FEMALE FOUNDER. SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED? NOT IF CREATE & CULTIVATE HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT.
Today marks the official end of SXSW Interactive 2016, a five day long series of panels and discussions, that's hosted the best minds in digital and creative. In 1994, only 14% of those panels speakers were women. In 2014, that number increased to 35%-- a definitive stride in the right direction to close the gender gap.
However, it was percentages be damned at the Create & Cultivate SXSW pop-up May 12th. The room was packed with female entrepreneurs-- both speakers and audience members (and yes, a few solid men joined the room, offering their useful two-cents as well), glowing with the confidence of impressive careers.
Here are SEVEN key takeaways from the packed day.
1. FORGET DEMOGRAPHIC, THE WORD OF THE DAY: PSYCHOGRAPHIC
Farryn Weiner, VP of Brand and Innovation at sweetgreen touched on this, as did Mallory Blair, Co-Founder of Small Girls PR. "What is your psychographic?" they asked. "What are you doing to find out what really moves your customer?"
Psychographic is kind of like demographic, except if demos explain who your audience is, psychos tell you why they're your audience. Which is vital when it comes to understanding the decisions you're making as a brand.
Gabby Etrog-Cohen, SVP of PR and Brand Strategy at SoulCycle explained it this way: "Really understand the 'why' of your brand. If you can answer that very simply from the start, that's how you differentiate."
When it comes to marketing and business decision making you need both.
2. BE STRATEGIC ABOUT WHO YOU ARE TAKING MONEY FROM
It's not just a matter of raising funds-- which sure, is an important next step in building your business, but most investors aren't writing a check and bouncing. In fact the check is only one piece of the fundraising puzzle.
The people who are going to be a part of your company matter. Look at their experiences, what they bring to the table, and how you will work as a team.
“I want to know what are the board dynamics going to look like after our next round of financing?” asked Leura Fine, Founder of Laurel & Wolf.
3. BE EVEN MORE STRATEGIC ABOUT HOW YOU'RE SPENDING THAT MONEY
Some companies spend money on ad buys, others on giveaways and seeding, others on paid Instagram posts, but there is no one-size model for spending.
Gabby from SoulCycle explained her strategy: "We knew from the beginning that we were going to be an experience brand. So an ad doesn't really make sense. We scale the business by giving the experience and not asking for it back, but it pays back in dividends.”
Entrepreneurs must think "How will this benefit me a year from now?" instead of "How will this hurt my pocket tomorrow?"
4. DON'T BE AFRAID TO TAKE UP SPACE AND FOLLOW UP
Kevin Lu from Sweat Engine said this perfectly: "If someone doesn't like you, like them first."
You shouldn't wait to follow up or for someone else to make the first move. "There is so much power in following up," said Courtney Roberts, Director of Marketing at The Giving Keys.
And for those who are too shy? It's practice. "I started my career at Club Med, where I had to literally walk up to people and ask to eat dinner with them. It taught me to be fearless."
5. DO NOT THINK OF ANYONE AS A W2 EMPLOYEE
Just because someone isn't in your office, doesn't mean that you should treat them as such. If you treat a contract employee as someone who is simply there to complete a job, that's exactly how they will treat that job. “Instill big picture thinking in every part of your team," said Jen Rubio, co-founder of Away. "A project with a deadline is not the goal.”
"If you treat a contract employee as someone who is simply there to complete a job, that's exactly how they will treat that job."
“Build a positive relationship with people who aren’t in your office every day," said Mallory of Small Girls. "Every employee holds a piece of a the pie and is a champion of your office culture.”
“I give my investors assignments all the time— the people who are going to be a part of your company matter, even if they aren't taking up physical office space,” explained Leura of Laurel & Wolf.
6. FIND A MENTOR THAT'S MORE THAN A NAME
Would Jenna Lyons, President and Executive Creative Director of J.Crew be a bomb mentor? Maybe. Or maybe she wouldn't really have the time to give you the advice you need. Would she be around for a burning the midnight oil phone call? Probably not.
You don't need a mentor that everyone knows. It can be the person sitting right next to you.
That was the vibe when the conversation turned to mentors on panel with Michelle Sadlier, Head of Innovation at Hunter Boots, and Farryn Weiner, who told the audience to look to the people around and next to them for mentorship. "Everyone in this room is here," said Farryn, "because they are the next leaders.
Don't blow that golden opportunity because you think a mentor should be someone well-known.
7. WHY WAS THERE SO MUCH TALK ABOUT TP?
Well because, building a business is not simply meetings, dinners, schmoozing, boozing, and raising money. You’re involved in the process every step of the way, and sometimes that means thinking big picture, and other times it means not forgetting (or sweating) the small stuff.
“In the beginning you have to think big picture and then order the toilet paper,” said Jen Rubio. Sarah Kunst, Founder of Proday echoed this idea: “Toilet paper doesn’t just fall from the sky.” Neither does a successful business-- you work for everything you get.