Stephanie Tsuru is the founder of SheSpace, a work and meeting place where women can find community, support and grow their dreams. As baMa’s #changingthecolorsofinvestment event with SheSpace approaches, we have talked with her about women in the innovation ecosystem, their struggles and challenges and some advices to face them.
IN: Why did Shespace come to life?
For many reasons we wanted to create a space where women could improve their use of time and space, to work differently and more efficiently. This expands to how women live. It is possible to live in a more efficient way, merging work, and personal life by surrounding women’s workspace with the things they need to accomplish in their daily routine. This allows women to put time back into time impoverished life. At SheSpace women from all backgrounds find a myriad of alternatives to working, having meetings or events.
We have offices, private desks or our vibrant community space with a coffee-shop-vibe. At our facility, women can find whatever they need in their lives to be more productive and successful. Another great attraction to a female focused space is women enjoy the freedom of working and interacting without being judged or in fear of pushback from male colleagues. Women flourish in spaces where they can say what they feel, wear what they wish and know that the woman down the hall will support her through challenges and obstacles.
Additionally, there are dozens of women organizations in Houston, but networking solely within their own network. We believe that having a space to cross-network is necessary, so we are addressing improving the way we network as well.
IN: What type of community can female founders find in SheSpace?
Female founders regardless of the industry they are in, have similar personal traits: they are passionate, ambitious, and tenacious. Part of what they need is support and they can achieve this by being be connected to like-minded women. At SheSpace they find this community, and support because there is an implicit understanding of what they have been through and continue to go through daily. The struggles and triumphs run parallel.
IN: At baMa we are holding a campaign #changingthecolrosofinvestment to raise awareness about the importance of female leaders and founders, why is it important to have female founders?
Being a founder is not for the faint of heart. It is tough and very hard work. Women are well-equipped to prosper and succeed in this environment, however, there is still a gender gap in the start-up community. Supporting Female Founders is our one of our priorities at SheSpace. We are chock full of Female Founders representing at last count 12 countries. All women find a community here. baMa and Shespace are clearly both working on building a diverse community, which is why our partnering is so powerful.
IN: Do women face extra challenges when they want to create a business?
Without a doubt, but I think that the scale is starting to tip in the other direction. We think women get more support in small businesses than in large corporate settings. And women supporting women allows women-owned small businesses to get further faster.
We have come a long way, but there is still much to do, but women supporting women will make the change happen. Contrary to the myth, women do support women, and work well together.
IN: How can we change the current trend?
Women supporting women is a huge step. Support comes from developing your relationships and from growing and cementing connections. It is all about connections and building relationships, and we must learn how to find them and nourish them. That is why at SheSpace we are so excited to partner with some of the most amazing women leaders and businesses in Houston. This is how the change will come and come with certainty and speed.
IN: What can SheSpace add to building up this more inclusive ecosystem?
The priority is support and assistance regardless of what women business owners need. Whether they need funding, marketing or leadership development, SheSpace is equipped to isolate the problem and find the solution. This usually begins with the finding the funding.
IN: What can you say to women that may be wanting to start a new business but are afraid?
The idea of women being risk-aversive is not true. What I share with younger women or women thinking of starting a business is don’t think for a second that female founders, the women that came before you were not afraid. We have simply learned to conquer the fear and how to be comfortable with the unknown. I will advise women entrepreneurs to figure out the steps and then conquer the fear of taking the next step. Who cares if women have more challenges? The success when it comes is going to be evermore so rewarding.
IN:Have you got any advice for female founders that need to attract venture capitalists or investors to start their businesses?
It comes down to preparing a good business plan, anticipating the questions that will be asked, analysing the data while doing a lot of research. If you do not think creating a solid business plan is your forte, get help. You can find great women that can mentor, and coach you because they want other women to succeed. Definitely, a good business plan is crucial, and to view it as an hypothesis because it doesn’t always work out as planned. Be flexible, answer the questions and be comfortable standing up to the scrutiny.
IN: How does pattern recognition in the entrepreneur world affect the lack of women-owned companies?
I do not think it is any different than other factors that affect women in companies and the entrepreneurship world. Everything affects us more; it cannot be singled out because of society. Pattern recognition is just another barrier that we must break while changing society. There is movement, so I am more encouraged than discouraged.
IN: What do you want to see happening at baMa this year?
baMa is headed uphill quickly, and I want baMa to find the gritty and hardworking women that really needs them to succeed. Women are sharp and have marvellous ideas, but the funding gap and lack of education in how to address funding opportunities, in the sense of where to go to get the funding, still needs to be addressed. I am excited for baMa, SheSpace and women in general.
Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa