There are 9.8 million women-owned businesses in the United States, and almost 90% of them are doing it solo, without any employees. What does it take for a woman to start, operate, and grow a business? Women are stepping up as entrepreneurs, and supportive communities are booming in the form of professional networks, dedicated platforms, and tailored events that help women address and solve their business challenges. They also rely on PCs and other technology that can keep up with their busy lives, and consider productivity, mobility, and innovative design in the devices they choose for work. Women entrepreneurs are coming together in awesome ways, like The Scale Collective event this week in New York City. Microsoft and Intel are proudly presenting this dedicated day of discussion, learning, and inspiration for women leading their own businesses.
We spoke to event speaker Elisa Camahort Page to get her unique perspective on what it takes to succeed as a woman in startups. Camahort Page cofounded BlogHer in 2005, starting as a 3-woman show and growing into a multi-faceted enterprise built around women bloggers, that was ultimately acquired by SheKnows Media in 2014. She now serves as SheKnows Media's Chief Community Officer.
Can you share the story of how BlogHer was born?
BlogHer was born to answer the question “Where are the women who blog?” once and for all in a tangible, can’t-not-see way.
In late 2004/early 2005, blogging was just starting to enter the mainstream consciousness, and my two co-founders (Lisa Stone and Jory De Jardins) could see the same hierarchies in which the mainstream media was being replicated online … and it seemed totally unnecessary and counter to the entire spirit of the web.
We started out producing the first BlogHer conference, featuring all women experts and speakers, to challenge the notion that women weren’t a fundamental part of this new media landscape. It was a labor of love that we paid for with our credit cards. But after the first conference, we realized there was a community and an opportunity for us to work together and help all boats rise. That’s when we formed the company, and subsequently launched the web community and the publishing network.
It seems unbelievable today to imagine that folks really did think women wouldn’t adopt web tools and web publishing, when [women] are the majority users of most social web platforms. But what we did at the time was considered really out on a limb.
What do you attribute to the success of BlogHer? Any advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?
First, I would say ask — don’t tell — your users what they want. Spend more time listening than talking. You’re better off figuring out where people want you to lead them than building something in a vacuum to convince people where they want to be led to.
Second, I would say choose partners (and partnerships) that complement you rather than overlap with you. Business relationships and deals shouldn’t be about one side winning and the other losing. If you can’t find the mutual win, it’s probably not the right partner or partnership.
How have you evolved as a professional through BlogHer?
When we started BlogHer, my experience was in high-tech product management and marketing, and in social media consulting. I wasn’t an event person. I wasn’t a PR person. I wasn’t a research person. But when you’re running a startup, you all take on whatever tasks and functions and responsibilities seem most appropriate, and you run with it.
In startup life, you are asking for help and revisiting your focus constantly. That’s part of what makes it exciting. And it’s part of why startup life isn’t for everyone.
What can women get out of networking events and conferences like The Scale Collective and BlogHer?
As an undercover introvert, I recommend attending events with a plan: Check out the speakers, check out the other attendees, check out the sponsors. Who do you want to meet? Who do you want to reconnect with, even if just for a 15-minute coffee?
Depending on your personality, the big cocktail reception is an environment where you might do better to work the room alone, or you might be productive if you find someone you know to tag-team with. Figure out what helps you be your most effective self.
What's a day in your work life like? Share some of your go-to productivity tools.
I wake up quite early, and start my day in bed with my tablet. I check out my social streams, the news, and start to lightly check out email. I work from home, but I travel frequently, so my team knows to send email imagining that I’m looking at them on a mobile phone screen.
I also work remote from most of my team, so we rely heavily on Outlook, messaging apps, shared online documents, and other cloud-based communications and productivity tools to stay connected and on the same page.
That being said, there is definite value to regularly speaking live, so I have regularly scheduled phone one-on-ones and team calls, so we’re engaging in real time. I often use Skype to interview people for my podcast, Who SheKnows.
Join Camahort Page at The Scale Collective event this week, visit Microsoft and Intel small business experts at the Accelerate Your Business booth, and discover more inspiration on Twitter by following #TheScaleCollective. And be sure to explore the Accelerate Your Business page, where you’ll find devices that help entrepreneurs produce great work fast.