Female Founders Day at LuminaryVicky G Creative
A little healthy competition never hurts, but comparison is harmful to progress. I recognize there is a desire to categorize a startup and tick off boxes to define a business model, but I have also noticed the rising trend of comparing different businesses and the female founders leading them. From subscription boxes (like MM.LaFleur to Stitch Fix) to the surge of wellness and boutique fitness brands, the press and investor communities often compare different women-led ventures. There is a growing movement to support women-owned, led and founded businesses, but we also need to take a stance to stop comparing female founders and leaders. We are leading different companies with different visions and there is more than enough room for all of us to succeed.
I’m a first-time entrepreneur and founded Luminary, a collaboration space and community for women. People often compare it to other co-working spaces as well as various women’s clubs and compare me to other female founders. Why the immediate comparison? I encounter this inclination to put one business against the other pretty regularly. It’s usually their first question once I tell them what I do. People ask how I will take on and outpace other spaces, when will I expand, how do I feel competing against other women in this space. It’s a broader problem that female founders and leaders are talking about. I recently spoke with Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Founder and CEO of LIVELY, who described being asked on a regular basis about competition. Often, I am asked, who is my competition in our space. Who's gaining/losing market share? Whether it’s the incumbents, the latest to launch, or a company just two years ahead, the question is constantly raised. Who is the “winner?
These are the wrong questions to ask, but it’s easier to foster competition than collaboration and innovation. And what about meeting the demand from the consumer? Cordeiro Grant agreed, “In my opinion, the focus should not be about who I am taking market share from, but more so how are we changing our space? How are we giving customers and communities better options? How are we creating products for women, with the actual women in mind? And thereby, not just spreading market share to a more diversified group, but also creating market share in a category that should be loved. The intimates space in the United States alone is estimated to be over $13 billion. By shifting the emphasis from competition to truly improving the customer experience, we can create diversity in this sector and scale the intimates category (which is one of the most profitable and stable categories in the apparel space) even further. For us, if the consumer wins, we win.
It's hard to escape the constant comparisons in the media, as stories pit our businesses (and each other) against one another. I've found it beyond frustrating when people pit women against each other and even more disheartening when women fiercely attack other women. Why the sharp elbows? We need to encourage women to work together. There’s plenty of room at the table for all of us, our businesses and our ideas.
Collaboration over competitionVicky G Creative
Pitting women founders against each other is a competition game because we don't compare male founders or leaders in the same way. Ramona Ortega, cofounder and CEO of My Money My Future, a personal finance platform for Millennials, agreed with this sentiment, The market overall is demanding more authentic and curated brands across products. This demand creates more opportunity for all companies, but especially for female founders. In industries like financial services and tech we so see many companies led by men going after the same market, which doesn't seem to be an issue for them to obtain funding or grow. Essentially you don't see the male founders/leaders fighting over the market, they understand that at the end of the day the pie is big enough.”
The best way to lead on this issue is through action. There are more than enough women out there to advance and support. I think increasingly more women are eager to work together to practice what we preach. I’m a member of the Female Founder Collective, a network of women-led businesses created by Rebecca Minkoff, that supports women and empowers female-owned businesses to positively impact our communities, socially and economically. This growing community signals that women are tired of the feisty competition and want to work together as well as buy from one another, putting our dollars behind other women-led or owned companies. The Women's Cocktail Collective, a group of more than 10 women-led or owned spirits companies, is doing something similar, banding together to support the growth and success of women-owned businesses in the space.
We need more initiatives and founders that spotlight community and collaboration and encourage women-owned businesses to thrive, stirring a broader movement to put dollars towards these businesses. Let's make room for everyone at the table so that we can all succeed as well as our businesses.