, Glen Earl.

The highs from their journey:

Natalia –

  • Winning Detroit Startup Weekend / The .Co Circle for Global Startup Battle ‘14
  • Making Crain’s News (twice) and a variety of other press
  • Winning a .Co sponsored trip to Launch Fest and being able to showcase our Alpha website to the public with great response.
  • Speaking to Mark Cuban at Launch festival, who gave Visionboards.co invaluable insight on our business model and expressed an interest in investing.
  • Meeting a slew of new people that are committed to entrepreneurship in America – and offering to help Visionboards.co succeed.
  • Being able to follow through on my personal vision and watch it actualize.
  • Meeting my Co-Founder, who’s my new partner in crime and life-long friend.
  • Feeling – for the first time in my life – I’m truly living to my fullest potential (which might just be as good as it gets).
  • Having such a passion for my work – and a belief in my product, that 12 hour work days don’t even phase me.  Knowing that my product is meant to – and will – inspire and uplift the world.

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Stephanie –

Beside the Detroit Startup Weekend/Global Startup Battle wins —

  • Being selected to represent .CO as one of its top up-and-coming startups at LAUNCH Festival – we scrambled to finish key updates to our alpha product, which were deployed right around the time the demo floor opened so we didn’t even have time to test it before the first visitors came by (thankfully, no issues!).
  • Becoming a part of the fabric of the Detroit entrepreneur community and being able to participate in what I think is the most exciting story in startups. It’s almost unbelievable what has been accomplished here in just a few short years, and we’re committed to contributing as much as we can to making southeast Michigan a global growth and innovation center.
  • Walking up to Mark Cuban to introduce myself and realizing I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous because I was so thoroughly confident he would “get” our concept immediately. (He did, but not without wanting to see at least 20 changes. :P)
  • My 8-year-old son was the very first tester of our alpha product! Watching his face light up as he browsed through the photos and started to verbalize his dreams (“I want to be president! Is there a picture of a president?”) – that was the exact moment that I realized the true potential VisionBoards has to make a global impact on human potential.

…and the lows: 

Natalia:

  • Navigating the new realm of entrepreneurship quickly (particularly due to the contest winnings and press) and without a full understanding of “how to” execute a business.
  • Having to deal with people that want to “cling” to your rising star, without adding value.
  • Not having enough resources (human or capital) to move as quickly as you need/want.
  • Figuring out when, how and with whom to raise our first round of seed funding, and develop the equity structure, vesting, dilution, etc. (YUK!)
  • No longer having a balanced life – I barely work out anymore and I’m fairly stressed (though I’m not complaining).
  • Regrettably, this success did compromise a couple personal relationships, which has saddened me deeply.

Stephanie:

  • As a mom, I can without a doubt say my low point was when I realized my kids felt my stress & absence much more keenly than they let on. In the early stages it was easy to convince myself that the chaotic pace was temporary, that “we’ll be able to come up for air as soon as [insert next big deadline].” What I soon realized is that achieving that next big deadline opened up doors to five more big deadlines, and so on – and in the meantime, my kids were lost in the mix. My biggest priority now is making sure that I’m available as much as possible between 5-8pm, even if just to help them with homework and schedule cuddle time. It helps us all to stay more centered as a family – even if it means I’m still up another 6 hours working.
  • After years of being an independent consultant or managing corporate departments, it’s been a struggle to get used to the constant state of controlled chaos – including that unnerving “cart-before-the-horse” feeling that there are 100 things you should have done to prep for something but lacked the bandwidth or the resources.
  • The 48 straight hours of no sleep preparing market data for a do-or-die deadline was not a high point.

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Biggest learning curve?

Natalia: There is a lot of enthusiasm and support for entrepreneurship in America. There are many resources and programs available to help people succeed if their ideas and work ethic are intact.  Many people are likely not aware of all of this momentum, I certainly was not.

Another big learning curve is just the ins and outs of setting up a company.  C Corp vs. S Corp? Equity structures, shareholders, vesting – investor negotiations.  Again, I feel lucky to have received good mentoring, but at the end of the day – you have to make your own decisions, which can feel daunting.

Stephanie: My biggest learning curve has most certainly been having to adapt my typical approach and methodology as a leader and strategist for the high-stakes game of tech entrepreneurship. Your strategy at 10am may very well not be what it is at 2pm and you have to get used to constantly modifying, refining, or full-on pivoting based on the opportunities & metrics that get thrown at you. Being a founder of a startup is not for the weak-willed or easily offended: you have to get used to failing – a lot, and in spectacular fashion – then moving on to the next decision before you even have a chance to dust yourself off.

Most exciting moment? 

Natalia: Honestly, I can’t boil it down to just one moment – we have been on a roller coaster ride from the very moment we won Detroit Startup weekend and there have been many, many – mind numbingly exciting moments since (if I had to name a few):

  • Walking into Grand Circus co-working space the Monday after winning Detroit Startup with a “Welcome Visionboards.co” sign
  • Making the cover of Crain’s business along with other high profile press
  • Getting the call that we won the .Co “Innovator’s Circle” for the Global Battle Championship
  • Billionaire Dan Gilbert acknowledging our twitter we cc’d him on
  • Billionaire Mark Cuban talking to us at Launch Fest with an expressed interest to invest

Stephanie: All the above, plus:

  • Earlier this week we had the opportunity to spend several hours with one of our biggest supporters, Pete Thomas (most successful contestant of NBC’s Biggest Loser), filming footage for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. Watching the production process from sidelines and hearing him talk about how he believes VisionBoards will help the individuals achieve even their boldest, most dream-worth goals – it was part out-of-body-experience, part validation that we’re on the right track.

When did you first self-identify as an entrepreneur?

Natalia: Honestly, I’m still getting used to the title.  For the record, I’m extremely proud and pumped to be considered a tech Co-Founder.  It might just be one of the best feelings in my entire life.  I’ve always, always admired entrepreneurs.  I was just invited to speak at my high school this week for career day, to inspire the kids to consider “entrepreneurship” as a career path.  That helped solidify the self-identity.

Stephanie: I’ve considered myself an entrepreneur since I was 16 years old and I started my own side business teaching piano lessons. Since then, I’ve lived by the mantra that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day of your life. Even though this experience has been stressful and exhausting – I keep forgetting that this is not some fun side project but what I get to do now with the rest of my life.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing women in entrepreneurship?

Natalia: I actually think we have a leg up.  There’s a huge commitment to closing the gender gap in tech entrepreneurship.  If anything, I don’t want doors opened just because of my gender – one, of course, always wants to make headway due to the quality of the idea.  Perhaps the biggest challenge is that more women need to know how much infrastructure and support exists to help them take the leap to entrepreneurship.

Stephanie: Being involved in the technology sector has afforded me a unique perspective — At my last employer, I was the only woman to work for the company for the majority of my four years there. Even as far back as high school, I was the only girl in any of my programming classes and I remember my teacher offering me a transfer in case I felt uncomfortable. While the gender gap in STEM has closed somewhat, I still believe there’s a lot to go encourage girls and young woman to go into science and technology fields, that it shouldn’t be something they have to “brave.”

Have you had one particular mentor that inspired you or helped you get to where you are today?

Natalia: I was extremely lucky to have worked under Lana Pollack – former President of the Michigan Environmental Council, and State of Michigan Senator – right out of college.  Lana is one of the strongest and most poised women I ever met.  Her work ethic, determination, and lack of fear was mesmerizing to watch.  She made time for me, and cultivated my skill sets.  She would set large goals for our organization without batting an eye – and then developed strategy to move forward.  It was a no nonsense approach to get things done.  I also learned about the power of networking, and cultivating a strong team of leaders/partners to delegate work to achieve success.  She’s undoubtable one of my heroes.

Stephanie: Without a doubt I can say my mother. Even from a young age, she always encouraged me to take every challenge head on and to explore every potential passion and curiosity to the fullest. When I graduated from Michigan and was selected as the commencement student speaker, that advice was the central pillar of my speech:

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What have you read that has inspired you?

Natalia: If there’s one book every human should read, it’s “The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It’s not strictly about romantic love in any way.  It’s based off of the ancient Mexican Toltec’s understanding of human nature, which they have passed down for thousands of years.  It’s profound.  It changed my life.  It’s a short read – so you have no excuse.

Untether Soul by Michael Singer is another good read.  Mr. Singer was the CEO of a fortune 500 company that hit a financial scandal.  Though he was not involved, much of the blame was put on him unrightfully so until 6 years later when he was vindicated.  The book speaks to his ability to “lean away from drama” and remember his soul in this worldly experience.  It’s a deep, hard read and a mind altering book.

Finally, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and The Master Key System by Charles Haanel – the original “law of attraction” books.  Napoleon Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to discover how the “rich” think differently from everyone else… go figure, turns out they just have a clear “vision” for their success, and fully believe it will happen.

If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger self, or to other emerging female entrepreneurs, what would it be? 

Natalia:

1) Know you are more powerful than you realize.  The only thing that can get in your way of success is yourself.

2) Write down and visualize your goals.  Make it a habit.  Your thoughts and energy are much, much more powerful than you realize – not one human is exempt.

3) Life is meant to be happy.  And happiness is a choice.  You should not look outward for your happiness, it’s always within you.  Find gratitude in every day.  Choose to be happy.  This can seem daunting at first, and it was for me. But with a little discipline, it becomes second nature – and then world… watch out.

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Stephanie: It’s okay to fail. Actually, not only is it okay, but it’s absolutely essential to the process if you’re going to truly successful. The more time you spend looking backward at the mistakes or missteps you’ve made along the way, the less time you are looking forward at ways to innovate and stay ahead of your competition. Fail early, fail quickly, and take those lessons with you to the next set of challenges. That said, I’m still mortified that I got tongue-tied during one of our earlier radio interviews and it’ll take me a while to get over it.

More about the Co-Founders:

Natalia Petraszczuk – 35 years old. Born and raised in metro-Detroit. Of Ukrainian descent. Michigan State University (James Madison College), BA – International Relations 00’. Worked in Environmental non-profit arena for over 10 years – state lobbyist -major donor fundraiser – volunteer coordination. Free lance journalist, and on-air talent for local and online outlets. Passionate about self-awareness and self-improvement. Certified Life & Spiritual coach/ Motivational speaker. Creator and originator of Visionboards.co and newly established tech Co-Founder (hurray!). Loves the outdoors, being active, the arts, being social and learning about the power of your inner self.

Stephanie Dionne – 37 year old. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada; grew roots in the Detroit area after graduating from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor (B.S. ’01). At Michigan I was very involved in organizations working toward improving women’s health and ending domestic violence (led V-Day College Campaign, served in Americorps for 2 years). Went on to develop a career as a marketing & business strategy consultant for over 15 years, particularly in the technology & sports management spaces. I was also a student athlete at Michigan; after graduation I coached for ten years at the elite level in the much-maligned but highly competitive world of synchronized swimming (collegiate & junior national levels), leading clinics around the country where visualization and mental imagery was a key component of my approach. I’m a married mom of 2 beautiful kids (8 & 11); a recent obsession is participating in obstacle races such as Tough Mudder, and pushing myself to the limits of what I thought was impossible.








An Interview with Deborah Rippol, Director of UP Europe (Startup Weekend, NEXT, Startup Digest)

This post was originally published here and is written by , Founder and CEO of Global Invest Her – catalysts for getting Women Entrepreneurs Funded faster and building Gender-Inclusive Workplaces. 

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“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.”

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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.

Visit their website europe.up.co and follow her on Twitter @DeborahRippol

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:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Optimistic
  • Brave