"Seeing" Female Social Entrepreneurs

A genuine answer to Teju’s genuine question: “Where are all the Women?”

Each of us encounters more information in every moment of everyday life than we can possibly consciously process. So, as a natural survival mechanism, we developed ways to skim information, pick out the important bits and let the rest fade into the background. To recognize examples (and non-examples) of things, we form “schemas” for them.

So, when we’re looking for apples, objects that are elongated…or orange…or metallic…are automatically (efficiently) rejected. These schemas save us enormous amounts of time. In fact, individuals unable to form them are usually unable to function in society.

But what happens when something contradicts our schemas?

Barring some kind of conscious effort, we simply don’t see them. They don’t register as members of the set we’re looking for. With conscious effort we can get past the double-takes, and reconcile the mismatch with a conscious exception–that often comes out in language (eg. “male nurse.”)

Women simply don’t fit most people’s schema of the entrepreneur–so when they look around for entrepreneurs, they see men. (Case in point: GOOD magazine writes about the innovative Thrust Fund, and calls Kjerstin Erikson a man.)

Perhaps it’s because women place greater value on teams and networks and tend to exhibit less of the “charismatic lone wolf” leadership style we’ve come to expect from entrepreneurs. Perhaps it’s because the organizations they lead tend to experience less of the financial volatility and drama we associate with entrepreneurship. Perhaps it’s just good old-fashioned sexism.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that despite their under-representation in research, funding and the media, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of female social entrepreneurs out there working for sustainable social change–and doing a bang-up job of it.

It’s time we all learned to “see” them.

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6 Tips for Choosing a Domain Name

How to boost traffic, improve SEO, and prepare for growth from day one.

1. Connect the Dots: Some companies tack on an attractive up-sell that includes obscure extensions like .me, .info, .biz, and more. Keep in mind that most users default to .com when searching/working online (a fact that should influence the purchases of .org non-profits and social ventures). Most organizations will do fine purchasing the top three variants of their domain.

2. Say That 5 Times Fast: Face it, typos are a way of life. And American spelling and grammar proficiency isn’t getting any better. Try typing (or having a few friends type) your domain name several times quickly. Make note of the most common miss-spellings or typing mistakes and purchase several of those domain variants to redirect to your site. [We purchased tipingbucket.org, for example]

3. Read Twice, Register Once: In a similar vein, be sure to say your chosen domain name out loud a few times before pulling the trigger. Better yet, have a few people unfamiliar with your venture read it back to you. [click here to laugh at some people who apparently skipped this step.]

4. Scale with Sub-domains: Remember that you can build out a site structure within any given domain. [blog.tippingbucket.org means that you don’t have to buy dropsinthebucket.org or tippingbucketblog.org, for example]

5. Reach for Re-directs: If another organization already owns an extension variant of your domain (for instance, tippingbucket.com – rain gauges, not world-changing) reach out to the owners and suggest a mutual re-direct; “If you need the kind that measures rainfall, click here.”

6. Cash in on Coupons: This one’s easy—a simple search will almost always turn up discount codes for whatever domain registry you choose to work with. You’re a startup–take advantage.

Social Venture Startup: Lessons Learned(?)

Had some fun with a presentation for a group of students at BYU last night.

For those who don’t have 4 whole minutes, or who just find my voice annoying, here’s a quick recap:

Be Social.

This isn’t referring to some sort of holistic life balance—since I obviously haven’t figured that one out. I’m talking here about the social life you give your idea.

When something truly innovative and exciting takes root in us, a lot of people have this really counter-intuitive reaction to protect it, to be afraid to share it, to put it out in the world. Trust me. I did this. All it took was one person asking me “what’s to stop Causes from just implementing this next week?” and I panicked. I deleted the blog post I’d put up about TB, I didn’t attend any of the social venture competition networking events. I really guarded that idea.

And I regret it.

Talk to people. Share with them, ask for feedback, let your idea have a life. The chance of someone actually stealing it is a tiny price to pay for what you’ll gain by talking to people.

The second way I would tell you to be social is to purposefully engage with social media. That means you have to get beyond Facebook stalking  You don’t have to produce a lot of content, probably the best thing you can do is listen to other people, and then let them know that you’re listening in meaningful ways.

And, if you haven’t figured out Twitter yet. You need to. Period. Let me just say that I the two most lucrative and beneficial connections I have made to date both happened through Twitter. You’re missing out if you don’t get it yet.

Double-Dip at Every Opportunity

Second piece of advice is to double dip whenever you can. Please don’t apply this at parties—that’s not what I mean…
I just mean that you should find ways to get credit for your work. Better yet, find a way to get paid for it. If you can’t make the things you’re doing that you’re passionate about fit into your studies, your work, etc. it may be time to change your major/job. There’s a lot more flexibility to the academic system than most students take advantage of.

“They’re more like guidelines anyway…”

Speaking of flexibility. Your business plan is a working document. Remember that.

Use ALL the resources that are available to you to get ideas, mercilessly edit your own work, and perhaps most importantly, do everything you can to get things as concrete as possible—the numbers you need are out there. And if you carefully track both your sources and your assumptions, you’ll be much better able to adapt when things come along and change your plan—and trust me, they will.

Oh, and remember to put your contact information in your business plan. We got all the way through the competition without catching that little detail.

ASK!

The last thing is to ask for help. There are people out there just waiting to get excited about your idea and jump on board. Open your mouths. My favorite question has become “what would it take to get this for free?” After getting into a few $1500 conferences in exchange for a few hours manning the registration desk (an awesome networking opportunity anyway!) I ask this question all the time now.

You’ll be surprised what you can get.

Tipping Bucket Baby Pictures: 6 Months

This is a quick snapshot of some of what’s happened since May.

Since the SVC:
Miles flown – 39,564
Nights spent in airports – 12
Conferences attended – 5
Presentations given – 8
Business cards distributed – 262
Thank-you notes written – 65
Project partners invited – 11
Partnerships negotiated – $158,500 (approx)
Bones broken – 2

I’ve LONG since lost track of hours spent on things like web-design or re-working financials or just trying to figure out what order to do things in. And I’ve long since lost track of the number of people who have helped and encouraged me in various ways…but I guess we know it’s at least 65…and I’m behind on thank-you notes, by the way.

There is, of course another way to look at the last 6 months.

Since the SVC:
Websites launched – 0
Applications launched – 0
Donations processed – $0
Buckets tipped – 0

…somehow I don’t get the same feeling from this one. They tell you that it always takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you think it will. They’re wrong. So far I’m thinking it’s more like 3-5 times as long.

But we have made some significant progress. And with the momentum from the past several months, we’re realistically looking at a launch in the next 90 days. Stay tuned!