How to Navigate Your Evolution as a Founder

An Inside Look into #WeFestivalNYC

Apr 12, 2016 · 7 min read

When Pipsnacks Co-founder Jennifer Martin reflects on the connections that matter to her she paints a vivid picture of successful women. “Strong women believe in themselves, own who they are, and support other women,” she says. “They walk to their own beat and aim to really share who they are with you.”

Being successful is about honing in on your abilities, killing it at what you do, and working harder every day.

As a prelude to their panels on Thursday, we asked WeFestival speakers how their connections influence them, the critical advice and turning points that shaped their careers, and why they believe in paying it forward.

How Mentors Fuel You Forward

Sonia Kashuk

When Sonia (@SoniaKashuk) describes her mentors, the first word she lands on is transformational. From Estee Lauder President Thia Breen to the President of Cosmetic Executive Women Carlotta Jacobson, Sonia shares four intimate stories about how her mentors influence her life.

Carlotta has believed in me more than anyone. In my life, I could never give back to her what she has given me.

Jennifer Martin

Jennifer reflects on early advice she received from a mentor that informs how she carries herself as a founder and helps her shape Pipsnacks roadmap.

Have your goal and look at it every day. If what you are doing isn’t getting you closer to it you shouldn’t be working on it.

Diane Hessan

According to Diane (@DianeHessan), there are 50 men and women in Boston who feel like they’ve played a role in her success. Some are lifelong relationships, others spent 30-minutes with her and imparted advice that changed her life. She asserts the importance of developing a diverse group of friends, colleagues, and advisors who can help you navigate specific challenges you face scaling your business.

Jewel Burks

As a first time founder, Jewel (@JewelMelanie) is constantly seeking knowledge to be a stronger leader. She explains the personal and professional benefits of aligning yourself with and learning from entrepreneurs, particularly women, who are in the same stage or a stage ahead of you to ease the struggle.

Starting and growing a business is a daily struggle. It’s important to receive advice from people who have walked the road before.

Game-Changing Feedback

Amanda Hesser

Before Amanda (@AmandaHesser) was a Food Editor at The New York Times and a best-selling author, she questioned her desire to attend culinary school in Europe. After continuously consulting her professor, food historian Barbara Wheaton, she was met with a simple answer that changed the way she makes decisions.

She stopped in my tracks when she said: Amanda, Why are you asking me for permission? You need to do what you want to do. This is your life.”

You don’t need affirmation from people around you. Take ownership of your goals.

Amanda faced a similar dichotomy before starting Food52. When she contemplated working part time at The New York Times to work at a startup before launching her own, a candid conversation with her husband unveiled that in order to fully pursue an idea you have to go all in.

Good things don’t come without risk.

Lisa Abeyta

Lisa (@LisaAbeyta) shares the ‘a-ha’ moment that exposed her to the realities of entrepreneurship.

I had gone from being a stay at home mom who was a freelance writer to pitching on stage at MobileBeat. I remember looking around and thinking: ‘What have I done? Who did I think I was to think that I could do this?’ It was in that moment that I understood I probably had all of the odds against me. I could either decide that it was enough to quit or that the barriers were going to energize me to push forward. I chose the latter.

Izzy Grinspan

While working in her first job as a blogger, Izzy (@IzzyGrinspan) spent a month waking up early to cover the length of the iPhone line outside of the Apple store. She details her experience learning to speak up, why it’s critical to protect your time, and how the lesson informs her role as a leader.

You have to protect yourself and your time or you’ll never be able to get anything done. Everyone should be working towards doing as much as possible within what is feasible. It’s about the ‘Art of the possible not the perfect.’

Corie Hardee

While fundraising for Union Station, Corie received two pieces of critical feedback that shape all of her interactions with investors. The first, on being forthright when you want someone to invest, enabled her to overcome the fear of sounding desperate when directly asking someone to participate in her round. The second unveiled the importance of vocalizing your goals to ensure that the way you think you’re perceived is the way you are actually perceived.

Kelsey Recht

Kelsey (@KelseyRecht) received similar feedback that she should be more aggressive pitching. Although the insight taught her to clearly depict VenueBook’s mission, the core lesson is that while you should always welcome feedback, the most important exercise is how you digest it and adjust your style to improve rather than completely change.

Kate Whiting

When facing leadership challenges, Kate (@_edukate_) sought advice from Joanne Wilson on how to best handle the situation. The conversation reinforced that as the Founder of Educents, she is the one who establishes the company’s roadmap. Her team and partners need to listen to and respect her decisions. Kate explains how the feedback empowered her to own and assert her knowledge as well as the overall impact it’s made on her leadership style.

There comes a point when you need to say: ‘This is what I believe in. I am not backing down.’

Jill Salzman

In over ten years of being a serial entrepreneur, the best feedback Jill’s (@foundingmom) received is to raise her prices. She asserts that when you inwardly and outwardly value your work others will follow.

When you raise your prices you tell the world you’re worth it.

Beatriz Acevedo

Launching and scaling a business while taking care of yourself and your family (be it your children, parents, etc.) often leaves women feeling like they aren’t performing to their highest capacity in each role. Beatriz (@bea_latina) urges women entrepreneurs to accept and genuinely believe that giving your best is not only all you can do, it is enough.

Even if you can do it all you shouldn’t.

Paying it Forward

Tiffany Crawford

“Self-care is about honoring yourself as a woman, having important sister friends in your life who support you and who you support, helping mentor the ones who are coming up behind you, and also having your own mentors. It’s not about paying forward. It just is. It is a part of living and breathing. Community is everything.”

A community of powerful women is everything to me.

Beatriz Acevedo

Growing up in Mexico City, Beatriz didn’t have any women to look up to who were writers and producers. She discusses why she makes it a priority to mentor women who ask for her time.

It is very important that if you are put into a position of success that you extend your hand to other women and invest time and money, like you would invest in anything else, into the human pipeline at your company.

Joanne Wilson and Susan Solomon

Joanne (@thegothamgal) and Susan (@suesol) highlight why it’s critical that women entrepreneurs recognize that they are role models and tell their stories.

Young girls are asking ‘Where are the role models?’

Fortune Cookie Advice

Jill Salzman

Stop thinking. Stop planning. Just do it.

Talk to people. If you ask for what you need in business you are going to get the help.

Courtney Nichols Gould

Appreciate the process.

Corie Hardee

Don’t worry about doing things perfectly. Successful businesses aren’t built in leaps and bounds. They are built on each step that improves on the last.

Jennifer Martin

What got you to where you are is who you are.

Susan Solomon

Take yes for the yes and move on.

Beatriz Acevedo

Perseverance and passion are so much more valuable than talent.

Tiffany Crawford

Be willing to believe that you can achieve something that has never been done before.

Kelsey Recht

A billion dollar exit is in your future too.

What would you write inside of your fortune cookie?

WeFestival Confab

Resources, inspiration, and more from Women’s Entrepreneur…

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