Zebras Unite
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Zebras Unite

Zebras in the Wild: Leslie Borrell | Co-op member

With our series “Zebras in the Wild”, we are excited to take you on a journey around the world to meet founding members, chapter leads, co-op members and allies. We talk to Zebras in the wild and report back how they’re challenging the status quo, how they envision the future and how we can support them in their mission!

In this conversation, meet Leslie Borrell: After 20 years as a technology and product leader for companies like Etsy, Travelocity, and ThoughtWorks, Leslie followed her passion and founded Carefully, a cooperative platform for parents to build trusted networks for sharing care and hosting playdates.

Carefully is on a mission to change how we think about childcare to make it affordable, accessible, and inclusive. Carefully’s mission has become even more critical, as the need for managing childcare costs and options is finally starting to get some of the focus it deserves from employers and politicians alike. Finding balance and connecting with other parents in meaningful ways is what we all need now, more than ever.

Read how Leslie envisions the capital, community and culture of the next economy:

A Zebra is..

… running free, finding new places and spaces where they can live and work towards a more balanced life. Creating time and space to build things that matter, with intention and without a blueprint. When Zebras meet, magic happens. Finding people that have been fighting the same battles and share so many of the same ideals lets me breathe easier. It always feels good when the dazzle grows.

When Zebras meet, magic happens.

The status quo: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Our current economic system does work for a lot of people, and we celebrate those successes. We see a lot of companies and people being funded, being successful, and doing great things. I thought it was working for me for a long time, until I realized that it wasn’t. I thought that it was the only option, until I finally accepted that it wasn’t ever going to work for me. Only then did I realize that there were other people who felt the same and were finding ways to build businesses that felt different and felt better. There had to be a way to find success outside of the mainstream economic infrastructure that was more aligned with my values.

Society teaches us from a young age that success in life is directly correlated to money and power.

As I’ve had the time and distance to gain perspective, it’s clear that our society teaches us from a young age that success in life is directly correlated to money and power. That money and power are best achieved through climbing the corporate ladder in one way or another. As a woman, we are then further taught that if and when we have a family, we should minimize the impact on our work without sacrificing all the invisible labor that is expected to keep the household going. That’s the formula for success, but we often miss a very essential element in all of this: the importance of happiness and balance to actually achieving success in life.

Sure, we all need and deserve a certain level of financial security to be happy, but we seem to have completely forgotten that it also takes effort to find balance and figure out what will make us happy. Of the few unintended positive outcomes from the pandemic, it has made many people (and some companies, too) realize and respect the delicate balance between work-family-self care that is too often sacrificed. We say acceptance is the first step, but what’s next? How do we fix it? That’s much more complicated.

Having spent many of my 20 or so years in the corporate world fighting for change in a system that ultimately is built on a foundation that is fundamentally misaligned with how our values are evolving, it seems clear to me that creating a new system from the ground up is the most viable solution to if the goal is to build something truly different and lasting.

A vision for the feminine economy

Instead of reinventing the wheel I’m going to give a shout out to sister.is and her vision for the feminine economy, building companies based on cooperation, caring, sustainability, and empathy (among many other things). I tapped into this at just the right time in my life and it has resonated with me so deeply that I want to share it far and wide for others to connect with it too… It shows a clear and succinct vision for a future that makes me excited about what is truly possible. As I’ve made a conscious decision to focus on connecting and spending my time with people who share this vision and these values, I continue to be amazed and impressed by the people who are building companies based on these principles and values.

Copyright: https://sister.is/proposals-for-the-feminine-economy
Copyright: https://sister.is/proposals-for-the-feminine-economy

Communities for connection & support

Community is at the heart of everything — from personal communities where I connect with my chosen family to the professional communities I’ve found and founded since starting on this new journey with Carefully. Over the last year I’ve found myself on just about every community platform with likeminded people looking for connection and support. The need for community and connection is stronger than ever both virtual and now, thankfully, in person. The challenge I hope we address is the current proliferation of micro-communities as it can be overwhelming and exhausting. There is an opportunity to address the overhead without losing the intimacy by surfacing the things we care about and connecting us with others when these platforms learn how to collaborate and cooperate for the benefit of their members.

Capital that meets founders where they’re at

If we could create a way for people to find the right capital at the right time from the right investors in a single place, we could all just get to work on our businesses :) With this in place, funding would not be all-consuming, intimidating, and filled with exclusivity and bias, as it is now. Capital infrastructure done right is critical to ensuring we create opportunity for founders without reinforcing the problems of our current systems.

Values that define the future

  • Cooperation over Competition
  • Sustainability over Immediate Gratification
  • Meaningful Connections over Constant Engagement
  • Mutualism over Isolation/Independence

Leslie’s contribution

The biggest thing I can do is to be an example of the future I hope to see one day. I work every day to break down the ideals that I’ve been socialized to believe and slowly carve out more balance in my own life so I can share that journey with others. With Carefully, I have the opportunity to support and connect parents and communities who are struggling with their childcare needs, and I envision opportunities to support these communities in more ways as we grow and have the ability to provide flexible working opportunities and shared ownership to everyone who is participating in the community. As we kick off our Founders seeking Funding circle this week, I hope to continue to support Zebra founders as I have with the Shatter community I started back in August of 2020.

Starting a company is scary and intimidating, and having people there to support you as you take those first steps can give you the courage and confidence to continue.

Watching people I know and admire turn their ideas into products, services, and real-life organizations is one of my favorite things!

With #ladieswholaunch, out of my little cohort of “women with an idea”, these women have created a new athletic shoe, a global streaming media company, a revolutionary process for sustainable fashion, and of course, Carefully. I like to work behind the scenes, but I choose to spend my time on things that I believe will have an impact on the real world stage.

Beyond the primary purpose of Carefully, which is working to make a space for free childcare through a safety net of friends, family, and local communities, I’m hopeful that I can create an example of how to succeed through an alternative system that is focused on building a sustainable business, not chasing the dragon of VC funding round after round, and creating shared ownership with people who are making this success possible: the parents and the workers.

How can we support you?

We are still working hard at user acquisition so anything that the community can do to help Carefully grow roots in their community would be awesome.

  • Join Carefully — Download Carefully and start a care circle with friends. Not a parent? You can still host a playdate for some of your friends with kids and invite them to the app. They will love you for it :)
  • Connect your Community — Know of a community, business, or just a casual group who could use Carefully help their parents connect? — PTA, Religious Groups, Sports, After School Activities — Carefully is a great way for parents to connect outside of their activities for help with pickup/drop offs, playdates, and more.
  • Start a Partnership- Have a business that would be interested in partnering on Carefully to promote events and activities for parents and kids? We’ve heard that members want to find more events on the platform, so we are looking for a few well aligned partners to join as initial partners to help us give our members what they are asking for.

Shout-out

Kate Giovambattista from Beyond Main. She’s the first person I connected with through our Zebras coffeehouse sessions, and she’s just a great person to talk to even in the few conversations we’ve had. She is so excited about Zebras and Cooperative ownership, soaking it all in and giving back too. She’s building an awesome platform to support small businesses with Beyond Main and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her.

How can people connect with you?

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Zebras Unite: creating the capital, culture and community for the next economy

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Anika Horn

Anika Horn

Ecosystem builder for social change. Founder at www.socialventurers.com Meet me over at www.anikahorn.com for all things social enterprise!

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