When Dulma Altan left her job as an advertising strategist at Google, she started her first business, Potion. A few years later, she moved to LA and did not have many local business connections. So, like any resourceful and business-savvy woman, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I thought, ‘I want to connect with other women who are also e-commerce entrepreneurs, so I’m going to start my own community,'” she said.
That desire led to Makelane, a startup that serves as a digital community for women with e-commerce businesses. Altan described it as “the MasterClass for women starting businesses.” Makelane offers digital events, such as live workshops and Q&As, that provide members with “actionable step-by-step curriculum that goes deeper than other courses in specific verticals,” Altan said. She is the founder and CEO.
Makelane is currently catering to e-commerce entrepreneurs, but Altan is planning to “expand to other verticals.” At this point, there are 1,200 members.
“The larger vision is to create the online business school for women entrepreneurs in every industry and at every stage,” she said.
Makelane member Allison Toombs, the founder of a new footwear technology company, said “Dulma and Makelane have been a tremendous early growth engine for my business.” Not only does Makelane offer her live classes, it also offers networking opportunities and resources. “Makelane provides access to incredible leaders I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to reach,” Toombs said. “For example, after a recent Makelane fireside chat, I reached out to the host, the founder of a major athletic footwear brand, for some advice and now she is a strategic advisor for my company.”
In addition to Makelane, Altan has started a side project called Startup Stork, which promotes “business showers” for women. A business shower is similar to a baby or bridal shower, but the celebration is meant for women kicking off their own business ventures. Instead of guests bringing gifts to celebrate a pregnancy or upcoming wedding, friends and family can “chip in” any amount of money to the entrepreneur’s budding business. Altan notes that this is especially helpful for female entrepreneurs, since women typically have a more difficult time receiving small business loans.
Startup Stork offers women an online tool kit to help them plan a business shower. Virtual business showers are encouraged during the pandemic.
“In the modern day and age, we should be celebrating women for making big moves in their careers and in their professional lives,” in addition to celebrating the more personal moments, Altan said.
Ultimately, Makelane and Startup Stork give women more opportunities to receive and offer support in a field where men more frequently hold positions of power. As a result of this gendered power imbalance, “women who do aspire to be in roles as CEOs or as executives…tend to have shallower networks of support,” Altan said. “And the network that you have is everything.”
Altan now offers her own words of advice and encouragement to women who may want to follow a similar path. “You have to start before you’re ready,” Altan said. “And you have to hustle to build the network that you need that can accelerate your success.”