Smashing Boxes loves to host events and we were so honored to host Women Innovators Day on Monday. In it's 3rd year of existence, and boosted by Governor Cooper's 2017 declaration of a State Day for the event, more than 80 women, and a handful of men, ranging in age from 21-70 from the Triangle, Greensboro and beyond stopped in to talk about their experiences as women in tech, business, education, medicine and more.
Organized by a group of nine women and headed this year by attorney Katelin Kennedy, the evening started with networking, snacks and the chance to contribute to the "Give and Take" wall - an opportunity to engage others who have specific growth areas to 'take' from or talents/specialities to 'give'.
Name tag stickers that identified you by the size of your company or project allowed small groups to form. In 6 groups, women talked about the challenges and opportunities of innovating and leading in business.
Several members of the SB family had the chance to participate, and were empowered by the opportunity to interact with other women leaders.
"I greatly appreciated feeling part of a community of female entrepreneurs from various backgrounds thriving in very different industries right here in the Triangle," commented account manager Ana Jones. "Too often I discount my opinions due to my age and inexperience, but the small group discussions provided a venue to voice my perspective and seek advice from those who were once in my shoes. If there's one thing I'll take from this event, it's that success is not found in a vacuum, and there is a community eager to provide support and add value on both a personal and professional level."
Jordan Lacenski, owner and cofounder BrandBoss Creative encouraged the group to "exchange resources and share the wealth you have to give." Her group also talked a lot about e-mail prioritization, and not letting it get in the way of your goals. The big takeaways from her small group were confidence in asking for funding and the need for more communities like this. In the WRAL Techwire write-up of the event, Jordan mentioned the importance of this community having lived in several states before settling in North Carolina.
Organizers of the 2018 Women Innovators Day event. Photo credit Chantel Allam.
Making the Ask
Another group corroborated on not being afraid to make the ask, but reminded us to do it in a way that is authentic and professional. The group commented that often the ask can come across as desperate or misguided. They also stressed the need to know a person in financing. "Build the bridge before you need a bridge." Someone added the need to "value yourself. Come up with a pricing strategy that values you, and doesn’t just undercut someone else."
There was also the good advice that when you're out looking for funding or networking that "you’re setting a guard not only for you but for the group, for the people who follow behind you." This was met with the expected applause from the group.
Someone also cautioned that "when networking don’t expect to get anything in return, but focus on what you can give to others." It you do that, she said, "you’ll never come away empty."
Bringing it Together
A more seasoned business veteran advised the younger core of the group to "always collaborate and find balance with health and wellness. Be able to say no." The proud grandmother reminded us that "My balance and your balance is different. What works when you're young vs. when you're a grandparent is different, and that's okay. Determine what works for you, draw your line."
The remark that drew the loudest applause was the last piece of advice shared: "Never ever ever burn a bridge."
Sarah Glova, Director of Growth and Communications at NCRiOT (an SB sponsored startup incubator that our founder Nick Jordan mentors and advises) capped the festive evening with some (not) fun facts that really drove the need for events like this home:
- A kindergarten teacher appeared in court to testify against 2 burglaries not wearing a dress, but slacks, and refused to change several times. She was subsequently arrested, only 80 years ago.
- Banks used to require women to have a "living male relative" co-signer for any loan, even if he was her high school son. This seemingly archaic practice only ended at the pen of Ronald Reagan...in 1989.
She ended the evening by challenging us to "Know better, be better, share this information. Get to know each other...and bring another female next time."
We were so honored to be able to host this event, continue our monthly Meetups with WiTA and continue on our own diversity and inclusion journey.
Dave Shepley is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Smashing Boxes, overseeing client success and helping craft our marketing strategy.