During the month of July, WeWork's Creator Magazine featured stories celebrating women founders among their members in New York. To wrap up the series, Creator invited six founders to share their stories of growing businesses and share their wisdom with other founders or soon to be entrepreneurs. Belma McCaffrey founder of BOULD moderated, while the ladies who shared their insights were Natalie Kathleen, founder of Sienna Ray, Erin Bagwell, founder of Dream, Girl Film, Nicole Aguirre, CEO of Worn, Julie Sygiel, founder of Dear Kate, Minal Mehta, founder of Bolly X, and Loni Edwards, founder of Empowered Bags. If you couldn't make it that night, read on to soak up their advice.
Q: What one of the greatest fears you’ve conquered being an entrepreneur?
Nicole: We all have fears, but I think the greatest one that holds us back is our own self-doubt. I used to think that incredible success was for other people. Maybe those people are smarter, or better than me somehow, maybe they deserve it more, maybe they worked harder. Eventually I realized, no. Those people are a lot like me. They’re no smarter than I am and I work just as hard as them. There’s nothing holding me back from being as successful as them except my own mind.
Q: After receiving pushback on your idea and having to spend so much time on research to perfect the technology for your product, what kept you moving forward?
Julie: I worked for years researching fabrics for Dear Kate. We didn't even have an actual product for years, and my mother couldn't tell her friends what I was actually doing! When people asked, she would just say, "You'll have to ask Julie." Eventually after years of research my mother suggested that maybe it was time to do something else. When that happened, I made it clear that what I wanted was to push forward and I needed support from her. She's been supportive ever since. I also helped that we changed the name of the company from "Sexy Period" to "Dear Kate" so she's more comfortable telling people what the company is called.
Q: I’m leaving my job in finance to build a mobile app. How do I explain my transition in a way that gives me credibility?
Minal: You shouldn’t have to explain away your background in finance, you should use it as an asset. You’re running a business with a strong finance background, plus “I left my job in finance to start an app” is a great story.
Q: Can anyone share an experience they’ve had raising money?
Minal: It used to be really frustrating to me that my co-founder (who’s a guy) is so much better at raising money than me. We seem to say the same things, but he’s always the one closing the deals. Now I just use it to my advantage and send him in to close the deals when I know it’s going to give us an advantage. Also, I’ve had luck turning the perspectives around when talking to potential investors. Instead of explaining why Bolly X is the right investment, I ask why they’re the right investor for us.
Q: I'm thinking of leaving my nine to five job to start my own business. What is your advice for how i should prepare for the transition?
Natalie: Tell people around you what you're doing and what's going on so you have a support system. It's amazing how people reach out and help when you're honest with them about what you're going through. Also, save your money. Skip some nights out with friends because you'll need those savings when things get tight.
Q: As an agency, how do you stand out from your competition and inspire clients to work with you?
Nicole: Worn's mission is to empower women to lead. That alone is very different from most creative agencies who don't have a mission at all. We're not only focused on making great work, but we're also completely invested in helping women to be successful in business, not just our client. We host an event series called F*it where successful women who have either built businesses or risen high in their careers share stories of what they've overcome to get there. This is immensely humbling to everyone in the room, and it shows potential clients that we're not just in this business to make money or work with big brands, we're in it for something more.
Q: When you’re looking to grow a tech company, but lacking in technical skills, how do you make up for this? Do you feel that you need to quickly teach yourself technical skills (i.e. learn to code) or do you seek that skill through a partnership? What do you recommend for other entrepreneurs out there?
Loni: It's very important for co-founders to have complimentary skills. I started my first business with a close friend who turned out to be a lot like me and have the same skill set as me. We ended up closing the company eventually and it almost ruined our friendship. In hindsight what I should have done was hire someone technical to make up for the skills I didn't have.
Nicole: In order to grow you have to release your grip and delegate. You can't grow a company by doing everything yourself. If you think you're the person who knows how to do something the best, train someone else to do it too, otherwise you'll never be able to focus on the bigger picture.
Q: How do you want to reshape organizational culture as you grow your company (drawing from your experience in corporate)? What’s the type of culture that inspires you most?
Erin: I had an experience in my last corporate job where I felt disrespected daily by the male employees in my office. At my own company Dream, Girl we've attracted women who are passionate about the film we're working on. We feed off each other's energy and I pay them on time for their work and all the important things you need in a job as well.
Also, check out Creator Magazine's interview with Worn CEO Nicole Aguirre - "For Nicole Aguirre, it's all about taking risks and being fearless."