Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Running the Race in High Heels

Entrepreneurial Insight from a Woman’s Perspective
By Joan Koerber-Walker

Years ago, in my BS (before start-up) days, I was on a five-week, round-the world trip with my boss. With a tight transfer between flights at Heathrow, we were racing between terminals and I was falling behind. He had one skimpy hanger-bag on wheels. I was lugging a bulging purse, a laptop, and pulling an 85 pound roller-bag filled with all the tools and resources I would need along the way. He stopped to wait (for the third time) as I huffed and puffed my way up the terminal ramp. When I reached the top, he graciously grabbed the handle of my suitcase. I hopped out of my high heels and snatched them up so we could both dash for that early flight to Munich. The race was on.

So what does that story have to do with women and start-ups? Over lunch one Monday, Marty Zwilling (@StartupPro) and I were discussing his blog post Entrepreneurs: Mars vs. Venus. He had the facts and figures – but would I lend a woman’s perspective and perhaps have a little fun with it? I agreed and here we are.

First and foremost, all woman entrepreneurs are not alike. Generalizations can get you in big trouble. So instead, here are three examples of different woman entrepreneurs that you can get to know on Twitter.

Francine Hardaway (@hardaway@AZEntrepreneurs) is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, and social media maven. A passionate advocate for technology startups, Francine educates, guides, encourages, and connects entrepreneurs between Phoenix and the Silicon Valley. She’s not a schlepper like I am. She travels light between a wide range of projects from PR for established businesses to mentoring at incubators and startups while chronicling her journey across the Twitterverse with iPhone and laptop in tow. After over 40 years of running the race, if she thinks about her shoes at all, it’s only to make sure they are comfortable enough not to bother her through a long day.

Amilya Antonetti (@Amilya @LuckyNapkin), this Mom-preneur, celebrity speaker and T.V. personality is the founder of winning companies including SoapWorks and LuckyNapkin and is a passionate advocate for turning great ideas into winning businesses. Her recipe combines creativity, a laser focus on making sure things happen, and a supportive collaborative community including an incredible network of contacts from VC’s to some of the world’s best known brands. More importantly, she does not just talk about starting great businesses; she’s done it – repeatedly. When she races through the airport she wears her sensible airport shoes, while an amazing pair of shoes is stashed in her carry-on or brief case. How can shoes be amazing? For Amilya, her shoes reflect her purpose and her mood. She has different shoes for speaking appearances on stage, strappy sexy shoes for a night out with friends, and unique attention getters for on-air appearances. Amilya uses shoes and accessories to open up conversations and to reinforce her stylish, power woman appearance which is a trademark of the Amilya brand.

And then there’s me. My passion is helping companies grow. Time is split between working in my own company, on boards of directors, speaking for or consulting with client companies, writing, and in non-profit leadership. Ask me to tackle a challenge and deal with the details and I’m in heaven. Doing five things at once is normal most days. You can even find five profiles for me on Twitter. For me things have to be comfortable and coordinated. I have too much on my plate to have to think about my shoes. In my closet you’ll find the same four inch pumps in various colors to match my suits. And if occasionally my heels are slowing me down, I’ll just kick them off, snatch them up, and hit the ground running.

So what’s entrepreneurship from a woman’s perspective? It is many things to many different women. But from looking at just three, I would say that while each of us is unique, we share some common characteristics. We’re multi-taskers, planners, collaborators, and community builders. Some of us travel light, some pack strategically, while others come prepared for every situation and ready to adapt. But whether we’re wearing track shoes, walking shoes, or stilettos, we’re enjoying the race and in it to win.



  1. Alrite. There is a point indeed. It would be so wrong as to classify all women entrepreneurs to belong under the same category. Each and every individual is unique.

  2. Gary -

    Thanks so much for joining the conversation! I could not agree more.

    ALL entrepreneurs are unique and bring their own perspectives to their businesses and to our community. It was fun to point out some of the differences and similarities by these examples of three very different women. Many thanks to Marty for inviting me to do it here.

    Joan Koerber-Walker