Maria Maso, founder and CEO of baMa and Stephanie Tsuru, cofounder of SheSpace have talked about the challenges that women face in the business and innovation ecosystem, while giving some personal advice on how to overcome them.
The event was a total success with more than 40 people gathered in the in-person and Facebook live event hosted at SheSpace. The audience, mostly females and from diverse backgrounds, had the chance to network and speak to incredible founders, entrepreneurs and investors that attended the event. Additionally the event was sponsored by Brendal Boral Angency. To Brenda Boral and the whole team we are forever grateful for making possible such event.
baMa was born due to the impact that innovation was having in Maria’s personal life. She saw that it was changing the lives of her kids and that she should invest in innovative ideas. While she tried to this, she saw that she did not find diverse start-ups where she “could put in the capital and influence the future of my kids.” The Association has currently got 40 members that may be pro-investors and VCs or have little experience with early-stage investment, but they “all find a community”, added Maria Maso.
SheSpace’s founder, Stephanie Tsuru, was interested in mentoring and coaching while networking. She saw that there was a real need of creating a place to gather and grow into a cross-networking arena. Her co-founder Katie Tsuru was discouraged by the “inequities with women in corporate settings.” Therefore, together they wanted to “break the myth of women not supporting women, and in fact they do work well together” as Stephanie explained. The company has about 80+ members and “anyone is eligible for the education given at SheSpace talks and people can be connected to the subject matter experts” Stephanie further explained.
Speaking about the challenges that SheSpace encountered, Tsuru explained that “it came together quite smoothly because the time was right and there had never been more women entrepreneurs.” The main obstacle was finding the funding for other women. Personally, Stephanie Tsuru had trouble “finding women to look up to and to have as role models because there weren’t many.” Fortunately, nowadays there are experienced businesswomen who can share their experiences and help out younger and newer women to the ecosystem.
Maria Maso found it challenging when she stopped working to focus fully on her family. Nevertheless, stop working in a corporate setting, showed that that job wasn’t meant for her, “I realised I wanted to be an entrepreneur.” The whole pandemic was a challenge for baMa which was born just 4 days before. However, the pandemic, showed the importance of educating. Therefore, the Diversity Investor Academy was also born: “to educate whoever wanted to learn about early-stage investment”, stated Maso. With approachable online courses and personalised courses with institutions such as the Houston Community College and La Cámara de Empresarios Latinos, DiA wants to make education valuable and easy to consume.
Brenda Boral, the moderator intervened when talking about building a support system. Women supporting women does not always happened and to encourage women a good network and education are needed. “Women are beginning to be interested in investing and growing businesses” highlighted Maria. Additionally, having the right community is vital as Maria Maso told the audience, “ambitious people that pushed me to go forward, so I will advise everybody to surround themselves with people with different capabilities that will help you.”
If, as a women, you are struggling to begin a business or to learn how to invest in companies, baMa’s CEO gave three advices: “Know who you are and where you want to go while being yourself, start networking by looking into the community and be ready for the No and the flaws because not always is going to go everything smoothly and perfect.” SheSpace founder, Stephanie Tsuru added that women must “get used to making mistakes and open up to failure, conquer the fear and step out.” Moreover, she that to make a real change, women need to “stop using excuses due to the fear, and lack of confidence.” The fear and lack of confidence can lead to an imposter syndrome, so Stephanie recommended to the audience that “it is about changing the mindset: you are going to make it.”
How does an entrepreneur now what is a good business idea? For Stephanie “the right idea comes at the right time, we did research and settled our mind into SheSpace.” Maria, contrary to Stephanie, has a laptop with a list of ideas and then she tends to share the thoughts, talk about it to a lot of different people, and “ go through maturation process.”
One of the attendees had a question regarding the red flags of investing in a company. For Maria one of the main things that baMa looks up is the team because “in early-stage the ideas can change but the entrepreneur and the team have to be strong to survive the changing of plans.” Additionally, when “somebody comes in telling me that they have no competitors and that they are the best in the market, we don’t believe it and they demonstrate poor making skills” added Maria. Andre Course, one of the attendees, investor and advisory board member at baMa, added that the two red flag are when the candidates that are pitching get very defensive or aren’t honest, exaggerating or blatantly lie about other investors interest in their companies.
Another question asked by the public, was how to start connecting with people when you are new in a city. Maria responded that you need to find out the right community, while “looking for organisations of support and attending different events such as the Houston Rodeo Week.” Stephanie added that spaces such as SheSpace try to make the integration better and quicker because there are women from all backgrounds and ones that are new to Houston. She also suggested that it is key to “go to a lot of different places, making yourself known to other people.”
At the end of the talk, all the attendees were invited to know SheSpace, had a wonderful lunch and the ability to network and connect with amazing founders, investors and interesting women in the ecosystem.
Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa