"Daring to be successful" - Four exceptional women entrepreneurs share their inspiring stories
Last April 12, 'HEC Paris au Féminin' and Yale Women teamed up to host the "Exceptional Women Entrepreneurs" conference. Four outstanding women shared their extraordinary journeys in the most genuine way at London’s Lansdowne Club - the first club in the city to have accepted both women and men as members since 1935 - in front of an audience of 60 determined women.
There was just one man in attendance at the conference - Ludovic Blanc. An HEC alumnus, Founder and CEO of BLANC, co-founder of the entrepreneurs network Start Me Up in 2012, Ludovic was acting as the conference’s moderator. He is currently leading the effort to create HEC’s own Entrepreneurship Hub in the UK.
Audacious start-up profiles, from Australia to Paris
The event’s four speakers had no connections to each other, but demonstrated great complicity and passion right from the beginning of the conference.
HEC alumna Laetitia Puyfaucher is the founder of Pelham Media Ltd, an editorial communication group she launched 16 years ago, which currently employs 65 people. Today one of the leaders of the field, the company groups together three agencies: WordAppeal, L’Éclaireur and KCO.
Margaret Milan is an entrepreneur who grew up in the UK and has lived in France for over 30 years. She founded Eveil & Jeux (now Oxybul), the leading French e-commerce site and retailer of educational toys later sold to Fnac. Today she is on the board of two mid-sized firms and accompanies several start-ups in the consumer arena.
Pip Jamieson founded The Dots, which, with over 11 000 clients, is considered as the Linkedin for the creative industries. Named as one of Australia's top female entrepreneurs, Pip has spent the last 13 years immersed in creative industries.
Alice Shyy is a founder of Giggypop, a website offering to build sustainable connections at remarkable events. She graduated from Yale and Cambridge with humanities and social science degrees, and learned nothing directly vocational, not that that stopped her launching her own company!
What it takes to build a start-up being a woman
"Perseverance" was the word used most often to describe a woman entrepreneur’s road to success during the conference. Founder of Pelham Media Ltd Laetitia Puyfaucher repeatedly compared the journey to a marathon, highlighting the numerous failures along the way, beginning with the classic 50/5” when raising funds from investors.
Emphasizing the importance of perseverance, Pip Jamieson, founder of Dots, explained how important it is for an entrepreneur to be fully passionate about her product. Another factor playing a major role according to Pip is real-life experience:"“you need real-life experience, otherwise you are not going to solve real-life problems".
Where to launch your start-up
According to Margaret Milan, founder of Eveil & Jeux, people’s mindsets have really shifted: “In Paris, right now, everyone is an entrepreneur. Now, it is really considered as something cool”. However, according to her, becoming an entrepreneur was much easier 20 years ago, because there wasn’t that much competition at the time.
On the other hand, Pip Jamieson, explained her Australian experience, qualifying entrepreneurship in Australia as easy, because of the current lack of real competition in the country.
Laetitia, Pip, Alice and Margaret agreed on one point: London is a great place to launch a start-up.
A word still dominated by men
When it comes to equality, the landscape is still not bright when launching a start-up as a woman. “It’s still a man’s world, the money is still where the men are. 50 years on, the dialogue needs to be much more diverse.” - said Margaret Milan.
Raising money as a woman was described as a difficult and painful experience by the speakers.
However, Margaret Eveil, who founded the PWN association (Professional Women’s Network), a dynamic networking and leadership development platform for public and private sector executive and professional women, explained the importance of female dialogue, "which has brought a lot over the years".
To make a start-up work, adaptation seems to be the key secret. Laetitia Puyfaucher added that one should never rest on her laurels: “You never stop being an entrepreneur as you constantly need to adapt to the ever changing world”.
Even if entrepreneurship as a woman does not seem like an easy task, Laetitia, Margaret, Pip and Alice all confirmed that they would all do it all over again if they had to go back in time.
Finally, the four audacious women entrepreneurs closed the conference with the famous tagline: "Just do it"!