Exclusive Yet Inclusive: Insight from a Female Entrepreneur

Cheryl Robinson of Ivy Startup Conference Shares Her Thoughts on Female Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship (courtesy of Pablo by Buffer)
A guest post by Cheryl A. Robinson

Have you ever evaluated your life and wondered how you got to where you are? There was never any doubt that I would one day run my own business. Ten years ago I couldn’t tell you what that would look like but I knew I wanted to lead a team of people to create something amazing. Fast forward tens years with a Master’s from Columbia University and two LLC’s, and I’ll tell you that the journey has been long and a huge life lesson, but overall, this has been the best experience of my life.

Being an entrepreneur feels exclusive. Exclusive in that you feel alone in the quest to find the right partners, the right co-founders, who believe in a vision just as much as you and compliment your skill set. You are inclusive with everyone that you meet and network with because you never know whether or not that person will be your next partner. I’ve had many attempts at partnerships and new projects/ideas. Ironically enough, all my past partnerships were with men, not because I only sought out male partnerships but the sports industry is predominantly male operated (I have close to 15 years experience in the entertainment world).

The last partnership ended rather abruptly leaving me questioning if the entrepreneurial lifestyle was really for me. As I began to brainstorm my next project I realized I needed to be more exclusive in whom I shared the idea with, but this time I would be inclusive with the people who showed interest in working with me on it. As I started joining startup and entrepreneurial groups, I began to network with more like minded individuals and connected with more females who shared the same mindset as me.

My recent joint venture, the Ivy Startup Conference (ISC), has a vision: to showcase startups and entrepreneurs from the Ivy League circuit to a room full of investors collectively worth over one billion dollars. Not only does ISC have two female founders, but our investor panel is comprised of nearly half females (when only 7 percent, based on the article in TechCrunch, of investing partners at the top 100 venture and micro-venture firms are women).

The old philosophy of ‘because you’re not a man you can’t do this’ is transitioning to ‘as a woman you can choose anything you want to do’. We are on the brink of witnessing history! Not just with our nation potentially experiencing its first woman president but with the increase of female startup founders and investors. Although the current statistics show one view point (Crunchbase reported that in 2014 18% of startups had at least one female founder, and Fortune reported in April of this year that only 5.6% of Venture Capital decision makers were women), every day more and more women are bringing their own visions to fruition.

For a long, long time business was an exclusive boys club with the inclusivity being that you rubbed elbows with the decision makers. Now, women are creating their own exclusivity by partnering up with other women to turn their vision into reality, however, they remain inclusive knowing that by limiting their resources they’re limiting their rate of success; we understand that our success can be correlated to our network (Forbes, 2013 study).

As the next generation of innovators emerge, 67% of millennials have a goal of owning their own business (Forbes, 2014), it’s more about being inclusive with your network and exclusive to all the nay-sayers. As a female entrepreneur, with many female entrepreneur friends, we talk about ideas, collaborations and the excitement around our progress. We lean in. We provide resources, encouragement and support. It’s not 100% equal but we don’t see it as men have more than us, we see it as look how far we’ve come and look how far we’re going.

By being exclusive yet inclusive, the ISC has secured some of the top female investors. Avani Patel (Director, HBS Startup Studio/Founder of Trendseeder - the first fashion-focused accelerator in NYC), Lu Zhang (Founding and managing partner of NewGen Capital), Victoria Yampolsky (President of Compass NYC and The Startup Station), Sue Xu (Investor at Amino Capital) and Jessica Peltz-Zatulove (Partner at KBS Ventures). These women are making waves within the investment world; they are paving the way for future generations of girls that want to make a name for themselves.
Cheryl A. Robinson - Entrepreneur

As I navigate my through the entrepreneurial world, I keep in mind that exclusivity narrows down the list of people who genuinely want to assist in making your vision reality, and inclusivity inspires those who do want to assist to keep grinding.

The ISC is quickly approaching. As people inquire to learn more about the conference I simply explain, “We’re exclusive because we are solely focusing on startups with at least one founder from an Ivy League university, we’re inclusive because we strive to diversify our panelists, audience and participants.”

The more exclusive a business, industry, an event is, the more inclusive it becomes to the people who are able to understand, adjust and function within its system. Being an entrepreneur is exclusive. It’s up to you on how inclusive you want it to be.

About Cheryl A. Robinson

Cheryl holds a Master’s degree in Sports Management from Columbia University. She has over 14 years of event experience within the Sports and Entertainment Industry. She's worked on events ranging from the 2014 NYNJ Super Bowl Committee to a Hollywood children's film festival. Within the last year she started her own events consultant firm, Ready2Roar LLC. 

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