8 Entrepreneurs on Success, Self-Confidence, and Creating a Community of Women
"Our intent is to manifest a space for women to connect, collaborate, and create," describes Temi Adamolekun, a member of our MyDomaine Mums Facebook group who opened Radiant Workspace, a co-working space for women in San Francisco. "We feel our timing, given the current climate, could not be better," she observes. Since its launch last year, Radiant Workspace has become a regular site for networking events and workshops and serves as a creative hub where women gather to build business relationships and friendships and to share stories and ideas. "We're here to support female entrepreneurs as much as we can, to empower the diverse community, and to change our little patch of the world, one empowered woman at a time," pledges Adamolekun. She had been organising networking events for business-owning mothers for the past two years, so launching Radiant was a natural next step.
The inspiring space was designed by Adamolekun's husband, Tobi, with whom she co-founded Radiant. They created partnerships with a team of talented women-run business and female artists to achieve their design objectives for the workspace. "The goal was to create a welcoming, serene, and subtly feminine space with abundant natural light where women could find the headspace to get some work done, have meetings, meet each other, and build community," explains Adamolekun. In the roundtable discussion below, women from the Radiant Workspace community sound off on success, self-confidence, and the importance of supporting fellow women.
How do you feel the power of the collective can work to empower us as women?
TEMI ADAMOLEKUN, CO-FOUNDER OF RADIANT WORKSPACES: The idea that by sharing space we can capture and harness the collective creative energy of like-minded women is not necessarily new, but it seems more important now than ever. Contrary to the widespread notion of female competitiveness, my experience as a female entrepreneur in San Francisco has been entirely supportive. We all benefit when we raise each other up. The power of the female collective in a productive atmosphere has already proved to be connective, creative, collaborative, and fundamentally empowering.
KATIE HINTZ-ZAMBRANO, CO-FOUNDER OF MOTHERMAG.COM; FOUNDER OF IN GOOD COMPANY: There's a quote by Leymah Gbowee, "When women gather, great things will happen." I totally believe that, and I've seen it work in wonderful ways in my own life. First off, in my massive mums' group, which I started with a friend five years ago, we have seen such incredible support through our network of 450+ women—a constant cheerleading of each other's projects, if you will, and many of us becoming the core customers of other mums' businesses. We've heard from a few women that by seeing the examples laid out in our club, they were emboldened to make the jump and inspired to start their own businesses. As an editor and journalist, I've always been focused on supporting other women's businesses through key press placements and also employing other women as photographers, writers, etc. and helping them have a platform to build up their portfolios. It's really a snowball effect once you start a tiny network and community of women, organise various get-togethers, and just watch as the circle grows, everyone helping each other reach their various goals, empowering everyone both creatively and financially.
VANESSA BLAIKIE, CO-OWNER AND CO-DIRECTOR OF ROMER YOUNG GALLERY: I have been reading Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book to my older son, and I find the wolf pack's mantra to be incredibly apropos: "For the strength of the pack is the wolf; and the strength of the wolf is the pack." We used to live as more of a collective, but increasingly it seems we have been moving toward a self-centered society. With this as the possible trajectory, I believe collectives are more important than ever. For one, they have the power to offer a framework for the work that we are each doing individually. With so many women doing so many interesting things, it's empowering to feel connected and to feel that we each play a meaningful part in the movement toward a greater good. I also think the opportunity for women to connect with one another professionally and exchange ideas, insight, and counsel is an emboldening thing. There is real magic and genius in the collective spirit.
How do you feel this dialogue can open up more opportunity for women in all backgrounds and industries?
ERIN HIEMSTRA, FOUNDER OF APARTMENT34: Women already have a challenging time advancing in traditional workplaces—women of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ women have an even tougher mountain to climb. But the only way to foster change is to openly and honestly acknowledge these challenges, identify biases and work against them in a transparent and intentional manner. When you create spaces that have this as a forward-thinking intention, you're already one step ahead of the game.
KELLY KANG, SENIOR BROKER ASSOCIATE AT CLIMB REAL ESTATE: In just one example of a meetup held at Radiant Workspaces, we welcomed a group of 30+ mums who were considering career changes. We were able to connect two women who filled a need for each other and in that same meeting encourage so many others to seek out careers that fit their lifestyles. As a woman who has already made the shift from a corporate job to a more "lifestyle career," it was great to be surrounded by others who have found a way to make this transition and to speak to those still seeking this type of change. It was also a great reminder that in this social and political climate, there are like-minded women who believe we work not just to support our families, but to set an example for future generations of women.
PHYLLIS TIMOLL, HOLISTIC HEALTH COACH AT WELL WOMAN: In my work as a holistic health coach I support mums to focus on self-care, self-love, and balance through dietary and lifestyle changes. So much of my work is simply listening to what my clients have to say and giving them the space to communicate. From that space comes ideas, clarity, and action steps toward real change in their lives. As women, we need to know that there is space and that it is safe. There is power that comes from hearing another person's story and it can start a ripple effect toward change. Dialogue opens the door to this opportunity. Validating women's roles both personally and professionally is nourishing to the soul. It's like Maya Angelou once said, "Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possible, without claiming it, she stands up for all women"
What about your working environment has a positive impact on your working day?
TA: Radiant Workspaces was born out of my experience as an entrepreneur without an office. After a few months, coffee shop meetings with unpredictable seating, noise levels and varying degrees of internet connections stopped feeling professional. I looked at other co-working spaces, but they felt too large and corporate and I wanted something more calmer and more inviting with a community that spoke to me. The environments we create for ourselves have so much impact on every part of our being, far beyond just the professional. There is magic in the combination of physical space and community and the social innovation it can spark. Every day, the collective of women brainstorm existing ideas, create new collaborations and sometimes we just hang out and make new friends.
VB: I love that the work environment at Radiant Workspaces is open and inviting both aesthetically and professionally. It's radiant, full of light, thoughtful, inclusive, and inspiring—and I say this about the physical space as much as I do about the incredible women who fill it. Sharing space alongside women working in totally different fields from my own is an invaluable experience. It helps contextualise and give meaning to the work I am doing, and it's exciting to know that the women next to me are working equally mindfully to a different end.
EH: As a mum of a toddler, just taking my "office" off my dining table and out into the world was an empowering step. Differentiation between your work life and your home life is both much healthier and very motivating. Now that I have a dedicated work space to go to each day, I have much easier time shutting off and being present when I'm at home.
How does having a supportive community fuel our personal and professional lives?
REBECCA FARRAR, ASTROLOGER: For me, it is the base of my well-being. I evaluate the success of my life based on the success of my relationships and how connected I feel to others.
ALANA RIVERA, CEO OF ETTA + BILLIE: I know that I would not be where I am today without my support system. With the help of friends, fellow makers, wholesale partners, my family, and my husband, I've grown so much and learned so much about myself since I started my business. I can bounce ideas off my business group, get feedback, or commiserate. With friends and family, they help lift me up, keep me sane, and are there with a glass of wine when things might not be going the way I'd like. I'm not sure I could make it without my community.
PF: Having a supportive community to work through my challenges, celebrate my achievements, and encourage me through the growth spurts in between have been key to feeling fulfilled in my personal and professional spheres. In my practice, everything is interconnected and having a supportive network is a necessary piece of the puzzle. If you haven't already surrounded yourself with people who believe in you without judgment, then it's time to build a new tribe. Do this and watch how differently your dreams will start to play out.
Do you think it's more important once women become mothers? Why or why not?
KK: Yes! Becoming a mother and a working mother comes with its own set of challenges. I've found that having a great community of working mothers to share experiences with has been so important. It's reassuring to know that others have gone through the same or similar experience and have worked through it successfully.
KHZ: There's something about motherhood than can be inherently isolating. And to combat that, community is even more key. Having female friends who understand the insane demands of "the juggle" is imperative. Emotionally, I don't think I could handle the stress of being a parent and a business owner without my community of incredible girlfriends on speed dial.
TA: I grew up in England and one of my biggest concerns with becoming a mother in SF was that being so far from family would be an isolating experience. Fortunately for me, it's proved to be quite the opposite. I have a solid crew of mum friends and we've all supported each other through the wild ride of parenting. Many of my friends are mums who are entrepreneurs and having each other to lean on, through the eye-stinging sleep deprivation of the early days to the unlimited joy of parenting, has completely transformed my experience of being a mother.
What personal differences have you noticed after joining a group like this?
PT: I feel more energised, excited, and ambitious. Each new person I interact with dilutes the fears I have around attaining my professional goals. I cultivate new ideas and strategise ways to incorporate them into my life and work. It's great! Overwhelming at times because I have big goals but still very valuable.
VB: I've made myself a priority again. When Temi started the space, I was reaching the peak of what I like to call my "existential crisis." I have a lot of ground to cover to get back to my stronger, more confident self and a lot of ground to cover exploring my new self. But since joining the group, I have renewed faith in my creative potential and trust that the women around me in this community will give me an honest kick in the ass when I need it, and likewise, a pep talk and a hug if that's what I need more.
KK: The biggest personal difference is the sense of community. Knowing that you're contributing to something greater than yourself and your own business is really nice. And knowing that a small group of other women out there want to see you succeed as much as you want to see them succeed is empowering.
What more can we do to encourage women to believe in themselves and resist the self-defeat button to rise to the top, especially in male-dominated industries?
TA: Create your own definition of what the top means to you. Self-doubt remains present, but step aside and take the shot. Put in the practice, do the research, but don't wait for the perfect time. You'll always regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did and more importantly, keep encouraging women around you to take the shot.
EH: I wish there was a silver bullet for confidence and ultimately success, but really it's a daily slog. Realising up front that we're in for a marathon, not a sprint, helps keep things in perspective. This is particularly true in the male-dominated workspace. That's why finding your tribe is so important. There is often natural camaraderie between men. We need to continue to cultivate that among women. As an entrepreneur, I also try to live by the mantra "comparison is the thief of joy." All you can do is do you to the very best of your ability. I also just heard someone talk about how they try to learn something new each week and teach something to someone else each week. I think that's a wonderful goal. Because if everyone is more successful, that doesn't take anything away from you—it just means that everyone is more successful. No matter what Instagram may make it look like, everyone has struggles, everyone has down days, and everyone suffers from self-doubt.
AR: Create more community, especially a place where there are other women in the same boat and women who have moved toward their goals. Encourage women to listen to themselves. What is it that you want out of your life? What professional and personal goals do you have? Focus on those—that's what matters. Surround yourself with like-minded people who can help lift you up when you have those moments of "I can't do this." Those moments can happen a lot, especially when you're following your passion.
What's your message for other women and mums who want to start their own business but have issues with self-confidence and self-doubt?
RF: Move slowly. It doesn't have to happen overnight. My transition from working for others to working for myself was a three-year process.
KK: My message to these women is to take small steps. You don't have to leap all at once. Just take steps that feel comfortable and keep moving in the direction you want to end up. In one of the examples I mentioned earlier about pairing two women together that met a need for each other, there was a mum who wanted so badly to start her own business. But I could tell she was afraid and not quite there yet. The woman we paired her with happened to have a new startup already working in the same industry and niche. So they were a natural fit. And a great stepping stone for that move to experience startup life and possibly get some mentoring from the business owner while she built her own confidence.
VB: Most of us bump into doubt and struggle with self-confidence at one time or another. And they can be totally immobilising. I stumbled onto a poem several weeks ago that blew my mind—it was so simple, but it spoke to me as though it had come from a very knowing place within me. "Some days I am more wolf than woman, and I am still learning how to stop apologising for my wild." It was a timely reminder for me to just get out there and do it. Challenge and call to action the wild, instinctive, passionate, willful, unrelenting side of my self. Thanks to Nikita Gill, the young London-based visual artist and poet who wrote those words, I'd probably say something like this to other women: Embrace your wolf. Follow your wild. And find your pack. You are a force and you are not alone.