Upon completing my biggest week of 2017 — professionally speaking — I took off to the mountains of North Carolina for this Thanksgiving week to hide in a cabin, watch the sunrise from the front porch, and sip tea while reflecting, reading and writing. In the midst of holiday cheers, end-of-year activities and Christmas parties we rarely take the time to look back on our accomplishments and say “Well done!” but you know what? 2017 has been an incredible year for RVA’s entrepreneurial community and I am not going to let that pass without mention. Here is a close-up of three projects that I had the pleasure to work on with some incredible teams to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs in Richmond in 2017:
Co.Starters RVA is a ten-week business model validation program for early-stage entrepreneurs. Last week, we graduated our second cohort running our total up to 45+ founders that have launched new, or scaled existing ventures in 2017.
Lastly, on Thursday night, we celebrated six high-growth startup teams that finished up a three-months acceleration program called Lighthouse Labs RVA, one of the U.S.’ top 25 seed accelerators.
Rebelle Con has by far been the biggest event I have ever organized. My co-founder Shannon Siriano and I saw the female entrepreneurs we were working with through our personal businesses struggle with a number of common challenges, and figured that hosting a kick-ass conference to address these would be an effective and fun way to test our abilities as conference organizers. So we did what any entrepreneur with big questions does: We asked people who we thought would know the answer and to come speak about
- Personal finance
- Community, and
We kicked things off with a cocktail reception on Thursday night at Richmond’s Candela Gallery. A keynote- and activity-filled Friday with speakers from across the U.S. was followed by a day of workshops run by local women-led businesses (thank you Cheyenne Varner, Just Seria and Tailored for your reflections on the program!). Including our volunteers we attracted more than one hundred entrepreneurial women (think small business owners, startup entrepreneurs, freelancers, professionals, etc.) to join us for Rebelle Con which in itself is something I am really proud of.
Was it stressful leading up to the event while also trying to run our businesses on the side? Absolutely. Yet the night we kicked things off, Shannon and I were incredibly calm. After three months of obsessing over budgets, printing deadlines, social media conversations, travel reservations and venue deposits, it was out of our hands and we were at the heart of the storm; nothing we did from then on would truly change the outcome of the event. So we rolled with it. No major disaster struck. In fact, in the days following Rebelle Con I felt like an idiot every time someone asked me how it had gone, because all I could say was “Great!”. It felt as though I SHOULD have some deprecating comment about a major hickup that would lead me to the conclusion “… but other than that it went well.” Yet, there wasn’t. No such thing. A week post-conference and still I have heard nothing but good things overall.
Would do again!
… and while we are waiting on feedback from attendees, here are a few things that I simply think we did well, and would do again:
- Our sponsors were small women-run local businesses and/or the sponsoring relationship came about thanks to a women that either Shannon or I, or both of us, had a good relationship with. None of the usual corporate suspects that have their name on every local event were on our list. And I simply like the idea that Rebelle Con is a conference by and for female local entrepreneurs. No space for The Man. Literally.
- One of the conference’s key elements revolved around charging what you’re worth and not underselling your services. I feel good about the value we provided.
- And even for those who could not yet afford to buy a ticket, we had more than 60 volunteer openings that allowed anyone to join the entire day of programming as long as they were willing to roll up their sleeves for a few hours. We also gave away tickets at our Facebook Live to allow even more attendees to join the event free of charge.
The Future of Rebelles
As founders, Shannon and I started asking the “What next?” question early on. We knew from the beginning that even the most inspiring conference would only do so much to create lasting change in our community of entrepreneurial women. We are in fact exploring what we can do locally to keep the momentum going. In my dreamworld, Rebelle Con builds a local community of entrepreneurial females who grow together and support each other by doing business with one another, referring each other and collaborating. By charging what they’re worth. You all have heard it before: A rising tide lifts all the boats.
Learn more about my work at www.anikahorn.com