TIE Headquarters, Burlington, MA (September 17, 2010)—Kudos to the TIE Women’s Initiative for last Friday’s networking lunch and panel discussion on “Pathways to Women Entrepreneurship”, held at their Boston headquarters. Midday timing was no obstacle for this determined crowd–the event attracted more than 30 women, some current business owners, some under cover and many aspiring entrepreneurs.
Panelists included Vidya Vasu, CEO of CustomView, LLC, Deepika Prakash, Founder and President of Patternreview.com, and Gauri Chandna, Founder and CEO of ATFS Learning Center, led in a lively discussion of entrepreneurial topics by moderator Nadia Nassif, Principal of Springboards Language Training and Consulting, LLC.
The conversation began with a question of origins to the panelists: “What motivated you, some of you in traditional and rewarding 9 to 5 jobs, to pursue a path of entrepreneurship? What thought process led to this idea?”
From the outset, each panelist shared entirely different stories. While one woman’s need for personal career fulfillment fueled the entrepreneurial vision for her firm, another simply saw a market opportunity coupled with her own personal interests and part time side project.
In one account, Deepika told of very humble beginnings for her company: “Patternreview.com was born from personal passion and curiosity, a conversation among friends. It was part time and I could not at the time imagine how big it would become today. Initially, I simply discussed the idea among friends and personal networks.”
Gauri confessed a thought process quite different in the start of her venture, but common to many “would-be” entrepreneurs. “I was very comfortable at a six-figure job, but I wasn’t happy. I looked at many options and trends, but timing was bad—it was the year 2001. I knew I loved teaching; I come from a family of teachers.”
In the story of CustomView, LLC, we also learn how Vidya made the leap from prominent position of COO of SolveIT to establish her own firm. Each woman’s path was unique and inspiring.
Despite different beginnings, two approaches were common to all and one message was clear. The three women recognized inherent behavior and personality traits complementary to a particular business idea and they all did their homework, studying industry trends and the marketplace. Why entrepreneurship? They all agreed they were looking to manage their own lives, trying to establish more work life balance. Whether entrepreneurship afforded them this remained to be discussed later on in the panel.
The conversation deepened as topics centered on obstacles unique to women in business. The audience engaged early and often. “Being taken seriously is one of the biggest problems”, explained one of the panelists. “We don’t follow through when we sell”, another charged. Gauri countered: “Issues of guilt and reflection need to be addressed by us women”, with many heads in the audience nodding in agreement. Vidya also challenged everyone with candid advice on emotions: “These have no place in the workplace, but passion!! We need to separate ourselves from it at times.”
Book recommendations were generous from all sides of the lively conversation, among them: “When I say ‘No’, I Feel Guilty”, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and “Ignore Everybody”.
But even as the subject of challenges women face continued, several of the speakers shared views on the superior qualities women have in terms of instinct and human relation skills. Many credited these qualities to the very fabric of their business models, working relationships, and management styles.
The event seemed to move at the speed of light. Towards the end of the hour, engagement was at a peak and there was barely enough time to get through questions and a brief summary of points by the moderator. Audience members did not stop raising their hands at any point during the talk. It was clear that women entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and persuasions left last week’s event motivated and thoughtful about their current business and future business plans.
Now that their appetites are whet, they are probably hoping for a round two.