Top 6 Takeaways from the We Own It Summit

Clover Lewis reporter for The NextWomen shares some inspiring moments from the fourth We Own It Summit.Clover Lewis, who attended the fourth We Own It Summit as a reporter for The NextWomen, shares the top six inspirational and useful takeaways from the event.

Highlights for participants of the WOIS included several thought-provoking keynotes from entrepreneurial women like Janneke Niesson (Twitter: @janneke_improve), responding with expertise to the myriad of questions the audience fielded to them. Further highlights included 15 discussion salons held over the 2 days, with all attendees invited to engage in discussions covering a wide range of Summit-focused topics. Needless to say, each salon I attended was packed and lively, with speakers, panellists, and attendees all energetically contributing to the discussions and talks.

As this was the first WOIS I’ve attended (but certainly not my last!), I am excited to share this ‘mash up’ of interviews, high calibre advice, and inspirations gathered from the WOIS 2013 discussion:

1. Dr Michelle Palmer, Founder & MD, Canary Wharf and City Recruitment (www.cwcity.co.uk).  Panellist - Peer Power Salon.

On business peer support groups:

The importance of asking questions rather than counselling is paramount. Questioning, rather than advising, is enabling to the listener, and it helps business owners to find their own solutions around their business-related issues.

I have seen business owners (in a peer mentoring setting) stand up with a concern and be talked through what the problem is to resolution.  Rather than give advice, the mentor and peers will ask questions. Through answering the queries, I have literally seen the ‘scales drop’ from the business owners’ eyes as she draws her own conclusions. The questions may seem obvious sometimes, but when you’re dealing with an issue, one can’t always readily see solutions.

2. Dessislava Bell Founder, Zaggora (www.Zaggora.com).  Panelist - The Women Entrepreneurs Driving Fashion Tech.

On preparation for investment:

  • Try to get your idea or business as big as possible; be commercial
  • Focus on building a great business: investors look for great businesses!
  • Be aware of what an investor looks for in a investment project:
  1. What is the product, and market
  2. What is the exit possibility
  3. A keen management team- members truly interested in your business
  4. Well-rounded balanced team with expertise: for example a tech person, Business head etc.
  5. Your passion for your business
  • Be business oriented, open to getting insight from others
  • Negotiate hard for the equity you will trade off...  
  • Investment can lead to bigger growth potential.
  • Grow like mad; make a lot of money and exit!

3. Janneke Niesson, Serial entrepreneur, Co-Founder / CIO Improve Digital (www.improvedigital.com). Keynote Panelist -  Bold Entrepreneurs, Risky Business, Windows into Success

On lessons learnt from being an entrepreneur:

  • Don't start a company on your own, find a partner… Running a company is much more fun to do together!
  • How do you choose your partner? Organically! (Janneke’s found her partner Joelle Frijters who was working for a client of her first company)
  • When hiring key people for your company - hire well! Hire the best people you can find, not just those who you can afford…
  • Network with venture capitalists (VC’s) before you need their money, and get their money before you need it. (Great advice!)
  • Finally, the key lesson I learned from a mentor is… To stay true to yourself.  That will bring you the most in the end.

4. Sam Horn, President, The Intrigue Agency, (www.Intrigueagency.com), Pitch Coach, Author, POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything. Thought Leader, Getting Investors to Take Their Wallets Out Of Their Pocket.

On pitching:

Develop a presence that commands respect when pitching - this will get results and makes a difference to whether or not people give you the result you’re after: funding, the project, whatever that you need.

Learn and use methods of purposeful gesture:

  • Having your feet shoulder-width apart,
  • ‘Towering instead of cowering’,
  • Speaking with a voice of authority instead of a ‘little girl’ voice

(When pitching) these gestures are used to purposefully engage with the decision makers in the room… and convince them that you know what you’re doing…so that decision makers give you their attention, give you their respect and hopefully give you the end product.

5. Lily Ash Sakula, Partner, Bethnal Green Ventures (www.bethnalgreenventures.com). Thought Leader High-Growth, Social Venture, For-Profit Entrepreneurship Salon

On recruitment strategy around women:

CL: Tell me about your experience of the deficit of women in technology and how you manage this in your recruitment process?

LAS: Our key aim for recruitment in 2013 was to focus on recruiting more women. Last year we had a terrible cohort of 15 men and 1 woman - we thought it was very important to have gender diversity. The fact that we were not reaching women was a huge problem for us because we were losing out on much skill and talent.

Our strategy was as follows:

  1. Communications: We made our aim clear in our communications. On every communication we wrote that we particularly encourage women founders to apply.  That resulted in a lot of people writing to us with invitations to talk at events like Women in Tech meetups and showcase at Tech City International Women's Day Showcase (www.techcityiwd.com/showcase), for example.
  2. Networking: I attended all of these events, and I met a lot of women I gave talks, and I speak to women individually. I spoke to people about their ideas, and they also spread the word to their networks. Networking was a very good way of getting the word out among the Women and Tech networks, which are sometimes tend to be separated out from the ‘all male’ networks that tends to exist around technology.
  3. Enlisting key influencers: I did was sought out key influencers of women and tech such Dr Sue Black, who is a massive campaigner for women in technology (www.sueblack.co.uk) and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Twitter: @iotwatch), who hosts The Internet of Things meetup (www.meetup.com/iotlondon). This was extremely helpful; and many of these influencers have agreed to come on as mentors on our program.   Having them on our website has had great leverage, encouraging other women to apply as well... and finally,
  4. Having a woman on our team last year on the recruitment panel: Having a workplace in which there was already one woman in the company may have been an encouragement as well.

CL: This sounds like a sound strategy! What were the results of your activity?

LAS: Well, we had:

  • 40% of applicants were women
  • Over 50% of teams had at least one woman founder
  • The actual cohort is 40% women

CL: Great outcomes, and very much in line with the WOIS goals (to increase the number of women high growth entrepreneurs, and increase the likelihood of success of businesses through the growth stage) too!

6. Myra Donnelley (Twitter: @myradonn), VP Resource Development, EniWare (www.eniwaresterile.com). Finalist, WOIS / The NextWomen Pitch Event

On persistence

“I learned very early on in my work with North American Indian communities to expect to receive three no’s before getting a yes. Within this community this was a well-understood cultural norm.

I had to make it through all three no’s and, even then, I wasn’t guaranteed a yes! But over time, I grew to learn I certainly wouldn’t get one before that! Usually though, if I made it to the third no, I would hear what I wanted to here all along: YES.

That experience has been a great lesson for me in approaching venture capitalists and angel investors: I don’t think it is a no until the business has actually been fully funded, operating at ‘full steam’ and has even got it except strategy, because until then they still have the opportunity to join in and invest! So keep the door open…

Clover Lewis, is the Founder and Director of a unique startup, Clover Lewis Swimwear, creating confidence-boosting swimwear for women following breast surgery and women living with uneven breasts. A Fine Art graduate of St Martins College of Art London, she worked in Film and TV before earning her BSc (Hons) to work as a Women's Health Physiotherapist. Clover holds the view that fashion needs to evolve into a vehicle women with unique bodies can use to develop and express confidence and self-image. She now freelances as a Lingerie and Swimwear Designer whilst developing her brand, Clover Lewis Swimwear.

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