Female entrepreneurs are just like male entrepreneurs — except with less venture capital funding and more barriers to climb. Right?
Maybe. We feel that there are many ways where the experience of a female entrepreneur tends to diverge from that of a guy. In the interest of “science,” we decided to carefully research this theory. I.e., we put out a call for examples and asked our friends to share their “most female entrepreneur moment ever.”
What do we mean by this? We wanted to hear true tales of entrepreneurship tied to common experiences of women. We gave a few examples:
- Networking while birthing
- Getting a product idea while shaving your legs
- Interviewing that new hire in the ladies’ locker room
- Seeking funding from the woman you met in the loo
What I didn’t do was share my own ultimate female entrepreneur moment. Here it is, my gift to you:
During the early days of Innovation Women, I spent a lot of time hunting down event managers who would use the platform to invite speakers to their events. One day, while visiting my OB/GYN for my annual exam, I discovered that my doctor’s daughter was a conference organizer. Since I had a business card pocket on the back of my smartphone and my smartphone in my hand, I pulled out a card and passed it over… mid-exam. To his credit, he took it, put it in his pocket, promised to give it to his daughter and continued. Later, back at the office, the team howled when I shared my inappropriate networking moment.
The challenge: beat my story
We asked women to share their own unique stories. Bonus points for humor, lack of dignity, (or conversely) dignity under trying circumstances, scandalous behavior, unusual situations and chutzpah. We’re (still) looking for the stories that would make us gasp, giggle or nod in recognition because, yes, we’ve been there.
We got many submissions. So many that we’re thinking of running a contest with this theme, because someone deserves to win the “Most Female Entrepreneur Moment” crown… err, tiara. We also received many fun stories that could happen to anyone, male or female. Reluctantly, they must remain on the cutting room floor. Settle in. Grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine. We’ll be asking for your favorites, and, of course, for you to share your own story.
Not surprisingly, we received many stories about labor
Dr. Amy Osmond Cook, founder of Stage Marketing, went into labor the same day she had a huge work project due. “Not wanting to delay the project, I pulled out my computer right there in the hospital bed, where I continued pushing toward a pair of quickly approaching deadlines. Everyone said I was crazy, but I ended up delivering both the project and a beautiful baby daughter — with both arriving on time! With two labor-intensive projects out of the way, I could finally relax and focus entirely on my little girl.”
Amy Lee, a coach and an author, was also entrepreneuring while birthing, or soon after. “I was up doing a live clothing sale within four hours of giving birth. Yes, just right after popping a human being out, I was selling clothes.”
“In order to maintain my status in a well-known MLM, I had to sell a certain high threshold a month or I wouldn’t qualify for my rank bonus.” She felt she had no choice but to be selling right after her son was born.
How about what happens during feedings?
Then there are the entrepreneurial moments that happen during those early sleep-deprived months, just after you’ve given birth. Charlie Saffro, founder and president of CS Recruiting, started her recruiting business when she was pregnant with her third child. The business really started to take off just before he was due.
Saffro worked right up until labor and “barely skipped a beat, typing away on my laptop during those post-partum days in the hospital and picking work back up just a few days after returning home with my new baby.”
Evidently, Saffro’s son wasn’t much for sleeping and was up several times in the night. She decided that she could still be productive, so she fed him and rocked him while connecting with people on LinkedIn. At the time, LinkedIn had no limit on daily connection requests, so Saffro conducted running searches for connections, pressing “connect” over and over and over again. “I was so active during those first few months after the baby, that I’d get emails from LinkedIn’s security team warning me about having someone else log into my account. They were suspicious because I was literally active every day and every night.”
Saffro maxed out her LinkedIn connections (30K!) within the first few years of being on the platform. She says, “Having this network early on (on what is now the number one social media platform for business) has been instrumental to the work I do and the success of my business. I truly believe those hours added up and a piece of my success and ability to grow my network was because of this extra little window of time I maximized to get ahead.”
Katie Love, founder of Love Social Media, remembers her ultimate female entrepreneur moment. “I was just about to pitch a major client when my newborn baby would not stop crying. My nanny was trying to calm her down, but the echo of her screaming could be heard down the street. I quickly adjusted my Zoom camera to shoulders-up, lifted my shirt, and while simultaneously selling a brand on my services, breastfed my daughter. I won the work, and no one knew I was feeding a human at the same time.”
Janet Casey, president and founder of Marketing Doctor, remembers “pumping breast milk on the New Jersey Turnpike, racing home from a client meeting to put a toddler to bed on time, truck drivers honking and leering at me… Did I care? Nope. Did I land the client? You bet.”
Casey remembers more drives back and forth to New York City than she can count. She says, “I often joke about long trips and client meetings with my twins on each arm and a phone pressed to my ear.”
Older kids can help define your entrepreneurial moments, too
Meredith Gordon, CEO and founder of Sportify It, remembers her first-ever meeting for her business, at the New York office of the NFL. “I was in town with my kids and couldn’t reschedule, so they had to come along. I left them with my iPhone and specific instructions to stay put, which they did until they didn’t. Through the conference room’s glass wall, I could see my kids start to fight over the phone. It turned WWE, fast. The gentleman I was meeting with couldn’t ignore it. I was sure the meeting was blown. Instead, he smiled and said, ‘My kids can be jerks, too.’ Without missing a beat, we continued.”
Kristin Wallace, president and founder of Atlantic Freight LLC, says she had quite a few moments that she felt could “sum up what it’s like being a woman while also trying to run your own business while also having a family.” She started her freight business in 2021. During the Amazon Freight Partner recruitment process, she received a call from the recruiter that she took from her bathroom. “I ended up sitting on the floor of the bathroom, using the toilet as a table to write down notes while my six-year-old pounded on the door asking for snacks. I had to keep muting my phone and yelling at her to go ask her dad for a snack. Thankfully, it all worked out, and I’m in the partner program with Amazon!”
And sometimes, it’s when you’re treated like a child, or worse…
Dr. Janice Presser, an entrepreneur, inventor and author, talks about a conversation she was having with one of her (much taller) advisors at a networking event. “A man comes up behind me, intent on speaking with my advisor, and places his hands on my shoulders, as you might do to move a child out of the way of danger. My advisor notices this and calmly says, ‘have you met Dr. Presser?’” Presser whirled around and executed a strategically placed elbow.
Isa Gautschi, the CEO and founder of M.Isa Messaging, LLC, says she started her own business after leaving behind a workplace where “International Women’s Day ” was deemed “too political” to talk about. “My male boss demanded I stay on the phone with him until 6-7:00 each night of the week.” After many late nights and threats from her boss, Gautschi “opened my own business instead, hired a queer boudoir photographer for my first business shoot, a business coach who shakes her ass marvelously on Instagram, an all queer, BIPOC and/or female team of contractors.” She regularly speaks about the intersections of racism, homophobia and sexism and how that gets in the way of good marketing. She says her business was profitable in three months, and she’s never been happier.
What’s your “ultimate female entrepreneur moment?” Share and we’ll gather more for a recurring series!