Women entrepreneurs building a more diverse society26.11.2020
Business Tampere partnered with the Expanding Networks – Women in entrepreneurship event, which supported the diversification of entrepreneurial communities. The online event was primarily aimed at entrepreneurs, startup founders, investors and anyone interested in entrepreneurship. Besides speeches, networking played an important role.
Organizers of the event and founders of the Women In Entrepreneurship project Kaya Brandt and Meredith Chuzel are both part of the growth-oriented entrepreneurial community of Tampere. The project aims to increase diversity and, as the name suggests, to support women entrepreneurs.
Starting off the keynote speeches event hostess Yulia Salorenko talked about the global situation of women entrepreneurs.
”Today, under the motto of connect – trust – create, we will hear stories and experiences of incredible women, stories that will hopefully equip all of you with confidence to start an entrepreneurial journey, or tools to navigate in the big startup and business world. And mostly importantly, today is all about networking! We believe that we thrive the best within the community where knowledge and resources are shared. This event is just the beginning to what we hope will be a growing and developing community of women supporting women in entrepreneurship and beyond!”, Salorenko outlined.
As a fellow professional and an entrepreneur myself, I have a lot motivations to be here today. But my daughter is my main motivation. I want to contribute to creating the kind of world and society in which daughter is given equal opportunities and has all the tools and support to be anyone she choose to be
There is no stereotypical entrepreneur
The first guest speaker of the event was Priyanka Banerjee. She told she had never even thought about entrepreneurship being possible for her.
”I thought it was only possible for entrepreneurs’ family members or rich businessmen. I’m sure it’s a familiar experience to others around the world as well”, Banerjee noted. ”But now I have my own business in Finland, and here I am, talking to you about entrepreneurship.”
When, at the start of her career, she spoke to people about starting her own business, they felt sorry that she had not managed to get a job. Banerjee told that people’s minds can be changed through positive examples, however.
”The deciding factor in becoming an entrepreneur was my desire to create something of my own”, said Banerjee. ”However, society has been restricting that desire for generations, for many reasons. The stereotype of the entrepreneur persists – young white male. It affects many people negatively and creates prejudices.”
According to Banerjee the effects of prejudices can be very real. Many women are left completely outside or without investors. However, she emphasizes that besides external obstacles, a huge hurdle are the internal glass ceilings built in our minds.
”People coming from outside the stereotypical image of an entrepreneur have to struggle more to achieve the necessary self-confidence . Only after your own insecurities are beaten can you start breaking society’s glass ceilings. And if you manage to break through, you will become a role model for others”, Banerjee summarized.
In conclusion, she listed three key factors for strengthening diversity in entrepreneurial communities. Firstly, different entrepreneurs have to come out with their backgrounds and stories, because examples are powerful. People need someone to identify with, to gain the courage to reach for their dreams.
Secondly, we need to learn to look at things from the right perspective.
”When we talk about women, we are generalizing half the world’s population”, Banerjee pointed out. ”There are infinite traits and personalities, and likewise, differences in backgrounds and opportunities. We must not generalize, but take differences into account.”
Finally, Banerjee urged everyone to consider their own stereotypes.
”Before making a decision it’s good to stop and think whether it is affected by some harmful concept or prejudice. Only then can we build a more diverse, more equal and better future.”
A trip to the past and the four P’s of entrepreneurship
The second speaker of the event Donna Kivirauma has been an entrepreneur in Finland and the United States.
”Some of my projects have been successful, while others not”, Kivirauma joked at the start of her speech, but continued, that she had just turned 60 and in her speech wanted to take a trip to the past, in order to help others succeed.
Kivirauma talked about the cornerstone of entrepreneurship, the four P’s.
”Purpose defines what you are doing. Passion makes people follow you, and gets you through the toughest days. Positive thinking helps you solve things and builds self-confidence. Perseverance is made up of the previous P’s and pushes you forward”, Kivirauma listed.
Her own story as an entrepreneur started 30 years ago in Texas, where she was a math teacher and school running coach.
”When I wasn’t allowed to take the students outside because of bad air quality I decided someone has to do something, and that someone was me”, Kivirauma related. She founded C.A.R.S., which aimed to make reducing driving easier in her hometown Houston.
”I didn’t even have a budget, but my passion and focus kept me going”, Kivirauma reminisced. She urged entrepreneurs to hone their elevator pitch into a compact and convincing form, because you can never know when or where you will need it. She also stressed the importance of a good team.
”You have to find partners with common interests and who are as committed as you”, Kivirauma guided.
Lastly, she condensed her instructions: ”Once you have an idea for a solution to a problem, learn to condense it into a one-minute pitch. Sharpen your values and passion. Put together a team that shares your interests. Validate your idea minutely, so it will become something people will actually want to pay for. And always carry the four P’s with you.”
”Believe in yourself and you are unstoppable”
From the Finnish maternity know-how exporter Layette, Sini Havukainen told her story about how a midwife became an entrepreneur, founder and CEO.
”In 2012 we moved to Silicon Valley. There I learned that here in Finland we have the world’s best maternity services, a fact supported by medical statistics”, Havukainen spoke. ”When we moved back to Finland, I worked for a while in the maternity ward, until 2015 when we founded Layette. It’s a mobile app, that makes Finnish maternity know-how globally available, in cooperation with The Red Cross and health associations etc.”
Layette has established a fairly stable position in Finland, but here knowledge and competence are already at a high level. That is why the world is its objective. Havukainen has already been meeting with health ministers and officials for example in Japan and China, and appeared in other large venues, such as the European Parliament.
”The years and days have been a roller coaster, ever since I left the maternity ward behind to become an entrepreneur”, Havukainen stated. ”We’ve met with a lot of refusal, but the important thing is to keep going and to have real passion in your heart. Then you can accomplish what it takes to succeed.”
In conclusion she stated, that if she can start a successful business, others can as well.
”Believe in yourself, follow your dreams and you’re unstoppable. Some day that no will become a yes.”
”I believe in a culture where the effort you put in pays itself back.”
The last speaker of the event, who is part of Tribe Tampere and COO of Platform6 projects among others, was Alexandra Santos. She began with an updated version of an old proverb: ”They say it takes a whole village to raise one child, but you could also say it takes a diverse community to raise more female entrepreneurs”
Santos stressed that entrepreneurship can no longer be based on a single stereotype, where success stories get started in white men’s garages.
”We need to have more events, where different women like us get the chance to tell about the amazing things we’re doing”, Santos said. ”These are powerful platforms to encourage and support. We all have the qualifications to make the change real.”
Santos was originally a translator, who came to Finland to work at Nokia. She met with, according to her own words, a few crazy guys, with whom she joined to build the Tribe Tampere community.
”Since then it’s been a completely different trip from what I had imagined when I arrived in Finland. At times it has felt threatening or scary, but I’ve found the right people to surround myself with”, Santos told.
Like the previous speakers, she stressed the importance of finding the right people but emphasized, that an entrepreneur has to define clear objectives in finding partners.
”Do you want to swap ideas, find opportunities or change direction? Simply meeting with people isn’t enough, you have to think further about it. Why are you going to these events and what are you looking for?” Santos challenged, and reminded that in entrepreneur events you get close to people who you might otherwise never meet. In principle, the possibilities are the same for everyone, but she says women have to strengthen both their own and each other’s positions.
”At the end of the day, in every encounter each party is looking for a way to gain something off the other”, Santos reminded. ”If you set a goal, do your homework and make it clear to yourself what you want out of the other person, then that’s enough for networking events.”
Finally, Santos said she would be happy to share her experiences and teachings.
”I believe in a culture where the effort you put in pays itself back. Let’s help each other and keep in mind, that communities prosper and bloom only with new knowledge and new views.”
6Aika – Ecosystems of growth: making business growth possible with Six Cities cooperation
The project promotes growth-oriented businesses to join appropriate research and development supporting networks and services. The project is implemented by the six largest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku, Oulu and the Council of Tampere Region. The project is based on the idea of cities as active operators in promoting business innovation and supporting networks.