On January 30th the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute hosted Dana Mauriello for a Female Founders Lunch gathering. The event had a great turn out. Each and every seat was filled by a woman who expressed her ambitious goals, and how she was looking for some inspiration from other female founders. Topics ranged from typical questions about best business practices, to the more uncomfortable “do I accept drinks from a male investor?” or “how do I tell my cofounder I deserve more equity?”.
When a female founder in the room spoke about herself as a “girl”, Dana Mauriello, who spent the majority of her career starting business and championing those who do, said: “no, you are a woman not a girl, first things first”. When she said that, the whole room woke up, including myself. We really need to think of ourselves as strong women who are capable of creating whatever company we want to, I thought. And it may just start with how we talk about ourselves.
About Dana Mauriello
She grew up with a father who was an inventor, so she felt inclined to become an inventor herself. She was introduced to the invention process at an early age and can remember being next to her father who was filing patents.
She decided she wanted to create cosmetic products. She had her whole plan in her head, despite having no experience with cosmetics. She was confident that she knew what she was going to do and how to do it, but she quickly learned that things almost always turn out differently than how you planned it.
“And I'm thankful it did, because it led me to where I am now", Mauriello added.
What she was alluding to was that even though we may have this perfect vision in our minds about how our company should be run, or how we should go about something, the failures that we encounter sometimes can lead us in the right direction. We have to let the momentum carry us, and be open to learning from our mistakes.
Mauriello expressed that at times she felt emotionally exhausted. She put her heart and soul on the table for her first company. She was completely invested, in every sense of the word. Being disciplined helped her cope with this feeling, but knowing when to move on was still one of the hardest concepts she had to learn about creating a company.
Mauriello had some great tips to questions from the group:
“When does something go from a cool idea to a company?”
- Is that stuff going to pay my rent?
- Is this a cash flow business?
- Can I convince investors?
- Can I make the money in the right time span?
- What time period do I need to make this money?
“How do I find a cofounder?”
- Intense networking: Meet a ton of people, because it takes the pressure off
- Cultivate many options
- Read people's personalities
- Understand if someone has a “risk attitude”
- Show them the problem and ask them to solve it with you on a whiteboard. If you like the way you work together, then maybe thats a good fit!
“Should I accept drinks from investors?”
Try not to do it. You can say you don't drink, or you can have something like wine (which is easier to nurse). Definitely don't get a cocktail, and NEVER go to dinner. It sends the wrong message. The best option is to have breakfast meetings instead.
“It’s an awkward conversation to have with a cofounder, but how do I talk about legal stuff and equity?”
- Hire a lawyer - NYU has some that can give legal advice
- Create clear expectations and deliverables from the beginning
- Make sure you sign legal documents because it will get sticky later on down the line
- Send an email out explaining the person's roles and responsibilities if they are volunteering for you so that later on you can protect yourself from a lawsuit
- Make it clear who is in charge: 51% equity to one person, 49% equity to another
- Get free legal help - some offices defer payments until you raise capital!
At the end of the day, be confident!
We, as women, need to always go into any meeting or challenging situation with maximum confidence. Like Mauriello said, be confident in yourself. Deciding to start a company takes a lot of courage. When someone comes with energy, passion, and enthusiasm people will naturally gravitate towards you. And remember, take advantage of all resources, and that includes your University. The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute offers incredible resources to aspiring entrepreneurs!
Want to join us next time for a Female Founders gathering? Keep an eye on our calendar!