For International Women’s Day, we asked 35+ female founders what observations they had since starting their businesses. Quickly, five themes emerged: community, motherhood, bias, self-discovery and resilience.
Here are the ones with community at the heart.
Hilary Quartner, Founder of Hilma
"I am one of three female cofounders at Hilma, and we have been blown away by the community of female investors and founders that have helped us along the way and become our mentors and friends. While there are still areas of the startup world and investor community that are very male-dominated and lack general representation, our experience has shown that there has been an enormous amount of progress in the last 5-10 years to bring more incredible women into the fold. There is a lot of power in a network, and being part of an inclusive one is fundamental to the success of any founder – there's still much more to do to open opportunities to talented people from underrepresented groups."
Ali Kriegsman, Founder of Bulletin
"Your support system, circle of advisors, and caliber of your mentors is everything. Having those in place can help you hire better and smarter people, level up your company, and grow faster. I think male founders inherently have access to a certain "boy's club" of investors, angels, former coworkers, and other founders. That "club" might help them poach great candidates from other male-founded companies or get a war chest of funding from a VC that knows your CTO. It's a web of support, deal-making and connections that women sit right outside of. Lately, we've been expanding our network and really focused on finding experienced and well-known mentors, advisors and consultants, and it has completely changed how we view our business, opportunities available to us, the types of candidates we're meeting, and the connections we're making. And a lot of those mentors, advisors and consultants are highly accomplished, well-networked women - not men - who want to see us thrive and succeed."
Caroline Lahti, Founder of Florabrook
"As a female founder I’ve thrived from working in an industry that tends to cater to women. 95% of my customers are women sending other women flowers (whether it be their best friend, mother, grandmother, etc). I usually just design pieces that I like or that I'd would want to receive. I don’t have to try to to think of what my customers like, because usually what I like they will too."
Kaylin Marcotte, Founder of Jiggy
"One thing I think female founders have advantage with is creating real community around their brands. I think communication, transparency, and brand building in a collaborative way that gets users and customers engaged and bought in to your mission is something I’ve seen come naturally to myself and other female founders. It’s such a strength and creates true staying power for a brand to have a rich, engaged community around it!"
Dianna Cohen, Founder of Crown Affair
"One of the things I'm most proud of is building a real network and community of female founders to have honest conversations with. We're not alone in navigating this journey. It's hard and presents challenges often, so why not build a support system of other women going through the same experience? Many of these founders have ended up being a part of our Seedling program, serving as mentors to our larger community."
Verena von Pfetten, Founder of Gossamer
"While I have no frame of reference, obviously, for what a male founder's network looks like, I am endlessly inspired by and delighted with the totally organic nature of my relationships with other female founders, many of whom I've connected with via mutual admiration through social."
Lauren Picasso, Founder of Cure
"In the early days of starting Cure, I struggled to find female investors and mentors. Considering 90% of venture capitalists are men and only 20% of founders are women, it makes sense that this isn't easy to do. This year, I've made it a goal to bring on more female investors. I started by making a list of female founders I admire and actively began reaching out to get their advice and see if they might be interested in investing. So far, I've managed to bring on 3 new female investors!"
Liz Roth, Founder of Little House Confections
"One thing I’ve learned as a female founder is that I am not alone. We are a tribe. I have the support of so many other incredible other females. I feel so lucky."
Eliza Blank, Founder of The Sill
"The most unexpected - and welcome - surprise as a female founder is the opportunity to propel other women forward. Doing what I'm doing has had the unexpected upside of inspiring others to become founders too - simply by showing them what is possible. Being one of the first isn't easy - but it's important."
Ashley Carone, Founder of Autumn Communications
"My best advice for budding female founders is to develop your own entrepreneurial community. I’m lucky to have an incredible partner and roster of female led clients to constantly learn from and I credit that exchange of knowledge and resources with helping to grow our business significantly."