Resource Spotlight: SheStarts
Resource Spotlight: SheStarts
This week we spoke to Lynne Zagami Riquelme, Director of Community Engagement for SheStarts. SheStarts is an organization that supports women founders in Boston through networking, coaching and events. Read our interview below!
GH: What is your name and role?
I’m Lynne Zagami Riquelme, the Director of Community Engagement for SheStarts, and the other members of our team Nancy Cremins and Liz O’Donnell, who founded SheStarts, and Nicole Forbes.
GH: What is SheStarts?
SheStarts is an organization that supports women founders in Boston through networking, coaching and events. We’ve spent the past three years connecting women entrepreneurs with the people and resources they need to realize their vision.
GH: How can Boston startups benefit from what you do?
We often hear that women entrepreneurs don’t feel like they have access to the right people and networks to get the mentorship and guidance they need. We aim to provide both educational content through our evening events and networking opportunities through our breakfasts to help women entrepreneurs meet people who can help them in their journey, and feel more equipped to tackle the challenges they face along the way.
GH: What have you learned from Boston area entrepreneurs?
The Boston ecosystem is incredibly strong and filled with smart, resourceful people. The key to success for many founders is making connections with the right people, and we’ve seen over and over that, when the right connections are made between founders and the people with the expertise to help them, amazing things can happen.
GH: What are some of the best resources the Boston ecosystem has to offer?
We’re of course big fans of The Capital Network programming – there’s really no other organization that provides such high quality guidance on fundraising, which is of course a critical issue for women founders. We also think very highly of the She Geeks Out team. They create powerful events and they’ve created an impressive network of women in tech. In addition, each SheStarts team member has also been a coach for the Babson WIN Lab, an accelerator program for women-run startups, which offers an excellent curriculum to its cohort members.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking in your perspective?
There’s no question we’ve got to do a better job increasing the amount of angel investor and venture capital money that goes to women-run companies. We’re pleased that there’s an active conversation about this in Boston, and we’re grateful for the work of people like Sheryl Marshall, creator of Capital W, and TechStars, for increasing the number of women-run teams in its cohort. But we need more investors to stand up and say “I care about this issue and I recognize its importance” and then take action to improve the gender balance of their portfolios and investment teams.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
It’s not uncommon for us to hear that it’s simply too hard to fix the gender balance in the startup ecosystem – that startup culture is just naturally masculine. That seems pretty silly to us – if people didn’t care about this issue, our events wouldn’t be so well attended, and thoughtful people throughout the community wouldn’t be talking to us about ways they can help.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
There were big changes for the SheStarts team members in 2016 – Nancy, Nicole and I all left Gesmer Updegrove to join other companies. Nancy and Nicole now make up the legal team at Globalization Partners – the fastest growing woman-led company in the country, and I’m now the Head of Customer Success at Shoobx. With the three of us now working in startups, it helps bring us closer to the experiences of SheStarts community members.
GH: What can you tell us about building the right culture at SheStarts?
We’re pretty lucky in that our whole team is made up of good friends. Nancy, Nicole and I all worked together at Gesmer Updegrove and we’ve known Liz for a long time. Having so much respect for each other and genuinely enjoying being together makes doing this work easier. That was certainly the case when our biggest event of the year, SheDemos – a pitch night and showcase of women-run companies that we host with the Babson WIN Lab – fell on the day after Donald Trump was elected president. We certainly had some community building to do that night!
GH: What does the future hold for SheStarts?
We’re excited to launch our revamped SheStarts website that will provide more detail about our past and future programs. We’ll be working on a content repository so people can make use of past presentations and we’ll be launching a membership program to provide additional educational benefits to those who join. And of course, you’ll see us and the WIN Lab again in November for our 3rd Annual SheDemos event!
GH: What does the future hold for the Boston innovation economy?
Boston will always be a hub for innovation, and the community of exciting startups here will likely never lose its edge. Our hope, though, is that the community evolves with the times and recognizes that, as an ecosystem, we won’t be as successful as we can be until we’ve become more inclusive. When we’re able to equally support companies run by men and women, we’ll be able to say confidently that the Boston startup community is living up to its potential.