Last Wednesday I went to NYC to attend the 2015 Inc. Women’s Summit. I’m lucky that I live only a few hours from the city. Many of the women I met came from all over the country. I have to admit that while I was sitting on the train, I was thinking about all the other things I could/should be doing. Like returning emails or finishing up production work for a few clients. It’s easy to talk yourself out of spending the time and money to attend these type of events. But on this occasion, I’m glad I didn’t listen to that voice in my head.
After a brisk walk from the subway to my hotel, I decided to rest for a bit and figure out the most important thing of the day- where was I going to eat dinner. Yeah, food is very important to me. Don’t judge. I happened to find a french bistro only a few blocks from my hotel. Hey, if you’re going to be in New York, you might as well take advantage of finding food you love but don’t get to have very often. It’s not like I’m making escargot on a regular basis for my family.
The next day, I was up early and ready to head over to 583 Park Avenue, which is not only the address but also the name of the venue where the event was held. The event space is a beautifully restored historic building with early 20th century architecture. As soon as I walked in, I could feel the energy and excitement that comes from being around 250 women entrepreneurs from all over the country.
own the future
The theme of the conference was Own The Future, as was very evident from the HUGE blocks up on the stage.
I can’t possibly do the speakers justice by trying to summarize their talks, so I’ll do my best to highlight the few things I took away from the presenters.
The first speaker was Kerry Diamond, founder of Cherry Bombe and chief editor of Yahoo Food. One thing that stood out from Kerry’s talk was how it’s important to be persistent, but not annoying. She talked about the three email rule. People are busy so they may not see your email or aren’t able to respond quickly. So, basically, it’s good to follow up, but after the 3rd time, move on. I also liked that she admitted how she has a habit of saying yes to everything which can be a problem. So she’s declaring next month NO-vember. Loved that!
Alli Webb, founder of Dry Bar was the next speaker. It was so interesting to hear how she started her company with her brother and husband. The thing I took away most from Ali’s Q&A was how it takes a team of people to build a really successful business. Each of them has their own role in the business and let the others do what they are good at.
During a panel discussion about how millennials work, one of the panelists, Stacey Ferreira, had great story to tell and I have to share it with you. A few years ago, Stacey and her brother were working on a piece of software to securely store online passwords. Stacey, only 19 at the time, saw a tweet from Richard Branson offering anyone a chance to meet him for cocktails, in Miami, if they’d donate $2,000 to a charity of his choice. She wrote to him saying that she wasn’t old enough to have a cocktail, but that she’d still love to meet with him. Long story, less long, Stacey and her brother borrowed $4K from their Dad and flew to Florida to meet Richard Branson and he ended up investing over $1M in their company by the end of that summer.
You can read more about Stacey’s story here. The moral of this story for me was to take chances. I don’t know that I would’ve ever had the courage to do what they did, but I’ll always remember this story.
Angela Benton, the founder of NewMe Accelerator was the next speaker. I really enjoyed her talk about startups, talking with customers, and how to be honest with yourself. Angela is a single mom of four kids and she talked about how sometimes, we think too much instead of just jumping in. She said that if she had thought about how much she was going to go through when starting her company, she may have talked herself out it.
After the first few speakers, I started to notice the theme of confidence kept coming up. This isn’t the first time confidence has been a hot topic with women entrepreneurs. Eric Schurenberg, president of Inc. Magazine, even addressed it in his opening remarks. I know we’ve heard and seen it dozens of times – men seem to just have more confidence than women. But the thing that struck me was how younger women (and men) seem to innately possess a level of confidence that women my age do not. I’m talking people under the age of 30. The millennials, who had very successful companies, all seemed to have this trait in common. They had no notion that they couldn’t do something. I find this incredibly fascinating, and inspiring.
After lunch, which was delicious by the way, Rebecca Minkoff shared a great presentation about her company and her mission. I had no idea her fashion company was so technology focused. And after seeing a video of how her stores operate, I was really impressed with how she’s incorporating these two ideas.
There was an amazing panel that had tons of advice on how to pitch to investors. I love how one of the panelists said “Invest in yourself. Invest in your self-confidence”. The other piece of advice that stood out was this: for every person you meet, ask to be introduced to someone else. This is something I plan to implement immediately.
By the late afternoon, I was starting to get a little tired. It’s hard to absorb so much information all in one day. So I was glad that the conference ended with Jessica Herrin, founder of Stella & Dot. She is an amazing speaker. So motivating! She talked about how confidence leads to competence and how we need to distinguish between facts and feelings. As women we tend to talk ourselves out of things because we may be fearing fear. I loved that she said we should accept fear. A great question to ask ourselves is:
Do I want to give up right now because things are hard?
Overall, the conference was a great success for me. I got so many tidbits and found inspiration from all the speakers. When I go to events like this, at the start of the day I always feel so fresh and ready to soak it all in, but by the end my brain feels like a limp noodle.
What types of strategies do you use to stay fresh and focused at conferences? Also, if you know of an amazing conferences we should be attending, let us know!