March is Women's History Month. While I believe it's important to look back and celebrate what has happened in our past, it's equally important to recognize how our actions now will be looked back upon. The SoGal Summit happening in Los Angeles on March 28, 2015 (this Saturday!) is an event that could change the course of history for women.
The SoGal Summit is a day-long event created to empower young millennial women to take the lead in entrepreneurship by providing the mindset, inspiration and resources to succeed in all aspects of their startup journey. Hosted by GirlsUp, the event features fireside chats, keynotes, entrepreneur lifecycle panels, and mentoring sessions with over 40 top-notch female CEOs, investors, executives and influencers in Southern California.
I sat down with the founder, Pocket Sun, to find out more:
You're about to host Southern California's largest all-female entrepreneurship summit. What inspired you to do this?
When I started my organization GirlsUp in November, I was amazed by how fast the young female entrepreneur's community was able to grow. Sara Clayton, President of Girls in Tech USC, had a similar idea as well, and I thought it would create a unique opportunity to connect female students to successful women mentors, experts and investors.
Why do you think there is still a gap between female and male entrepreneurship?
When I came to USC, I went to many entrepreneurship events, both inside and outside the school. At Startup Equinox, I was one of the three females on stage among 40 teams or individuals. I've heard girls complain to me that they felt intimidated and uncomfortable going into "a men's world". I am taking a class teaching venture investment in startups, and we have venture capitalists and entrepreneurs as guest speakers every single week. But throughout the whole semester, there are NO women coming to speak. None. This is not the right message we want to send to female students in college.
What are the main issues facing women entrepreneurs?
- Lack of role models - Most CEOs are men; most success stories out there are about men; most speakers and mentors are men... Women can feel excluded. Or even worse, they feel not good enough and disadvantaged because they are female. When there's not enough female investors, women's startup ideas are less likely to be valued and funded.
- Underestimation and underselling - One of the most common responses I got from young women about starting their own businesses is "That's good, but I think I'll start my business when I am 30 / richer / more experienced / more resourceful / more mature...". What I've been trying to do is to convince them that they are just as ready and equipped as anyone else. At this young age, people WANT to see you succeed! Women are less comfortable about "bragging" than men. They can lose an opportunity because the world doesn't know how good they really are!
- Lack of access to essential skills - Few women are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, and few women have sufficient knowledge to handle finances. Traditionally labeled as "guys' thing", these skills are very essential to a startup's success.
How can women entrepreneurs overcome these issues?
- Be in the right network - Being around a group of motivated, driven, ambitious women is the fastest way to get yourself going. GirlsUp is growing this community in Los Angeles at an amazing speed by bringing together like-minded young women who are not afraid to chase their dreams. You never know how quickly your business will grow with the right network!
- Learn how to sell - Find the genuine voice in you that is persuasive enough to close deals. Know what you are good at and let people know about it. Getting a coach can be helpful!
- Be fearless - You lose 100% of the shot you did not take. I've always told myself that and have seen amazing things happen out of it. Do things that scare you a little bit first, and the rest is easy.
What is your vision for the next generation of female entrepreneurs?
The next generation of female entrepreneurs should be hard to define, because they can wear many different hats all at once - founders, executives, speakers, writers, travelers, mentors, students, chefs, fashionistas, creators, artists, yogis, surfers... Meeting a diversity of young women every day has inspired me to build a collaborative community and make more magic happen for them. They are more connected than ever, and more supportive of each other. There are so many opportunities to create amazing things together just through meeting each other. I am very excited to see that many GirlsUp members have taken actions on their venture ideas since joining, and hopefully the SoGal Summit will open even more doors for them!
Join the over 330 women who have already registered (including myself!) HERE. See you Saturday!