Entrepreneurs – Where would we be without us?
Two weeks ago, 686 entrepreneurs and 298 venture capitalists from around the world descended upon Silicon Valley to celebrate the 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES). In forty-eight hours President Barak Obama, Facebook CEO & Founder Mark Zuckerberg, Brian Chesky, CEO & Co-Founder of AirBNB, Tesla Board member & strategic consultant Laurie Yoler, and many more of the Who’s Who in the entrepreneurial global startup stage shared their stories of entrepreneurship.
It was an honor to be one of 187 attendees from the United States. Over 170 countries were represented. Solar power, funding startups in some of the poorest countries around the world, and creating ecosystems that foster businesses that lift communities and nations were among topics discussed. It is through networking, funding, and mentoring that helps build sustainable bridges over borders and across oceans.
President Obama addressed the global challenges and the importance of communication with global leaders. but his main message is that our world is small. We are not autonomous and therefore should not function as such.
My co-founder of The Indiana Conference for Women, Deborah Collins Stephens, recalls when she moved to California after graduating from IU, Silicon Valley was nothing more than an apricot farm. It is here that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard launched a global economy from a garage. And it is here that nearly one thousand people amassed to celebrate entrepreneurism some four decades later.
It is entrepreneurs that change the world. Ideas create disruption. This disruption inspires, empowers, and fosters economic growth. What is incredible is that most ideas for major disruption of industries originate from someone on the outside. Brian Chesky, the CEO of AirBNB does not come from a hospitality background. Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, wasn’t a taxi driver – he just wanted a ride.
I offer these two examples because each of these companies are tremendously well-known across the globe and are both service-based models that help others. The company I started is service-based.
As a Past President and CEO of NAWBO National, and as Past President of NAWBO of Central Indiana, our focus is on networking and coming together to help one another. We lift one another up, not climb over them on the way to the top. A friend of mine, Susan Shapiro Barash, wrote a marvelous book, Tripping The Prom Queen. This book illustrates the ugliness of female rivalry and how and why we need to step away from competitiveness. The focus should be on collaboration. A rising tide raises all ships – this is not accomplished by shoving someone off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. Susan presented at one of our breakout sessions last year at The Indiana Conference for Women. She should be an annual speaker, for her message is an indelible one that all women should take to heart.
The reason why Deborah Collins Stephens and I created the conference was for the sole purpose of creating an ecosystem for female entrepreneurs to collaborate. Holistically helping one another so that we are all successful is the fastest route to facilitating profound change. Connections, introductions, networking – this is where the magic happens.
As I began my business as a single mom, but most importantly – as a woman, I could not get the funding I needed to scale my business. As a service-based company in the health industry, it was virtually impossible to get a loan due to being a service-based business. I used this experience to lobby for change at the state level.
These same challenges of attaining funding for entrepreneurs face women and men locally and in developing nations. President Obama stated that over half of the world’s population is under the age of 30. It is the responsibility of those of us with the means, connections, and the knowledge to mentor these younger generations.
Mark Zuckerberg said, “Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just creating companies. And the most effective entrepreneurs who I’ve met care deeply about some mission and some change that they’re trying to create. And often they don’t even start because they’re trying to create a company.”
As entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, we need to foster collaboration in order to create better communities, cities, states, and countries. It is through these means that economic development happens at truly meaningful levels.
Billie Dragoo, CEO, Founder & President of RepuCare and The Indiana Conference for Women. Dragoo also serves in many advocacy leadership roles.