We’re still kinda pinching ourselves that just a few months ago we set our sights on launching HEYMAMA San Francisco and earlier this month, it came to fruition. The City by the Bay greeted us with open arms and a sea of women that were making waves. From our incredible partners at Old Navy to our esteemed panelists at our official launch event, each mama was not only a leader in their respective fields, they were more than happy to share the knowledge they’ve learned on their rise to the top.
Over 130 women joined us in SOMA for a special evening of networking which included an informative panel on the topic of power. In honor of the Old Navy Power Jean, these women were able to share what makes them feel powerful through different intersections of their career and home lives. For more about networking, fundraising, marketing and company culture, read on…
Bianca Gates, Co-Founder and CEO, Birdies
When we first met, you talked to us about the importance of knowing your network and how to get the most out of it. Can you speak to that a little bit about your philosophy on networking and how it’s helped you?
There is a famous quote that I love so much and it says “Alone you can go fast. Together you can go far.” I plan on going far, together.
I attribute most of my personal and professional success to my network. I met my husband through a mutual friend. My Birdies co-Founder, Marisa Sharkey is also one of my longest and dearest friends. When I wanted a job at Facebook and didn’t know anyone there, my friend submitted my resume to someone she knew there. I can trace every big step-change in my life to my network.
People often think of the word network or “networking” as searching for the “right” person outside of their own network. But in my experience, the “right” people have either been within my existing network or one degree separated. I didn’t realize the power of my own network until I trained myself to tap into it more often.
For years my husband would leave work and grab a beer with a friend before coming home to simply “catch-up”. It used to drive me nuts because while he was “hanging out”, I used that same hour to run errands for our home. One day he said to me, “why don’t you grab a glass of wine with a friend and catch-up before coming home?” That seemed crazy to me because I was already so busy! I didn’t have the time for a glass of wine with a friend! I was BUSY. Busy working. Busy running errands. Busy tending to the kids and home. One day, in an effort to get back at him, I decided not to run our household errands and instead selfishly go for that glass of wine with a friend. After getting together with her, something we had not done 1:1 in a very long time, I realized what he meant. Finding time to connect with our friends and network is not “selfish”, it’s a game-changer in life.
After turning this experience into a regular occurrence, I wanted to help others find the value of leaning IN by leaning ON their network more. So I started the first Lean In Circle with Sheryl Sandberg in January of 2015. The purpose was not only to meet with my network regularly, but to cut out all of the “fluff” in conversation and get straight down to conversations that could benefit us all. Our Circle has met every third Thursday of the month for the last 5 years and I attribute so much of my success to the people in my life who have supported and cheered me on to go after my dreams.
These days, whenever I feel lost or unsure, I ask a friend to meet me for a glass of wine. That glass of wine with a friend can be a total game changer.
Sandra Oh Lin, Founder and CEO, KiwiCo
You raised $2MM before launching KiwiCo, and have raised a second round for a total of over $10MM. What do you think made KiwiCo successful in raising and what advice would you give to other business looking for funding?
We raised our seed round of financing before launching. Given we didn’t have traction in the marketplace, we had to demonstrate that a real need existed, the market opportunity was significant, and we had a compelling solution to this need. Also, we had to demonstrate that we – the founders – were the people who could execute and build a big business. Fortunately, we were able to persuade a great set of investors to partner with us.
Soon after our launch, we saw some good traction and growth. Capitalizing on the momentum and interest from investors, we raised another round of financing. After launch, investors want to see product market fit, as demonstrated by fast, scalable growth.
As for advice for those looking for funding, first, ensure that you’re tackling a big enough market with a real need. Whether you’re raising capital before or after a launch, you need to have the conditions that can eventually lead to a big business. Investors are looking for a big return. Also, try to establish relationships with potential investors – even before you need money. It’s particularly compelling to show how your business it hitting key milestones over time. Additionally, have thick skin, It’s not easy to raise money. Have conviction, tell a compelling story, and close the deal quickly so you can go back to doing what you set out to do – building an awesome business!
Alex Constantinople, CEO and Partner SF, OutCast
What kind of advice would you give to someone in an early stage startup and how does PR and Marketing play into their business? What should they prioritize?
The number one thing is to pay attention to and invest in it. Focus on who needs to know about your company to meet your business goals and what your messaging and positioning is to reach those people and get them to do what you need them do – most companies have a handful of key stakeholders and the story needs to resonate with all of them. It’s also important to pay attention and invest in your company culture and making sure that once you’re out talking about your company, does it match the experience of people who work inside the company? All of this takes time and I know it can be a rare resource when you’re also trying to run your entire company and build it from scratch and deal with things big and little all day long. But think of marketing and communications as business critical — getting your story to be clear, concise and defensible can be great leverage whether you’re fundraising, recruiting, or selling to customers. So if you can ask and answer ‘what’s the business reason I’m doing this for?’ and align activities and spend with those goals, then investing in your brand can be extremely valuable to growing your company.
Loretta Choy, SVP/GM of Adult Merchandising, Old Navy
65% of your team at the VP level and above is female, which is pretty amazing. How would you say that impacts the company culture at Old Navy for women? How can women seeing other women seated at the table impact the atmosphere and productivity of the female workforce?
At Old Navy, 77% of employees are women, 65% of our VPs and above are women, and 9 out of the 12 members of our executive leadership team are women. Of the executive team, all are working moms.
The reason why I think these stats are important is that our culture very much comes from an environment where all employees are viewed as equal. Gap Inc. was founded by Doris and Don Fisher in 1969. What I love about their story, is that they were equal business partners from the beginning – they invested equal amounts to start the company and they both had seats at the table as leaders of the organization. Since 2014, Gap Inc. has been recognized for its policies on equal pay for equal work. We continue to stand by this and are regularly reviewed by internal and external committees.
I believe the strong values that the Fisher family has embedded in the organization create a supportive culture for women. We have female leaders seated in traditional and non-traditional roles. We benefit from having role models, mentors, partners, and peers at every level, and in every department of the organization. It’s a unique opportunity to be in an environment where you can network and build long-lasting relationships with so many women that have diverse personal and professional experience.
We wanted to give a special thanks to all of our sponsors and brand partners for making our launch such an amazing success. Old Navy we are totally obsessed with the new Power Jean, Ladder Life you make insurance easier. And to Caviar for the delicious food, perfect for team lunch and for catering and the lovely Sophie James wine for your incredible rose and organic baby blend delivery Little Spoon for the mango mocktails. Paper goods were from Harlow & Grey and we couldn’t have pulled it off without our event planners Stacey Dillon and The Revelry.
Photos by Douglas Despres
See you at the next event SF!