Ashley Yesayan has good reason to believe in the power of community. After a cancer diagnosis, she created a support network by developing an online village to help fellow cancer patients.
The founder and CEO of RealLIST Startups honorable mention OneVillage similarly believes in the capacity for women to support and uplift one another through intentional community-building.
“After seeing the power of the old boy’s network, I wanted to create an authentic and powerful community for women to collaborate and help each other,” she told Technical.ly.
As part of this effort, Yesayan last month hosted 15 women at a gathering at her house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The convening and attendees included lawyers, doctors, consultants, investors and founders. For several of these attendees, the event offered space to establish connections, networks and personal bonds that they understood as reflective of their own lived experiences.
Shaara Roman, Founder and CEO at The Silverene Group, a boutique culture and management consulting firm in Arlington, applauds Yesayan for creating such a welcoming and thoughtful space for women to gather. Having lived and worked in both India and Nigeria, she understands the importance of such community-building among peers that, despite their differences, are unified by a goal of collective support.
“[I believe] in women supporting each other, especially since we have all been lifted up by women that we have worked with,” she said.
At another, late-February gathering celebrating female entrepreneurs at the Anacostia Arts Center, Elise Smith, founder of Winnie’s Bakery in Columbia, Maryland, spoke about turning her passion into a business and the power of community.
“Community is everything. The Black, culinary and female communities consist of people in your corner, people who recommend you for jobs and advise you on what grants to apply for,” said Smith.
Another attendee of the Anacostia gathering, founder Candy Schibli of Southeastern Roastery Coffee in Baltimore, reflected on the challenges and opportunities in her unlikely journey from working as an engineer to starting her own coffee company.
“It is challenging to be a female founder in the coffee industry,” she said. “I deal a lot with logistics and trucking companies, and I am often in male-dominated environments.
To deal with the stress of being a female founder, Schibli focuses on building relationships to foster trust, and practices meditation and mindfulness.
Yesayan, Roman, Smith and Schibli are examples of women entrepreneurs contributing to the startup ecosystem and building relationships as they build successful companies. They are finding ways to build community and support each other, whether through speaking at panels or hosting gatherings. The transformational power of connection can open doors and lead to more opportunities and friendships, as their words attest.
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