Four bold and brilliant entrepreneurs took the stage at the World Changing Women’s Summit, hosted by Conscious Company Media on February 20-22, 2018, and reminded the audience that a woman with a plan can defy the odds (only 17% of founders are female and only 2% of early stage funding goes to women) and change the world. Despite their very different ventures — an ice cream business, a green nanochemistry company, a social entrepreneur accelerator, and a cosmetics company — these entrepreneurs shared stories of the founding insight that fueled their entrepreneurship, early setbacks that required dogged determination to push through, and the incredible success and progress they’ve made toward ambitious goals.
Courtney Klein: Anchor in the Problem
Apologizing for the analogy, Courtney Klein, co-founder and CEO of Seed Spot, said that an entrepreneur with an idea is like having a raspberry seed stuck in your molar (hence the name, Seed Spot!) — it is impossible to leave it alone until the seed makes it out in the world. Klein launched her successful first venture, New Global Citizens just after graduating from college. The lack of resources she found during her own experience as an early-stage entrepreneur led her to launch Seed Spot as a support network of space, mentorship, and capital for social entrepreneurs. The other panelists agreed that the strength of their founding idea stuck with them through many years and kept them committed to the venture despite hurdles and detours along the way. Klein also encouraged entrepreneurs to “anchor in the problem” and allow the solution to change and evolve in response to customers’ needs.
Robyn Sue Fisher: The Power of Naive Optimism
In pursuit of fresh ice cream made with real ingredients, Robyn Sue Fisher of Smitten Ice Cream learned everything she could about the ice cream industry — including attending courses at the Penn State University Creamery while she was a student at Stanford Graduate School of Business — and then threw all the conventional methods out the window. Her determination to invent a mixer that would produce fresh ice cream from natural ingredients within minutes, enabling on-the-spot scoops for every customer, required years of tinkering the recipe and the machine, and defying the status quo. She encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to take action, coupled with naive optimism: get out there and start creating before discovering all the information that might slow an entrepreneur down.
Yve Car Momperousse: Know and Understand Your Financials
Yve Car Momperousse was compelled by a basic beauty need for the Haitian Black Castor Oil that had solved a wide range of hair and skin woes in her childhood. She knew that there was a market for the product in the US, but she didn’t anticipate that she would have to build an entire vertically integrated supply chain from Haiti to New York to realize her vision. Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake just as Yve Car was launching Kreyol Essence and her continued focus on building the business alongside relief efforts has created sustainable economic activity and jobs that will have a lasting social impact in Haiti. She spoke to the importance, especially as a Caribbean woman, of being knowledgeable and confident about her financials to overcome investor bias and the ways that she has engaged mentors to develop herself as an entrepreneur to keep pace with the rapid growth and scale of her venture.
Virginia Klausmeyer: It is Better to Try and Fail than to Never Begin
When creating something that has never existed in the world before, there is no right time to start, explained Virginia Klausmeyer, Founder and CEO of Sylvatex Inc. Having worked with her chemist father for over a decade on technology to convert low-cost plant-based inputs into high-value alternatives to petrochemical products, Virginia had a moment of clarity after her father passed away. She couldn’t let her father’s work remain in obscurity and once she decided she had to make a go of it, opportunities aligned to make possible the seemingly impossible idea of being an under 30, female founder of a green nanochemistry company. She has since been named as one of the “Top 10 women in biofuels” and was selected by Forbes for “30 under 30 in Energy”. All of the panelists agreed that there is rarely an ideal time to launch into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship, but that the prospect of never having tried was far more regrettable than the prospect of giving it their all and failing, and ultimately compelled them to take the leap.
Inspiring a New Generation of Women Entrepreneurs
These outstanding entrepreneurs spoke honestly about their fears and frustrations, but also brought humor, creativity, and swagger to the conversation of how they are changing the world through business. Their stories and voices are uniquely compelling in their vulnerability, and this all-female panel inspired a sense of possibility for all those in the audience with a seed of an idea ready to make its mark in the world.
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