I was blown away by the first Co.OfWomen event I attended. It was the annual inductions into the NZ Hall of Fame for Woman Entrepreneurs. The business advice that Diane Foreman, Trelise Cooper and Ranjna Patel imparted in their eloquent overviews of their lives and businesses would have been priceless to anyone in business.
I noticed immediately that the feeling in the room was supportive, rather than competitive, without losing anything of the energy and fearlessness you need to drive your own business particularly if you want to create a business of scale.
Co.OfWomen caters for both early stage entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs. Start-up founders have to be able to make stuff happen. That process can be lonely and it can be very tough especially in the early months or even years. We learn together, we laugh together, we could cry if we felt like it and we support each other.
In a world where it appears to have become acceptable to throw things at our politicians and for Donald Trump to lie his way to a Republican nomination feeding on people's fears, Co.OfWomen is about the power of "And" not the limitations of "Or". I can be tough but I spend a lot of time and energy living and working from my heart.
Co.OfWomen is about both For profit/For good. It's about taking care of more than just business. It's about the co-mingling of commercial entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. I saw this trend first-hand myself at a conference I went to in San Francisco late last year. People spoke and introduced their businesses and just didn't make the distinctions we would have made in the past about making money vs doing good, they simply assumed they could be and would be simultaneous goals.
Beyoncé mused recently that she might be the next Bill Gates. She clearly didn't get the message that black women musicians should be singing the Blues and trying to beat their demons not earning lots of money and using their celebrity to make powerful political statements!
Co.OfWomen has as members some of New Zealand's most exciting entrepreneurs. Linda Jenkinson, Cecilia Robinson, Sara Paykel, Ranjna Patel, Mimi Gilmour and some of the most innovative social entrepreneurs. Michelle Pratt and Nikki Prendergast with their totally inspiring global Child Free Labour initiative.
I am honoured that the Board of Co.OfWomen have asked me to be Chair. I want to increase its profile, extend outreach to other groups such as Global Women, and develop more programmes for both aspiring entrepreneurs, new entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs. For example:
• How do you pitch your company when you are looking for money?
• How do you get to learn how to read and interpret a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet?
• What are the best ways to manage working on your business and working in your business?
• What is best practice for an advisory board?
• How can founders who are working in the business get the right set of "joiners" so that together they can take the business to scale?
• How do you deal with issues with business partners?
• How do you know the right time to exit and how can you manage that process?
• How do you deal with the stress of not just potentially losing your own money but losing investors' money?
I believe that the most important quality in a business person today is curiosity and to keep looking at all the things that didn't used to sit together being brought together in different ways.
Co.OfWomen is about learning, growing New Zealand businesses and having fun at the same time.