Last Friday evening, I went to a networking event hosted by Women 2.0 called Founder Friday. This was my first time attending one of these events and I am so glad I did!
Before I get into the details of why, I want to dive into how.
In May 2011, I attended a breakfast courtesy of Gotham Media Ventures called Women and the Entrepreneurial Experience. It was electric! I was just in the beginning stages of really pushing my business button for S2 Stationery and Design and I was hungry for inspiration and powerful women to learn from. All of the women on the panel were incredibly inspiring, but one of them really stood out-Ellie Cachette of ConsumerBell. I believe I’ve mentioned Ellie before, but at that event we exchanged business cards and we emailed a bit. It was from her that I learned of Women 2.0 and attended Founder Friday last Friday, February 3rd.
So now on to the why.
One of my best friends came into town last Friday. I asked her if she’d like to attend the event with me, realizing that if she said no, I would not attend the event. Luckily for me, she said yes and we both registered.
Now, I’ve never been a big fan of networking. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten better at networking thanks to my co-worker of old, Mark. I used to attend events with him for work and he would always tell me, “Sara, you have at least one thing in common with everyone in this room. The trick is to find that one thing.” He is absolutely right, but that still didn’t stop me from sizing people up and deciding that I had absolutely no interest in talking to people in business suits at networking events. I can’t believe I just admitted that!
And then something happened. Something big—I had to start networking for myself.
In the process of networking for S2 Stationery and Design, I realized that the reason I hated networking as much as I used to was because I lacked passion for my 9-to-5 gig. Think about it—if you’ve ever been in my shoes, you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from—when you feel unprepared or lacking in some way regarding your purpose, you tend to not enjoy networking. Many a time, I’ve been sent to network for the 9-to-5 and have felt knowledgeable and unprepared; making any desire to talk about my position and responsibilities nonexistent and most importantly creating a mute of Sara.
A mute, I am not. I’m sure you, reader, know that I am not mute. In fact, I’m the polar opposite. It has only been in the last three years that I’ve learned to appreciate silence and listening to other people more than talking. Needless to say the whole wall flower look was not my style at all.
Which is why this past Friday, while my friend and I took seats and chatted, I made it a point to introduce myself to people who sat next to us, or walked past us. I know what it feels like to attend a networking event alone and not sure who to strike up a conversation with first. My friend and I ended up spending most of the evening talking to Alex, a great woman who happened to sit next to us at the very beginning. As a matter of fact, the photographer, who took all the photos I’ve used in this posting and is AMAZING, asked to take our photo because we had spent the entire night chatting.
I would like to think that my improved attitude is what led me to network so well that evening, but I also think that luck was on my side. Within seconds of talking to Alex, a woman who overheard me talking about starting a stationery company, Tracy came up to me and told me she is a designer and she started a wedding website called WeddingInviteLove which is a directory of wedding invitation vendors. In her own words, “she started WeddingLovely and released the first product, WeddingInviteLove, in January 2011 to help couples looking for custom designs to find their perfect designer.” Needless to say it was destined that we met! She even said, “I think this was a fortuitous meeting because I’m here this week trying to raise funds and I’m heading back to California and just happened to be able to attend this event.” I’d say the stars aligned in that moment.
Since last Friday, I’ve reached out to Tracy and am considering my options for being a vendor listed on WeddingInviteLove. I’m debating the free or pay-per-month options and I may need to retake some photos to include on the site, but well, I’m moving and glad to have made the connection!
Later that evening, the photographer, Stephanie Haller came up to me and told me she heard I make stationery and that we should talk. At the time, I thought, great, a photographer contact, awesome! But over the weekend, I went to her website and took a look at her website and fell in love. Her photography is awesome. If I ever get married, I’m hiring her. As a matter of fact, I’m hiring her to take pictures of everything! I contacted her today, after seeing the photos she took from the event (and that I’ve shared in this post), about taking photos of my wedding invitation designs and of professional photos of me. The photo of me listening to the speakers is possibly my favorite of them all (see below).
The speakers that night were all inspirational and some were better than others. In four minutes they had to each talk about their business and raising funding. While I am yet to reach the “funding” arena, it was great to hear how all these women had reached their goals. One woman talked about persistence and optimism, two things that I am a fan of. Another woman, talked about making stuff up even when you don’t know the answers. Her exact phrasing was along the lines of, don’t ever look like you don’t know, just make it up and act like you do. We may have been laughing at her statement in the photo above. Lastly, we heard from Amanda Steinberg from DailyWorth. While I didn’t find her presentation as inspiring, it was incredible to be feet away from an incredible entrepreneur who really showed off her worth. She focused more on being able to approach investors in a confident and purposeful manner, where as the other ladies instead focused on their experiences and what they’ve learned from them. All in all, they were worth my 16 minutes of listening.
I’m looking forward to future events with Women 2.0. I am also looking forward to more networking opportunities. I have found in this small business sea, as I captain my ship, entrepreneur, that what I value the most are the connections I make and the relationships I foster. Women 2.0 is definitely helping me and I’m glad to be a part of such a great group of strong and decisive women rocking the socks off the business world.
I did not mean to wave the feminist flag of “I am woman here me roar” here, but I do think it is important that women stick together and genuinely learn from each other. If we all approached relationships and life in this way, we’d really rule the world in ways more than we already do.
I highly encourage everyone to sign up for Women 2.0.
I also highly suggest you check out Stephanie Haller Photography-woman has got skills(!) and there are many more photos of the event to see along with some gorgeous weddings.
Some other favorites: If you’re a bride, check out WeddingInviteLove
If you’re a woman who rides your bicycle, check out Nona Varando’s Performance Fashion. I met her at this event and she wore this stunning jacket top that she made and was once part of her collection. I don’t like to bike, but I would consider splurging on one of her pieces and wearing it always!
Ah, and there is Alexandra, the young woman we talked to most of the night. She’s great and she wants to help women navigate their world and the real world more balanced. She has some great ideas and a blog full of food that makes my mouth water. Check her out!