This month, the Café Nights at the Roxbury Innovation Center featured a phenomenally accomplished panel of Female Founders. The specific panelists included: Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics, Elsa Sze, CEO of Agora Town Hall, Donna Levin, Co-Founder of Care.com. Bobbie Carlton, Founder of Innovation Women, Nicole Castillo, Founder of BeVisible Latina and Susan Windham-Bannister, President and CEO of Biomedical Growth Strategies LLC. After listening to these entrepreneurial women, the Microsoft New England Team wanted to blog about the invaluable advice they offered other founders. Below, we documented the most important values that each founder shared with the audience. While we wish we could have recorded every bit of wisdom they espoused, this condensed summary will have to do…
Jana spoke at length about time management and balance. It is arduous to have both a full time job and a fledgling start-up. Founders need to make tough calls about when they will allocate time for the new venture and understand the opportunity costs of not being present for other aspects of their lives. This will always be a challenge for any new founder, but can certainly be more difficult for female founders. Jana suggested ruthlessly prioritizing what is most important and then allowing everything else to be second to that goal.
Elsa elaborated on how a founder can “bootstrap” an entire entrepreneurial operation. Elsa was particularly successful in this respect and also worked with “angle investors”.
Furthermore, Elsa said, “Never limit yourself”, which is a valuable mantra to have when starting a business. Part of the reason that Agora was incredibly successful was that Elsa truly believed in the concept behind the company and her confidence in the venture fueled her to seek out every opportunity she could find.
Donna noted that universities and colleges are all interested in innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems: they’re innovation hubs! Educational environments also host conferences and forums through which founders can connect with other professionals in their respective industries and get advice from professors. (As an aside, we’re lucky to be in an intellectual mecca in Cambridge/Boston with the plethora of universities and funding!)
Bobbie stressed the importance of having your finances in order before you start a business. While this advice may seem obvious, she clearly articulated a problem with which many founders struggle. Bobbie also mentioned how important it is to think about your company as an asset and to have a plan as to how your business will make a profit.
A piece of advice that really resonated with us was “Own what you know, be confident in what you know and learn about areas that are uncomfortable for you”; this candor is incredibly helpful to new founders.
Nicole explained how social media is a helpful tool when activating a “network”. It is important to be visible, facilitate conversations and engage your customers. Social media is a versatile (and often free!) platform that can be used to spread messages with ease. Many founders do not know how to successful tap into the power of social media and therefore their venture suffers from a lack of exposure. Nicole suggested working on a way to “craft a message” about the product that would stand out on a social media platform.
Roxbury Innovation Center’s next Café Night will be held April 26, exploring the Veteran Entrepreneur. More info can be found here.
Tags: Agora Town Hall, BeVisible Latina, Biomedical Growth Strategies LLC, Bobbie Carlton, Boston, cambridge, care.com, Donna Levin, Elsa Sze, Female Founders Night, Innovation Women, Jana Eggers, microsoft, Microsoft New England, Nara Logics, New England, Nicole Castillo, Roxbury Innovation Center, Roxbury MA, Susan Windham-Bannister, Venture Cafe