Chiara Condi- Women Entrepreneurs #5

Chiara is an entrepreneur, women’s empowerment advocate expert, and speaker. After completing her bachelor in Romance Languages and History at Harvard University, she pursued a master’s in International Political Economy in The London School of Economics.

She is the president and the founder of Led by Her. Led by Her is an initiative that challenges gender-based violence from an innovative angle and encourages women’s entrepreneurship through the values of collaboration, mutual support, and community.

Chiara recently started a podcast “The Other Half: Conversations with Men on Gender Equality” and she is interviewing influential men of our world (CEOs, athletes, actors, etc.) who are making a the difference in their everyday lives at home and in the workplace to create a more equal world we can all be proud of. With every initiative that she starts, Chiara strives to improve women’s place in society.

How did you start Led by Her? What motivated you to start it?

Upon my graduation from LSE, I worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for two years, specifically on the implementation of its Gender Action Plan. During my experience at EBRD, I learned how behind we were in terms of gender equality and realized the importance of advancing women in the workplace. It became very important to me, and it motivated me to do something very proactive to narrow this huge gap.

I wanted to create an initiative that recognized the power of women and helped them transform. Statistically, one-third of women are affected by violence, and this culture of violence negatively affects gender equality. If we empower women without fixing the culture around them, it will not work. This is why I started Led by Her to transform women from vulnerabilities to leadership. Led by Her recognizes the power of women and strives to change the environment around them.

Did you attend any entrepreneurial training? 

No, I didn’t have any entrepreneurial training. I think it is more about the mindset, perseverance, and motivation than anything you learn. It is, of course, good to have a structure at the beginning and specific things to work on, and in that sense, training might help to guide you. But it is okay not to know about marketing or finance because you learn all the necessary skills you need on the job.

In your opinion, what does success mean?

I think the most important thing about success is that it is very personal. In my opinion, it is being your best self. People can think that you are successful and you might not feel successful unless you feel that you are doing your best. If you think that you are doing your best, then you don’t even need that external validation.

In my personal definition of success, the most important thing is how I feel. Nobody can tell you “you are good enough” except yourself. You have to feel “good enough” and capable regardless of how much you accomplished. Unfortunately, a lot of women don’t start their projects because they don’t feel “good enough,” “accomplished enough,” or they need this or that. But no, we have to think that “we are ready,” “we are good,” “we have what we have, and it is enough,” regardless of how much we have done or have not done.

What was your biggest struggle so far in your entrepreneurial journey?

In the beginning, fundraising was much harder than I thought it was. It was hard to build without exhausting myself because I did not have enough resources. As Led by Her is a Non-Profit organization, I had to find private donors, corporations, and foundations to raise money.

In your opinion, what is the most challenging thing about being a woman entrepreneur?

The environment is more difficult because, as a woman, you have to prove your credibility much more. We have both self-imposed limitations that we are led to believe and social constraints that prevent us from succeeding. So, there is a bigger obstacle to being a woman entrepreneur. I think as we start having more women succeeding, it will change our perception towards our own limitations.

Is there anything you would do differently, knowing what you know now?

I would have focused more on myself. I would have more strategy and think more about what do I want to get out of a project before I start it, instead of just throwing myself into something and figuring it out.

I would think more about my motivations, my vision, where I want to be in 5 years, how much of myself do I want to invest in this project, for how long. It is essential to think about these questions ahead of time so that the project doesn’t overwhelm your life.

What habits helped you succeed so far?

Being perseverant, I mean putting in time and energy to my projects and keep doing things. Not stopping.

Is there a woman who inspires you?

Prime Minister of New Zealand inspires me because I think she embodies a really authentic leadership. She is very compassionate, empathetic, and also strong, these are things that we don’t necessarily associate with leaders. She is not afraid of showing her vulnerable side.

Can you recommend a resource, book/podcast/movie, for our readers?

Well, my podcast, the Other Half!:) I interview male leaders about gender equality, but there is also a lot of useful information about being a good leader and leading a successful company.

Imagine at this moment, you can send a message to all the women entrepreneurs who are trying to build their companies, what would you tell them?

You already have the power in you! You just need to transform that power and externalize it.  

Justine BA- Women Entrepreneurs #2

Justine is a young entrepreneur who founded RoomBâ. RoomBâ is a startup that creates a repertoire of public halls in towns and cities in France that people can privatize for events.

How did you start RoomBâ? What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

I never thought of being an entrepreneur. I learned about these venues in town halls that are available but not exploited. I started to think that it is a very good opportunity and when I talked to people around me they validated. So I started in April 2019 and it has been one year now.

What does success mean to you?

Success is about how much you can influence people and society. For example for me currently, the definition of success is helping all the mayors in France to generate more revenue thanks to RoomBâ.

Did you attend any type of entrepreneurial training? 

Since I never considered becoming an entrepreneur, I did not get an education about it, in fact, I studied finance. However, the accelerator of French Tech was quite useful!

There are multiple reasons why a company fails such as product-market fit, running out of cash or problems within the team. Which one did you have the most difficulty with?

Finding an associate is difficult. I have right now 7 people who are freelancing for RoomBâ, however, I need a full-time person with technical expertise. Another difficulty is motivating people who are working for you, transmitting your passion for your work to your team is not an easy task.

In your opinion, what is the most difficult thing about being a woman entrepreneur? Did you personally have any problems because you were a woman?

Yes definitely! The entrepreneurial world is a very masculine environment, especially if you are working in tech. Men always try to impose their vision to you. You have these technical experts, who are mostly men, and they sometimes don’t listen to you. As a young woman entrepreneur, it is difficult to be taken seriously. They sometimes explain things slowly… For example, even going to a meeting alone and with a man is different! One time when I was at an investor meeting with one of the people in my team, the investor always addressed the guy in my team when we were talking. He was asking questions to this guy but not me about my own project!

How did you build credibility? How do you fight against “legitimacy doubt”?

First of all, I show them that I don’t doubt my vision of RoomBâ. Secondly, I do everything to make things work. I am not shy to talk to very different people in events. If I see someone at an event who can be interesting to talk to about my idea, I don’t hesitate to meet them. If it doesn’t work it is not a problem but I know that I try everything I can do. And actually, people like helping young and ambitious entrepreneurs.

Is there anything you would do differently, knowing what you know now?

I am not the same person right now. But I would not doubt myself and listen to anyone at the beginning!

What are the habits that helped your success in the past year?

My organization skills helped me a lot because I did not have a choice. You can not forget about your meeting or attend them unprepared! It is about your credibility and to be taken seriously I pay attention to this a lot. I work for my meetings and I take my work very seriously in general. Being an entrepreneur is really like being a project manager. You can have the best idea but if you are forgetting your meetings and not executing well people will stop believing in you.

Which woman inspires you? Why?

It is a funny question because when we think about entrepreneurs always guys come to mind like the founder of Doctolib or Blabla car… But there is one woman who inspires me a lot… Catherine Barba. She is very fresh and gentile but also very ambitious.

Can you recommend a resource, it can be a book/podcast/movie, to the women entrepreneurs who are going to read this interview?

Le Gratin, the podcast of Pauline Laigneau! I actually met a lot of entrepreneurs thanks to this podcast.

If you would send a message to all the women on earth who are trying to build their companies what would it be?

We are powerful!