We are still floating from Sunday's 2nd Annual Hivery Entrepreneur Lab. Sharing the day with our guests, the incredible speakers, and the talented experts was like a dream come true. It was yet another powerful reminder of the magic that happens when we gather, support each other, elevate what's possible, and create something new that honors the potential of women. #TheHiveryEntrepreneurLab was truly a day of #womendoingcoolstuff
If you missed the event, or if you went, but want to hear more, we sat down with two of our incredible speakers to discuss their backstories and their advice for budding entrepreneurs.
EILEEN GITTINS, Founder Blurb and Bossygrl
A longtime entrepreneur, Eileen most recently built Blurb, a self-publishing platform for books, magazines and brochures. She left in 2016 and founded Bossygrl, an online platform that helps girls ages 13-19 build their own businesses.
“I wanted to get them young, before people told them ‘you can’t, can’t can’t,’ ” she says.
There’s some controversy around the term ‘bossy.’ Why did you decide to use that term in your new company?
It was an intentional decision to take back bossy! It’s about empowering girls and women. They aren’t bossy; they’re the boss.
How did you get the idea for Bossygrl?
I founded Blurb back in 2006 and really enjoyed growing the business, but by 2016, I wanted a new challenge. I started meditating a few years prior and I realized that it was time to step away. I found a new CEO for the business and by early 2016, became chairman of the board, so I’m still active, but just not day-to-day.
In April 2016, while speaking at a conference in NYC, I was approached by many young women who asked for advice on how to start a business. One asked me a question that broke my heart: ‘Would my chances of getting funded be harmed if I had an all-female team?’
Oh wow, what did you say?
I said yes, that the odds wouldn’t be in her favor, but that they wouldn’t be zero, either. Then I went back to my hotel and couldn’t sleep. I started researching the numbers behind getting funded and stayed up all night. I learned that in 2015, 93% of all funding dollars went to 100% male teams. That means only 7% went to teams with a female! I couldn’t believe it. Yes, I know there are VCs now focusing on women, but I wanted to do more, so I created Bossygrl, especially with young women in mind.
Why is the young age group so important to you?
I believe that if we can get them young and enable them to create a business, it will help them grow up understanding the language of online business metrics, traffic, marketing, how to price products, margins, and so on. Bossygrl helps make all of those things approachable and not too complicated, and includes mentorship and video coaching along the way. I mean, what would the world look like if young women could be their own bosses at 15 years old?
Incredible! What about women older than 19, and men?
Absolutely everyone is invited to use Bossygrl.
This month’s blog theme is collaboration. What advice do you have for people looking for collaborative partners?
Don’t underestimate the power of tools like LinkedIn. I’ve investigated people who have certain skills and then started conversations with them. It’s been incredible.
Also, I recommend getting focused on what you really need. I’m asked to be an advisor by a lot of companies, and my first question is always around what roll I’d fill if I said yes. Most of them don’t know, which isn’t a good sign. I suggest being specific—very specific. It will help you find the right person.
JESSICA SEMAAN, Founder The Passion Co.
Jessica Semaan is the founder of The Passion Co., a company that helps people find and work on passion projects.
How did The Passion Co. come about?
It actually started as a collaboration. I was working at Airbnb, and getting antsy, so a photographer colleague and I decided to create a blog where we would interview and photograph people who were pursuing their passions. We were learning a ton from those interviews and decided to start facilitating workshops. That was 2014 and about 18 months later, I quit my job and went full-time into The Passion Co., offering five-week programs for people wanting to pursue their passions.
How do you recommend people find someone to collaborate with?
If you know you want to work with someone, bring something to show at the first meeting. I think cold emailing or sending a note on Instagram is more than fine, but show them what you’re thinking about—more than just an idea.
Another idea is to go to Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com and find people who are doing similar things.
How does The Passion Co. enable people to pursue their passions?
A big part comes down to accountability. You get a buddy in the program, and at the end of the five weeks there is a party where you present your project. It is pretty motivating.
The other way we help people get things done is by giving them structure and allowing them to have a startup mentality around iterating and testing. There isn’t pressure to be viable. Instead, there is room to be flexible and experiment. We see that that mindset makes a huge difference. It gives people space.
Can people outside San Francisco take advantage of The Passion Co.?
Absolutely. We’ve changed our model a lot over the years and have realized that remote, one-on-one coaching is where we want to head the company. We are now training coaches to facilitate the five-week program, too. We have graduates from Tokyo, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. I think the need is truly universal.
What do you mean by ‘universal’?
I think there is a generational crisis happening across the globe. Millennials around the world are struggling. A lot of them believe that the capitalist system has failed them and they are looking to do things outside that system. There is an awakening happening. It makes me hopeful.
Are you seeing this only in Millennials?
Actually, no. We have people in their mid/late 20s and then in their late 40s/early 50s, too. Both groups have a sense of ‘waking up’—be it a quarter-life crisis or a mid-life crisis. We operate in crisis zones where people are questioning. They are realizing that the system that told them they’d be happy is no longer working. Some are getting divorced; others are dealing with obstacles like depression.
I believe it is the hard times that cause us to ask the most important questions. When we’re comfortable, you don’t really question things. It’s only when you see your own pain that you start searching for answers.
How has The Passion Co. helped you evolve, personally?
It has changed my life in many ways. We are now a team of two people; we were seven. I used to have grand goals and now I’m realizing that my true calling is coaching, and that is where the company is headed. It is the model that works best for people, so it’s a win/win for everyone.
What caused you to change your mind about the business model?
We had a conference in November 2015 and afterwards, I realized I was seriously burned out. I couldn’t walk and was hospitalized. It caused me to rethink everything.
I’m so sorry to hear this. Are you OK now?
I’m still sick—I have an autoimmune disease—but I’m learning to take care of myself. I learned that the way I was operating wasn’t who I really was. My breakdown has caused me to rethink everything, and it has been a blessing. I can now see that I was running away from unresolved childhood trauma, for example. Looking back now, it is so easy to see that I was holding on too tight.
The moment I let go of control, I found more grounding and more success—especially in coaching. I’m on a healing path now. I’m in school for psychotherapy with a focus on trauma. I’ve learned so much, including that at the bottom of pushing ourselves to be famous or successful or wealthy lies unresolved trauma and feelings of being unsafe or unloved. Those walls of defense become our identities. Knowing this has been revolutionary for me.
The 2nd Annual Hivery Entrepreneur Lab was a transformational day in so many ways. We cannot begin to thank our guests, speakers, experts, sponsors, and partners nearly enough for making the day incredibly special. More than a day of business-focused learning, The Hivery Entpreprenuer Lab is a celebration of what is possible...for you.
THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS AND SPONSORS