WHEN Jen Bonnett was first breaking into the business world, she discovered a unique power.
“Whatever event I went to, the women all immediately found me,” she laughs. “I was the Pied Piper of the women entrepreneurs.”
As Bonnett recalls, it made all the women feel more comfortable knowing other women were there, too.
“We got there and found our tribe, and then we’d go off and network and do our thing, but you could always come back to the same spot where women were hanging out.”
- Jen Bonnett
Find your tribe at the third She. Hustles. event this Thursday at the Wesley.
Hosted by the Creative Coast, of which Bonnett is executive director, the event is tailored towards women entrepreneurship.
“I have always had a passion for female entrepreneurs and leaders,” Bonnett enthuses. “I think of She. Hustles. as an evening of business leaders and entrepreneurs who happen to be women who are kicking ass and taking names.”
Bonnett is one of those ass-kickers herself. Nearly ten years ago, she founded StartupChicks, a community of female entrepreneurs dedicated to uplifting each other.
“It’s a night of learning and authentic storytelling,” she says. “This journey as women leaders and entrepreneurs is a hard journey. We are cultivating a panel of women who are willing to be vulnerable and share their true story so that other women can learn from them and maybe have an easier time.”
Bonnett’s decision to begin StartupChicks came from her struggles in the venture capital world, where the gender gap is drastic.
“I’ve done seven startups, and my cofounders and I have raised $57 million in angel capital of three companies that have had three exits,” she explains. “Women raise less money, right? 7% of all venture funds go to a company that has had a female founder in any role, not just CEO. That’s been a statistic that hasn’t changed in 20 years and it’s still true today. Now, I’m very hopeful with the growing number of venture capital partners that have been named in the last year that are female founded funds that that will change. But it hasn’t changed yet.”
Bonnett notes that one of the difficulties women face in the venture capital world is that they don’t take rejection well.
“I was coaching a female entrepreneur and she was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if this will work, I don’t think I’m going to be able to raise money,’” she remembers. “I asked her how many ‘no’s she got. She said 7. I said, great! You’ve got 90 more to go. My first company got 97 ‘no’s before we got a ‘let’s have another conversation.’ Not a yes.”
Aleshia Howells, Creative Coast project manager, will moderate. Having run an education startup in the tech space, Howells’ business acumen lends itself to the event.
“The stories being told are what people want to hear,” she says. “They want to hear about women being successful and doing their own thing.”
Representation matters for those looking to break into a field.
“The ‘women in tech’ issue has been a hot topic for the past ten years, at least,” says Howells. “Recently, there have been a lot of diversity initiatives trying to solve that problem, and I think one of the reasons is there’s a lack of role models in the industry. If young people are looking at what they want to do, and there’s nobody who looks like you or nobody you can identify with, maybe you’ll think, ‘Oh, that’s not for me,’ and you’ll discount it before you even know.”
The event features a panel discussion with four speakers and workshops. She. Hustles. can hopefully lead women to go for their business dreams, something Bonnett knows our community needs.
“As statistics show, in a number of different studies, companies with women on their board have higher revenues,” says Bonnett. “Companies that have a diverse board and leadership do better, but studies also show that when a woman does well, she raises the entire community, not just herself. By empowering women and giving women the tools to be more successful, we have the opportunity to change this community. A rising tide lifts all boats, right? And women do that.”