Three unexpected pieces of advice for aspiring female founders

Female Founders Alliance and WeWork Labs team up to host honest conversations about being a business owner

In 2018, WeWork Labs and the Female Founders Alliance (FFA) joined forces to support female-founded and female-led startups by providing them with space, community, and educational resources to grow their businesses. 

The partnership continues to thrive, and this year, throughout the months of October and November, FFA is hosting a tour to help foster connections between female and non-binary founders and investors, thought leaders, and partners during events in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston. At an event hosted at WeWork 500 7th Ave in Manhattan, dozens of female founders gathered to hear from several speakers.

Founder and CEO of FFA Leslie Feinzaig opened the evening’s conversation, which featured founders Angela Lee, Zameer Kassam, and Tiffany Dufu sharing their experiences with running their own businesses. The evening closed with an honest and animated discussion between Feinzaig and Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei. Maia Bittner, cofounder of credit-score-improving platform Pinch, and Ruth Yakubu, founder of Posh Beauty, moderated the panels.

Below are three lessons the founders shared throughout the night. 

1. Ignore the odds

Dufu, founder of peer coaching service The Cru, said it’s important for women to look past the obstacles that may distract them from the reason they’ve become business owners in the first place. “There are only about 40 black women who have raised $1 million or more in funding for their businesses,” she said. “Don’t look at the odds—you’ll never get out of bed.” Dufu continued, adding that in order to attract business investors, you need to have a real passion for your work. “Getting a company off the ground is a lot of work, and [investors] want to invest in someone who would really want to get up every day and do it anyway.” 

2. Know that scale doesn’t always equal success

Kassam, who launched his eponymous jewelry brand in 2011, reminded the audience that business owners don’t have to raise capital in order to find success. He, for one, has not worked with investors. “My current aspiration is not to build a billion-dollar jewelry brand, but I want to continue doing what I love,” he said. “So I’ve never sought investment.” 

3. Be audacious 

Near the end of the evening, Dufu posed a personal concern to professor Frei. “Sometimes my fear as a leader and a founder is that I’m not crazy enough,” she said, adding that because she tends to play it safe, she wonders if her work will have the potential to be successful on an expansive scale. For a risk-averse kind of founder, Frei said, “I would want to increase the audacity. Whatever you want to do, add a zero to the end of it.” The room seemed to collectively exhale—there was something about Frei encouraging audacity that felt  a little liberating.  

Kate Bratskeir is a writer for WeWork’s Ideas by We, focusing on sustainability and workplace psychology. Previously, she was a senior editor at Mic and HuffPost. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Health, Travel & Leisure, Women’s Health, and more.

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